Why do we need an international network for practicum in teacher education?

Year: 2012

Author: Rorrison, Doreen, Männikkö, Sirkku, Jakhelln, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


During the last ten years we have been quite successful in terms of research, publications and international conferences. Note for example the development and growth of a practicum network (Knowledge Construction and Professional Work and later The Network for Practicum and Praxis Projects), an international collaboration (Pedagogy, Education and Praxis PEP) and the Nordic Network for Action Research. Through a seminar presentation at AARE in 2010 we became aware of the need for a strong international practicum in teacher education collaboration or network. Researchers, master and PhD students, teacher educators, practitioners, school leaders, practicum leaders and schoolteachers voiced their interest in a mechanism for sharing their research and supporting development in the practicum.

Through a wider outreach new perspectives, ideas and policies that unsettle local and individual views of the role, theoretical framework, perspectives and key concepts of professional practice knowledge in initial teacher education can be interrogated. Research and collaboration across borders and traditions has opened our eyes to the limited progress that has been made in capturing and understanding the full potential of the practicum and we have become aware that knowledge about the practicum may not have been shared effectively. Important research since the nineteen seventies has been uncovered but with little agreement on key concepts, terminology or principles much of its impact has been diluted. It appears that often research has been underfunded, local and not sustained, perhaps due to the heavy work commitments of those involved and the transient (and sometimes parochial) nature of the researchers/academics. Often practitioners from the profession, yet new to academia, who struggle to establish a sustainable research profile, inhabit the field. The range of paradigmatic traditions may also have been a barrier to shared understandings.

In this paper we will argue for an international network for teacher educators, practitioners and researchers who focus on learning in the practicum and practice knowledge. We will suggest ways that this network might advocate for those involved and be active in developing a stronger profile. Conversations about the key concepts, place, purpose and role of practicum learning will be opened up. Theoretical frameworks, practicum models and policy changes will be critically examined.  Established traditions, philosophies and theories will be questioned. In particular the challenges of the pathway from professional practice to academia and some examples of current and diverse practicum research projects will be discussed.