The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged us to rethink about the long-lasting implications for teacher education and how the traditional approaches to educate teacher candidates have evolved. This unexpected scenario has become a living laboratory for teacher educators who have had to transfer to solely relying on an online environment, resulting in a questioning of their professional digital competence and a disruption to their previous preferences on instructional delivery. These adaptations to the ‘online teaching-how-to-teach’ process heighten the need to (re-)research about the professional learning needs of teacher educators. Our interest aligns with the International Forum for Teacher Educator Development (InFo-TED) knowledge bases of social change, ICT and technological change and stages of professional development. Social changes and education are interconnected, with the principles and values of society having changed to deal with COVID-19. COVID-19 has heightened the importance of previous reviews and studies promoting the necessity for ICT in teacher education and more specifically how teacher educators can promote ICT-training or digital competence in teacher education. With respect to the stages of professional development we draw attention to those colleagues who have entered the teaching profession during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reliance of the online setting
Despite the recent flourish of interest in the lives of teacher educators and their professional learning and development activities and needs (Czerniawski, Guberman, & MacPhail, 2017; Guberman, Ulvik, MacPhail, & Oolbekkink-Marchand, 2020), the reliance of the online setting resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic calls for further exploration into this area. Such exploration would examine whether this new scenario has shifted the professional interests and learning needs of teacher educators, if teacher educators remain unaltered in their professional interests and needs, and the extent to which COVID-19 may have resulted in indirectly addressing professional interests and needs.
Acknowledging the genuine passion and positive disposition to continue learning, particularly with and from colleagues (Czerniawski et al., 2017), we may argue that these uncertain times could have offered teacher educators a tangible, bottom-up, collaborative and sustainable way to address their professional learning. Encouraged by the need to search and examine new ways of preparing teachers online, teacher educators became part of learning communities that provided them with a safe space to exchange teaching practices and express their frustrations and successes. Social media (e.g., Twitter, WhatsApp) served as a platform to build these communities that supported the transition to online teaching, offered emotional collegial support and in some way connected teacher educators with teachers and students in a way that they had never done so before.
Change of teacher educator considerations
For many years the research literature has been encouraging teacher educators to use technology and providing possible approaches and strategies. For those teacher educators who chose previously not to engage with this discourse, we suspect that COVID-19 has left them with minimal space to continue avoiding such engagement, given that to do so would be to the detriment of the student learning experience. Subsequently,
We would like to take this opportunity to consider those colleagues new to the teacher education profession during the COVID-19 pandemic period. Not only are they unlikely to have had any formal preparation for their role (an ongoing admittance in the teacher educator literature) but there is a further reality that they may not yet have had an opportunity to physically meet colleagues or students face-to-face and consequently remain unsure of the teacher education system in which they work. In such instances, it may be difficult for those new teacher educators to be informed on what professional learning needs would be of most benefit to them at this stage in their professional development.
In closing, we are proposing that COVID-19 has only heightened the need for continued support for professional learning and development opportunities that promote teacher educators’ empowerment, agency, and ownership of professional learning needs that align with the context and circumstances in which they find themselves. This paradigm would support and enable professionals to move from “following prescriptions to having choices, from spectators to actors and from silent to outspoken participants” (Freire, 1972, p. 48).
Cochran-Smith, M. (2005). The politics of teacher education and the curse of complexity (Editorial). Journal of Teacher Education, 56(3), 181-185.
Czerniawski, G., Guberman, A., & MacPhail, A. (2017). The professional developmental needs of higher education-based teacher educators: an international comparative needs analysis. European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(1), 127–140.
Frxeire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the opressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Guberman, A., Ulvik, M., MacPhail, A., & Oolbekkink-Marchand, H. (2020). Teacher educators’ professional trajectories: evidence from Ireland, Israel, Norway and the Netherlands. European Journal of Teacher Education, 44(4), 468–485.
Paulina Sepulveda-Escobar is a third-year doctoral student at the University of Exeter. Her thesis examines the feasibility and sustainability of building a learning community to promote ESOL teacher educators’ professional learning and development in Chile. Her research interests include teacher educators’ professional learning, language teacher education and the implications of the COVID-19 in teacher education. An overview of her research can be found at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paulina-Sepulveda-Escobar
Ann MacPhail is a (physical education) teacher educator at the University of Limerick, Ireland and a Council Member of InFo-TED. Ann has published on teacher educators’ professional trajectories, teacher educators as active users and producers of research, and the needs and realities of the professional development of higher-based teacher educators. Ann has a presence on Twitter (@AnnMacPhail1) and her research interests can be accessed at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ann_Macphail