Global Orientations, Local Challenges, and Promises in Initial Teacher Education
Summary and Keywords
The global move toward advanced strategic, constructivist, and sociocultural orientations to student teacher learning is reflected in the stated vision, mission, and curricula of local teacher education contexts worldwide. Six major themes in teacher education programs worldwide are integral to this vision: the establishment of school–community–university partnerships; bringing more of school practice focused on pupil learning into the preparation of future teachers; a shift from a focus on teaching and curriculum to a focus on learning and learners; the inclusion of activities that promote reflective practice and the development of the teacher-as-researcher; the design of academic and school spaces for fostering teacher learning that attends to social justice and inclusion; and the preparation of teacher educators and the provision of mentoring frameworks to support student teacher learning. Among the challenges shared across contexts is the need to strengthen partnerships in education, structure stable mentoring frameworks, adopt a more focused approach to student teacher placement, and better articulate expectations for student teaching. Notwithstanding these challenges, promising directions include the establishment of more meaningful links between universities, schools, and communities; developing programs that deal with authentic teacher preparation through injury- and-research-informed clinical practice, and providing mentoring models that involve different community stakeholders.
Keywords: preservice teacher education, international perspectives, school–community–university partnerships, school-based teacher preparation, learner-focused teacher preparation, teacher-as-researcher, teacher education for social justice, teacher education for inclusion, mentored student teacher learning
For the past 3 decades, since the late 1980s, initial teacher education (hereafter ITE), often referred to as preservice, has faced serious challenges in properly preparing student teachers (hereafter STs) for working in schools as future teachers. As Feiman-Nemser (2001) argues, after decades of school reform, there is a growing consensus that the quality of schools depends on the quality of its teachers: “. . .what students learn is directly related to what and how teachers teach; and what and how teachers teach depends on the knowledge, skills, and commitments they bring to their teaching and the opportunities they have to continue learning in and from their practice” (p. 1013). Developing such knowledge and skills in learning to teach is a highly complex and multifaceted process which places unique demands of a cognitive, affective, and performance nature upon the novice (Fenimore-Smith, 2004; Smagorinsky, Gibson, Bickmore, Moore, & Cook, 2004). Within this complexity, prospective teachers need to learn how to act and make on-the-spot judgments in the best possible ways (Darling-Hammond, Hammerness, Grossman, Rust, & Shulman, 2005), using the right skills for “doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons with the right people” (Doyle & Carter, 1987) through careful observation and interpretation of the situation at hand (Biesta, 2015).
In an effort to align with these needs and move from traditional applied models of knowledge transmission, policymakers internationally are increasingly focusing on a more extensively workplace-based model that tries to address the workplace complexities and global changes, both in preservice and in continuing professional learning (Rainbird, Fuller, & Munro, 2004). In this model, student teaching practice at the preservice level is regarded as the capstone component of teacher education programs and plays a central role in bridging between what STs learn from their program coursework and what they learn from actual teaching practices in different school contexts (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Wang, 2001). It is no surprise, then, that for the past few decades, there has been a strong move worldwide toward the idea of creating tighter connections and partnerships between universities and colleges and schools, leading to a strong shift toward integrating more of teacher education into school-based settings. The call for establishing more relevant links between academic preparation and school-based experiences was explicitly articulated in the Blue Ribbon Report of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in 2010 (Zimpher & Jones, 2010), stressing the view that learning to teach is a “situated social practice” (Cochran-Smith, Ell, Ludlow, Grudnoff, & Aitken, 2014). This implies advocating a teacher education curriculum which is grounded in practice, and which moves away from traditional, applied curricular models of theory-practice divides. Thus, recent global arguments that foster workplace learning (Eraut, 2004; Tynjälä, 2013) stress the idea that a strong teacher education program is one that provides ample, intensive, and diverse assisted practice experiences in authentic contexts of workplace learning. These programs also support the strengthening and redefining the praxical roles and functions of teacher educators and mentors as key players in the process of learning to teach (Orland-Barak, 2012, 2014; Wang & Odell, 2007).
As the background of these arguments, this article presents an overview of the predominant global orientations, challenges, and promises of preservice teacher education across countries and local contexts. The review is guided by the question: What major orientations and shifts can be identified in approaches to ST learning and to the design of preservice teacher education programs? We discuss the findings in two parts—global orientations and local examples. The first part, global orientations, focuses on dominant trends in preservice education from transmission approaches to more constructivist and sociocultural approaches to ST learning and ITE. The second part exemplifies how such global orientations are reflected in the structure of local programs in a wide range of countries around the world. The second part is organized into sections according to the identified trends. Each section includes subsections presenting selected countries as examples of how global trends are operationalized in ITE. Finally, we consolidate the challenges brought about by these global trends in different educational contexts as well as promising directions highlighted in recent research.
In this study, a systematic review method was used to locate, critically appraise, and synthesize studies that examined recent global orientations and trends in preservice teacher education around the world. The review was conducted in two stages. First, we located and reviewed research literature in ITE in order to identify predominant global orientations to ST preparation. Thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998) was used for identifying, analyzing, and reporting patterns within data. Once the major trends were identified, additional searches of electronic and on-line databases were conducted for specific countries to identify challenges and promises of ITE across countries and local contexts. The intention was to ensure that, as far as possible, the most relevant literature in the field was included while keeping the focus on the studies of greatest pertinence to the research questions in order to identify the most illustrative evidence.
Before performing the search, we identified a set of four criteria that studies had to meet to be eligible for inclusion in this review. First, eligible studies included publications in the English language between 2000 and 2018, considering the new millennium as the starting point. Second, published scholarly journal papers reporting on empirical research were prioritized; unpublished conference papers and opinion pieces in professional publications were excluded. Third, the population was limited to preservice teachers. Fourth, eligible studies included participants from a variety of countries around the world to represent heterogeneous contexts with varying practices, policies, and cultures associated with teacher learning. Specifically, countries were selected based on two inclusion criteria: provision of illustrative cases and ensuring wider geographical coverage within the limits of the article.
Approaches to ST Learning and ITE: Global Orientations and Trends
A global diachronic overview of the development of approaches to ST learning and ITE points to a tendency to move from strict behavioral-strategic approaches (in the first half of the 2000s) that focused on the transmission, transfer, and adaptation of knowledge from one context to another through modeling of repeated behaviors and patterns of conduct; to constructivist and sociocultural approaches that focus on the mediation (rather than transmission) and, more recently, transaction of knowledge through teachers’ individual and communal construction and reconstruction of learning (Hager & Hodkinson, 2009; Orland-Barak, 2014) from the second half of the 2000s and onward. At the same time, recent developments of strategic approaches endorse the view that ITE curricula should center around core practices of teaching (Ball & Forzani, 2009). These are practices that occur with high frequency in teaching, that can be mastered and enacted across different curricula or instructional approaches, and that allow novices to learn about students and about teaching (Grossman et al., 2009b, p. 277). In order to assist STs to acquire these practices, curricula should focus on developing skills for representing and making teaching visible for students, for breaking and recomposing observed and enacted practices into components for teaching and learning purposes, and on providing ample opportunities for gaining confidence in practicing these skills in authentic school contexts while articulating understandings and experiences in collaborative mentored teacher learning spaces (Grossman et al., 2009a). Constructivist and sociocultural approaches to teacher learning and teacher education place at the center the importance of adopting a reflective and critical stance toward teaching and learning, encouraging activities that transcend technical thinking about “what to do in the classroom” and stressing aspects of teaching that focus on “why one does what one does.” In this vein, STs are expected to learn to be attentive to practical, ethical, and transformational dimensions of their experience, believed to lead to more informed and integrative understandings about their roles and practices (Rodgers, 2002; Loughran, 2003). Acquiring professional competence, in this view, is value-laden and ingrained in the judicious formulations of personal educational theories (Kelchtermans & Ballet, 2002; Knowles, 2013) and in the exploration of experiences around their mission as teachers and educators (Korthagen & Vasalos, 2005). Recent sociocultural perspectives on teacher education view teaching practices as social and situated in specific settings for practice (Edwards, 2010), with a focus on collective action to change and improve group processes (Ellis, Edwards, & Smagorinsky, 2010). Thus, teacher learning is mediated to help STs to manage social and professional relationships and situations at the workplace while also attending to the complexity of learners and tasks, to aspects of identity formation, and to helping find resources to support student actions (Edwards, 2010). Conceived as a reflexive encounter stranded in tensions and dilemmas at the intersection between personal theories and pedagogical action (Orland-Barak, 2010), teacher education approaches that endorse this view are concerned with how STs and pupils’ ideologies, rituals, values, belief systems, and behaviors play out in their pedagogy in different sociocultural backgrounds. Professional learning is thus transactional in that it changes both the learner and their context, involving the notion of identity change as an ongoing, non-linear process of “becoming” a professional (Hager & Hodkinson, 2009; Scanlon, 2011).
The global move toward advanced strategic, constructivist, and sociocultural orientations to ST learning is strongly reflected in the stated vision, mission, and curricula of local teacher education contexts worldwide. Six major themes that reflect this vision seem to have become integral to ITE programs worldwide:
1. The establishment of school–community–university partnerships;
2. Bringing more of school practice focused on pupil learning into the preparation of future teachers;
3. A shift from a focus on teaching and curriculum to a focus on learning and learners;
4. The inclusion of activities that promote reflective practice and the development of the teacher-as-researcher;
5. Academic and school spaces for fostering teacher learning that attends to social justice and inclusion; and
6. The preparation of teacher educators and the provision of mentoring frameworks to support ST learning.
The following sections are based on these themes exemplifying the orientations and challenges to ST learning. This is followed by reflection on the promises brought about by these challenges for the design of ITE in diverse educational contexts.
Key Theme 1: The Establishment of School–Community–University Partnerships
University–school partnerships were created in a strive to establish tighter alignments between academic institutions, the school, and the community as a workplace environment (Maskit & Orland-Barak, 2015; Menter et al., 2010; Smith, 2016). There is already a substantial accumulated body of knowledge established on collaborations between schools and universities (Zeichner, 2010). That said, teacher educators are still challenged to deeper explore how partnerships of various types and their implementation are manifested in different educational contexts and higher education cultures (Zimpher & Jones, 2010).
Our search identified different forms of school–community–university partnerships across the world. We have selected a number of illustrative examples to describe the promises and challenges of school–university and community–university partnerships.
School–University Partnerships: Local Examples From Norway and Israel
In the Norwegian context, Smith (2016) identifies three different forms of partnerships endorsed in teacher education, which can be positioned along a continuum from weak to strong links between the university and the school: practice schools, partner schools, and university schools. At the weak link end are practice schools, where students are assigned to schools for practice teaching, and there is a clear division of responsibilities between the school who is responsible for the practical learning and the university who is responsible for the theoretical learning. These two settings are separate and they do not share responsibilities or communication and trust in each other’s expertise. The power lies with higher education, and the school provides services with or without reimbursement (Smith, 2016, p. 29).
In the case of partner schools, the university publishes a call to schools to apply to become partner schools, with specific criteria that must be fulfilled by the school to prove that they can provide the appropriate conditions for STs’ learning during their practicum. On the part of the university, it offers mentor preparation which can include academic credits should the mentor want to pursue education at a master’s level. As Smith et al. (2010) contend, this model better resembles a partnership model than the previously discussed practice school model does. There are mutual commitments reflecting various kinds of expertise, and there are also multiple meeting points between school-based and university-based teacher educators. Upon evaluation of 5 years of implementation of the partner school model, school principals reported that the project had led to positive changes in their schools (Smith et al., 2010).
The strongest link along the school-partnership continuum in Norway is the university school, which is an emerging concept and a way of operationalizing Zeichner’s (2010) concept of the third space in teacher education. The partnership is based on the development of the practicum, contextualized research and development projects, competence development of teachers and teacher educators, and establishing networks to disseminate the experiences from the project. School development and empowerment of teachers are major aspects of the model alongside strengthening teacher education, which endeavors to integrate subject knowledge, educational and didactical knowledge, and practical skills. This kind of partnership is regarded as the most serious attempt in Norway to reduce STs’ experience of fragmentation in teacher education (Smith, 2016).
At the background of these three forms of partnerships, Norwegian ITE is faced with the challenge of intensifying and expanding the role of campus-school partnerships. Specifically, Norwegian policymakers are called to delegate mentors with more responsibility in the process of preparing teachers. This implies acknowledging and recognizing the value of their practical knowledge as core for preparing future teachers. An additional challenge for Norwegian teacher education is creating more continuity between pre-qualification and post-qualification teaching—specifically: finding more opportunities for STs to combine management skills and leadership qualities; emphasizing the importance of both legal and moral care in order to foster a learning environment that is procedurally safe and emotionally secure; cultivating a combination of generic skills (e.g., the ability to motivate pupils) and situational expertise (e.g., knowing how to motivate different pupils in different ways); and promoting a view of adaptation as a two-way process, with schools and pupils adapting, as appropriate, to each other (Stephens, Tonnessen, & Kyriacou, 2004, p. 128).
Aligning with the broader global call for universities to become more relevant to the local needs of society, teacher education in Israel both in academic colleges and universities has gradually moved from applied models of theory-practice divides toward partnership models guided by reflective, clinical, and situated approaches to professional education. These partnerships aim at fostering dialectical connections between students’ academic learning at the university and their lived experiences at school. It should be noted, though, that many institutions (especially universities) still hold a more traditional view of collaboration with schools as solely providing sites for STs’ authentic practice experiences rather than for developing a third space for establishing deeper partnerships between universities and schools at other levels of school life (Maskit & Orland-Barak, 2015).
Several studies have been conducted to evaluate the impact of these partnerships on ST learning (Ariav & Smith, 2006; Hecht & Ram, 2010; Maskit & Orland-Barak, 2015). The main findings suggest the potential of partnerships for bridging theory and practice as well as the role of the university coordinator as a legitimate mediator between the university and the workplace to avoid potential conflicts of interest, power relations, and competing agendas that often emerge between the school and the university (Maskit & Orland-Barak, 2015, p. 304).
Community–University Partnerships: Local Examples From the Netherlands and the United States
Community–university partnerships aim at connecting university ST candidates with community-based organizations that provide informal education for young people or other services that allow schools to function as full-service institutions around the well-being of children and families. This often takes place when working with underserved, low-income, or minority populations.
ITE community-based service learning is seen as a collaborative process that promotes mutual respect and benefits for STs and community partners (Jacoby, 2003). It has also been advocated as a powerful way to teach preservice teachers about other cultures (Sleeter, 2000), exposing them to their local community as well as preparing them to become agents of change.
However, despite increased attention to family engagement in teacher education, STs continue to feel unprepared for addressing issues related to the family and the community. In this respect, Thompson, Willemse, Mutton, Burn, and De Bruïne (2018) compare outcomes of studies in England, Switzerland, Spain, Finland, Norway, Belgium, and the Netherlands and the characteristics of country-specific ITE policies or reforms and governmental involvement. They conclude that despite the recognition of the importance of preparing for family-school partnerships in each national context at both governmental and ITE institutional levels, there is no evident satisfactory picture of family–school partnership provisions within ITE or in the preparedness of STs to deal with a variety of complex social and cultural issues (Thompson et al., 2018). Specifically, little attention has been paid to the preparation of prospective teachers through family–school partnerships due to the mixed messages candidates receive in their field experiences from administrators and teaching staff, the diversity of definitions and attitudes held regarding parents’ roles, the specific characteristics of the candidates influencing their views and attitudes, and the limited opportunities for candidates to interact directly with parents (Evans, 2013). Despite this, a few countries encourage these kinds of partnerships in teacher education programs, although mostly at stated policy levels rather than as integral components of the curriculum. We describe two examples of these challenges.
In the Netherlands, among other requirements, STs are expected to be able to communicate with all parents from diverse social and cultural backgrounds about their children’s performance and well-being as well as to respond adequately to parents’ questions (Denessen et al., 2009). In real practice, however, it appears that national standards have not yet been met on a large scale. In the Dutch context, there is a stated concern for paying more attention to parent–teacher relations (Epstein & Sanders, 2006) and how these can be promoted through family–school partnerships (De Bruïne et al., 2014). Research pointing to the low levels of competence of Dutch STs regarding teacher–parent partnerships supports this gap between stated and realized aims. It also suggests that in general, students don’t feel well prepared to communicate with parents when starting their teaching career (Denessen, Bakker, Kloppenburg, & Kerkhof, 2009), and that the preparation for family–school partnerships is inadequate (De Bruïne et al., 2014). This is particularly conspicuous in the area of working with families of pupils with special needs. STs do not generally exhibit positive attitudes toward inclusive education, citing a lack of personal knowledge and skill for working with pupils in a comprehensive manner (Pijl, 2010).
In the United States, collaborating with parents is a legally required competency (De Bruïne et al., 2014). For example, the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) states that schools need to implement programs that involve families in their children’s education. Nevertheless, similar to the Netherlands, teacher education programs seem to pay little attention to creating family–school partnerships for the preparation of prospective teachers. Epstein and Sanders’ study (2006) suggests that there is a lack of preparation in developing communication skills for working with parents. Their survey among leaders of 161 schools, colleges, and departments of education in the United States suggests that only 7.2% of the respondents strongly agreed that teachers who graduated from their programs were sufficiently prepared to work and communicate with families. A more recent study into the quality of preparation of teacher candidates for family–school partnerships revealed that all respondents felt the preparation was inadequate (De Bruïne et al., 2014).
In the U.S. context, Cooper (2007) described ways that STs responded to community-based activities located in the home communities of their learners. The seminar aimed at helping STs experience diversity or “otherness” themselves; at providing sequentially connected experiences for cultural engagement during internships; and at discovering community and human assets in each community explored (Cooper, 2007, p. 247). The study suggested that cultural-immersion experiences can challenge STs’ prior beliefs and stereotypes about the students they teach, their students’ families, and the locations of their home communities. In a similar vein, Baldwin, Buchanan, and Rudisill (2007) explored how service learning programs, situated in diverse community settings (urban and rural), provided STs with opportunities to cultivate deeper understandings of diversity and social justice. In this U.S. study, STs engaged in service learning in settings vastly different from their own experiences. Specifically, for most STs, it was their first experience in a setting where they were the minority and working with children from diverse backgrounds. This caused STs to examine the limited expectations they had for the children, their families, and their communities.
Key Theme 2: Intensifying School Practice
The perceived centrality of the student teaching component has grounded the call for creating more intensified, lengthened, and enriched opportunities for STs to practice teaching in real classrooms with the support of their school mentor teachers (Valencia, Martin, Place, & Grossman, 2009). This has driven, in turn, popular policy initiative worldwide which promotes prolonged clinical school experience along with intensified mentoring support for STs (e.g., the Blue Ribbon Panel in the United States (NCATE, 2010); the MOFET teacher education model in Israel (Smith & Lev‐Ari, 2005); the National Curriculum Standards for Teacher Education in China (Han, 2012); and the Scottish Teachers for a New Era program (Livingston & Shiach, 2010). These experiences are structured around practice activities such as modeling, rehearsals, and video-based activities geared toward representing and decomposing teaching (Forzani, 2014) as well as connecting between methods courses and the practicum. Programs have also been encouraged to even shift their programs to becoming fully field-based (Tatto, 2006). Integral to this shift is the development of professional development schools, community-based student teaching (Zeichner, 2010), yearlong student teaching, 5th-year internship, and teacher residence programs (Orland-Barak, 2017; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2002). In line with the new movement of bringing more practice into initial teacher preparation, Grossman, Hammerness, and McDonald (2009b) propose that teacher education be organized around a core set of practices for teaching that novices are helped to develop during professional education.
Core practice approaches draw on behavioral–cognitive perspectives on learning. They stress the importance of adapting learning from a particular context to another, provided that these contexts share similar workplace conditions (Anderson, Reder, & Simon, 1996). Such a perspective is grounded in the idea that STs need to be granted opportunities to intentionally practice in action. They also need to have chances to decompose core teaching practices in order to understand the connections among its components and their approximations to various authentic classroom contexts in which pre-service teachers can and will be actively engaged (McDonald, Kazemi, & Kavanagh, 2013). To this end, they need to be actively engaged in core teaching practices in systematic and methodical ways so as to be able to transfer such teaching to other contexts of teaching (Pianta & Hamre, 2009).
There are a few challenges underlying core approaches to teacher learning. One is to understand how the notion of core teaching practices connects to the notion of pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987), which presumes that teaching practices need to be differentiated according to specific subject content and concepts. Another challenge is connecting the notion of core practices to the concept of culturally responsive teaching. This concept assumes that teaching practices that are effective for students’ learning from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds need to be uniquely distinct (Ladson-Billings, 1995). This may imply that core teaching practices will be less relevant when transferred to the teaching of specific content topics or to students with distinctive values, norms, and needs of learning. Furthermore, the principles underlying core practices need to be more robustly empirically supported (Sykes, Bird, & Kennedy, 2010) and consolidated as a formal set of established core practices that STs are required to acquire, test, and adapt to various cultures and school contexts. Finally, there is a need to prepare teacher educators and mentors for supporting the acquisition of core practices in the field (Minner, Levy, & Century, 2010; Mosley Wetzel, Maloch, & Hoffman, 2017). Shifting teacher education from a curriculum organized by knowledge domains to a curriculum organized around practices of the profession will require at least two fundamental shifts on the part of teacher educators: First, teacher educators must work to develop programs that undo the historical separation between foundation and methods courses; and second, teacher educators must focus upon helping novices develop and refine a set of core practices for teaching (Grossman et al., 2009b, p. 276).
Local Examples From the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands
McDonald et al. (2013) present an example of how U.S. teacher educators use instructional activities to teach core practices to novices at the University of Washington. Their proposed learning cycle focuses around the development of field tools for skillfully enacting core practices in the classroom across teacher education settings and content areas. The challenge, they claim, lies in identifying the core practices of teaching and developing relevant teacher education pedagogies (McDonald et al., 2013). Pam Grossman (2018) addresses this challenge in her recent book, Teaching Core Practices in Teacher Education, advocating an approach to practice-based teacher education that identifies “core practices” of teaching and supports STs in learning how to enact them. Examples of core practices include facilitating whole-class discussion, eliciting student thinking, and maintaining classroom norms. Pedagogies include representations of practice (ways to show what a skill looks like and breaking it down into its component parts) and approximations of practice (the ways STs can try these skills out as they learn) (Grossman, 2018).
Drawing on Grossman et al.’s (2009b) core practice approach, an Australian project entitled The Study of Teaching proposed the notion of learning to teach more as a kind of “unnatural” practice, entailing the acquisition of a set of skills, attitudes, and dispositions that is different from what STs already know (Reid, 2011, p. 306). The project was designed as a variant of microteaching, where core practices were deconstructed and modeled for STs, then rehearsed and approximated by STs for their peers with the help of an expert professional mentor giving feedback and coaching (Reid, 2011).
Similarly, a Dutch study defined and illustrated a bridging approach to practice-based ITE for identifying what STs needed to learn (Janssen, Westbroek, & Doyle, 2014). The approach utilizes a core practice frame to conceptualize target practices. Such frames integrate a range of specific teaching practices into meaningful composites and enable movement from a component to a whole-task level and back again as demands require. They also incorporate the teachers’ own values and goals and their practical reasoning about their teaching as the starting points for intervention (Janssen et al., 2014, p. 204).
ITE in England has been essentially school-based since 1992, gradually moving toward acknowledging schools and teachers as core sites for learning to teach (Murray & Mutton, 2015; National College for Teaching and Leadership & Department of Education [UK], 2014) and underscoring the acquisition of core practices and standards of practice as central to STs’ preparation (Stephens et al., 2004). Notwithstanding all the promises this global trend holds, the critique of school-based teacher education in England suggests that school-based teacher education has not systematically addressed how it may help STs mediate their learning in and between settings, nor has it confronted and exploited the differential experiential potentials these settings afford (Ellis, Edwards, & Smagorinsky, 2010, p. 116).
Key Theme 3: A Shift From a Focus on Teaching and Curriculum to a Focus on Learning and Learners
Research on student learning approaches has identified a shift from traditional transmission approaches to teaching in universities to more constructivist approaches to teaching, which encourage paying attention to how pupils engage in learning (Gordon & Debus, 2002). This has led to the development of student-centered approaches, which were described by Cannon and Newble (2000, pp. 16–17) as “ways of thinking about teaching and learning that emphasize student responsibility and activity in learning rather than content or what the teachers are doing.”
For instance, changes in the structure and curriculum of ITE programs in Turkey show a shift from a university-content, lecturer-based approach to a school–student-based approach, allocating more time for teaching practice and school experience (Yigit, 2012). By balancing theory and practice, the new approach aimed at increasing the quality of ITE by encouraging student teachers to reflect on their teaching practice and other activities occurring during school placements.
Lesson Study: Local Examples From China, Singapore, the United States, and Canada
Lesson study is a learner-centered collaborative mode of professional learning structured around encouraging teachers to work with peers, making critical instructional decisions together, and implementing and evaluating educational interventions in their classrooms (Chen, 2011; Lee, 2008; Yoshida, 2012). This is a well-established Japanese approach to examining practice, the origins of which can be traced to the early 1900s. Notwithstanding its long history and the importance of introducing and developing lesson study in ITE as a strategy to equip teacher candidates to enter the profession with an inquiry stance (Hiebert, Morris, Berk, & Jansen, 2007), research on STs is not common compared to in-service in many contexts around the world. Literature suggests that lesson study enables teachers to take charge of their own professional development by proposing their own agendas and choosing the object of learning; creating a culture of peer learning from actual classroom practice; and providing opportunities for a free discussion of ideas, with participants able to challenge others’ and their own way of thinking, and seeing learning from students’ perspectives (Lee, 2008; Sargent & Hannum, 2009). Among the challenges potentially reducing the appeal of lesson study, Lee (2008) highlights the time constraints and the pressure faced by many school teachers. The study points to the need for necessary support from the government and school authorities in order to explore the promising potential of lesson study in China. Similar concerns were voiced by STs in studies conducted in Singapore. Specifically, even though the teachers found the lesson study process highly rewarding in terms of enhancing their instructional effectiveness, time constraints and ongoing commitment posed a serious challenge for adopting lesson study as a school-based professional development approach (Cheng & Lee, 2011).
Tsui and Law (2007) discuss additional challenges brought about by adopting a lesson study as a means to resolve existing contradictions between STs’ learning and student learning in Chinese classrooms. Their study points to tensions related to setting boundaries between communities of practice and to the appropriate integration of collective and individual aspects of lesson study. They also surface problems that arose such as conducting post-lesson discussions merely as evaluations of the teaching efficacy of individual teachers, the overwhelming process that teachers experienced when trying to synthesize the multiple perspectives proposed for a particular issue discussed, and the collective contribution to lesson preparation coupled with unequal power relationships among the participants, which seemed to undermine novices’ sense of ownership of their work as teachers (Tsui & Law, 2007, pp. 1298–1299). Notwithstanding these problems, the use of lesson study as a mediating tool in a school–university partnership was found to help novices to develop new understandings of learning as a boundary-crossing process and of collaborating with members of other communities of practice.
Research into the feasibility of lesson study in other settings around the world suggests that its implementation is also not free from problems. For instance, a study conducted in the U.S. context reveals that the main challenge is developing and adopting a research stance toward teaching. Specifically, Fernandez, Cannon, and Chokshi (2003) suggest that teachers must learn how to generate powerful questions about their practice, skillfully design lessons that can answer their questions, and look for concrete evidence in a lesson to shed light on their questions (p. 182). But even more importantly, they suggest that teachers need to develop a disposition toward their practice that is grounded in a vision of teaching as a collaborative site for learning and of themselves as actively in charge of their ongoing learning process (p. 182).
In the Canadian context, Chassels and Melville (2009) investigated the benefits and challenges of lesson study within an elementary teacher education program practicum in Ontario. The study examined lesson study in an elementary ITE program as a means to foster an inquiry stance within professional learning communities among teacher candidates and concurrently built “theory about how it works” (Lewis, Perry, & Murata, 2006, p. 7). Specifically, teacher candidates engaged in lesson study activities around a shared mathematics lesson. Based on the conversations about the benefits and challenges of the lesson study process, they organized their own lesson study groups according to their teaching assignments and practicum school locations. The lesson study process revolved around shared planning, teaching and observation, and reflection. Research lessons were designed and delivered to a class of students with observations made and notes kept regarding student learning resulting from the lesson. The group met after the delivery of the research lesson to share their observation data and to discuss lesson revisions to improve student learning during the next iteration of the lesson. The revised research lesson was then delivered to a new group of students and the process of observation, data collection, reflection, and group discussion to revise the lesson was repeated (Chassels & Melville, 2009).
A more recent approach to student-centered teacher learning looks at ITE as a complex system. Drawing on multiple disciplines for ideas about complexity-consistent methods, the United States and New Zealand have, for the past years, been developing a comprehensive joint research project that utilizes complexity theory as a lens for looking at teacher education as a complex system rather than a complicated process (Cochran-Smith et al., 2014). The study underscores the potential of complexity theory in promoting understanding of how teacher education relates to student learning, which involves new perspectives at all stages of the research process, including new perspectives about what the results of research mean and how they can be used (p. 33). Engaging STs and researchers in understanding teaching and learning through concepts from complexity theory, they suggest, can be helpful for unpacking the complex system within which teaching is embedded (i.e., how teachers’ learning, practice, and students’ learning are influenced by multiple forces, which are not linear or predictable processes). Among the promises of research on ITE guided by complexity theory, the authors highlight the potential of this platform to pose new empirical questions and offer innovative methods of data collection and analysis that are appropriate for these new lines of inquiry (Cochran-Smith et al., 2014).
Key Theme 4: Promoting Reflective Practice and Teacher-as-Researcher
The concept of reflective practice is rooted in Dewey’s (1933) concept of reflective action as integral to teachers’ work, stressing the view that educational research should be an integral part of the work of teachers in schools rather than an activity carried out in schools by outsiders. Associated with this is a reassertion of the value of teachers’ professional autonomy and renewed emphasis on their key role in curriculum change (Townsend & Bates, 2007).
In the mid-1980s, Carr and Kemmis (1986) proposed the notion of the “teacher-as-researcher,” as a political response to the growing concern that teachers’ professionalism had been reduced to technical aspects of implementation of curricula dictated from above. Promulgating the notion of teachers-as-researchers was, then, an attempt to empower teachers-as-professionals who have control over their teaching, including decision-making and judgments, based on a recognition of the unique expertise and knowledge that they possess. A decade or so later, the notion of practitioner inquiry was integrated into the discourse of teacher-as-researcher in Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s seminal work, Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research for the Next Generation (2009). The book invited practitioner researchers all over the world to share their knowledge of practice in particular contexts in order to discuss the complexities of teaching, learning, and schooling in an increasingly globalized world.
Discussing the concept of teacher-as-researcher, Shulman (2012) proposed an agenda for the scholarship of teaching, one that develops when teachers’ work becomes public, peer-reviewed and critiqued, and exchanged with other members of our professional communities so they, in turn, can build on our work. His critique a year later (Shulman, 2013) challenges traditional understandings of the teacher-as-researcher, which tend to focus mainly on studying how teachers manage their classrooms. What is missing, he argues, are questions about the content of the lessons taught, the questions asked, and the explanations offered. In light of this lacuna, he suggests that teachers and teacher educators-as-researchers also engage in these questions to add to the case literature. A major focus when engaging teachers in reflective practice is how they can move beyond descriptive accounts of their work to reflect on their practice critically (Jarvis, 1992). To this end, Russell (2014) suggests that we must help teacher candidates to learn how to better learn from classroom experiences. Drawing on Schön’s (1987) reflective practice, Russell (2014) argues that teaching how to learn from experience requires deliberate and explicit modeling by teacher educators. Such modeling should focus on naming problems before trying to solve them and on articulating the complexities of teaching during moments of uncertainty and puzzlement, through reflective conversations about a situation.
The above said, Russell admits that a reflective practice perspective is not easily achieved, neither personally or institutionally. The scholarship of teacher-as-inquirer and researcher is proliferate in teacher education curricula around the world. Here are some examples.
Promoting Reflective Practice in Preservice Teacher Education: Local Examples From Australia and South Africa
Teacher education in Australia can be characterized by a shift of focus from skill development, represented, for example, through research on microteaching interventions, to a focus on teachers’ thinking, attitudes, and beliefs (Murray, Nuttall, & Mitchell, 2008). As such, more and more Australian preservice programs incorporate reflection as a compulsory component of programs in order to develop teachers’ reflective practice.
In their review of ITE initiatives in Australia, Ferreira, Ryan, and Tilbury (2007) point to the promises associated with the implementation of an action research model, namely its potential to bring about radical change in organizations, curriculum, and pedagogy. A major challenge is to create strong support networks between research participants to facilitate their engagement in such a model. Indeed, in the initiatives reviewed, teacher participation in communities of inquiry facilitated ongoing collaboration and peer support. Major limitations pertained to the intensive time required and the long-term commitment of participants. Also, the fact that the model is difficult to “sell” to funding agencies because its process-oriented nature makes it problematic for prescribing tangible outcomes (Ferreira et al., 2007, p. 234).
A recent study into South African ST education discourses (Islam, 2012) points to the potential of communities of practice to influence the impoverished local context. Specifically, the study suggests that the intervention had a positive effect on dispelling the myths and misconceptions about rural schools, helped teachers to understand their broader role, and challenged the existing teacher education programs (Islam, 2012). At the same time, however, research suggests that despite major policy shifts, the restructuring of the education system, the enactment of a new curriculum, and the transformation of the teaching landscape in the post-apartheid era, the quality of education across South Africa has not significantly improved (Kruss, 2009; Morrow, 2007). In addition to the many discrepancies, one key reason for this failure relates to the gaps in teacher education itself. Johnson, Hodges, and Monk (2000), for example, observe the lack of a supportive environment, which minimizes the potential of teachers to act and apply all that they learned in their practice. Buthelezi and Dollery (2004) assert that many of the existing teacher preparation programs are unable to address the context in which teachers are teaching in the classrooms. Samuel (1998) highlights the need for ST education to challenge the deep-rooted apartheid ideology.
In line with these concerns, a teacher development summit was convened in 2009 by the South African Department of Education in collaboration with other stakeholders representing educators, educators’ unions, and agencies responsible for teacher development. The summit suggested that teacher development is both a right and a duty of the teachers in schools, and that on-site in schools is the best place to develop teachers through spaces that enhance collaborative reflection and self-reflexivity (Teacher Development Summit, 2009 as cited in Islam, 2012).
Teacher-as-Researcher: Local Examples From Norway, Finland, Portugal, and Turkey
Since 2001, Norwegian educational policy has had a strong focus on improving teacher education by making it more research-based. In this respect, the National Research School for Teacher Education in Norway (NAFOL) is a response to the challenges faced by Norwegian teacher education regarding the demand for higher competence and a stronger research base. In her study involving 140 PhD candidates participating in NAFOL, Østern (2016) discusses the potential of such research projects to bring innovation to teacher education research through creating new knowledge and “border crossing” between different educational discourses. The challenges the project participants face are located at the intersection of meeting the requirements of the funding agencies, solidarity with the aims of education, and the desire to contribute to innovation (Østern, 2016, p. 73).
Similarly, in Finland educational research has played an important role in teacher education since the 1980s. This has resulted in national policy developments such as school-based curriculum development and local decision-making, and the conception of teachers’ work and professionalism has expanded (Westbury, Hansén, Kansanen, & Björkvist, 2005). Finnish teacher education fosters pedagogical thinking and reflective and inquiry-oriented teaching (Kansanen, 2003). As such, the curriculum is structured around the systematic analysis of education, activities that prepare STs for argumentation, decision-making, justification and pedagogical problem-solving, and academic research skills (Toom et al., 2010, p. 333).
More and more school teachers in Portugal have gained access to higher education and become involved in research projects (Alarcão, 2002). Specifically, new teachers have become involved in university research projects and other activities in search of continuous training to meet their professional needs and interests (Flores & Ferrera, 2009, p. 68). This has resulted in a deeper theoretical knowledge base for teaching, a recognition of teaching as a qualified profession, more research on teaching and teachers, broader perspectives of school teachers due to in-service and post-graduation courses, and joint field projects involving academics and professionals and academic and research facilities to educational departments (Formosinho, 2000). Challenges relate to the quality of programs and the lack of evidence to support that teachers are eventually being prepared to face the demanding profession as it exists in the first two decades of the 21st century. The view of teacher education as professional education and of the teacher-as-researcher has been integrated into existing curricula but it is still challenged to successfully merge theoretical thinking of the academic community with the expert knowledge of teachers (Alarcão, 2002). There are also disagreements as to the kind of content and pedagogical knowledge to be integrated into the curriculum as well as tensions related to academic territories, subject specialization, curricular juxtaposition, disrespect for the practical professional dimensions of teaching, lack of interdisciplinarity, departmental compartmentalization, and undervaluing of teaching practice as the essential point of integration (Formosinho, 2000).
ITE university curricula are gradually moving from a predominantly basic research orientation to encouraging educational research projects that are connected to students’ teaching reality (Cakiroglu & Cakiroglu, 2003; Mortimore, 2000). Demircioglu (2008) investigated Turkish STs’ attitudes toward this shift, suggesting that STs recognize the importance of educational research that is geared to a better understanding of teaching and teaching problems.
Key Theme 5: Academic and School Spaces for Fostering Teacher Learning That Attends to Social Justice and Inclusion
Recent years have witnessed a movement from a sole focus on curricula that are sensitive to multicultural education to more encompassing understandings of diversity, which include issues of inclusion and social justice.
Teacher education in a context of cultural diversity presupposes the importance of acknowledging the voices and cultural practices of the various national and minority groups that are part of a society (Rego & Nieto, 2000), with an emphasis on implementing a culturally responsive practice (Cochran-Smith, 2004; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). This implies assuming extended roles that require teacher educators to understand how ideologies, rituals, values, belief systems, and behaviors play out in mentoring interactions among various participants coming from different cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds as well as educational orientations (Orland-Barak, 2010).
However, traditional models of teacher education present a rather uniform portrayal of learning to teach, taking little account of the diverse cultural, social, and national affiliations and traditions that STs bring to teacher education from their home background. Indeed, during the past decade or so (2010s), we have been urged to move away from the tendency to relate to STs as a homogeneous group, ignoring factors such as national and cultural background (Gay, 2010; Zeichner, 2009) as influential to the way in which they interpret their learning experiences. Research agendas that have recently taken up the above call have yielded important understandings regarding the difficulties that minority student trainees experience throughout their training (Basit et al., 2006). Some of these difficulties are found to be related to the lack of critical perspectives that monocultural teacher education programs adopt toward multicultural issues of pedagogical implications, often positioning minority students in situations where they feel compelled to “put aside” their identity in favor of the dominant culture (Montecinos, 2004). Studies also suggest a tendency on the part of STs to believe that pupils, regardless of their cultural background, are all the same, and that therefore the same pedagogy would be equally effective for all kinds of pupils. Studies in this area call for the need to create spaces for STs to reexamine their own attitudes and beliefs toward diversity within the teacher education program. They also suggest promoting prospective teachers’ ability to foster cultural pluralism by acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to teach students of diverse backgrounds (Causey, Thomas, & Armento, 2000).
Preparing teachers as agents of change to promote social justice and inclusion requires clarity not only about what teachers need to know, do, and believe, but also about how they will exercise their agency as teachers when adopting this approach (Pantić & Florian, 2015). Teacher competence as agents of inclusion and social justice involves working collaboratively with other agents and thinking systematically about the ways of transforming practices, schools, and systems. Supportive relationships and knowing students is considered particularly important when teaching students from diverse backgrounds (Den Brok, van Tartwijk, Wubbels, & Veldman, 2010). In sum, inclusive pedagogy promotes the view that teachers are competent agents that possess the necessary knowledge to teach all children (Florian & Linklater, 2010).
Preparing ST for Diversity and Social Justice: Local Examples From the United States, Spain, Switzerland, and Chile
In the U.S. context, the curricula for preparation of prospective teachers to teach culturally and linguistically diverse students includes specific cultural knowledge, awareness building, and research activities as well as immersion into field experiences. Other strategies include case-based teaching (Darling-Hammond & Hammerness, 2002) and community service learning (Zeichner, 2010). In their overview of research on teacher preparation for diversity and high-poverty schools in the United States, Cochran-Smith and Villegas (2016) point to a profound cultural gap between today’s teachers and their students, which makes it difficult for teacher candidates to design instruction that builds on students’ background knowledge and experiences. To address this gap, innovative opportunities are designed to help mainstream teacher candidates uncover their deficit beliefs about socially marginalized students and communities, learn about the lives of students who differ from them, understand issues of social inequalities and the role schools play in producing and reproducing them, gain awareness of the privilege they derive as members of dominant groups, and develop a commitment to teaching in a socially just and culturally responsive way (Cochran-Smith & Villegas, 2016, p. 30). In a similar vein, Sleeter and Carmona (2016) detail the ways in which attempts to implement standards have often gone astray and led to standardization, which has resulted in inflexible curricula and teaching strategies (p. 8). The findings uncover multiple dilemmas that teachers face when they try to teach in culturally responsive ways and to help students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to perform successfully on various tests.
Recent research indicates that even though teacher preparation in Spain is beginning to address aspects of diversity, teachers are still not sufficiently trained to teach in inclusive classrooms (Vélez-Clavo et al., 2017). In an attempt to solve this problem, teacher education programs provide Spanish teachers with intercultural immersion experiences to help them modify their monocultural and sometimes negative attitudes toward diversity and inclusion (Rego & Nieto, 2000). However, challenges still remain because two central goals of education often seem to be at odds: promoting the sociocultural integration of all students of all backgrounds in society and preserving and developing each student’s cultural identity (Rego & Nieto, 2000, p. 419). Spain’s educational approach is assimilationist and integrationist, and multiculturalism is practiced as integrating minorities into the normal routine of the school by providing extra classes or minor curricular adaptations to resolve what is considered to be a cultural “deficit” (Rego & Nieto, 2000, pp. 419–420).
Similar to Spain, multicultural approaches are gradually becoming part of teacher preparation discourse in other European contexts. The change does not come quickly, however. Oester et al. (2008), in the context of teacher education in Switzerland, suggest that many schools react to the growing cultural diversity in their classrooms with increased assimilative pressure of teachers often focusing on the migrant learners’ deficiencies instead of on resources (p. 9). Similarly, a Swedish study highlighted the need to bring about an attitudinal change in STs toward student diversity (Elmeroth, 2009).
Research conducted in Chile points to generally negative views held by STs of families who live in vulnerable communities, which is further intensified by the fact that most ITE programs do not address their perspectives (Sleeter, Montecinos, & Jiménez, 2016). Specifically, findings of a recent study indicate that the majority of Chilean teacher education programs fail to incorporate knowledge about indigenous cultures in their curricula and do not consider interculturality as an option in teacher preparation (Merino-Dickson, 2014). Moreover, there is a lack of alignment between what national and university teacher education policies prescribe and what students feel they need. While Chilean STs were clear about a lack of necessary tools to efficiently integrate indigenous children into a culturally diverse class, their needs and expectations regarding their approach to promote social justice were seen as not being adequately addressed (Merino-Dickson, 2014). In this vein, Sleeter et al. (2016) suggest a number of implications for teacher preparation for social justice. First, it is necessary that STs recognize their own social class biases and how they affect their work with students in the classroom. Second, they should plan and teach lessons that connect core academic skills and knowledge with the experiences and interests of students from poor backgrounds. Third, ITE can help STs learn to develop relationships of reciprocity with students, families, and communities through structured community-based learning or home visits. Once STs learn to engage with families and communities, they will begin to recognize biases and absences in the mandated curriculum. Finally, STs need to learn to create and teach an inclusive curriculum that integrates marginalized perspectives and explicitly addresses inequity and power (Sleeter et al., 2016, pp. 184–188).
Preparing STs for Inclusive Education: Local Examples From Hong Kong, China, Japan, and Israel
Inclusive education is another dimension that pertains to preparing future teachers for working with diversity in the context of including students with disabilities into classes with their age‐matched peers, which is becoming more common globally (Sharma, Forlin, & Loreman, 2008). Toward this end, UNESCO highlights the need to equip teachers “with the appropriate skills and materials to teach diverse student populations and meet the diverse learning needs of different categories of learners” (2008, p. 5). Despite the efforts of researchers worldwide, the essential components of successful inclusive education programs have remained elusive and teachers feel unprepared to teach in inclusive classrooms (Forlin, Keen, & Barrett, 2008).
Following the movement toward inclusive education, Hong Kong, China, and Japan are making attempts to cater to the special needs of students. As a response to the movement toward inclusion and to teachers’ concerns regarding their ability to work in inclusive classrooms, teacher training institutions in Hong Kong are implementing programs to equip STs with basic knowledge and skills to cater to the needs of an increasing range of diverse learners (Stella, Forlin, & Lan, 2007). Notwithstanding these initiatives, mainstream teachers still exhibit a lack of motivation and expertise in implementing appropriate in-class interventions (Yuen, Westwood, & Wong, 2008). For instance, a Hong Kong study found that preservice secondary teachers were marginally prepared to implement inclusive practices despite taking a mandatory course on inclusive education (Stella et al., 2007).
Similar to policy initiatives in China, the Japanese government is beginning to promote education reform that encourages inclusive education (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, 2012, as cited in Forlin, Kawai, & Higuchi, 2015). Such a need is supported by a recent study into the perceptions of Japanese STs regarding their readiness to become inclusive practitioners, pointing to a very low understanding of inclusion and a perceived lack of skills, knowledge, experience, and training (Forlin et al., 2015). Among the possible barriers to improving teachers’ attitudes and self-efficacy for inclusive education, research highlights a lack of contact with people with special educational needs or disabilities (Salvia, Ysseldyke, & Witmer, 2012).
In line with these studies, in the Israeli context, Romi and Leyser’s (2006) study revealed that STs’ deficit attitudes toward inclusion may be resistant to change, notwithstanding teacher education programs. It is therefore suggested that teacher education may not be effective for improving teacher efficacy for inclusion unless STs are willing to implement inclusive teaching behaviors and challenge traditional attitudes toward disabilities (Wertheim & Leyser, 2002).
Key Theme 6: The Preparation of Teacher Educators and the Provision of Mentoring Frameworks
A worldwide consensus exists that mentoring is an important and effective form of supporting the professional development of beginning teachers (e.g., Hobson, Ashby, Malderez, & Tomlinson, 2009; Ingersoll & Strong, 2011). Mentors have also been found to play a key role in the socialization of STs, helping them to adapt to the norms, standards, and expectations associated with teaching in general, and with specific schools (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Wang & Odell, 2002).
A number of studies conducted in various settings highlight the need to strike the right balance between support and challenge in school-based mentoring. For instance, Maguire (2001) in the United Kingdom points out that beginning teachers are often not sufficiently challenged by their school mentors. This seems to be partly due to the assessment framework of initial teacher preparation and to their concern to protect their “own” pupils and their learning (Malderez, Hobson, Tracey, & Kerr, 2007). Similarly, in Canada, many mentors do not give their mentees sufficient “freedom to innovate” (Beck & Kosnick, 2000) and even themselves hold a “transmission perspective” about teaching and learning (Clarke & Jarvis-Selinger, 2005). In the Chinese context, studies have shown that mentors have tended to see their role primarily in terms of the provision of safe sites for trial and error learning or have tended to focus on practical issues such as classroom management, craft knowledge, and mentees’ teaching of subject content (e.g., Lee & Feng, 2007). In the United States, many mentors seem to devote little or insufficient attention to pedagogical issues, to the promotion of reflective practice, or to issues of social reform and social justice (Feiman-Nemser, 2001). Similarly in Norway, some mentors were found to have a limited understanding of concepts such as critical reflection and continue to hold dualist notions of theory and practice (Sundli, 2007), and some (perhaps as a consequence) lack the confidence to incorporate theoretical insights into their practical work with mentees (Sundli, 2007). Finally, we come across contexts that pay insufficient attention to school-based mentoring. Notwithstanding the recognized importance of teacher education and development, the induction of new teachers has received little institutional and political attention in the Portuguese context (Flores, 2007). To this end, Flores and Ferrera (2009) suggest that school leaders, experienced teachers, and higher education institutions provide more systematic guidance and mentoring support for new teachers nationwide.
As a context-dependent practice, Wang (2001) highlights the relationship between contexts and practices of mentoring in the United States, United Kingdom, and China and points to the influence that various instructional contexts (curriculum and assessment structure, organization of teaching and mentoring, and student population) bear on the learning opportunities created for STs across programs and countries. This evidence underscores the necessity to consider the role of context when thinking about effective and successful mentoring practices (Orland-Barak, 2016).
Mentoring in Preservice Education: Local Examples From the United States, England, and Australia
Teacher education in the United States is strongly rooted in mentoring frameworks in preservice education. A study into U.S. beginning teachers’ perceptions of mentoring support (Algozzine et al., 2007) highlights a striving for supportive environments with willing, capable, and compatible mentors with diverse expertise and vantage points who can provide rich and productive mentoring experiences. However, with a lot to learn and with demands on their time, beginning teachers seem to prefer mentoring that helps meet immediate needs, with less time spent on reflection or analysis, which echoes the “survival mode” that many beginning teachers experience (Clark & Byrnes, 2012, p. 51). Another point is the importance of structured mentoring support, which is generally perceived by novices as the most helpful form of mentoring (Clark & Byrnes, 2012, p. 51). Among the challenges associated with the mentor–mentee relationship are the central issues of a poor match and problematic placements (mentors and mentees not sharing the same school, subject, specialty area, or grade level, and mentors lacking time to observe and meet with mentees) (e.g., Kilburg & Hancock, 2006).
Similarly in England, mentoring was introduced as a central feature of early initial university–school partnerships in teacher preparation programs, such as the Oxford University Internship Scheme, in an attempt to overcome the theory–practice dualism endemic to traditional, higher education institution or college-based programs (McIntyre, 1997, as cited in Hobson et al., 2009). A U.K. study into STs’ perceptions of school-based mentoring in initial teacher preparation (Hobson, 2002) suggests that STs perceive school-based mentoring as a key element of their learning experience. The study raises questions about the nature and extent of training for the mentoring role, especially in regard to providing more effective training opportunities for teachers who wish to become mentors and better matching of mentors and STs to avoid potential clashes of personality or approach, given the centrality of the mentor–mentee relationship for ST learning (Hobson, 2002, p. 17).
In the Australian context, Ambrosetti and Dekkers (2010) describe a move toward new mentoring practices that focus on developing learning communities. Tertiary mentors are encouraged to work with a cluster of schools in which STs are undertaking their professional experience. At the same time, lecturers working with STs and staff in schools moved to a per site model of support (replacing the per student model), where each visit includes the lecturer spending time with the mentors, the site coordinators, and the STs (Ambrosetti & Dekkers, 2010, p. 1807). Among the major challenges are supporting student teachers in negotiating the complex relations of power that play out during their learning process.
This article presents major global orientations to ST learning and their consequences for the design of ST education programs in several countries across the world. The studies presented highlight the challenges brought about by these global trends in different educational contexts, summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Local Challenges Brought About by Identified Global Trends
1. School–community–university partnerships
Intensifying the scope of campus–school partnerships
Addressing dual structural complexity: clinical approach within applied research model
Adopting a research stance toward practical day-to-day teaching
Strengthening the preparation of STs regarding teacher-parent partnerships
Preparing STs for creating family–school partnerships
2. Focus on school practice
Avoiding the danger of limiting teaching only to functional aspects which may undermine teacher professionalism
Connecting between core practices and relevant preservice teacher education pedagogies
3. Focus on the learner
Addressing time constraints and ongoing commitment;
setting boundaries between individual and collaborative work
Developing methodological lenses for examining and understanding the complexities of ST preparation
4. Reflective practice and teacher-as-researcher
Meeting the requirements of funding agencies without impinging on education goals and innovation
Merging theoretical thinking of the academic community with the expert knowledge of teachers
Addressing time constraints and ongoing commitment
Creating supportive environments to engage in critical reflection
5. Fostering ST learning that attends to social justice and inclusion
Understanding how cultural gaps between STs and their students may affect their learning
Modifying STs’ monocultural and sometimes negative attitudes toward diversity and inclusion
Changing STs’ attitudes toward migrant children;
seeing migrant learners’ backgrounds not as deficiencies but as resources
Changing STs’ attitudes toward student diversity
Incorporating knowledge about indigenous cultures in ST education curricula;
challenging STS’ deficit attitudes toward inclusion
Increasing STs’ motivation and expertise for implementing inclusive education
Challenging STs’ deficit attitudes toward inclusion
6. The provision of mentoring frameworks to support ST learning
Striking the right balance between support and challenge in school-based mentoring
Providing mentees with sufficient “freedom to innovate”
Finding better matches for teaching placements; promoting mentoring for reflective practice that focuses on social reform and social justice
Providing better systematic guidance and mentoring support for STs
Negotiating the complex relations of power in teaching and learning dynamics
Our overview suggests that one of the challenges shared across contexts regards the need to strengthen partnerships in education. In terms of school–university partnerships, studies point to inherent structural complexity and ownership as major issues. The questions that arise concern the whole process of partnership: initiation, governing, decision-making, commitment, and keeping a balance between a clear focus and direction, on the one hand, and flexibility, on the other. In terms of community–university partnerships, the challenge lies in inadequate preparation of prospective teachers together with a low incentive to actually establish home–school connections, especially with ethnic minority families. This eventually results in loose alliances between schools and parents which, in turn, affect the quality of pupils’ learning.
Studies in the area of core teaching practices are mainly situated in the United States and point to the powerful potential of core practices for improving the education of future teachers. However, major challenges remain to be faced in regard to broadening the contextual scope of core practices beyond the United States and structuring a curriculum around core practices that is based on the systematic identification of pedagogies that can be mapped onto different content areas and contexts of teacher education worldwide.
We have also identified major common challenges in the right integration of research and practice components in teacher education programs. Local studies point to the challenges of forming future reflective practitioners who are intellectually competent, who can identify, articulate, and manage practical problems and dilemmas, who can frame pedagogical questions, and who can develop an inquiry stance toward teaching and learning. Further challenges described pertain to educating future teachers on how to be accountable for their actions, and to making evidence-based practice public while exposing inherent complexities and impasses. These challenges are coupled with improving teacher education for cultural diversity and inclusion. In some contexts, we see little political interest in incorporating knowledge about minority cultures into teacher education curricula, promoting, instead, monocultural approaches and deficit attitudes. These are exhibited in novices’ lack of motivation and expertise in implementing multicultural and inclusive education. Thus, we identify a worldwide expressed need for providing future teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills to work in multicultural and inclusive classrooms and for bringing about an attitudinal change toward student diversity.
Among the major challenges shared across contexts, we identify the need to structure stable mentoring frameworks to provide the appropriate systematic guidance for future teachers. Directions for improvement include adopting a more focused approach to ST placement, a sounder articulation of expectations for student teaching, the right kind of modeling reflective practices, and facilitating time and opportunities for meaningful learning experiences.
Added to these challenges is a recognition that, in the midst of the 21st century, teachers are expected to meet the challenges of an era of globalization, border crossing, information exchange, and immigration across nations. This implies acknowledging that the traditional competencies that used to characterize the daily work and activity of “the good teacher” need, inevitably, to undergo radical changes, adaptations, and modifications to fit these growing shifts.The new world of technology has amplified mobility, enhanced virtual communication, and developed tools for supporting simultaneous forms of practice. These developments pose new challenges and opportunities for managing the rapid changes occurring in the teaching–learning school scenario of the 21st century and call for substantial additional resources for teacher preparation, induction, and continuing development.
Notwithstanding these challenges, we have identified a number of promising directions, highlighted in recent research mostly related to (1) how university programs can make meaningful links with schools and communities; (2) developing programs that deal with authentic teacher preparation through injury- and-research-informed clinical practice; (3) mentoring models that involve different community stakeholders.
In terms of the first point, research highlights partnerships for diversity and inclusion that prepare teachers to fuse teaching practices such as cultural responsiveness and inclusive pedagogies. In this direction, Epstein et al. (2018) present a comprehensive multidimensional framework based on extensive research and exemplary practices designed to help schools plan programs that involve families in different ways. They specifically note single parent families, parents who are employed outside the home, parents who live far from school, fathers, and parents with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The authors claim that family and community involvement are central for all aspects of school improvement. They emphasize the importance of including theory, research, policy, and practical ideas of partnership in preservice education curricula to enable STs to enter the profession with an understanding of family backgrounds, concepts of caring, types of involvement, and partnership program development (Epstein et al., 2018).
In a similar vein, we found research on preparing teacher candidates for culturally responsive teaching through exposure to diverse learners in field clinical experiences. Among those studies, we highlight a U.S. study by Miller and Mikulec (2014) that looked into the development of culturally responsive teachers through a critical examination of an immersion field experience. Importantly, STs were immersed in an educational context that was radically different from what they had known in their own schooling. The results of the study suggest that in terms of relating to the students, this clinical experience provided preservice teachers with a demonstration of diversity in practice, which led to the understanding that “diverse” students have more in common with their peers than meets the eye. As for creating a safe space for marginalized youth, STs saw an example of how a school may make a commitment to mitigating the negative effects of the real world (Miller & Mikulec, 2014).
As for point 2, developing programs that deal with authentic teacher preparation through injury- and-research-informed clinical practice, we came across examples of school–university partnerships that facilitate and deepen the interplay between different kinds of knowledge generated and validated within the different contexts of school and university. Burn and Mutton (2015) examine the kinds of relationships between research and practice that have been envisaged in programs designed to provide opportunities for beginning teachers to engage in research-informed clinical practice. Among the approaches based on this principle, the authors highlight the Oxford Internship Scheme within the United Kingdom, professional development or “clinical” schools in the United States, the Melbourne Master of Teaching program, realistic or authentic teacher education in the Netherlands, and research-oriented pedagogy in Finland. Evidence from those contexts which have been developed most systematically suggests that research-informed clinical practice makes a very important contribution to school and system improvement (Burn & Mutton, 2015).
Similarly, research points to the spread of school–university partnerships for promoting reflective practice. Parsons and Stephenson (2005) identified ways in which STs can be helped to develop their ability to engage in reflection about their practice. The results suggest that interaction between the school, the university, and the student provided a support mechanism which allowed STs to make links between the practical and theoretical. STs therefore were able to go beyond mere descriptions of specific classroom events and demonstrate deeper thinking about their work in the classroom (Parsons & Stephenson, 2005).
With regard to the third point, mentoring models that involve different community stakeholders, we came across studies on school–community partnerships that collaborate with community mentors. For example, a recent U.S. study explored the perspectives and experiences of community mentors in their work partnering with a university-based teacher education program (Guillen & Zeichner, 2018). The aim of this partnership was to help preservice teachers develop relationships with families and local communities before they began as full-time teachers in their classroom. Through this type of partnership based on the Community Teaching Framework (Murrell, 2001), the program aimed at preparing future teachers to see their students as members of families and cultural communities; to work with colleagues, families, communities, and other stakeholders to create equitable, humane, and culturally responsive classrooms and school environments; and to connect their classrooms to community knowledge, community leaders, and community organizations (Guillen & Zeichner, 2018).
Finally, we identified studies pertaining to mentoring for social justice and inclusive education. In the U.K. context, Duckworth and Maxwell (2015) explored how mentors in ITE can act as change agents for social justice. Specifically, the results suggested that social justice mentors establish collaborative democratic mentoring relationships, create spaces for critical reflection, support trainees to experience different cultures, develop inclusive critical pedagogies, and generally act as advocates and foster passion for social justice. Another recent U.K. study identified a number of practices and principles underpinning effective inclusive teacher education for preparing STs who are responsive to diverse learners (Robinson, 2017). They claim that in order to advance, inclusive teacher education must adopt a complex, multimodal, collective, critical theoretical, socially situated, research-oriented, and partnership-oriented pedagogic model (Robinson, 2017).
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