Theories and practices for teacher education

Year: 2012

Author: Reid, Jo Anne, Brown, Tony, Smith, Kim

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Theory/practice dilemmas in pre-service teacher education are commonly articulated in terms of a translation problem between “academic” educational theory, provided by university-based teacher education, and “practical” teaching experience, provided by school-based teacher education. “Theory” in teacher education is therefore most often understood as being concerned with what teachers do, and how and why they can do it better, rather than with what, why and how teacher education itself might be better accomplished. In this paper we work with the pluralities of teacher education experience across our two countries, to examine some of the challenges and affordances of the family of ideas generally known as practice theory (Green 2009) as a basis for professional learning, by critically reviewing attempts to innovate on existing teacher education practice within existing preservice programs. This analysis seeks to understand how teacher education might be conceived as a process of study, instruction and practice that produces both technical expertise and critical reflection in the formation of a teacher-subject. These theoretical approaches are considered in relation to student teachers on a recently instituted employment-based teacher education programme in England, where learning how to teach more generally is now obliged to be school-based. The trainees situated primarily in the employing school were monitored within a practitioner enquiry by their university tutors according to how both students and tutors progressively renewed their conceptions of theory within their practice. This resulted in the students retrospectively identifying and developing theoretical and analytical capabilities. University sessions became a reflective platform from which to critically interrogate the emergent practice-led story of what it is to be a teacher in a school. We contrast this research with a model being trialled in Australia where a focus has been placed on assisting student teachers to explicitly and critically 'study teaching' before they enter schools and need to perform the act of teaching.  Here, an integrative parallel curriculum that sits alongside the introductory theoretical curriculum content is designed to provide beginning student teachers with time and instruction to enable them to acquire a key set of embodied practical capacities that they will draw on regularly in the execution of everyday classroom routines and actions. In both models student teachers effectively develop embodied knowledge that can be foregrounded in their planning, action and reflection, as effective embodied practice becomes progressively more habituated and unconscious.