Desktop version

Home arrow Language & Literature arrow Journey to Ethnographic Research

The Voice of the Teacher Educator

Attempts have been made to define teacher education as a profession that is equivalent to all other professions in accordance with the following criteria: knowledge bases, terms and concepts, the fact of its practitioners being professionals, and the existence of an independent body of knowledge that possesses its own structure (Cochran-Smith 2005; Korthagen et al. 2005; Murray 2010; Shagrir 2005). The teacher educators stand at the centre of the process of building the teacher education profession (Berry and Scheele 2007; Grossman et al. 2009; Lunenberg et al. 2007; Smith 2003). In addition to their pivotal function in teacher education processes, the teacher educators play a crucial role in constructing the professional body of knowledge and in creating the component parts of the profession (Berry and Scheele 2007; Murray 2010).

The literature that investigates expert teacher educators’ professionalism shows that it is influenced by their personal biographies (Berry 2009; Zeichner 2005) structure of institutions in which they work (Shagrir 2011), and general demands made on teacher education such as national curricula (Murray 2014). Teacher educators are perceived as professionals who possess specific capabilities and skills that are essential for their role (Cochran-Smith 2003a; Murray et al. 2008).

There is recognition of the importance of the teacher educators’ role and the enormous influence they wield as regards the success of future teachers, and on the entire education system (Cochran-Smith 2001; Lunenberg et al. 2007) Education of teachers is an exceptional aspect of teaching and as a result has its own knowledge base. Widely defined, teacher educators can best be identified as those who actively facilitate the formal instruction of or conduct research and development into educating future teachers (ATE 2013; Koster et al. 2005). The development of the teacher educator’s professional identity is a process that includes requisite training, life-long learning and the building of a body of specific knowledge by means of writing conducting and publishing research (Murray 2010; Shagrir 2010a; Swennen et al. 2008).

Because of my area of interest, the program leaders arranged for me to visit the American Association for Teacher Education (AACTE),[1] the national organization for teacher education colleges, which ensures high quality and professional development programs for teacher educators and school leaders. There are 800 member teacher education colleges, including universities and public and private colleges. One of the organization’s aims is to significantly improve teacher education by promoting and supporting adoption of high standards; supporting research initiatives; arranging in-service education programs, seminars and conferences for teacher education faculty members; instigating professional and open discussion about teacher education policy; leading the implementation of a policy that promotes high standards in student training as educators; initiating and establishing systematic initiatives to promote a community of professional colleagues; to ensure that educationalists are able to serve diverse learners and more. In addition, the organization has a publishing arm that publishes text books written by teacher educators and an academic journal dealing with teacher education called the Journal of Teacher Education (JTE). On my visit to its offices, I was given a comprehensive explanation of its activities and modus operandi, I was given honorary membership and added to their mailing list to receive weekly updates and news, I was given a password to access its website, including the option of participating in online webinars, I was given copies of a number of books they had published and more.

My visit to AACTE and the connections I made there have helped me a great deal both in the research I carried out during the program and in my long term academic work. I am permanently kept up to date with what is happening with regard to teacher education in the United States, helped by the organization’s information resources and participate as a learner in online activities.

In the research, I intended to identify trends and directions in professional development of teacher educators, and to learn how academic endeavours are expressed in daily work. For my research, I interviewed five faculty members at Peabody College of Education—four women and one man—all teachers on teacher education programs. The interviewees started working at the university after accumulating experience as partners in different stages of training students to teach. They all held teaching certificates and experience in teaching and working with children. They all had experience at guiding students at school as teachers, and have served as mentor-evaluators in the university’s teaching programs. As part of their doctoral studies, they participated in a course relating to teaching methods in higher education, which accompanied the student experience, providing counselling and guidance towards teaching, and analysing practical teaching and its results.

From interviews and conversations with university faculty members, it emerged that their principal work focused on teaching and giving personal professional advice to students. Providing advice takes up a large part of lecturers’ day and principally relates to students’ teaching practice in schools, as well as their study courses and assignments. Teacher educators have little to do with teaching practice, that is, schools that provide students with their teaching practice. Prior to the start of the academic year, they deal with establishing working relationships with schools and student placements in their practice classes. After this, they visit schools only if specific problems arise that they had to resolve, or in order to observe students who are struggling with their teaching practice. Guiding students in their teaching practice remains in the hands of school-based teachers and supervisors, who are mainly university students studying for their Ph.D. and are not counted as academic staff of the university. Supervisors have special contracts with the university, and constitute another layer of role holders who contribute to future teachers’ training processes. Most see this role as an initial opportunity to enter the world of teacher education, a stepping stone to working as university lecturers in teacher education.

Because there is no continuous contact between teacher educators and what takes place in their students’ teaching practice, they dedicate a lot of time to personal counselling. These sessions give them a good idea of what is happening in their students’ field experience, and as such, they can advise and assist students on how to deal with personal difficulties and those of working with pupils, and creating working relationships with the school’s teachers. In order to examine students’ teaching skills, lecturers include class activities with opportunities for students to engage in peer teaching or to analyse filmed lessons and the like

This set up is completely different from the education system to which I am accustomed, raised a number of key questions, such as: to what extent should teacher educators be integrated and involved in students’ sphere of experiences in schools? How significant is this in the teacher education process? What should be the nature of links between those who are responsible for academic-theoretical studies and those responsible for teaching practice? How can a situation be prevented where academic lessons are only theoretical and cut off completely from doing and practice? How capable are student teachers to implement theory? Would lecturers’ advice be more effective if they knew the schools, classes, teachers and children?

Seeing what went on in the research field and analysing the findings with the voice of a teacher educator bore one fruit among all those that the research bore, an article published in an academic publication. This article focuses on the professional development of teacher educators.

Shagrir, L. (2011). Professional development of the teacher educator: Orientations and motivations. International Journal of University Teaching and Faculty Development, 18(1), 17-32.

The article is reprinted below:

Professional Development of the Teacher Educator: Orientations and Motivations

Abstract The goal of this research was to identify the motivations that inspire teacher educators to strive for professionalism and quality in their work, and to examine the orientations according to which they perceive their role. To this end, interviews and questionnaires were employed to investigate the teacher educators’ world views as well as the expression of these world views in the everyday performance of their various professional activities. The conclusions indicate that novice teacher educators perceive teacher education as a practical-reflective profession, and have extrinsic motivations for professional development that stem from their obligation to meet the demands of the evaluation processes they face. Teacher educators with substantial seniority perceive teacher education as a holistic-integral profession, and operate out of intrinsic motivations that stem from the view of the importance of high caliber teacher education.

Keywords Teacher education • Teacher educators • Professional development • Motivations Orientations

Introduction

The teacher educator’s task is to prepare teachers who meet the requirements of the education system and who influence the nature and quality of their pupils’ learning and achievements. For this reason, education systems and teacher education institutions worldwide are interested in faculty members who expend time and effort on their professional development throughout their working lives (Korthagen et al. 2005; Koster et al. 2005; Smith 2003). The main goal of this research was to learn about teacher educators’ motivations to engage in professional development and their orientations with regard to professionalism in teacher education. Observing the differences among perceptions led to the discovery of a diversity of orientations and motivations that might assist in defining and clarifying important issues.

The research was conducted by a non-American scholar at a college of education in the USA. Residency as a scholar for an extended period of time afforded a profound knowledge of the way of life at the college, of the curriculum and its cornerstones, and of the college leaders’ world views. The researcher hails from a different teacher education system—a fact that contributed essential inputs and insights to the research. Learning about diverse models of preparing teachers, discovering a range of perceptions regarding the roles of teacher educators, and becoming acquainted with the distinctions among the regulations, evaluations, and procedures all constituted an enriching and beneficial experience. The benefits of studying another teacher education system serve to expand the body of knowledge and empower the notion of teacher education as a standalone profession (Gardner 1989; Shagrir 2010b). Inquiring into other systems might provide some key factors to consider and explore.

The significance of the present research lies in foregrounding factors that influence the teacher educators’ desire and readiness to engage in professional practice. The exposure of these factors may well be helpful to education systems when encouraging faculty members to engage in professional development and to build channels of professional activity that conform to the differences between the faculty member’s various levels of readiness and responsiveness.

Theoretical Background

In an attempt to identify factors that encourage and spur teacher educators’ on professional development, it was found that the research literature does not examine them. In order to construct the research background and ensure that it is consistent with the needs of the study, the author reviewed literature that examines the nature and the demands of professional development and of professional teacher educators.

Teacher education exerts a long-term influence on teachers’ knowledge, on the extent of their readiness to teach, and on the effect they have on their pupils’ achievements (Nevin et al. 2009; Smith 2003). For this reason, it is important to ensure that teacher educators, who bear the responsibility of preparing future teachers, are professionals, experts, and leaders who wield a great deal of authority.

A central claim states that it is crucial to work toward ensuring that teacher educators develop the requisite competencies for performing their roles (Lunenberg and Hamilton 2008). It is imperative for them to possess a high level of expertise in order to be able to promote the student teachers’ practical wisdom. They are required to make the students aware of the various aspects of actual teaching, and to reinforce their ability to utilize this knowledge in the course of their teaching (Lunenberg and Hamilton 2008).

Over the last few years, researchers have attempted to identify the characteristics and features of the professional teacher who teaches student teachers (Furlong et al. 2000; Kosnik and Beck 2008; Koster et al. 2005; Murray and Male 2005; Murray et al. 2008; Smith 2003; Swennen et al. 2008). Important issues concerning professionalization include forming a professional identity, participating in professional activities, and performing a variety of roles and activities in teaching. Teacher education institutions expect their teachers to teach well, to perform services, and to be involved in scholarship activities beyond teaching (Becker et al. 2003; Denemark and Espinoza 1974; Terpstra and Honoree 2009). Professional development means contributing to the expansion of the body of knowledge (Furlong et al. 2000) by conducting research, writing, publishing, presenting, and collaborating with colleagues (Kosnik and Beck 2008; Loughran and Berry 2005; Milbrandt and Klein 2008; Nevin et al. 2009; Shagrir 2005).

Due to the absence of formal training for the role of teacher educator, other aspects of professional development are examined, including requisite credentials, educational background, and experience in teaching (Berry 2009; Lunenberg and Hamilton 2008; Milbrandt and Klein 2008). A period of several years in the role is required for building the individual’s identity as a professional who speaks the language of the profession and is imbued with professional confidence (Swennen et al. 2008a, b). The development of practical wisdom reflects a high level of professional growth that occurs over a period of time during the acquisition of everyday teaching experience (Lunenberg and Korthagen 2009). Students depend on their professors to teach the fundamentals of professional teaching and to practice what they preach (Heltberbran 2008; Loughran 2006; Martin and Russell 2009; Swennen et al. 2008a). It is their professional responsibility to build a structured and orderly pedagogy, and their duty to furnish the students with a deeper understanding of teaching and learning (Furlong et al. 2000; Loughran 2006). Teacher educators use their experience, their practical theories, and their personal histories to prepare the best practices for their classrooms and the best ways to articulate the processes (Lunenberg and Hamilton 2008). In parallel, they have to cooperate with colleagues, support professional development, share their experience and concepts, promote professional discussions, deal systematically with learning and reflection, and serve as members of the profession (Koster and Dengerink 2008; Murray et al. 2008; Nevin et al. 2009).

The literature review reveals that teacher educators are required to demonstrate seriousness, effort, and persistence with regard to their professional activities. In order for constant professional development to take place, it is necessary to study the motivations and orientations that guide teacher educators. The manner in which these constructs are related to in the literature has been examined.

A motivated person is one who performs tasks with enthusiasm, energy, inspiration, and a desire to achieve success. Motivation can directly influence the individual performance, and different individuals manifest diverse orientations and levels of intensity (Mtiller et al. 2009). Motivations are distinguished from one another by what engenders them and by the goals they call into play. There is a distinction between two basic types of motivations: intrinsic motivations, which stem from a great deal of interest and enjoyment, and extrinsic motivations, which lead to the accomplishment of objectives and results. These motivation types exert different influences on the quality of both the experience and the success attained during practice (Ryan and Deci 2000).

Orientation is defined in dictionaries as the general direction of the individual’s tendencies, thoughts, and interests, his beliefs, opinions, and preferences (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 2010; Merriam-Webster Dictionaries 2010). Relating to conceptual orientations in teacher education programs, Feiman-Nemser (1990) defines orientation as theoretical positions concerning the means of teacher preparation. In her opinion, teacher educators are constantly obliged to deliberate about the efficacy of the goals and means they employ in their work. Such deliberation would enable the teacher educators to clarify to themselves the objectives they wish to accomplish. Building a directed orientation means building a theory and a world view about learning and teaching and about learning to teach. Orientation includes a set of ideas, goals, and tools that permit an examination of whether teachers have indeed been properly prepared, and whether the teacher educator has succeeded in his/her task of preparing them.

Koster and Dengerink (2005) conducted an in-depth study on the development of professional teacher educators’ knowledge and skills and issued a call for continuing research to examine whether and how the competence profile could be extended to include attitudes, motives, and personal characteristics. Following this call and in view of the importance of the issues of professionalism, the present research seeks to explore the significance of the orientations and motivations that guide teacher educators and serve as guidelines in their everyday practice. These orientations and motivations can be grasped by examining the teacher educators’ perceptions, roles they perform, and their professional activities (Koster et al. 2005; Loughran and Berry 2005; Murray et al. 2008). This study adds another stratum to the research that is presented in the review of the literature on teacher educators’ professionalism. This additional stratum consists of the revelation of factors leading the faculty members to professional practice, and it is able to provide a response to the question of how to encourage and induce the faculty members to engage in scholarship.

Method

The research literature stresses that teacher education exerts a great deal of influence on education systems, and therefore obliges teacher educators to do their jobs professionally and to persevere with their development. Comprehending the character of their everyday work and their professional world view facilitates an examination of the nature of the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that impel them to invest in and persist with their professional development.

Research questions: The study is based on two research questions: (1) What are the motivations that inspire teacher educators to engage in professional activities? (2) Which orientations are revealed in teacher educators’ perceptions of their professional development?

The research questions permit the study of the teacher educators’ perceptions and actual performances as well as of the ideal characteristics of the teacher educator who can be considered professional. By means of two research tools—an interview and a questionnaire—the participants were afforded an opportunity to describe how they perceived the nature and character of the professional activities they performed, and in what ways this perception was reflected in their practice. Concomitantly, each teacher educator was required to present an overview and a well-organized theory regarding the characteristics and work of the professional teacher educator who does his job correctly.

Research population: The research population comprised five teacher educators— four women and one man—with varying amounts of seniority in teacher education and experience in teaching children. They were all educators with teaching qualifications, and had all been involved in teaching in diverse settings to a greater or lesser extent. The participants were serving as faculty members of the non-tenure practice track in the only two departments that prepare teachers at the university featured in this study: Special Education and Teaching and Learning. They could not serve as faculty members of the tenure track.

For the sake of confidentiality, the teacher educators have been allocated pseudonyms:

The participant designated “Janet” had seven years’ teaching experience in various schools as a demonstrating expert in a program for improving teaching, and one and a half years’ seniority in teacher education.

The participant designated “Tammy” had eleven years’ teaching experience in high schools and ten years’ seniority as a teacher educator.

The participant designated “Jean” had eight and a half years’ teaching experience in Special Education and inclusive classes, and three years’ seniority as a teacher educator.

The participant designated “Sue” had limited teaching experience in the Special Education setting and more seniority as a speech therapist for young children. In total, she had worked with children for thirteen and a half years, and had been engaged in teacher education for about a year and a half.

The participant designated “Mike’ had nine years’ secondary school teaching

experience, and continued to teach at the school in parallel to working at the

university. He only had several months’ experience as a teacher educator.

The diversity in the teacher educators’ basic credentials facilitates an examination of the diversity in their perceptions of teacher education as well as in the way they perceived the role of the professional teacher educator.

The small number of research participants in this study stems from the faculty members’ reluctance to participate in the study mainly because of their extremely crowded schedules. Nevertheless, the research tools and the elements of similarity and difference among the participants permit the performance of an in-depth analysis and the presentation of solid results, and this may be useful and beneficial. The differences among the participants were manifested in a range of variables such as seniority in teaching, seniority in the role, the spectrum of tasks, professional activities, and professional world views. Despite the small number of informants, the above mentioned variables all furnish a broad sample of investigation and research possibilities.

An analysis of official university documents revealed that there are obligatory guidelines for the faculty members’ practice, professional development, advancement tracks, and job preservation. The document includes definitions of the role required by the university, including promotion methods and ways of keeping one’s job: “Practice and clinical faculty... are integral to the development and performance of programs of the highest quality for undergraduate education, professional preparation, and outreach. Strong practice and clinical faculty are critical to advisory, supervisory, instructional and administrative demands of these programs” (p. 1) (Vanderbilt University 2009).

Research tools: As mentioned, two research tools were employed in order to collect data: interviews and questionnaires. These tools were found to be compatible with the research questions since they prompted the participants to elaborate, give examples, provide numerous descriptions, and substantiate their statements. The tools made it possible to combine the references both to the narratives that arose from occurrences at work and to concrete, contextual cases on the one hand, and the participants’ world views and opinions on the other.

Since it is difficult to identify motivations through direct observation at work, there was a need for tools that directed, encouraged, and induced the participants to think about the conduct, practice, and intentions that guided them. Each participant underwent an in-depth, semi-open, recorded interview. The interviews were arranged in advance and held in the participants’ offices in order to enable them not only to remain in their natural and familiar environment, but also to present examples and products of their work. The interviews were recorded with the participants’ permission, and were conducted in an open, informal, and sharing atmosphere.

The interviews dealt with six topics in accordance with the topics that arose from the review of the research literature concerning teacher educators’ professional development:

Formal and informal processes of entry into the role—As mentioned, there is no formal preparation for the role, and therefore the nature of the professional development, from its inception, is crucial. This topic enabled the participants to relate to the entry procedures while examining the professionalism at each stage. Strengths and challenges of the role—The theoretical background presents the broad spectrum of roles that the teacher educator has to perform. Understanding the strengths and challenges in the participants’ work affords an understanding of the orientations that guide them in their roles.

Professional development activities—This topic enabled the participants to elaborate on the activities in which they took part and which they perceived as professional activities.

Collaboration with colleagues—In the theoretical background, cooperation with colleagues was perceived as one of the mandatory activities for any professional person. This topic enabled the participants to present broader information about the orientations that guided their professional development.

Personal initiatives—An examination of this topic affords an understanding of the participants’ personal motivations in their professional practice. Self-identification as a professional—As mentioned, all the members of a profession have to consider themselves professionals and experts in their field.

This self-identification enables the members of the profession to understand their perceptions of their role, the motivations that guide them, and the orientations according to which they view their profession.

The logic underlying the above mentioned choice of topics was the desire to obtain a broad view of the professionalization process, beginning with the entry into the role and ending with internal reflection and an examination of the participants’ practice during the course of the research. At the beginning of the interviews, the participants talked about their entry and how they coped with its demands. In the four following topics, they described the characteristics of their practice in the role as well as the manner in which these characteristics came to the fore. The final topic clarifies how the participants viewed the nature and meaning of their membership of the profession. The responses to these six topics shed light on the orientations that guided the participants’ world views as well as the motivations that inspired them in their ongoing everyday work.

Open conversation was permitted during the interviews for the purpose of gathering as much information as possible. The interviewees were afforded opportunities to express personal views, arguments, experiences, knowledge, and interpretations (Fontana and Frey 2005; Zanting et al. 2003). The interviewer could add questions that were inspired by the interviewees’ body language, gestures, hesitations, and cessation of speech.

A week later the participants completed an electronic questionnaire, which dealt with the same six topics that were addressed in the interviews and consisted of open questions—with the exception of one that required the participants to mark options indicating how they designated their role. At the end of the questionnaire, there was an open space for comments and insights. The questionnaire enabled the respondents to think the six topics through without the presence of the researcher and then to document their responses. The data from the interviews and the questionnaires permitted broad, first-hand documentation that had the potential to furnish extensive information about professional activities, opinions, visions, statements, and perceptions (Fontana and Frey 2005).

In order to perform a content analysis of the data (Fontana and Frey 2005; Sabar-BenYehoshua 1990), two categories were predetermined in accordance with the research questions: (a) The participants’ motivations to engage in professional development, and (b) their perceptions and orientations regarding professional development.

The first category contains three criteria:

Processes of entry into the role requires processes that may be formal and/or informal, and preparing the teacher educators for their role includes paying attention to theoretical, empirical, and conceptual issues in teacher education (Zeichner 2005).

Definition of the role investigates the teacher educators’ views of their professional development as teachers who teach how to teach.

Professional activities examine the components of professional doing beyond teaching: researching, studying, reading, presenting, and publishing.

The second category contains two criteria:

Teacher education as a profession, which comprises two components: the principles that are responsible for shaping the profession and the demands and standards that the people who practice the profession are obliged to meet.

The characteristics of professional teacher educators, including the advice they proffer as colleagues to novice teacher educators.

Following the transcription of the recorded interviews, the information collected about each participant by means of the two research tools was reread several times. During the reading, recurring words and terms were marked. A distinction was drawn between evidence and contents that taught about practice on the one hand and opinions and thoughts on the other. Furthermore, central ideas and themes were identified. The data were then processed and their correlation with the five criteria of the content analysis categories determined. The placement of the contents in this structure—on the backdrop of variables such as seniority in higher education and prior experience in teaching—enabled a category-based distinction to be drawn among the participants on two levels: the personal level of the participant’s work and activity, and the general level of the participant’s conception of the role. The analysis of the content according to the two categories and their attendant criteria permitted an informed analysis of the data to be performed and interesting conclusions regarding these levels to be drawn.

Results and Discussion

The use of the content analysis methodology and the examination of the data in accordance with each category facilitated the identification of findings that revealed elements of similarity and difference among the participants’ perceptions. The findings are presented in two parts, each relating to a single category of analysis.

The Participants ’ Motivations to Engage in Professional Development

As regards the first criterion, the findings reveal that the participants underwent several stages in the process of entering the role in teacher education. They were all certified teachers, held Ph.D. degrees, taught in schools, and served as mentors to student teachers. They considered this to be the first stage of joining the ‘force’ of teacher educators. During the course of their M.A. and Ph.D. studies, the participants all served as supervisors to students doing their practicum in the schools.

The other activity that helped the participants settle into their role was delivering guest lectures in the framework of courses at the university. They also completed a course titled “Teaching in Higher Education”—one of the requirements for their Ph. D. studies. Initially, they worked as teaching assistants to the professors, then they were accorded the exclusive responsibility as the main lecturers in courses on teaching methods, and ultimately they were also responsible for courses on disciplinary topics from their fields of specialization.

Due to the absence of formal settings for the training of faculty members in preparing teacher educators, the process of induction into the role as a part of building the professional identity is important. According to the participants, the progressive entry into the role enabled them to acquire the profession gradually while increasing their skills, tools, and experience. Success at each stage and in the transitions from stage to stage attests to their willingness to become professionalized and to expend effort on their professional development.

The participants declared that they had consolidated a world view regarding both their continued professional development and their professionalism. They were asked to select a suitable definition of their role from the following nine-item list: teacher, teacher educator, teacher educator, lecturer, mentor, researcher, curriculum developer, professional leader, faculty member. The definition the participants applied to their role facilitated the identification of the motivations that impelled them toward specialization in their role.

There was only one designation that was acceptable to all the participants, and that was teacher educator. The other designations gave rise to interesting differences among the participants. The teacher educator with the least seniority in teacher education chose all nine options, explaining this as follows:

Mike: I think being a teacher educator involves multiple facets of professional leadership within a framework of preparing new teachers. I regularly develop professional trainings, serve as faculty member..., lecture in classes, mentor candidates, and develop new curriculum in different initiatives.

As opposed to the most junior teacher educator’s numerous choices, it appeared that the teacher educator with the most seniority in teacher education was satisfied with the lowest number of designations—three: teacher, teacher educator, and professional leader. Other participants chose between four and seven designations and mentioned that their choices stemmed from the university’s requirements or from the nature of the role they were performing. The discussion section examines the differences between the most junior participant’s motivations and those of the most veteran participant.

The participants mentioned the broad range of their activities in their explanations:

Sue: My main duties focus on teaching, supervising, advising, and determining field-based replacements.

Tammy: I am the coordinator of the program. I design coursework and assessments, teach methods courses, handle issues in the field for my student teachers, coordinate with local schools, work with state and local officials in determining education policies.

The third criterion examines how the participants described their everyday professional activities, that is, how their perception is expressed in practice in their work. The findings are described according to the university requirements (Vanderbilt University 2009). Every faculty member is obliged to perform three types of roles: teaching, services, and involvement in professional academic development. The findings show that while the participants all engaged in the three channels they did so to differing extents.

Teaching: The participants consider teaching to constitute a central component of their work since they are members of the practical faculty and since they are obliged to prepare high-calibre teachers. They mentioned the need to maintain personal contact with the students and to know their private world for the purpose of helping them cope with their everyday difficulties in the classroom. They present several ways of teaching: demonstrative teaching as a positive role model of correct teaching; teaching that includes the analysis of teaching situations, the execution of a range of assignments for the purpose of enriching the learners’ portfolios, and the presentation of lesson plans and considerations; teaching that presents many examples from teaching situations; teaching that leads to a connection between theory and practice in classroom teaching.

Services: This component includes services that entail active membership on committees. The participants were members of three to four committees. Those with less seniority in the role served on committees that operated in the department or the college. Those with seniority of over two years in the role served on university or district committees as well.

Professional academic development: The participants stated that they were partners in various research settings, in at least two research projects that they were conducting with their colleagues. Most of the research studies mentioned were short-term studies that chiefly explored practical topics. Each of the participants mentioned at least two research projects that were conducting with colleagues. Three of them mentioned their awareness of the fact that according to the university’s evaluation procedure, they were obliged to engage in research or present at conferences. This choice occasionally induced them to opt for engaging in limited research linked to their teaching practice.

A discussion of the findings that reflect the participants’ motivations regarding professional development raises several crucial points: It appears that there is an important place for comparative research that examines the significance, advantages, and disadvantages of a graduated entry into the role as opposed to the significance, advantages, and disadvantages of a direct entry, as is the case in teacher education institutions in a number of countries.

It is evident that the investment in and perseverance with professional development are expressed in different shades. From the initial stages of their entry, the participants invested a great deal in the development of their teaching skills and in maintaining success in teaching. The participants with the most seniority also invested their time and energy in broad and varied scholarship activities. The entry into a new role entailed a lot of learning and in-depth involvement in the central aspect of the work, namely, teaching. The constant learning did not afford a consolidated building of the professional identity, and thus we could find that the most junior teacher chose all nine designations for defining his role.

Like the motivations that guided the participants, it appears that they all considered teaching to be the main thrust of their work, and the focal point of their occupation to be the acquisition of quality teaching tools and working with the students. The teaching role was accompanied by their personal counseling role, which constituted an inseparable part of teaching and a heavy load for them, occupying most of their work time and preventing them from devoting time to other professional activities. The veteran participants, who felt more confident with teaching, mentioned that the motivation that guided their work was directed toward conducting research, writing, and publishing.

The Participants ’ Perceptions and Orientations Regarding Professional Development

While the findings show that the participants had similar viewpoints, different orientations regarding their perceptions can be discerned. What they had in common was the fact that they ascribed a great deal of importance to their role as teacher educators, believed that teacher education occupied a central position, and understood its responsibility for the creation of a new generation of professional teachers. Teaching in higher education is perceived as a complex occupation that requires meticulous and thorough preparation. In parallel to the similarity between the perceptions, the wide range of roles that a teacher is expected to perform and the various priorities and emphases attributed to those roles is discerned in two orientations.

One group of participants made extensive use of terms such as practice, demonstrations, practical tools, teaching methods, reflective practices:

Jean: The courses that I teach are practice related courses... very targeted toward practical application....

Sue: I think my strength was the amount of practical experience I have had and that I could share with my students.

The practical orientation is reflected in various ways of understanding teacher educators’ professional development: They must act as role models, and their teaching should be a demonstration of correct teaching. Their teaching must deal chiefly with practice, they should set the students practical assignments, and they should accompany their teaching with personal and practical counselling. They should insist on including the learners in their deliberations while planning the assignments and in the examination of methods of teaching.

The theories taught serve as a framework for the practical activity of teaching. While teaching, they should present examples from their experience as school teachers. They should provide tools for performing meaningful reflection while analysing teaching situations encountered by the students during their practicum. The learners prepare teaching-learning activities at different levels, and build a useful portfolio of activities:

Janet: I usually try to be very transparent about. what I did differently for you, about the instructional decisions. We try to start with some sort of principles or frameworks from the theory but we try to put them back into practice because otherwise they will not make the connections.

Other participants made extensive use of terms such as develop, ways of thinking, habits of mind, grow, conceptual structure:

Tammy: Teacher education and preparing teachers to do the really difficult and complex work of teaching is something that requires a tremendous amount of thought and preparation and thinking not just about your students but about how these things work together as a whole. In preparing students to teach in a classroom that we cannot figure out what it is going to be, and so that their habits of mind that you have to develop and ways of thinking and types of pedagogy that you have to do and how to develop their work with their students so they have something that they can develop and grow. to develop a way of thinking, a way of looking, to develop the conceptual structure that’s going to frame all those things and the choices that they make.

This holistic orientation includes a broad contextual view of teaching: to create educators with a professional identity, and to adapt to changing situations and contexts. Professional development was very important to the participants as teacher educators and as faculty in higher education. They were members of professional organizations of teacher educators both on the state and the federal levels. They presented their theory of teacher education in the framework of conferences, committees, and forums and one of them served on the editorial committees of journals.

As regards the characteristics of teacher educators, the participants mentioned that it is crucial that professionals possess the following skills and characteristics: They must know how to make an ongoing connection between learning in teacher education and the world of the classroom and of the teacher; Equip the student teachers with a broad range of rich teaching methods that develop levels of cognitive learning; Be acquainted with the theory that stems from research and utilize it as a setting for building teaching tasks; Possess mastery of pedagogical content knowledge as well as of subject matter content knowledge; Possess teaching experience, since it helps them be realistic, be familiar with the reality in the schools and, accordingly, prepare young teachers; Know how to perform reflective practice on their teaching in such a way that the students can learn from them; And, constantly deal with development and research in order to be successful.

This orientation is reflected principally in the following four ways: Presenting their perception to the students; Employing ways of teaching that include guidance toward developing thinking and building a perception; Serving as personal advisors; Operating in higher frameworks as those responsible for and partners in policy making in teacher education.

A discussion of the findings that reflect the participants’ orientations regarding development raises a number of important points: The practical orientation targets the ways and skills of correct and meaningful teaching. Engaging in teacher education must ascribe importance to questions such as: What is the correct way to teach in various situations and contexts? How can we equip the pre-service teacher for teaching that employs the widest range of teaching methods? How can we impart tools to student teachers for performing professional reflection on their work? The participants who operated according to this orientation wanted to see the student teacher planning a variety of tasks at different levels and practicing teaching them. The students must know how to perform reflection and analyse their teaching skills include receiving the feedback of colleagues and professionals.

As mentioned above, the junior teacher educators indicated that the majority of the emphasis in their teaching was on practice and on the acquisition of reflective teaching tools, on teaching accompanied by demonstrations and on teaching as role modelling that enables the teacher to be equipped with a portfolio of tools and skills.

The holistic orientation stresses that effort must be expended to help the trainees develop professional thinking and enable them to understand the aggregate of roles required in a profession as complex as teaching. While it is obvious to those who adhere to this orientation that the impartation of banks of tools and teaching activities is important, additional strata must be added to it. The main task is to develop a conceptual structure of procedural teaching that is based on familiarity with the learners’ ways of learning. While they must know how to use the practical tools they have acquired, they must make sure to adapt them to their own personalities and professional perceptions. Affording teachers an opportunity to build a professional identity in parallel to imparting teaching tools will serve them effectively in any situation and in any classroom.

The participants who espoused this orientation viewed themselves as leaders who engaged in teacher education as a calling, and considered themselves to be professional trainers of the next generation of educators.

Positioning the findings and the discussion of the findings opposite the theoretical background leads to conclusions regarding the factors that motivated the faculty members to engage in professional development. These conclusions have not yet been discussed in depth in the world of teacher education research.

Conclusions

The research findings demonstrate uniform and diverse structures in the participants’ perceptions, motivations, and orientations in their role as teacher educators. The analysis of the findings permits three conclusions to be drawn from the research. The first conclusion identifies two different orientations. The first perceives teacher education as a practical-reflective profession. It emphasizes the impartation of teaching skills and qualifications by analysing teaching situations and demonstrating professional teaching. This orientation considers preparation to be effective when the graduate students set out on their paths as teachers with a rich portfolio of teaching skills and tools that will enable them to be successful teachers and obviate the extensive dropping out of teachers from the profession. The participants who had served as teacher educators for only a few years perceived that domain via the practical-reflective orientation, which mandates viewing teaching skills as central to their perception. They perceived teaching as a skill that endows teachers with technical and functional expertise.

The second orientation perceives teacher education as a holistic-integral profession. While it acknowledges the need for practice and reflection in teacher education, it adds a stratum. It calls for the building of the student teachers’ personalities, the development of their knowledge and their ability to cope with changing situations, and the opportunity for them to grow into the role they are acquiring. The objective is for the student teachers to grow by means of the professional tools and perceptions they acquired as future teachers. The participants who espoused this orientation demanded that teacher education lead the pre-service teachers to construct their professional identities. Teaching is more than a practical profession. Teacher educators must view the aggregate of the teaching role in a holistic manner, thereby enabling the students to grow and develop into the profession. This orientation requires that the teacher educator possess a broad spectrum of teaching qualifications, adhere to a theory that is based on research, and be among the builders of the profession and its body of knowledge.

The participants with seniority in teacher education perceived teacher education through the holistic-integral orientation. They made sure to enable the learners to consolidate a professional personality that is perpetually thinking, planning, renewing, and adapting their teaching to the changes that occur in society.

The second conclusion identifies two kinds of motivations. The findings show that the participants who were at the beginning of their careers were focused on the development of their teaching abilities, on their integration as faculty members and on their survival in the role. They had extrinsic motivation (Ryan and Deci 2000) for professional development that stemmed from their obligation to meet the demands of the institution and the evaluation processes. As they saw it, the main emphases were personal survival, adapting to the demands of the role in teacher education, and meeting the formal demands of the institution. The participants used words like “struggle” and “survival”.

Participants with a great deal of seniority presented an orderly conception of solid, based, and broad perceptions. They operate out of intrinsic motivation (Ryan and Deci 2000), which spurred them on to worthwhile practice that stemmed from the view of the importance of professional teacher education and of their role. Teacher educators have to work toward developing an inner belief, understanding the significance of their role, and knowing that they have to achieve good results. Their personal professional agendas are comprehensive and contain convincing arguments for their entrenchment. It is noticeable that as the number of years of experience in teacher education increases, a deepening and broadening of the professional perception takes place, and there is an improvement in the ability to present informed arguments in response to other perceptions. The veteran teacher educators added more strata to the professional agenda over and above the view of teaching as a practical-reflective occupation. They added broader holistic-integral emphases that place the pre-service teacher at the centre, and consider development as a thinking and developing teacher to be more important than being skilled. They expected the teacher educator to prepare students in such a way that each one could construct a personal and professional perception as a teacher—a perception that would serve as a guideline in the future.

The third conclusion that can be drawn from the above two conclusions relates to the link between the motivations and orientations that guided the teacher educators in their work on the one hand and the amount of seniority they had in teacher education on the other. The novice teacher educators perceived their role from the viewpoint of their teaching skills, their ability to meet the demands of the role, and their success and survival in the role. The veteran, who possessed richer experience, defined their role from the viewpoint of the pre-service teacher at the centre and the need to produce professional, adaptable, thinking, developing teachers who would grow into the role. The teacher educators with seniority and experience in teacher education succeeded in consolidating a professional personality and identity with a holistic-integral orientation, and operated out of intrinsic motivation.

The conclusion that represents the advantage of veteran teachers may well serve as an appeal to teacher education institutions to eschew a high turnover of faculty members, enabling them instead to remain in their jobs and foster their development. A high turnover causes inexperienced teachers who enter the teacher education system and require a period of time to develop a professional world view to work according to intrinsic orientations and holistic motivations. This conclusions add a stratum to the argument mentioned in the theoretical background, contending that it takes a period of several years of work for teacher educators to consolidate a professional identity, employ professional language, and operate with confidence (Swennen et al. 2008a, b).

The research presented can serve as a basis for follow-up research that would explore faculty members’ orientations and motivations in a number of institutions around the world. International comparative research of this kind would enable systems to identify the common factors that motivate the faculty to strive for professionalism. In this scenario, scholarship channels that are compatible both with their needs and with the stage they have reached in their development would be available to them. Finally, the findings of such comparative research may well lay the foundation for inter-institutional and international cooperative activities in the building of a range of joint scholarship channels for teacher educators.

  • [1] http://aacte.org.
 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >

Related topics