Bureaucrats are from Mars and Academics are from Venus: Negotiating for change in teacher education

Year: 2016

Author: Alexander, Colette

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The reform of teacher education has increasingly become an issue of significant challenge to higher education providers. Internationally, teacher education is locked in a constant cycle of political review and reform that is outpacing its own implementation. In the Australian context, this is exemplified by the release of the second iteration of the National Program Standards for initial teacher education courses in December 2015 (AITSL, 2015). Considering the length of an undergraduate course and the time taken for accreditation, the review of the first iteration of the program standards, released in 2012, has come long before any evidence of their efficacy could ever have been collected or usefully analysed. This paper draws on the conclusions of a recently completed PhD study into the processes of change and continuity in teacher education. This study used a critical grounded theory methodology to investigate political practices surrounding the reform of teacher education. It specifically integrated two core purposes of critical theory with grounded theory; namely to: i) critically analyse the power/knowledge relations at work in the political practices of reform; and ii) consider emancipatory possibilities for teacher educators. The methods employed engaged with both historical and contemporary voices of teacher educators. This presentation will discuss a theoretical model of a social approach to change and continuity constructed around negotiation as the core social process.Given the multiplicity of voices present in the practices of teacher education, its reform through the outworking of change and continuity has always been a deeply political activity. Teacher educators face the challenge of finding the space to be heard and heeded amongst the cacophony of voices that have political reform influence. The thesis presented is that the outworking of reform towards educationally justifiable outcomes is predicated upon the employment of educational voices in socially mediated decision-making processes. It is argued that teacher educators need to learn more effective ways to negotiate the political practices of reform. This includes: i) fostering nuanced relationships in bureaucratic contexts, ii) providing clear and purposeful communication targeted to the audience, and iii) maintaining a positive disposition towards both the social process and the people involved. It is contended that the future of teacher education and its potential to impact the professionalisation of teachers is entirely dependent upon the capacity of teacher educators to learn to productively occupy the space available for their voice in the political context of reform.