Teachers have always played a crucial role in children’s life. But are they still on top of things? On Thursday 26 May 2016, from 9.30 to 1.00 pm, the Liaison agency Flanders-Europe (vleva) and Catholic Education Flanders discussed with experts from Flanders, Scotland and the UK about the ideal profile of the teacher for tomorrow.
In her presentation, dr. Eline Vanassche pointed to the lack of consensus of what teachers need to know. Instead, "all teacher education is a form of ideology” (Spodek, 1974, pp. 8-9). Dr Vanassche presented different paradigms of teacher education: behavioralistic, personalistic, traditional-craft and inquiry-oriented teacher education. In practice, most teacher education programs in Europe are eclectic, she said. Dr. Vanassche concluded that a lot of work remains to be done on a framework to think about teacher education.
Teacher education is struggling to find a proper place in Flemish society, said prof. dr. Simons. He discussed existing tensions in the current system, the changes that the new concept note seeks to bring about and the challenges linked to the proposed new system (a.o. CVO, vocational-educational qualification and teaching qualification). Then, he pointed out a couple of long-term challenges. The first challenge concerned the possibility for teachers to specialise during their teacher education. The second challenge relates to teacher autonomy: the need for teachers to be free to fulfill their double mission towards pupils and public interest. The third challenge is to allow for school education. School education is not only about reproduction, but also about renewal.
Prof. dr. Gert Biesta discussed the role of judgement in teaching and what this means for teacher education. He argued that judgement is needed because education takes place in the domain of the variable, not the eternal. The purpose of education is therefore a normative question, it depends on what we want in a particular point in time and in a particular reality we are engaged in. There are three domains of purpose. The first is qualifications, which are very much emphasized today. A second purpose is socialisation, which the current trend of teaching resilience relates to. But there is also a third purpose: subjectification, or the formation of the person. These three domains of purpose are always there together, and we need to take responsibility for all of them, argued professor Biesta.
Prof. dr. Mark Priestley discussed teacher education in Scotland. The Scottish education system has a good reputation, but, he said, the new discourse “teachers matter”(OECD 2005, 2007) is problematic because it puts all responsibility on teachers without considering the environment in which teachers work. Professor Priestley also showed that the actual practice is very different from the dreams Scotland has. He stated that Scotland has an anti-intellectual and traditional teaching culture and that the new long-term aspiration of teaching being a Master’s level profession could be a ‘Trojan Horse’ to change entrenched cultures.
Dr. Eline Vanassche summarised, in 4 statements, the implications for the professional development of teacher educators. The first statement is that teaching about teaching is not just teaching one’s subject in a different context, but requires knowledge, skills and beliefs which are qualitatively different from those developed as an experienced classroom teacher. The second statement is that if teacher education is to be taken more seriously, then the professional preparation and continuing development of teacher educators needs to be taken more seriously as well. The third statement is that teacher education implies not only a technical agenda of transmitting the ‘recipe book’ of teaching, but implies a complex relationship with student teachers, characterized by moral responsibility and commitment. The fourth statement is that teacher educators’ self-understanding, practice, and professional development is fundamentally shaped (i.e. enabled or constrained) by the professional contexts in which they work.
In his closing remarks, Geert Schelstraete concluded that a lot of work needs to be done, and that Katholiek Onderwijs Vlaanderen is determined to work on this issue.
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