Schools, teachers, and students are increasingly able to access and apply assistive technology to enhance inclusion within mainstream classrooms. To ensure that a classroom is truly inclusive, the teacher and other professionals involved in supporting children with disability using assistive technology require appropriate knowledge and skills to bring potential to reality. There are many successful examples of assistive technology successfully embedding into the practices of inclusive setting, but there is still some way to go to ensure this is a seamless approach. There are many benefits and difficulties associated with adopting assistive technology to support students with disability, particularly in developing countries. While the challenges may be great, the potential for assistive technology to impact significantly on the educational, social, and recreational outcomes for students with disability in inclusive classrooms is immense.
Maureen Robinson and Rada Jancic Mogliacci
Initial teacher education programs across the world bear many resemblances to one another in respect to their overall design features. Students generally follow courses that teach them foundational knowledge pertaining to education, like psychology or sociology, disciplinary knowledge in particular subject areas, and general and specific pedagogical knowledge. In addition, students are exposed to varying degrees of school placements. Despite these similarities in overall structure, the curriculum content and activities of teacher preparation may vary considerably, dependent on the underpinning conceptions of the goals and purposes of the program. Historical and geographical contexts also influence the choice of particular goals for teacher education.
Conceptions of teacher education can be clustered in a number of major approaches, each with its own subcategories. Although different terminologies may be used in the literature, the six major categories are as follows: a social justice approach, a master-apprentice approach, an applied science approach, a teacher identity approach, a competence approach, and a reflective approach. Each approach has certain key features and implications for curriculum design in teacher education, including vision, goals, content, teaching and learning methodologies, and the relationship between schools and colleges/universities. An example here is the difference between an applied science approach, based on the notion of teachers putting theories into practice, and a reflective practice approach, where teachers are encouraged to construct personal theories in and from practice. A second example of the different emphases is the extent to which education is located within its larger social context, with the relationship between school and society being more explicit within a social justice than a competence approach to teacher education. Conceptions may be implicit or explicit; in reality, most programs embody hybrid models with emphasis in particular directions.
The articulation of the key concepts, principles, and assumptions that underpin the design of teacher education programs contributes to the field in various ways. Promoting an understanding of different traditions of teacher education helps establish a shared vocabulary and knowledge base; this can improve the quality of teacher education through deepening academic debate and enhancing program coherence. In addition, strengthening the conceptual base of teacher education supports the professional autonomy of teacher educators, through advancing debate on the purposes, ethics, and politics of education and providing tools to discuss the curriculum implications of policy reform.
Miguel Ángel Arias Ortega
The way environmental education has been presented as a viable response to the emergence of national, regional, and global environmental problems since the 1970s is reviewed; as well as some environmental education presuppositions, approaches, and aims with which a field of knowledge and educational practices have been constituted and provided to the individual, to help re-evaluate and redefine the established forms of relationship and exchange with society and nature. Also, the concepts of education and environmental education are examined as they are considered the starting point for undertaking teacher education processes and the potential to generate a new environmental culture in society. At the same time, certain inconsistencies in this process are observed, along with the analysis of some distinctive features (knowledge, attitudes, abilities, and skills) a teacher who is trained in the field of environmental education must possess. General reflections on environmental education teacher training and its processes which are meant to increase debate and discussion on the subject are included, together with the description of some educational experiences developed in different areas and levels that aim to innovate in the reflection and practice of environmental education. Finally, some clues are given to help the design and development of training proposals for environmental education teachers with a greater social, scientific, critical, and humanistic projection.
Jane Abbiss and Eline Vanassche
A review of the field of practice-focused research in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) reveals four broad genres of qualitative research: case studies of teacher education programs and developments; research into student teacher experience and learning; inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning, identity, and beliefs; and conceptual or theory-building research. This is an eclectic field that is defined by variation in methodologies rather than by a few clearly identifiable research approaches. What practice-focused research in ITE has in common, though, is a desire on the behalf of teacher educator researchers to understand the complexity of teacher education and contribute to shifts in practice, for the benefit of student teachers and, ultimately, for learners in schools and early childhood education. In this endeavor, teacher educator researchers are presented with a challenge to achieve a balance between goals of local relevance and making a theoretical contribution to the broader field. This is a persistent tension. Notwithstanding the capacity for practice-focused research to achieve a stronger balance and greater relevance beyond the local, key contributions of practice-focused research in ITE include: highlighting the importance of context, questioning what might be understood by “improvement” in teacher education and schooling, and pushing back against research power structures that undervalue practice-focused research.
Drawing on a painting metaphor, each genre represents a collection of sketches of practice-focused research in ITE that together provide the viewer with an overview of the field. However, these genres are not mutually exclusive categories as any particular research study (or sketch) might be placed within one or more groupings; for example, inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning often also includes attention to student teachers’ experiences and case studies of teacher education initiatives inevitably draw on theory to frame the research and make sense of findings. Also, overviewing the field and identifying relevant research is not as simple as it might first appear, given challenges in identifying research undertaken by teacher educators, differences in the positioning of teacher educators within different educational systems, and privileging of American (US) views of teacher education in published research, which was counteracted in a small way in this review by explicitly including voices located outside this dominant setting. Examples of different types of qualitative research projects illustrate issues in teacher education that matter to teacher educator researchers globally and locally and how they have sought to use a variety of methodologies to understand them. The examples also show how teacher educators themselves define what is important in teacher education research, often through small-scale studies of context-specific teacher education problems and practices, and how there is value in “smaller story” research that supports understanding of both universals and particularities along with the grand narratives of teacher education.
Troy A. Martin
The professionalization of education involves a modern, capitalist move toward securing a public market for schools and developing social status for educators. As a process that has produced knowledge, rationalized relationships, and controlled markets, professionalization of education has also defined an ethical discourse. Articulated in language, inscribed in state law, and embodied in conduct, professional ethics have been codified formally in “codes of ethics” and informally in professional identity and ways of thinking. The popular discourse of professional ethics in education narrows and constrains ethical possibility in practice.
Because of similar forms of codes of ethics across professions, interdisciplinary scholarship from education, social work, psychiatry, and medicine informs a critical examination of professional ethics. The codes, discourse, and standards of professional ethics are historically grounded in the framework of modern rationalism. As the field of education has developed to include a more diverse knowledge-base and new forms of empirical research, the rational order of prescriptive ethics has begun to slip. While regulatory codes of ethics continue to undergird public trust and provide legal insurance against malfeasance, educational scholars and practitioners engage a wider constellation of ethical perspectives and possibilities. Feminist care ethics, post-modern ethics, and phenomenological descriptive ethics present a few possibilities within emergent fields. As the ongoing effects of professionalization are critiqued and the possibilities of professional ethics are re-imagined, schools of education should look beyond the disciplinary enclosures of education to respond to an increasingly diffuse understanding of professional ethics.