Sunday, January 15, 2012

Grossman (1990) - frameworks that try to define "effective" programs of teacher education

Grossman, Pamela L. (1990) The Making of a Teacher: Teacher Knowledge and Teacher Education. NY: Teachers’ College Press.

Except from pages 135-136

In analyzing the features of the curriculum and instruction sequence in English that influenced the development of pedagogical content knowledge by Steven, Megan, and Vanessa, it may be helpful to put this course into a larger context by looking at other frameworks that try to define "effective" programs of teacher education. Griffin (1986) analyzed the features of effective clinical teacher education and identified seven critical features, five of which would apply to both the subject-specific coursework and the larger program of teacher education described in this chapter. The five features include a well-articulated purpose, participation and collaboration, a theoretical knowledge base, a developmental progression, and an analytical and reflective perspective toward practice.

A second framework, developed as part of the National Center for Research on Teacher Education (Cohen, 1986), proposes three features related to the academic quality of teacher education programs. Posed as dichotomies, these features contrast:

  • the portrayal of knowledge as fixed versus knowledge as evolving and tentative;
  • teacher education students as passive vessels versus students as active constructors of knowledge; and
  • instruction as transmission of knowledge versus instruction through discourse.
In the curriculum and instruction courses, knowledge was seen as incomplete, students actively constructed their evolving knowledge of teaching, and instruction proceeded through discussion and dialogue.

A third framework, developed by Katz and Raths (1988), also poses dichotomies, which are labeled as persistent dilemmas in teacher education. Arguing that the solutions to each dilemma are mutually exclusive, the authors suggest that how a teacher education program resolves these dilemmas will contribute to its impact on students as well as the students' satisfaction with the program. The dilemmas include:

  • whether to aim for coverage or breadth of content or to focus on mastery or depth;
  • whether to offer eclectic programs or thematic programs;
  • an emphasis on current needs of students versus an emphasis on future needs;
  • an evaluative stance toward students versus a supportive stance; whether to teach toward current school practices or to encourage innovative practices; and
  • whether to assess students globally or specifically.
The subject-specific component of this program resolved these dilemmas in favor of mastery of a few key concepts; a thematic approach; a supportive relationship among supervisors, professor, and students; and a decision to encourage innovative practice. While clearly stating that the courses were designed to meet students' current needs, in fact the course served both current and future needs.

A final framework for thinking about the influence of the curriculum and instruction course is the very framework advocated by the course for the teaching of English - instructional scaffolding. The five features of instructional scaffolding (Langer & Applebee, 1986) including ownership, appropriateness, support, collaboration, and transfer of control-could be used to describe the nature of instruction in this class.

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