Is initial teacher education a profession?

John O’Neill

Abstract


Over 200 years, the dominant metaphor for the preparation of beginning teachers by teacher educators has evolved from ‘correction’ to ‘apprenticeship’, ‘training’, ‘finishing’, ‘education’ and, most recently, ‘standardisation’. Teacher educators’ primary affiliation has similarly varied over time from church, to classroom, normal school, training college and, latterly, the university.

Scholarly analyses of teacher educators as an occupational group typically describe a continual struggle for individual and collective credibility in a) university and faculty, and b) school/centre or classroom settings. Teacher education does not satisfy the classical requirements for a profession and has been referred to by others, dismissively, in such terms as ‘the uncertain profession’ and by teacher educators themselves, approvingly, as a ‘semi profession’. Many individual teacher educators now meet neither contemporary benchmark expectations of research entrepreneurship and productivity among their university colleagues, nor currency of occupational expertness among those with whom they and their students interact in schools and centres. Requirements for some teacher educators to be registered teachers, but not to have a current practising certificate, further reinforce their fractured occupational positioning.

This is a debilitating, untenable position for teacher educators. In New Zealand, the position has developed in an ad hoc fashion over the last twenty or so years and has resulted in teacher educators being expected to be all things to all constituencies in both scholarly and occupational spheres.

Drawing on classical Greek philosophical distinctions between abstract and scientific knowledge, practical and craft knowledge, and the wisdom borne of thoughtful practice, this paper considers alternative ways in which teacher educators’ relationships with and contributions to initial teacher education policy discourse might realistically be reconstituted over the next decade in order to provide them with a meaningful, distinctive, manageable and satisfying professional role. 


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DOI: 10.15663/wje.v18i1.134

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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015