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Beatrice Avalos (Chile) Ph. D. in Education from St. Louis University, United States.

A university teacher in Chile, the United Kingdom, and Papua New Guinea where she was Professor of Education. She has worked in the field of education and development, as well as in teaching and teacher education. Besides articles in journals and edited books, her publications include Teaching children of the poor: an ethnographic study in Latin America, Issues in science teacher education, and with Wadi Haddad, Teaching effectiveness: a review of studies in Third World regions. She has recently finished co-ordinating a project to improve teacher education in seventeen universities in Chile (19972002) based at the Ministry of Education.

TEACHERS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

TEACHER EDUCATION: REFLECTIONS, DEBATES, CHALLENGES AND INNOVATIONS


Beatrice Avalos

Teachers become public figures when something goes wrong with the education system or when they are needed to implement reforms. They acquire public status also when they negotiate salaries and working conditions or take a stand in relation to some issue. But most of the time, teachers work in their classrooms and schools ignorant of the discussions about their function and performance, until such discussions affect their everyday lives. In a certain sense, such is the situation today. Policies on teachers are being framed in different national contexts that have an effect on teachers work, offering ground for reflection and debate in relation to their conceptual foundations as well as to their practicality in producing the expected results. Teacher education is one of the subjects of discussion at policy level and questions are asked about its effectiveness in preparing teachers to perform the expected functions related to student learning. There is a renewed understanding of the power of education to produce those social and economic transformations that render countries competitive in the global world, and a degree of scepticism regarding how well teachers and teacher education are performing in this respect. Thus, we encounter heated discussions and State-directed measures to regulate the quality of teaching and teacher education through the setting of standards and the evaluation of teacher performance, organizationa l and curricular reforms in teacher education institutions, proposals for alternative routes to becoming a teacher, etc. On the other hand, teacher organizations, researchers and teacher educators view a number of these measures as eroding the status and autonomy of the profession. In many developing countries, teacher education is being regarding as a key target for reform, both of

the entry quality of student-teachers as well as of the nature of preparation programmes themselves; and numerous initiatives, sponsored by the government and non-governmental organisations, focus on the professional development of serving teachers. Considering this context, the forty-sixth World Assembly of the International Council of Education for Teaching, that took place in Santiago, Chile (July, 2001), selected as its general theme the issue of teacher education reform from the perspective of the challenges involved in change. Presentations and papers were invited that dealt with the relationship between national education reforms and teacher education from the perspective of initial programmes and continuing professional development. More specifically, the invitation was to examine the process of teacher education change and its difficulties, to report on innovations and consider the effect on teacher education of policies concerning teacher accountability and quality control. Papers could also deal with the role of teacher education in relation to marginalized populations, as well as with its inclusion in the global world. The articles included in this special issue of Prospects were presented and discussed at the Santiago meeting and offer a picture of policy debates, innovations and challenges in the reform of teacher education occurring in a number of countries in the world. The themes dealt with offer food for reflection and a stimulus to initiate, improvement or change practices currently in place.

What kind of teacher education do we want?

This question is posed in several of the articles, particularly in relation to national policies that appear to contradict what more than two decades of solid research has considered important in relation to the teaching profession. The effect on teacher education of the move away from a factory model of schooling towards a community of learners is highlighted by Mary Diez article. She describes the long-term teacher-education experience of Alverno College in the United States of America centred on preparing teachers in a set of abilities involving knowledge, skills, attitudes, va lues and dispositions that run across all the curriculum. Teachers are graduated when they show evidence of an integration of knowledge and skill that is assessed through multiple demonstrations of performance. While the purpose of teacher preparation is t o produce a competent teacher, it is far removed, as Diez states, from the emerging view of narrow standards to assess new teacher performance and the imposition of high-stakes, norm-referenced, standardized testing to measure such performance. Such a position, she contends, limits the notion of competent teaching to a few measurable skills, and 2

insofar as it becomes an instrument to evaluate teaching programmes, it leads to ranking and a competitiveness that runs counter to the traditional spirit of collaboration within the teaching profession. Ruth Kane poses a similar concern as she discusses the Otago teacher-training programme in New Zealand. She makes critical notes about two situations. The first refers to the fact that teacher education institutio ns generally still function along the lines of a transmission model of teaching and therefore fail to prepare teachers who are reflective about their teaching and able to engage students meaningfully in learning. Secondly, national policies suggest that competent teaching is learnt in the field rather than in academic situations where there are often rifts between theory and practice. These policies support school apprenticeship models of learning to teach, or alternative modes of certifying nonqualified persons in order that they may teach. Both these models run counter to research reviewed by Kane that focuses on teachers as professionals who must be prepared to demonstrate an ability to teach through a wide range of forms, to reflect about their work and to work with other colleagues in the improvement of teachingall of which require a good knowledge base and the ability to think critically Neither institutions that favour transmission strategies nor de- institutionalized teacher preparation can prepare this kind of teacher. What is needed are improved comprehensive teacher-education programmes. John Elliott centres the discussion of his article on the issue of quality control of teaching and teacher education within the context of what he terms the eva luatory State. With the United Kingdom in mind, he analyses critically the movement of the State away from being a provider of public services such as teacher education to being a purchaser of these services. If the State is no longer a provider, its role is limited to making sure that what others offer conforms to its expectations or demands for education. Thus, the State sets the framework for teacher education in the form of standards and evaluation criteria and institutionalizes a process to control the quality of programmes offered by a diverse range of institutions public and private. The practical effect of this move, given the nature of the criteria set by the national agency established for the purpose, is a shift away from the concept of preparing a teacher professional with broad abilities, including the capacity for reflective inquiry and action, to a performer of specific skills. Teacher education programmes must provide evidence of reaching quantifiable performance targets, thus assuring the Sate that they offer value for money. In Elliotts view, this means evaluating teacher-education programmes not so much in terms of how well they prepare new teachers to manage the

challenges of teaching in particular contexts, but in terms of what is the best equation between outputs and inputs. Its effect therefore is to remove from teacher education the knowledge base and strategies needed to understand the field of work and decide on the best ways to deal with what is required to educate pupils. A better approach, according to Elliott, would be one that invests more trust in public sector professionals to self-regulate and evaluate their practices in the light of service ideals that are consistent with the values of pluralistic democracy. Teacher education is not simply a set of activities that prepare persons to manage a curriculum and produce specific learning results, it also must lead to an understanding of the wider social and cultural world in which teachers work. The articles by Maureen Robinson and Ruth Kane both stress the importance of preparing teachers who are aware and understand the needs of very diverse populations, such as those found in South Africa and in New Zealand. However, the evaluatory State described by Elliott brings with it an increasing danger that issues such as non-racialism, multilingualism and diversity will not be discussed, understood and worked on as part of the teacher education and school experience.

How do teachers learn about and implement systemic reforms? This is a key question in countries where wide-scale educational reform is taking place and concerns the forms of continuing or professional development experiences available to teachers in those contexts. Two articles, focused on South Africa and Bolivia, discuss such a situation. Maureen Robinson analyses the South African situation from the perspective of what she calls emerging debates related to the preparation of teachers for reforms in the postapartheid State. In South Africa, almost everything ha s needed change as far as education is concerned, but most importantly the school curriculum. The new Curriculum 2005, developed in the latter part of the 1990s, responds to this need. However, its open-ended structures, integration of subjects into learning areas and learner-centred teaching strategies have become a stumbling block for teachers, especially for the inadequately prepared black teachers, who were used to exactly the opposite in the former curriculum. How to assist these teachers to understand and teach this curriculum is still an open debate. While the cascade model that was used to inform teachers massively about the curriculum was hardly appropriate for the purposes of understanding and teaching according to its intentions, no suitable alternatives

have yet been found. Robinson, in fact, has some doubts as to whether the school-based approach to learning about the curriculum could promote the massive change needed among teachers in the context of large-scale reform. This dilemma is present in many other countries conducting national curriculum reforms, and probably requires more knowledge about how teachers who learn in one way or another about reforms actually implement them. Such was the purpose of the ethnographic study that Mara Luisa Ta lavera describes in her article. Her study examined the effect on teachers of strategies used by the Bolivian Educational Reform to assist them to learn the new curriculum. The reform uses two main forms for this purpose. The first has been the establishment of a body of teacher educators known as asesores pedaggicos. After a sixmonth course, they are prepared to assist other teachers to learn the content and strategies embedded in the new curriculum and put them into practice. In an initial stage, they inform others about the curriculum within a cascade strategy, but more importantly they must work with teachers at school level on a continual basis. Despite this being a seemingly appropriate strategy to develop knowledge and understanding about the curric ulum, teachers have resented the higher status and salary of the asesores and resisted to a degree their assistance. The production and distribution of new textbooks and teaching materials, known as modules, form part of the second strategy for establishing the new curriculum. But teachers use these materials in curious ways. In fact, Talaveras findings reinforce evidence from other studies that show how teachers selectively use what they consider of value in new materials and combine the new with the old. They also react to their pupils attitude towards the materials. The Bolivian teachers, who observed in their children greater interest and willingness to work as a result of using the new materials, developed a more positive attitude to the reform and to the new curriculum. Thus, Talaveras conclusions support Robinsons statement of the need to balance the rights and responsibilities of the State with a recognition that teachers cannot be treated as empty vessels in any reform process. Robinsons article touches on another important area affecting teacher learning of reforms: the degree of rationality with which these reforms reach the classroom and teachers. She uses the concept of systemic fatigue to describe the condition by which teachers, already burdened with work in their generally crowded classrooms, cannot really pay attention and implement as intended the many initiatives that are thrust upon them. Thus, it must be a concern of policy makers to co-ordinate and articulate actions produced by reforms so that they do not place impossible demands on the everyday work of teachers.

What response to these challenges?

Four of the articles describe experiences that, in a sense, respond to some of the issues discussed above. Given the worldwide emphasis being placed on standards and quality control, the thirty-year-old experience at Alverno College described by Diez serves to illustrate an alternative form of preparing competent teachers. She outlines the process by which academic staff at the college over a period of time developed and tried out a system of performancebased standards, pre-dating but similar to those developed by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium in the United States. The abilities expected of teachers at Alverno refer to the whole person, can be assessed and transferred across settings and are continually re-evaluated and re-defined. She provides evidence also of recognition of the quality of Alverno trained teachers, something all the more important in that its programme offers a solid alternative to the narrow view of standardsbased teacher education advocated more recently by governments in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The challenge of changing the curriculum and teacher preparation approaches of a whole programme in a small provincial university in Chile is described in both its successes and difficulties by Juan Iglesias. This reform is part of a major investment in teacher education change by the Chilean government that was carried out at seventeen universities, all of which had different change projects. The project at the University of Atacama described by Iglesias has as its focal point the development of a modified form of the problem-based curriculum that originated in medical training. Its establishment has meant reforming not only the delivery structures but also changing the conceptual framework of the university teachers and the students. In many ways, the description of this programme illustrates the importance of broad-based approaches to innovation that are not designed from the top but worked out by the various participants at each one of the levels of application. The article by Mara del Pilar Unda and colleagues is an enthusiastic account of how teachers learn from teachers when given an opportunity, as shown in two activities supported by the National Pedagogic University in Bogot, Colombia. The Pedagogical Expedition, exactly as the name suggests, consists of a series of trips undertaken around the country by some 400 teachers over a period of time to visit schools, talk to other teachers and learn from 6

their stories, difficulties and innovations. The teachers observe, take notes and write accounts of what they see and hear, all of which involves them in personal questioning about themselves, their knowledge and their teaching. The other experiences are networks of teachers working with teachers. While there are many teacher networks in Latin America as well as in Europe, Unda describes those supported by her university. These are aimed at a critique of existing practices, undertaking school-based research and developing alternative strategies for work with students and communities. On the basis of such experiences, Unda reflects on their importance as a means that allows teachers practical knowledge to emerge, be conceptualized and communicated to others. Such knowledge is discovered through teachers collective work, and is facilitated by outside participants (such as the university team). Undas entire article is an advocacy piece for teacher empowerment resulting from valuing their practice, experimenting with new forms of work and exchanging results with other teachers. It suggests that the continuing education of teachers has a more fruitful basis if it is carried out in relation to teachers work and through strategies that enable the construction of pedagogical knowledge based on personal experience and the experience of others. In a way, it prepares for Ruth Kanes reflective assessment of her work as a teacher educator. Few teacher educators write about their work and how it affects them personally as well as their students. Kane, however, does precisely that, focusing on one course she teaches aimed at questioning the why of teaching. In so doing, Kane produces evidence of progress in her own as well as her students thinking in the form of excerpts from journals and discussions with students and other colleagues. Together, the articles in this issue allow us to see and reflect on how teacher education issues transcend national boundaries, even though they have a particularity in each context. We are offered the opportunity to recognize conflicting views on how to improve the quality of teacher education as found in national policies on the one hand, and in the thinking of researchers and practitioners on the other. We are reminded of the distance that generally exists between what is planned in a reform and what is actually implemented in the classrooms, often due to inadequate consideration of teachers as vehicles of these changes. We are also reminded, as Robinson and Iglesias do, of the relationship between teacher education and the institutional cultures of those places where teachers are prepared and where they work. We are presented with what are considered to be successful experiences of innovation in initial teacher-education programmes, as well as the learning from each other by serving teachers. What these experiences have in common is that they do not rest on the 7

narrow view of preparing a good enough teacher. Rather, they assume that teachers, like other professionals, will be competent and effective on the basis of their capacity to think, judge and act in different situations and with different people in forms that are consistent with the educational needs of those people and of their social contexts.