The preparation of novice teacher educators for critical, justice-oriented teacher education: A longitudinal exploration of formal study in the pedagogy of teacher education

November 2020

Source: Teachers and Teaching, 26:7-8, 491-507

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this exploratory case study, the author examines a curricular approach to preparing novice teacher educators and its impact over time.
Specifically, she investigates the following research question:
What do novice teacher educators learn from formal study of the pedagogy of teacher education, and how, if at all, does this learning shape their teacher education practice?

The case she uses to explore this question is a doctoral course focused on the pedagogy of teacher education—how teacher educators teach pre-service teachers—that emphasised modelling compassionate, critical, justice-oriented teacher education (Conklin, 2008).
The course, which she developed and taught in spring 2009, focused on helping novice teacher educators learn research and theories about the practice of teacher education, and also research-based teacher education practices.
Five years later, many of the students who took the course were working as teacher educators, either as university faculty members or as doctoral students.
In this article, she explores how elements of the doctoral course shaped these novice teacher educators’ thinking and practice.
She argues that the results of this study offer insights into both what novice teacher educators may gain from formal course preparation focused on a justice-oriented pedagogy of teacher education and practices that may be potentially valuable for preparing justice-oriented teacher educators.

In this qualitative, exploratory case study, the author used surveys, interviews, observations of classroom practice, and document collection to gain insight into novice teacher educators’ course learning and subsequent teacher education practice.
In January 2014—5 years after the beginning of the Pedagogy of Teacher Education course—she solicited participation from the 10 students who took the course via an electronic survey.
Four students who were current teacher educators agreed to participate.
The survey asked about these former students’ current role, courses they teach, examples of their current teacher education practice that they considered both successful and unsuccessful, influences on their work as teacher educators, and the influence of the Pedagogy of Teacher Education course on their current work.
The author travelled to each participant’s current institution (all in the U.S.) and conducted an audio-recorded interview with each of the four participants.
In the interview, she asked participants to provide and discuss sample teacher education course syllabi to illustrate how their course planning and implementation had evolved over the past 5 years and the factors that had shaped their planning and practice.
They also shared and discussed samples of assignments and handouts they have used with pre-service teachers to illustrate their teacher education practices, their goals for these assignments, what they thought pre-service teachers learned, and the influences on their creation/selection of these assignments.
She also asked them to sort cards listing various influences on their teacher education practice and asked if they had used specific conceptual and practical tools that the course included. In addition, she collected sample assignments they had completed during the course to gain further insight into the evolution of their thinking over time.
Finally, for the one participant who was teaching pre-service teachers at the time of the study and also agreed to observation, she observed and video-recorded one session of his classroom teaching of pre-service teachers to gain a first-hand understanding of his teacher education practice.
All of these data sources provided insight into the relationship between the doctoral course and novice teacher educators’ current thinking and practice.
To analyse this data, the author compiled all survey data and had all interviews transcribed.
She coded all written documents, transcripts, and the videorecording inductively and deductively using HyperResearch software to examine patterns and themes across all data sources. She coded data in relation to the theoretical conceptions of the pedagogy of teacher education that guided the course and this research, looking, for instance, for examples of practical or conceptual tools that participants learned or applied in their teacher education practice.
She also examined all data sources for evidence of other themes that emerged, such as the role of a peer learning community on novice teacher educators’ learning.

Findings and discussion
Despite the small sample in this exploratory case study, the findings here point to possibilities for addressing some of the persistent issues that trouble the field of teacher education.
First, given the evidence of the limited preparation of most novice teacher educators in general and specifically for enacting teacher education pedagogies (Goodwin et al., 2014; Lunenberg, 2002; Zeichner, 2005), the results of this study indicate the potential value of formal course study for providing novice teacher educators with both conceptual and practical tools to support their work as teacher educators.
This case suggests that the doctoral students learned conceptual tools from the course that helped guide their decision-making as novice teacher educators within both their individual and programmatic teacher education work.
The novice teacher educators made use of conceptual tools such as learning about the various purposes towards which teacher education might be directed; considering teacher learning theories and the idea of teachers as learners; examining how teacher learning might occur, such as through modelling and debriefing of practice; and considering specific purposes such as critical, justice-oriented teacher education.
Similarly, given the novice teacher educators’ application of the course’s practical tools in their own teacher education contexts, the case indicates the potential value of modelling teacher education pedagogies with novice teacher educators and making these practices explicit in order to help novice teacher educators gain practical tools.
Further, the results of this study suggest a potential point of influence for disrupting educational inequities.
The data indicate that offering novice teacher educators an array of tools that highlight justice-oriented goals can provide both conceptual and practical starting places for their work. Focusing on both conceptual and practical teacher education tools oriented towards addressing educational inequities could address the concern some have voiced that, without clear conceptualisations of teacher education practices focused on socially-just outcomes, there is a risk that the entire movement to reform teacher education will fail (Cochran-Smith et al., 2009).
In addition, although the author shares the concerns that other scholars have expressed about attempting to designate a prescribed set of knowledge necessary for becoming teacher educators (cf., Stillman et al., 2019), it seems noteworthy that some of the learning that participants in this study reported gaining from the doctoral course—such as recognising teachers as learners, learning about critical, justice-oriented theories of teaching and teacher education, and learning pedagogical tools that support those justice-oriented goals—are very similar to the knowledge that has emerged as important from teacher educators engaged in inquiries into their own asset-oriented teacher education work (Stillman et al., 2019).
This commonality may point to the potential of both formal course study and other forms of participant-driven inquiry to generate valuable knowledge for cultivating the development of teacher educators.
As others have suggested, it is likely that the preparation of teacher educators should include a range of experiences that draw upon formal knowledge gleaned through coursework as well as other generative forms of study into one’s own practice (Goodwin et al., 2014; Zeichner, 2005).
In sum, this study suggests that the work of critical, justice-oriented teacher education could advance if we continue to explore a range of methods for preparing teacher educators, including formal coursework that offers novice teacher educators crucial conceptual and practical tools that allow them to cultivate their practice and that highlight the complexity of the work of transformative teacher education.

Cochran-Smith, M., Barnatt, J., Lahann, R., Shakman, K., & Terrell, D. (2009). Teacher education for social justice: critiquing the critiques. In W. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stovall (Eds.), Handbook of social justice in education (pp. 625–639). Routledge.
Conklin, H.G. (2008). Modeling compassion in critical, justice-oriented teacher education. Harvard Educational Review, 78(4), 652-674.
Goodwin, A. L., Smith, L., Souto-Manning, M., Charuvu, R., Tan, M. Y., Reed, R., & Taveras, L. (2014). What should teacher educators know and be able to do? Perspectives from practicing teacher educators. Journal of Teacher Education, 65(4), 284–302.
Lunenburg, M. (2002). Designing a curriculum for teacher educators. European Journal of Teacher Education, 25(2&3), 263–277.
Stillman, J., Ahmed, K. S., Beltramo, J. L., Cataneda-Flores, E., Garza, V. G., & Pyo, M. (2019). From the ground up: Cultivating teacher educator knowledge from the situated knowledges of emerging, asset-oriented teacher educators. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 47(3), 265–285.
Zeichner, K. M. (2005). Becoming a teacher educator: A personal perspective. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2), 117–124.

Updated: Jan. 12, 2022


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