Getting Real: Exploring the Perceived Disconnect between Education Theory and Practice in Teacher Education

Nov. 08, 2008

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 4, Issue 2 November 2008,
p. 129 – 142

(Reviewed by The Portal Team)


This article was inspired in part by the Levine report that criticizes teacher education programs in the United States for being out of touch with practices that work in real classrooms. This is a self-study that explores the rift between educational theory, particularly theory that pushes for social constructionist, child-centered approaches to teaching, and teaching practices in majority African-American, inner-city schools.
The authors conducted this year-long self-study to answer the question: What could the college’s education program do to improve preparation for teaching in inner-city schools? Through their year-long collaboration in a middle-school writing classroom in an inner-city charter school, the authors examined what a prospective teacher learned in his education program that helped and hindered him. Then, they explored how the successful approaches he developed as a new teacher could be incorporated into the college’s preservice program.

They have structured this article as a conversation, attempting to echo the process Jean and Brian engaged in as the year passed. The authors will begin first with Jean’s description of the education program Brian had recently completed, which she and her colleagues believed would prepare students to teach in schools like the one where Brian taught. Then, Brian will respond with his analysis of what was missing from his preparation, explanations of the sort of preparation he received through HSC, and insights he has gained from his early years of teaching experience. Jean will then respond to his comments with her observations and analysis of the match and mismatch between the college’s education program’s approach and Brian’s and his school’s approach.


Re-entering the classroom as a learner reminded Jean of the day-to-day challenges of teaching, and it seems obvious that if teacher educators hope to change teachers’ minds about how educational theory can serve efforts for equity, they must be willing to have their own minds’ changed by listening to the teachers’ critiques and engaging in serious self-critique about how truly useful their prized theories are in the life of the classroom.
Until education faculty can devise more effective ways to make the tacit theory–practice connections more obvious and more powerful to prospective and practicing teachers who choose this vocation to work for social justice, the communication barriers between teacher educators and teachers will continue to produce misgivings about the uses of educational theory and a lack of respect for the work teachers and teacher educators do.



Levine, A. (2006). Educating school teachers. Washington, DC: The Education Schools Project. 

Updated: Dec. 08, 2008