Teacher education in Australia: Whose knowledge interests get served?

Year: 2016

Author: Groundwater-Smith, Susan, Mockler, Nicole

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Within the framework of the international investigation, “Education Studies – The University Project in Different Jurisdictions”, part of a British Academy funded project conducted by Geoff Whitty and John Furlong, this paper explores the question, “whose knowledge interests have been served by the development of teacher education programs in Australia within a dynamic and volatile policy context?” The work is informed by social critical theory, as espoused by Jurgen Habermas, and emergent discourses in relation to ‘practice architectures’ as they apply to the sayings, doings and relatings of practice.The paper argues that teacher education in Australia is an applied discipline and one that is undergirded by practical purposes that are designed to both meet the requirements of employing authorities and conform to state and federal government policies. Teacher education exemplifies a tension that surrounds the ways in which knowledge interests, that may inform practice, are principally served by instrumental reasoning and explanatory rationality at the cost of enhanced professional identity obtained through greater self understanding. In this discussion of the current status of teacher education in Australia we trace the ways in which it has evolved in response to both local and global circumstances within a context of those knowledge interests as well as ‘practice architectures’ their influence and interactions. The paper explores the ways in which theories for practice, they being theories that enable practice, and theories about practice, theories that permit a more profound understanding of the very foundations of practice, have been weighted in favour of the former at the cost of more reflective/reflexive norms. The systems world with its focus on markets and bureaucracies has seemingly eclipsed the professional life world with its dimensions of social action, cooperation and mutual understanding. The desire for predictability and control has outweighed more profound professional concerns.In conclusion we argue that policy settlements around research and practice in relation to teacher education remain incomplete. While we would argue for a preferred future to be one that takes up the challenge of critical/emancipatory knowledge interests in the complex interplay between theory and practice and in relation to the identity formation of teachers we are not optimistic in light of the dominance of technical knowledge interests, particularly in relation to the rhetoric of ‘what works’.