It’s all just a little bit of history repeating: 40 years of political review and reform in teacher education

Year: 2019

Author: Alexander, Colette, Bourke, Terri

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There have been at least 100 governmental inquiries into teaching and teacher education in Australia since the 1970s, the most recent review stating that such reviews have had limited impact on policy and practice. These reviews have made thousands of recommendations, the majority if which have never been fully actioned or realised before the next review cycle has commenced. There is minimal data or evidence to point to the efficacy of the near continuous cycles of review, recommendation and reform that continue to intensify. Critical issues relating to educationally responsive and responsible action in the face of politically-driven accountability measures are of increasing concern to teacher educators. Here, we problematise these issues in light of a comparative analysis of two political reviews of teacher education that were conducted nearly 40 years apart. The first is the Bassett (1978) report, Teacher Education in Queensland. This was selected because it was the first review of teacher education conducted in the Australian context after the teachers’ colleges had been granted autonomy from state-based education departments in the early 1970s. As such, it was the first review of independent teacher education in Australia. The second is the most recent review of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG, 2014), Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers. Here, we apply discourse analysis techniques associated with Foucauldian archaeology to these two reports. The findings show that: a self-referential use of policy is accelerating; those involved are less likely to have knowledge of the discipline of education that requires expertise and first-hand experience; and there is an alarming level of consistency in the discourses used to frame issues and recommendations for improving teacher education. Further, analysis reveals that the discourses of professionalisation of teaching with a focus on practice, partnerships and professional learning are found in both documents albeit with subtle linguistic nuances. However, what is most alarming is the changes evident in the framing of teacher educators themselves, with the TEMAG (2014) report presenting a deficit discourse that necessitates rigorous quality assurance mechanisms being externally applied by regulatory authorities. In the light of these findings, the authors make recommendations about the mythologising and canonising of problems in teacher education and suggest alternative perspectives on the role of reform in teacher education.