I was very excited to be invited along for a supervision of a teacher education student in a Dublin school yesterday. Visiting, assessing, supervising and sometimes consoling teacher education students on professional experience has been a constant in my work for over 20 years. It is the part of my work that I cherish. This is the craft work of teacher education that has been largely resilient in the evolution from teacher colleges to universities. My UCD colleague Kathleen is one of the many expert craftspeople of the profession who make such an integral, and largely unheralded, contribution to initial teacher education.
To call professional experience the craft-work of teacher education is a provocation on my part to have you think about what it means to be a practice-based profession as well as to interrogate the culture of teacher education in universities that marginalises this work.
The Sahlberg Report into initial teacher education in Ireland in 2012 made sensible recommendations for the rationalisation of teacher education. It is hard to disagree with their arguments that teacher education be research-based, that teacher educators be researchers and that our graduates be teacher-researchers. The report also suggested that having a large part-time workforce of supervisors and methods tutors was counter-productive to the achievement of their aims.
I am writing in 2019 in Ireland and the part-time army of teacher educators remains fundamental to the effective operation of teacher education as it is in my own country of Australia. The political economy of universities means that that education schools must employ part-timers to do the hard work of school visits and evening methods classes to balance the budget.
To speak of the economic imperative of employing part-timers is not to denigrate the real work of teacher education they achieve. This speaks to my argument of considering the craft expertise of colleagues like Kathleen to be fundamental to research into the practices of teaching and teacher education. Kathleen and her colleagues should be the vanguard of our research efforts into the practices of teaching as they engage our students into the art of critical reflexivity. The artificial separation of researchers and teachers in university schools of education has meant that often we overlook the richest source of philosophical, practical and ethical wisdom in our expert crafts people.
I will continue to enjoy the craft work of teacher education and value it as the most important aspect of my role as a teacher educator.