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.