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Community-Based Experiential Learning in Teacher Education  

Gary Harfitt

Institutes of higher education around the world have increasingly adopted community-based experiential learning (EL) programs as pedagogy to equip their students with skills and values that make them more open to an increasingly unpredictable and ill-defined 21st-century world. Values of social justice, empathy, care, collaboration, creativity, and resilience have all been seen as potential benefits of community engagement through EL. In the field of teacher education, the goals of preparing teachers for the 21st century have undergone similar changes with the local community being positioned more and more as a knowledge space that is rich in learning opportunities for both preservice and in-service teachers. It is no longer enough for teacher educators to only focus on the teaching of classroom strategies and methods; beginning teachers’ must now move toward a critical interrogation of their role as a community-based teacher. Boundary-crossing projects established by teacher education institutes and that are embedded in local communities can complement more traditional pedagogies such as classroom-based lectures and teaching practicum. Such an approach to teacher education can allow for new teachers to draw on powerful community knowledge in order to become more inclusive and socially connected educators. In sum, community-based EL in teacher preparation programs can create a hybrid, nonhierarchical platform for academics, practitioners, and community partners who bring together different expertise that are all seen as being beneficial to teacher development in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. While research has shown that community-based EL projects can bring tangible benefits to students, universities, and community members, a number of contentious issues continue to surround the topic and need to be addressed. One concerns the very definition of community-based EL itself. There is still a need to better characterize what community-based EL is and what it involves, because too often it is seen in overly simplistic terms, such as voluntary work, or categorized loosely as another example of service-learning endeavors, including field studies and internship programs. There has also been a paucity of research on the degree to which community-based EL projects in teacher training actually help to promote subject matter teaching skills. Other ongoing issues about the case for community-based learning in teacher education today include the question of who the teacher educators are in today’s rapidly changing world and to what extent noneducation-related community partners should be positioned as co-creators of knowledge alongside teacher educators in the development of new teachers’ personal and professional development.

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Service Learning and Teacher Education  

Nadine Petersen, Sarah Gravett, and Sarita Ramsaroop

Although teacher education actively promotes the ideals of social justice and care, finding ways of enculturating student teachers into what these values mean in education remains a challenge. Additionally, the literature abounds with the struggles of teacher educators to prepare student teachers with the knowledge and competencies required for the complex task of teaching. A way to address this is through the inclusion of service learning (SL) in initial teacher education programs. SL, as a form of experiential learning, with reflection at its core, serves as a means of deepening student learning about the practice of social justice and care and as a way of both drawing on, and informing, student teachers’ practical and situational learning of teaching. SL also holds potential for preparing teachers with the competencies required for the 21st century. The research on SL in teacher education draws on theoretical perspectives of experiential learning, democracy education, social transformation, multicultural education, critical reflection, and education for civic responsibility. A limitation is that the literature within developing contexts is underrepresented, limiting access to useful lessons from the research in these contexts and preventing wider theorization in the field.

Article

John Dewey and Teacher Education  

Margaret Schmidt and Randall Everett Allsup

John Dewey’s writings on schooling are extensive, and characteristically wide-ranging: teachers are expected to think deeply about knowledge construction, how we think and learn, the purpose of curriculum in the life of the child, and the role of school and societal reform. He worked throughout his life to develop and refine his philosophy of experience, describing all learning as defined by the quality of interactions between the learner and the social and physical environment. According to Dewey, teachers have a responsibility to structure educational environments in ways that promote educative learning experiences, those that change the learner in such a way as to promote continued learning and growth. The capacity to reflect on and make meaning from one’s experiences facilitates this growth, particularly in increasing one’s problem-solving abilities. While Dewey wrote little that specifically addressed the preparation of teachers, his 1904 essay, “The Relation of Theory to Practice in Education,” makes clear that he grounds his beliefs about teachers’ learning in this same philosophy of experiential learning. Dewey argued that thoughtful reflection on previous and current educational experiences is especially important in teacher preparation; teacher educators could then guide beginners to examine and test the usefulness of the beliefs formed from those experiences. Teacher educators, therefore, have a responsibility to arrange learning environments for beginning teachers to promote sequential experiences leading to increased understanding of how children learn, “how mind answers to mind.” These experiences can then help beginning teachers grow, not as classroom technicians, but as true “students of teaching.” Dewey’s ideas remain relevant, but must also be viewed in historical context, in light of his unfailing belief in education and the scientific method as ways to promote individual responsibility and eliminate social problems. His vision of a democratic society remains a fearless amalgam of human adaptation, continuity, change, and diversity: public schools are privileged locations in a democracy for the interplay and interrogation of old and new ideas. Teacher preparation and teacher wellbeing are crucial elements; they can provide experiences to educate all children for participation in their present lives in ways that facilitate their growth as citizens able to fully participate in a democracy. Despite criticism about limitations of his work, Dewey’s ideas continue to offer much food for thought, for both research and practice in teacher education.

Article

Globalization, Digital Technology, and Teacher Education in the United States  

Jared Keengwe

Generally, as a result of the need for many schools to compete on a global level, the use of digital technologies has increased in teacher education programs as well as in U.S. public schools. The dynamics of globalization and digital technologies also continue to influence teacher preparation programs, with multiple implications for educational policies and practices in U.S. public schools. Rapidly emerging developments in technologies and the digital nature of 21st-century learning environments have shaped and transformed the ways learners access, process, and interpret both the general pedagogical content knowledge and discipline-specific content in teaching and learning. Ultimately, the roles of students and teachers in digital learning environments must change to adapt to the dynamic global marketplace. In practice, these changes reiterate the need for teacher educators to prepare skilled teachers who are able to provide social and academic opportunities for building a bridge from a monocultural pedagogical framework to a globally competent learning framework, which is critical to addressing the realities of 21st-century classroom experiences. Specifically, there is a need to equip teacher candidates with cultural competency and digital skills to effectively prepare learners for a digital and global workplace. The lack of cultural competency skills, knowledge, attitudes, and dispositions implies potential social and academic challenges that include xenophobia, hegemony, and classroom management issues. The development of 21st-century learning skills is also central to the preparation of digital and global citizens. The 21st-century globalization skills include communication skills, technological literacy and fluency, negotiations skills, knowledge on geography, cultural and social competency, and multiculturalism. To be relevant in the era of globalization, teacher education programs should take the lead on providing learners with knowledge that promotes global awareness and the 21st-century learning skills required to become responsible global and digital citizens.