Teaching as Clincal Practice

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Conundrums and Complexities in Teaching and Teacher Education While there is much debate by academics, practitioners and the popular press around the quality of teachers, teacher education and what constitutes ‘good’ teaching, there is no argument that teaching is one of the most challenging and complex professions. Over the last two decades, researchers have increasingly debated the topics of what the most effective way to educate teachers is and what teachers need to know about teaching. Levine (2006) describes two divergent understandings of teaching being those who believe teaching is a profession and those who believe it is a craft. A profession such as medicine or law requires extensive studies in specific areas before individuals are allowed or accredited to practice alone. On the other hand, a craft or trade can be learnt through on the job training as well as minor studies. The differing views about teaching and its category are just two of the challenges, which confront researchers in the fields of teaching and teacher education. Once this first major question was identified and researched with no conclusive answer, it would have been too easy to sit down, open a bottle of wine and ponder the conflict between the two opinions. However as the King said, to the White Rabbit in response to the question “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?”, “Begin at the beginning” (Carroll, Ch 12, 1865). This paper discusses the complexities and conundrums contained within a sample of teaching and teacher education research.

Thinking and acting as a teacher, learning as a student
The majority of teaching students come to the role of teacher after fourteen years or more of being a student and seeing the practice of teaching from a very different perspective. Hammerness et al explore the concept of new teachers requiring the ability to unlearn what they had learnt about teaching from their time as students and to think about teaching in “ways quite different from what they have learned from their own experience as students.” (p 359) In this way the prospective or beginning teacher must act as a teacher and ‘think like a teacher’ at the same time they are learning “the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for effective teaching” (Hammerness et al p 360)

Practical and theoretical knowledge
Acquiring practical knowledge occurs during day-to-day work experiences in the performance of tasks. This type of knowledge can also be gained in the course of daily life. Gholami states that practical knowledge in teaching is that knowledge which supports and guides teachers’ practice and that it refers also to knowledge teachers have developed as a result of their teaching experiences. Shon (1983) says that practitioners are “often unaware of having learned to do these things” and they “do not have to think about them prior to or during their performance”. Theoretical knowledge focuses on understanding why one technique works where another has failed, it teaches through the experience of others. It is the knowledge of a subject’s ideas and principles acquired from resources and books on a subject, rather than applying or knowing how to apply the principles in a given situation.

Conundrums and Complexities in Teaching and Teacher Education

Educational academics and experienced teachers
Experienced teachers who become teacher educators draw on a wide range of focused practical, which may include subject matter, students’ social and emotional needs, student learning and understanding and instructional process requirements. (Meijer, Zanting and Verloop) Knowing in Action is a phrase conceived by Donald Shon in “The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action”. He describes how professionals, such as teachers and others carry out actions spontaneously without thinking about them either before they act or while they are performing the task. He also claims that not only are professionals unaware of all their...
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