Teacher educators as committed professionals

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Teacher educators as committed professionals

In August 2018 Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg staged a protest outside the Riksdag, holding a sign "Skolstrejk för klimatet". This was the spark to an international movement of pupils who take time off from class to demonstrate and demand political action to prevent further climate change. In 2019 this movement reached Belgium: between February and May pupils went on strike and demonstrated in Brussels and other major towns. At first these weekly demonstrations stimulated the debate on climate change and the growing political awareness of a new generation. The ‘climate truants’ got a lot of sympathy. A number of schools supported the movement by not punishing these truants. However, as the May elections approached, the focus in the public debate shifted. Politicians of the dominant political party argued that the demands of the youngsters were unrealistic and unaffordable. They urged the truants to go and study in order to find solutions to climate change.

The example of the climate truants demonstrates the intertwining between educational and broader public debates. Truancy is a problem schools have to deal with, but when youngsters used it as a political weapon for what they claimed to be a higher purpose, truancy became the subject of debate among teachers, between teachers and school leaders, between teachers and pupils, between pupils and parents, in newspapers etc. This illustrates that convictions about society, social order and citizenship constitute how we think about schooling and education.

Teacher educators should be aware of this strong intertwining between educational and societal issues and of the fact that junior teachers will have to deal with such issues, be it climate truants, illegal drugs, poverty and exclusion, multilingualism, etc. Therefore, teacher educators have to deal with this intertwining in their second order pedagogy (Murray and Male, 2005) by addressing the moral, political and emotional dimensions of education (Hargreaves, 1995; Kelchtermans, 2003). We have incorporated this in the Flemish Teacher Educators Development Profile (Mets & van den Hauwe, 2015) in our description of the role of committed professionals. Together with the role of team members we consider this role fundamental to and ‘scaffolding’ the other 5 roles that constitute the Profile: second order teachers, coaches, networkers, exploring professionals and evaluators.

By describing the professionality of teacher educators in terms of a number of roles, the Development Profile is different from most professional standards listing competences considered necessary to be a good professional. The concept of acting in different roles provides a more dynamic and holistic frame of reference to discuss the profession of teacher educators. It facilitates reflection from different perspectives on daily practices, which by definition are multi-layered. In an extramural project week e.g., teacher educators act as second order teachers, but also as members of a team and committed professionals and possibly as coaches, networkers, and exploring professionals.

Why will the roles of team members and committed professionals always be involved in such reflections? On the one hand teacher educators do not work in isolation. Together they are responsible for the education of future teachers (e.g. European Commission, 2013). On the other hand, schools operate in an authentic socio-cultural context, which will always influence the professional behaviour of teachers and teacher educators. Therefore, we consider reflecting on the relationship between educational issues in relation to the context of education fundamental to the professionality of teacher educators. Inviting students to reflect on how these relationships may influence their future practice is in our opinion as fundamental as well. Moreover, these reflections scaffold reflections related to the other roles. Let’s take the role of evaluators as an example. The profession of teacher is ‘licensed’, i.e. you need a degree or certificate of teacher in order to work as a teacher. Therefore, the evaluation of future teachers by teacher educators is not neutral, it involves assumptions about ‘good education’ and what it means to be a ‘good teacher’. Thus, the role of evaluators does not only raise questions about when and how to assess, but also about good education and good teachers.

Teacher educators have to discuss this and share their opinions. Who, on a macro level, determines the good teacher? By what means? What are the assumptions underlying whatever standards are produced (see e.g. Biesta, 2012)? To what extent is diversity possible within such a standard? Does it exclude certain groups of possible teachers? How does the teacher education institution operationalize government policies regarding the standards starting teachers should meet? On which assumptions about teaching and evaluating is this operationalization based? Do teacher educators make this explicit to each other and students or is this part of the ‘hidden curriculum’? How does the evaluation system influence who is admitted to the profession and who is not? This last question is crucial to the discussion on diversity among teachers in Flanders. Many school teams in both major and minor Flemish cities do not reflect the diversity of the cities’ populations. Do teacher educators as evaluators hinder a growing diversity among teachers? An interesting moral and political question.


Biesta, G. (2012). Goed onderwijs en de cultuur van het meten. The Hague: Boom/Lemma.

European Commission. (2013). Supporting Teacher Educators for better learning outcomes. Retrieved from - Here

Hargreaves, A. (1995). Development and desire: A postmodern perspective. In T.R. Guskey & A.M. Huberman (eds.),
Professional development in education: New paradigms and practices (pp. 9-34). New York/London: Teachers College Press.

Kelchtermans, G. (2003). De kloof voorbij. Naar een betere integratie van theorie en praktijk in de lerarenopleiding. Brussel: Vlaamse onderwijsraad.

Mets, B. & van den Hauwe, J. (2015). VELOV Ontwikkelingsprofiel Vlaamse Lerarenopleiders. VELOV.

Murray, J. & Male T. (2005). Becoming a teacher educator: Evidence from the field. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21 (2). 125-142.
Boris Mets and Jo van den Hauwe
Boris Mets and Jo van den Hauwe
Boris Mets (1971) obtained his master degree in Germanic Languages and Literature and a teaching degree (Dutch and German) from the University of Antwerp. He is director of the City of Antwerp’s department for Youth Policy. Previously, Boris Mets has been a researcher at the University of Antwerp (1993-1998; focus: Emerging Literacy and Classroom Interaction), Teacher of Languages and Communication at the Erasmushogeschool Brussels (1998-2002), Director of the City of Antwerp’s department for Educational Policy (2002-2009). From 2010 till 2015 he was director of ELAnt (Expertisenetwerk Lerarenopleidingen Antwerpen) an Antwerp-based Expertise Network of Teacher Education Institutions. He is co-author of The Flemish Teacher Educator Development Profile (Mets & van den Hauwe, 2015).

Jo van den Hauwe (1964) obtained his master degree in Germanic Languages and Literature and a teaching degree from the University of Antwerp. He is director of both the Preprimary and the Primary Teacher Education Program at AP university college in Antwerp. Previously, Jo van den Hauwe has been a researcher at the University of Antwerp (1991 – 1998) and a Teacher Educator (1998 - 2010) in Brussels. From 2010 till 2015 he was a staff member of ELAnt (Expertisenetwerk Lerarenopleidingen Antwerpen) an Antwerp-based Expertise Network of Teacher Education Institutions. He is co-author of The Flemish Teacher Educator Development Profile (Mets & van den Hauwe, 2015).

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