A literacy education partnership: Exploring relational experiences of teacher educators

Year: 2019

Author: Kostogriz, Alex, Auld, Glenn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Partnerships in teacher education have long been perceived as a key to building professional experience of preservice teachers, as well as professional knowledge of teacher educators and in-service teachers. Most of the research in this area has focused therefore on approaches to partnerships, analysing various models, their effects on professional learning, their shortcomings and ways of improvement. Although these issues are important to debate, this paper focuses instead on the tensions that teacher educators experience while enacting university-school partnerships. By developing a relational notion of partnerships as ‘ecologies of practices’, it situates the work of teacher educators in the boundary zone where practices meet and contradictions become most apparent. The boundary zone, in this paper, is perceived as an unstable site of joint practices that are shaped by local and translocal cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political arrangements. Therefore, one’s work in the boundary zone involves a negotiation of intentionality and practice knowledge of all partners.

The paper seeks to explore the relational experience of a teacher educator and, in doing so, reveals tensions arising from different ways of understanding literacy learning and literacy teacher education, more broadly. In the context of the literacy education partnership, tensions are foregrounded in the sayings, doings and relatings that are mediated by different perspectives on literacy and are coordinated through particular institutional arrangements. Teacher educators negotiate more school practices in partnership arrangements than when providing university based offerings of literacy pedagogy units. They come face to face with instrumental constructions of literacy learning in schools that motivated their transition out of schools and into university.

While recognizing these tensions as major barriers in enacting the literacy education partnership, experience of contradictions also provides an opportunity for teacher educators to become more responsive to the current struggles of teachers and to find ways of bridging the ideals of literacy learning with the realities of literacy accountabilities in neoliberal times.This paper therefore re-defines partnership work as an ethical practice of ‘thirding’ that is open to and includes all the parties involved. By locating teacher education on the boundary between universities and schools, responsibility of partnership members is less about their own interests, power and control than about exposure to the event of pre-service teachers’ professional becoming. This responsibility does not come from either teacher educators or teachers but rather from this event that calls to them.