Grand Canyon University
Shawn Feaster Johnson, Ed. D.
April 19, 2010
Learning To Teach By being Learner’s First
Nationally, there appears to be a growing recognition that teacher education programs do not fully prepare beginning teachers for the rigors of school teaching. However, rather than attempt to defend the need for universities to be able to meet this demand, I believe that it is more important to realistically appraise what is possible in teacher preparation - and what is not. Hence, it is more than reasonable to assert that teacher preparation programs are, by nature, inadequate and incomplete. Dissatisfaction with teacher preparation programs may then be unduly exacerbated by attempting to achieve that which is not possible (fully preparing a beginning teacher to ‘cope’ with the demands of teaching) by responding to the multitude of requirements/expectations/competencies for beginning teachers (for example, such skills as those outlined by Reynolds, 1992; 1995). In so doing, it appears that an overarching understanding of what teacher preparation can be, and how it might be enacted, is pushed aside by the perceived need to pack the curriculum with all the knowledge, skills, attributes and practices necessary to address the multitude of demands that are perceived as needing to be addressed. Sadly, this approach to teacher preparation often means that there is a substantial lack of common understanding as to what could/should be done. Therefore, in order to begin to seriously question how to prepare teachers in such a way that they might cope with the realities and demands of teaching and to be equipped with a theoretical background to translate into their teaching, we need, as Ashton (1996) has pointed out, a shift in the approaches to teacher education. This questioning of what we do and why in teacher preparation has become increasingly important to me is because there is a need for all teachers to be highly qualified as well as adapt to hit the ground running once they get in the classroom. These restructuring moves have highlighted that the research knowledge that exists in teaching about teaching and learning about teaching is either of little value to teacher educators or simply not well known or understood. Unfortunately, what Korthagen and Kessels (1999) so aptly describe as the traditional approach to teacher preparation seems to almost universally impact on the organization of teacher preparation, regardless of its applicability and value in helping student-teachers learn about how to teach. Student-teachers’ view their own development in terms of the skills and abilities they require as teachers, but also their development beyond this into the construction of their learning about teaching in ways that might enhance their professional roles as reflective practitioners. Inevitably, those involved in the program have continually revisited and debated important issues (nature and scope of the practicum, needs and requirements associated with Foundation Subjects as opposed to Method subjects, the importance of modeling, and so on). The important point being that debate has continued and the knowledge from research has been important in shaping those debates.
All student teachers have been viewed as “the same” regardless of whether they are in an end-on or consecutive teacher preparation program. What these discussions have highlighted for me is the lack of linkage between research on learning to teach and teaching about teaching and the construction of teacher preparation programs. Consequently, it seems appropriate at this time that teacher educators be challenged about their need (and desire) to articulate that which they believe matters in teacher preparation. It is important that teacher educators are able to give reasons for their views and to share these in ways that might help move us from...