Understanding teachers of the future

Anne McMaugh, David Saltmarsh

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    As we progress through the first decade of the new century, teachers, teaching and teacher education continue to feature prominently in public debates and media reports. In 2000, Marilyn Cochran-Smith (2000) heralded an emerging phenomenon of criticism and “even bashing”(p.13) of teacher education within the political and historical contexts of the last decade. As Cochran-Smith noted, such criticism of teacher education was not new in United States history, but was now dominated by the standards movement, accreditation concerns, and wider debates about the purpose of public schooling. In Australia, the political and historical discourses surrounding teaching and teacher education appear to parallel those outlined by Cochran-Smith (2000). Increased public scrutiny of education has seen the emergence in NSW of a standards based teacher accreditation system, matched with an accreditation system for teacher education programmes. Indeed, developments in our systems of schooling and debate over the purpose of schooling, also parallel those later outlined by Cochran-Smith. This is apparent in the increasing privatisation of schooling options, and increased debate about the rights of public versus private schools to equitable shares of public funding monies. This recent public debate has contributed to a range of inquiries, reports and political investigations of teaching and teacher education. The NSW Teachers Federation and the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations contributed to the debate with the "Inquiry into Public Education" (Vinson, Esson, & Johnston, 2002), and various State and Federal reports have examined the costs of qualifying teachers; recruitment of teachers; shortages of teachers in specific subject areas; content of teacher education programs and the attrition of teachers from the teaching workforce (see House of Representatives, 2007). Thus, the context of teacher education in the new century is one that must acknowledge a discomforting level of disagreement and concern about the aim and purpose of teacher education and the inevitable links made to the quality of outcomes for our students. As Cochran-Smith (2004) asserted, ‘teacher education in dangerous times’ requires us to ‘take stock’ of what she calls a convergence of factors, “…pushing us dangerously close to a technical view of teaching, a training model of teacher education, the isomorphic equating of learning with testing….” (p.3). This paper proposes that the examination of teacher education should encompass research strategies to examine at least some of these concerns, as teacher education programmes, and indeed our ‘teachers for the future’, are not immune to the political and historical discourses circumscribing teacher education on a global scale. In particular, the qualities of people entering teacher education, their eventual success or attrition in the teaching career path, and the contributions they make to schooling are topics of burgeoning research scrutiny. Yet how these factors will change, or be influenced by the ‘dangerous times’ purported by Cochran-Smith (and certainly alluded to by others) remains of pivotal concern.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTeacher educators at work
    Subtitle of host publicationwhat works and where is the evidence? : proceedings of the 2008 Australian Teacher Education Association National Conference
    EditorsTania Aspland
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    PublisherAustralian Teacher Education Association
    Number of pages10
    ISBN (Print)0977568512
    Publication statusPublished - 2008
    EventAustralian Teacher Education Association conference 2008 - Sunshine Coast, Qld
    Duration: 8 Jul 200811 Jul 2008


    ConferenceAustralian Teacher Education Association conference 2008
    CitySunshine Coast, Qld


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