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National CrossTalk Fall 1999
News Editorial Other Voices Interview

2 of 3 Stories

Teacher Education
The movement from omission to commission

By John I. Goodlad

John Goodlad  
   
TEACHER EDUCATION has been a neglected enterprise suffering increasingly from status deprivation. Some colleges of education found it prudent to downplay their teacher education role in seeking status through identification with the research criteria of the arts and sciences. Many eschewed pre-service, undergraduate teacher preparation entirely in moving exclusively to graduate status.

The top-ranked schools of education in the Cartter Report of 1977 prepared only a handful of teachers or none at all. Since each of these is housed in a major, research-oriented university, an observer might conclude that there is no dwelling place for teacher education in the most prestigious mansions of higher education.

My primary assumption in what follows is that higher education has a moral responsibility to provide leadership in ensuring well-educated teachers for the nation's schools. Deliberately eschewing teacher education rather than elevating it to a position of high priority is, in my book, a mark of shame rather than of prestige.

The absence of teaching as a career choice among freshmen overwhelmingly choosing medicine, law and business in our most distinguished universities accounts for only a blip in the statistics on the supply side of need. But the message to institutions not in the top research and doctoral categories of the Carnegie classification of institutions of higher education is akin to a blast of cold Arctic air, especially to those state colleges and universities specifically charged with the function of preparing teachers: If teacher education is not good enough for flagship universities, why is it good enough for us?

Suddenly, however, teacher education has been discovered in the policy arena and linked significantly to school reform. With fifteen years of public attention to school reform steadily expanding to include higher education and the teacher education function traditionally attached to it, little foresight is required to envision the pressure of policymakers descending on state colleges and universities.

The choices of the past in regard to institutional stance in the domain of teacher education are narrowing down to just three, the first of which probably is untenable: opt out, comply, or assume moral and programmatic leadership.

A National Network of School-University Partnerships
There exists today in the United States a rather unusual educational improvement initiative named the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER). The NNER's agenda -- the Agenda for Education in a Democracy -- guides the efforts of educators in thirty-three colleges and universities, more than one hundred school districts and more than five hundred schools joined in partnership for the simultaneous renewal of schooling and the education of educators. Three of these partnerships educate more than half of the teachers produced in their respective states each year, in programs quite different from those in place just a few years ago.

One of the most remarkable features is that key leaders in these settings made a voluntary choice. The impetus for change was not derived from state mandates with their carrots, sticks and other external prods for change. The settings of the NNER are doing what they are doing for the best of reasons: They want to.

The agenda's three parts -- mission, conditions necessary to the mission, and strategies for implementation -- present a daunting challenge.

The four-part mission sets for teachers and teacher educators enculturation of the school-age population in a social and political democracy, comprehensive introduction of the young to the human conversation, the exercise of caring pedagogy, and the moral stewardship of schools and teacher education programs. The necessary conditions to be established for the conduct of this mission number at least sixty, contained in nineteen reasoned propositions or postulates. The strategies call for symbiotic partnerships between schools and institutions of higher education, which in turn bring to the collaboration professors from both colleges of education and departments of the arts and sciences.

Intensive immersion of key actors from all three groups in the agenda through a yearlong leadership program, an annual meeting of participants, setting-to-setting networking, and the wonders of modern electronic communications have combined to produce the psychic energy and synergy necessary to individual and institutional renewal.

Lacking the common agenda, it is unlikely that the three long-separated cultures, each with a piece of the curriculum, would have come together in partnership to put the programmatic pieces together in a reasonably coherent mission-driven whole.

To claim victory and task accomplished would be both playing with the truth and a grievous mistake. It must be remembered that this is not the customary agenda of topics or tasks to be addressed in the normal course of doing business in a relatively well-understood, stable enterprise. It is an agenda of mission in an essentially moral endeavor where there is little present public agreement. It is an agenda to be taken on only after careful deliberation. And it is an agenda of symbiotic consequence in that the price of satisfying self-interest is that of satisfying the interests of others.

A Sea-Change in Expectations for Teacher Education
Once upon a time, not long ago, colleges and universities routinely received from the state a set of requirements for the preparation of teachers. These were changed every few years, and each year the legislature mandated additional requirements such as a course in audiovisual education or substance abuse. Accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) was an option.

The mandates were sufficiently intrusive to create periodic internal roilings on the part of campus committees on teacher education responsible for compliance. However, with the school, college or department of education (SCDE) the designated unit for accountability, campus life was little affected.

Except in those small colleges where the education of teachers represented the major curricular and budgetary commitments, neither the chief academic officers nor the chairs of the arts and sciences departments were very much involved in any of this. And the faculty were in the enviable role of being able to gripe about both the impositions and the "Mickey Mouse" courses perceived to come with them.

A profound sea-change is becoming apparent. The relatively mild waves of intrusion that lapped on the shores of academe are picking up into white-capped breakers. Although the rise has caught the attention of many campus administrators, many faculty members have simply blocked out the noise with earplugs. Disappointing performance by teachers and prospective teachers on tests addressed primarily to the subject matters of general education imply a deeper malaise and a much wider university responsibility.

Troublesome questions arise.

Assuming that we want all teachers to be both well-educated citizens and well-prepared in the subject matters of their teaching, do the present curricular offerings and the guidance of students in making selections ensure such outcomes?

Assuming that teachers require grounding in certain subject matters in order to advance the public mission of schooling in our democracy, how is such to be ensured?

Assuming that future teachers need to learn certain subject matters twice -- once for themselves and once more for the teaching of children or youths -- are the provisions for integration adequate?

Assuming that some students should be directed away from teaching because of academic and other shortcomings, are there policies and procedures that need to be changed, such as those allowing access to all undergraduate programs once admitted to the institution?

Given the relevance of these questions and many more of like relevance to the concerns of those in public office regarding the quality of entering and practicing teachers, the blinders and earplugs of denial and scapegoating must be quickly removed. Unlike the compliance mechanisms of times past when accountability could readily be delegated to the SCDE, a campus-wide response becomes the responsibility of any college or university desiring to enter into or to continue in the preparation of teachers for elementary and secondary schools.

The old order changeth, yielding place to new. The new is an order that catches up in decision-making presidents, academic vice presidents, administrators and faculty members in the arts and sciences and their counterparts in those schools and colleges of education, health and physical education, the fine arts, and more that produce our teachers.

Passive Compliance or Vigorous Leadership?
For most public colleges and universities, opting out of teacher education is not a choice. It is reasonable to envision the board of regents of a state system such as California State University or the State University of New York allocating responsibility to most but not all of its campuses, given nearby availability of alternatives in some regions served, or providing specialized programs in some but not others.

Given the fact that aspiring teachers come predominantly from nearby constituencies, however, such decisions are sensitive. A legacy handed down from generation to generation that seriously interferes with quality in teacher education is the notion that becoming a teacher is virtually a right and that preparation programs should be handily nearby and minimally demanding.

Putting aside the option of not offering a program, the available paths are passive compliance or vigorous commission. It is not difficult to envision the consequences of the former. What remains today of institutional autonomy in teacher education will be given up to compliance: to a system of standards and testing accountability abhorrent to academics that will be a likely extension of the current school reform model. To assume that this model can be successfully confined to the realm of teacher education and not sift into other elements of the campus infrastructure is to engage in wishful dreaming.

While only some of the consequences of commission in regard to the conduct of teacher education are predictable, for institutions of higher education that decide to take the high road of commission and leadership, there is some good news. There is now a sizeable domain of fundamental agreement on what needs to be done if teacher education is to become a robust enterprise.

The 1996 report of the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future mapped this terrain, drawing from the work of the Holmes Group, NNER, other improvement ventures, and a body of research sufficient to rule out the need for a new comprehensive study. This report carries with it a rare commodity: the clout of the policy genre joined in agreement with specialists in the field.

The major elements of agreement are rapidly becoming part of the conventional wisdom regarding the improvement of teacher education, although far from such in practice. These include the necessity of school-university partnering, of commitment and involvement as part of the normal activity of faculty members in the arts and sciences, of partner or professional schools serving as "teaching" schools, and of the need for these schools and the university campus components of teacher education to renew together -- hence, the concept of simultaneous renewal guiding the change strategy introduced into the NNER circa 1986 and subsequently adopted by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Holmes Partnership.

Not quite as widely articulated is considerable agreement on the need for top-level leadership in both higher education and the Nó12 school system to elevate teacher education as a priority.

The relatively modest implementation of these agreements is sufficient to reveal the high road of institutional commitment to be fraught with difficulties little envisioned in the recommendations of commissioned reports. The cultural differences between schools and institutions of higher education are such that merely talking together about common problems often is taken as a mark of success. When such conversation then leads to serious partnering, the time and effort required to plan and effect simultaneous renewal begins to separate the truly committed from those individuals who find it necessary to effect discrete withdrawal.

Greater involvement in teacher education is readily perceived as one more burden. For many professors in the arts and sciences, the preferred course is to regard participation in the schools and in teacher education as a short-term service contribution before the time consumed is shifted back to the teaching and research in the disciplines that really matter.

Institutional leadership is challenged to maintain a stance of commission rather than the omission that will result in mere compliance with state regulations.

The National Commission on Teaching & America's Future set as a goal a qualified, caring, competent teacher for every child by 2006. Given the membership of the commission, it is difficult to believe collective naivete of such magnitude that its members talked themselves into believing in the attainability of this goal. Rather, it was elevated to the masthead as a challenge to be worked toward.

There are two reasons, both familiar, for institutions of higher education to join with partner schools in picking up the challenge. The first is practical to the point of being efficient. Survival is at stake, as are the conditions of survival. Mere survival, as evidenced by token compliance, is likely to be negatively viewed in states' fiscal allocations. The second reason is a moral one: Exerting leadership in designing programs that will attract and produce superb teachers for the nation's schools is simply the right thing to do.

Lessons and Implications for Institutional Planning
In the minds of many would-be reformers, teacher education is in the quick-fix category. At a conference of educational leaders several years ago, a state superintendent of public instruction gave the back of his hand to complexity with the proposal that "several of us sit down together over a weekend and come up with a plan for taking care of this teacher education thing." There are others in positions of power who come close to sharing such a view.

Like it or not, higher education does not enjoy a long time frame for determining its stance, planning a course of action, and taking care of this teacher education thing. There is now some experience from which lessons can be learned and time saved without any loss of individual institutional identity and prerogatives.

Thoughtful inquiry into the history of teacher education, its neglect in the emergence of the American university, and the recommendations for major change now gaining attention provides some potentially useful lessons to guide institutions committed to major improvement.

First, continuation of the myopic tendency of colleges and universities to look at only their own role will spell doom. There must be a symbiotic partnership between the two sets of institutions pursuing a common mission with both engaged in renewal.

Second, the time and work involved in creating and maintaining this partnership for simultaneous renewal necessitates a continuous relationship somewhat akin to that between a medical school and a hospital, except that several "teaching" schools are needed.

Third, the more collaborative schools and universities become, and the more they recognize their need for one another in seeking better teachers and better schools, the more troublesome the mechanics of management will become. Such will call for imaginative leadership in the creation of new organizational arrangements and perhaps new settings such as the recommended center of pedagogy to handle a budget for the whole of teacher education, determine governmental procedures, select partner schools, ensure curricular renewal, and much more.

Fourth, whether it is adapted from elsewhere or created anew, there must be a clear and common agenda of mission, conditions to be put in place, and designated roles for the three groups of major participants. Given these necessary components, the agenda will be complex and, consequently, a continuing source of conversation regarding the meanings and implications of the messages it contains.

Fifth, the tenure of designated leaders in schools, school districts, colleges and universities is markedly shorter than it was even a dozen years ago. Principals of schools move on to larger schools or to superintendencies, academic vice presidents move on to become presidents elsewhere. Consequently, change dependent on just a few such designated leaders is hazardous. The message: Leadership must be widely shared, which in turn means that preparation for leadership must be a built-in, continuing activity.

The sixth lesson is directed specifically to the top leadership of colleges and universities. From the late 1950s to the present, SCDEs responded, often reluctantly, to the call for increased research productivity and publications. Many presidents, academic vice presidents and provosts now are looking to, and becoming impatient with, their SCDEs' not appearing to be moving fast enough to meet the sea-change in expectations for higher education. These campus units could easily become the scapegoats one more time.

What some of those administrators do not fully comprehend is that their SCDE may now be staffed with those professors who adapted successfully to the research expectations of the past several decades. The dean of education finds herself or himself in a delicate, if not hazardous, position -- of persuading a faculty just recently praised for their grant-getting and research productivity that greater attention to outreach with special attention to teacher education and school improvement is now the name of the approved game.

In my view, top-level campus administrators must take the lead in articulating changing expectations. Furthermore, given the degree to which external pressures, to be successfully met, call for responses that transcend the SCDE to embrace the arts and sciences in particular, the leadership responsibility cannot successfully be delegated to the dean of education. Nor can it be assumed successfully by the central administration in the absence of serious effort to learn enough about teacher education to make wise decisions.

A campus-by-campus perspective on higher education reveals the extent to which progress has been uneven. Rarely have there been sufficient resources to develop the whole at once. And so, the primary effort in one era has been directed to medicine, in another to law, in another to engineering, and in still another to business.

The time is come -- long overdue -- to address an era of concentrated attention to teacher education. The reasons are both practical and moral: practical because the conditions of future survival are at stake; moral because it is the right thing to do.

John I. Goodlad, former dean of the Graduate School of Education at UCLA, is currently co-director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington. This article was adapted from his address to the annual meeting of chief academic officers of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The complete address appears in the September-October issue of Change Magazine.

Photo by Steve Shelton, BlackStar, for CrossTalk

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