Social change

Mieke Lunenberg and Jurriën Dengerink

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‘We don’t need no education,
We don’t need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom,
Teachers leave them kids alone.’

Setting the scene

Because of the above sentences, the Pink Floyd song ‘The Wall’ (1979), became forbidden in South Africa in the early eighties. Black youngsters who had started to revolt against apartheid and the way it influenced the educational system, had adopted the song, which was not appreciated by the apartheid regime.

This example clearly shows that education and social change are interconnected. The Council of Europe states that ‘education must mirror the principles and values of the society we want to live in today and we want our children to live in tomorrow’ (p. 137). The contents of teaching and the desired learning outcomes must be in line with what we want to achieve. In the Council’s training programs for teacher educators and teachers, named after Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, central issues are among others education for democratic citizenship and human rights, intercultural education and education for cultural diversity, gender equality and equality in education, media literacy based on human rights, as well as innovative methodology.

Pestalozzi developed a holistic pedagogy focusing on the development of every faculty of the learner: intellectual, affective and manual (“the head, the heart and the hand”). In line with this pedagogical view, more recently, Biesta (2010) states that qualification, socialization and subjectification are important purposes in (teacher) education and should be equally important in (teacher) education.

The Council of Europe emphasized that pedagogy and methodology are not neutral, and conclude that over the past decades (from the 1980s until the first decade of the 21st century) there has been a strong move towards considering pedagogy and methodology much more as something “technical’.

Consequences for teacher educators

It would be naïve to think that teacher educators can be positioned outside the debate on social change. The ET2020 Working Group on Schools Policy (2015) distinguish three important players in the cyclic governance process of giving priority, steering and monitoring in teacher education: political, institutional and professional. The relationship and communication between these three players vary per country. Nevertheless, it is important that teacher educators establish their professional stance in this governance-process, although the way in which this happens may differ depending on national contexts. Teacher educators should guard the space for ‘different viewpoints, subtle nuances, uncertainties and the multiple facets involved in unraveling the relationships between and among teacher preparation and teaching, learning, schooling and contexts’ (Cochran-Smith, 2005, p. 183).

This also implies realizing that personal stances are highly influenced by prevailing (and over time changing) discourses and assumptions in the social and political context teacher educators are living in. There is a need for professionally dealing with tensions and finding a good balance between what is politically, institutionally or socially desired regarding qualification and socialization and taking a critical stance, e.g. when social justice, inclusiveness or sustainability are at stake. And consequently, in line with the cohesion of the head, the heart and the hand, what this means in terms of engagement and action.

In the Flemish Development Profile for teacher educators this base of the teacher educator profession is explicitly labeled as ‘the engaged teacher educator’. According to this Development Profile this requests wisdom, the ability ‘to read and understand’ the world and to critically relate to social changes. How teacher educators relate to social changes is also embedded in their professional values. Teacher educators’ relation to the social context, have meaning for and influence the engagement of future teachers (Mets & Van den Hauwe, 2015).

Moreover, teacher educators pedagogical choices should also be well considered, modelled and be discussed with student teachers, taking account the ‘Teach as you preach’ motto (Swennen, Lunenberg, Korthagen, 2008).

Aspects of Social Change

The conceptual model of InFo-TED and its aligned building blocks offer teacher educators input to further develop their social engagement, with regard to content as well as with regard to pedagogical choices. A few examples:

The building block Identity draws attention to the dimensions of ‘how to be’, ‘how to act’ and ‘how to understand’ the work of teacher educators in its social context. It also acknowledges the complex interaction between aspects of personal identities (for example, class, gender, race and self-image), professional identities, and the collective identity of the – diverse – teacher educators occupational group. The building block offers different approaches of empirical research on identity.

The building block Visions, defined as “The ability to think or plan about the future with imagination and wisdom”, discusses the interrelationship between the teacher educators individual vision on engaged teacher education and the institutional and national framework in which he/she has to put this vision into practice. InFo-TED places the visions of the teacher educator in the centre, because these visions direct teacher educators’ development and learning: they should be full aware of the institutional and national framework, yet not being dictated by them.
The building block Diversity discusses, among others, gender and ethnicity issues, and diverse social-economic and cultural-religious backgrounds. In most countries there is a difference between teacher educators, teachers, and students in primary and secondary education with regard to diversity issues. Teacher educators who work in a diverse environment and analyze how their personal background influences their conceptions of student diversity gain most insights in what drives them and how they can further improve their practice. The building block offers teacher educators five perspectives to look at diversity.

The building block ICT draws attention to the ongoing debate about the use of ICT in education that influences the daily work of teacher educators. There is a rapid changing society where digital competences are becoming critical competences for the future. Student teachers will teach classrooms which are filled with digital distractions and temptations. How are teacher educators supposed to prepare this next generation of teachers in the use of ICT and promote 21St Century Skills? How can teacher educators act as digital role models for student teachers? This building discusses three key debates that seem to be currently trending in the research on ICT in teacher education.


Teacher educators have to relate to the public debate on social change. Teacher educator have to think about the changing world for which they prepare teachers. The variety of aspects of social change, the different viewpoints on the ongoing changes, and the multiple stakeholders who are involved, require engaged teacher educators. The building blocks offer input to further develop and reflect on this engagement.

What aspects of social change are currently most influential in your teacher education practice? What do you need to discuss these aspects with your students and to support them to become engaged teachers?


Biesta, G. (2010). Good Education in an Age of Measurement. London/New York: Routledge.

Cochran-Smith, M. (2005). The politics of teacher education and the curse of complexity (Editorial). Journal of Teacher Education, 56 (3), 181-185.

ET2020 Working group on School Policy (2015). Shaping career-long perspectives om teaching. A guide on policies to improve initial teacher education. Brussel, European Commission.

Huber, J. Making the Difference (2011). In J. Huber & P. Mompoint-Gaillard (Eds). Teacher education for change, pp 137-146. Strasbourg, Council of Europe Publishing.

Mets, & Van der Hauwe, J., (2015) Ontwikkelingsprofiel Vlaamse Lerarenopleiders [Development Profile Flemish Teacher Educators]. Brussel, VELOV.

Swennen, J.M.H., Lunenberg, M.L. & Korthagen, F. (2008). Preach what you teach! Teacher educators and congruent teaching. Teachers and Teaching, Theory and Practice, 14(6), 531-542.

Key words engagement, professional values, democratic citizenship, cultural diversity, innovative methodology

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