Kari Smith and Marit Ulvik
I want to be the kind of teacher educator whom the students trust as a person who can help them become good teachers for kids in school. I want to do research which improves teacher education not only in my own institution and country, but internationally. These are big visions, and they give me motivation to do my best, to learn from others, to continuously develop.
This is a quote from a colleague we interviewed asking about the role of a university based teacher educator. It is a tall order, to be an exemplary teacher and an outstanding researcher. The colleague clearly presents the hybrid role of teacher educators, and one could add other responsibilities to teacher educators’ role, such as manager, curriculum developer, administrator, just to mention a few (Smith, 2011, Lunenberg, Dengerink, & Korthagen, 2014). The big question is however, how does the system, at an institutional and at a national level support the visions teacher educators have at the personal level? However, before we move into that discussion, it might be useful to have a closer look at the concept of visions.
A definition useful for our purpose was found in the on line Oxford dictionary which defines visions as “The ability to think or plan about the future with imagination and wisdom”. Synonyms for visions are, among others; creativity, inventiveness, innovation, perception, farsightedness.
Levels of visions effecting teacher educators
Teacher educators do not work in a vacuum and neither do they, or can they, envision their practice without taking into consideration that their work is framed by institutional as well as national norms and regulations. There are challenges which might cause frustration when the personal, institutional and national visions for the practice of teacher education do not align, and may even contradict each other.
At the personal level the vision of the teacher educator quoted above aspires to excellence at two often contradictory roles of the teacher educator, teacher and researcher. Ellis et al. (2013) claim that teacher educators are “a troublesome category of academic workers (p. 267). They are practitioners and academics, and their working conditions often differ from other academic disciplines. They are subject to policy directives, much more than other academic disciplines. These researchers found, when asking English and Scottish teacher educators about their work, that building relationships with students and colleagues in schools and at the university are important to teacher educators, much like the envisioned good teacher. Most teacher educators also want to be involved in research, although their researcherly dispositions vary (Tack, & Vanderlinden, 2014). Teacher educators who want to be involved in knowledge production through research, however, have sometimes few resources to do so, especially concerning time to do research. The personal level is integrated in a vision of how teacher educators see themselves as professionals, and the dual responsibilities for this professional group.
This leads us to the institutional visions, which – especially in university-based teacher education – are mainly related to research. These institutions need their academic staff to produce and publish research for funding purposes and in some places, also for accreditation. Moreover, the publication record is given most weight as regards promotion (Young, 2006). Thus the vision of these institutions is often concerned with publication. However, the quality of teaching is becoming more of a concern of all higher education institutions (Parker, 2008), yet it is not fully reflected in the institutions promotion criteria of all teacher education institutions. In teacher education the quality of teaching is essential, as teacher educators teach about teaching, and it should be an institutional vision to expose their students to exemplary teaching. Thus teacher educators are more strongly exposed to institutional visions of high quality research as well as excellence in teaching, and it is not always possible to satisfy the two ‘masters’. When teaching comes at the response of research, the status of teacher education is found not to be high in many academic institutions (Brennan and Willis, 2008).
At the policy level the visions seem to be increasingly research focused, as teacher education is supposed to be research based (European Commission, 2013). In other words, teacher educators are expected to conduct research as an integrated part of their job (Cochran-Smith, 2005). In countries such as Finland and now Norway where teacher education is at a master level, all teacher educators are required to be research competent to supervise the student teachers’ master theses, whereas in England the research activities of teacher educators are being decreasingly supported (Beauchamp, Clarke, Hulme and Murray, 2015). In Belgium and the Netherlands, where most teacher educators work in colleges (bachelor level), research is upcoming. The policy visions of teacher educators’ practice differ from context to context.
When teacher educators’ personal visions clash with institutional and national visions for the practice of teacher education, it is likely to impact the teacher educators’ practice, motivation and values. InFo-TED has taken a clear stand and places the personal visions of the teacher educator in the centre (Vanassche et al., 2015). Teacher educators’ development and learning should foremost be directed by their personal and professional visions, in full awareness of the institutional and national framework, yet not being dictated by them. Our argument is that teacher educators will become better professionals if they are able to aspire to work towards their teaching and research visions.
Questions to discuss with colleagues:
- How would you formulate your personal vision as a teacher educator?
- To what extent do you feel that your personal vision is supported by your institution?
- To what extent do you experience that the national vision of teacher education restricts/supports the opportunities for developing your personal vision?
Beauchamp, G., L. Clarke, M. Hulme, and J. Murray. (2015) “Teacher Education in the United Kingdom Post Devolution: Convergences and Divergences.” Oxford Review of Education,41(2), 154-170.
Brennan, M. & Willis, S. (2008). Sites of contestation over teacher education in Australia. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice 14 (4): 295-306. Special Issue: Politics and policy in teacher education: International perspectives.
Cochran-Smith, M. (2005). Teacher educators as researchers; multiple perspectives. Teaching and Teacher Education 21, 219-225.
Ellis,V. Glackin, M., Heighes, D., Norman, M., Nicol, S., Norris, K., Spencer, I., and McNicholl, J. (2013). A difficult realisation: the proletarianisation of higher education-based teacher educators. Journal Of Education For Teaching, 39 (2), 266-280.
Lunenberg, M., Dengerink, J., & Korthagen, F. (2014). The Professional Teacher Educator. Roles, Behaviour, and Professional Development of Teacher Educators. Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers.
Parker, J. (2008) Comparing research and teaching in university promotion criteria. Higher Education Quarterly, 62(3), 237-251.
Smith, K. (2011). The multi-faceted teacher educator – a Norwegian perspective. Journal of Education for Teaching, 37(3), 337–349.
Tack, H., & Vanderlinde, R, (2014). Teacher Educators’ Professional Development: Towards a Typology of Teacher Educators’ Researcherly Disposition. British Journal of Educational Studies, 62 (3), 297-315.
Vanassche, E., Rust, F., Conway, P., Smith, K., Tack, H. & Vanderlinde, R. (2015). InFo-TED: Bringing Policy, Research, and Practice Together Around Teacher Educator Development. In C. Craig, & L. Orland-Barak (Eds.) International teacher education: Promising pedagogies (pp. 341-364) Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing.
Young, P. (2006). Out of balance: lecturers’ perception of differential status and rewards in relation to teaching and research. Teaching in Higher Education, 11(2), 191-202.
Key words: visions, personal, institutional, national level, teaching, research
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