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“Was it Good, Sir?” Thinking Deeply About Teacher Education

2 Comments

  1. Trevor, it was wonderful re-reading your post early this morning–meandering in and out of your personal and professional stories over a cup of coffee, wondering where the personal ends and the professional ends.

    I love the conversation about constituencies and concurrency. Both of these ideas, I sense, have some powerful implications for our conversations here and elsewhere. In particular, I find myself thinking of “constitutencies”.

    Until now, I’ve mainly known this term as it is used to refer to geographical regions that form representative regions on the political landscape. You’ve broadened the perspective here to refer to (I think) the various other “territories” that are represented on the educational landscape.

    School districts as a constituency; faculties of education as another. Am I correct?

    Teacher education straddles more than one constituency which offers the whole enterprise a sense of richness but, at the same time, a sense of tension. You reference the idea of shared constituencies and (here I’m reading into what you’re saying) shared constituents.

    If I have it right, then this is an interesting lens with which to examine the current state of (and vision for) teacher education.

    But I’m going to pause before proceeding in the hopes that you might be able to say more about your concept of constituency.

  2. Many thanks for your thoughtful insights and questions, Stephen.

    My response to your query regarding constituencies is “yes.”

    I have organized my thoughts in response to your query in three contexts: Secondments, WiER , and Learning Relationships, below.

    SECONDMENTS
    Last July, in a “guest post” , I considered the notion of “constituencies” in the context of secondments to faculties of education, and of “being a kind of visitor” in that role. Secondments offer both participants in the relationship—i.e., the seconding institution and the secondee—opportunities to work together where otherwise they might not. Indeed, my sense is that this is really the purpose for secondments—a chance to bridge the distinctions that might normally exist between, say, faculty members in universities, on the one hand, and practitioners in schools, on the other—and, just as each of these groups forms its own, distinct constituency, once the relationship between them is formed, they, in turn, form others, which operate in the service of shared aspirations and work.

    When I began to see what became possible when one constituency—say, in a faculty of education—intended to consider and explore the interests and work of another constituency—say, practicing teachers—I saw it everywhere.

    WiER
    Taken together, those involved in the work of education comprise several constituencies, typically, people who are teachers, and people who are students. In my work with the Writers in Electronic Residence (WiER) program, I saw how the introduction of the writers to the existing relationships between teachers and students changed them both, as well as how they saw each other. Their learning relationships were changed.

    What I consider to be key to my understanding of this came when I saw how these relationships, once changed, didn’t change back when the writers’ residencies were over. Indeed, who students and teachers had become to each other—as learners, or, I suppose, participants in shared learning, even though the nature of that learning was different for each constituency—changed, in part, because of the involvement of the writers in their learning relationship. (So, for instance, when course work returned to Fern Hill or “The Scottish Play,” as they say, the relationships between students and teachers had evolved.)

    LEARNING RELATIONSHIPS
    If those involved in WiER could be understood to be in a learning relationship comprising separate constituencies, namely, students, teachers and writers, what would the influence be on each one? And what would the influence be on the new shared constituency they had formed? This thinking also applied to the classroom, where two constituencies—the students, and the teacher—were also engaged in shared work, but also individual work in a shared context.

    This is where that notion I raised of “learning colleagues” comes from . In it, all participants engage in learning sustained in a shared context, but what that learning is can vary widely, and have quite different purposes.

    I heard a news report recently—television, I think, but perhaps radio—in which the teacher being profiled for what sounded like exciting and productive work, described his role as the “lead learner” in his classroom. I feel certain I know what he means, although there is a certain positionality to that description that doesn’t quite sit right with me. Who’s is “leading” shifts, and it is, I think, that this happens in the full view of all participants that underscores and advances the value of this sort of engagement in the classroom.

    Just a thought.

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