Caught in the Current: A Self-Study of State-Mandated Compliance in a Teacher Education Program
by John Kornfeld, Karen Grady, Perry M. Marker & Martha Rapp Ruddell — 2007
Background/Context: The nationwide preoccupation with accountability continues to grow, with teacher credentialing programs facing growing scrutiny through state-mandated accountability systems. In response to Senate Bill 2042 passed by the California state legislature in 1998, the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) established new standards to which all credentialing institutions in the state must comply.
Implementing credential programs aligned to the new standards could have an enormous impact on teacher education in California. The way we use language in particular contexts not only represents perspectives, but creates them as well. Therefore, California’s new teacher education standards, replete their highly prescriptive language, could conceivably result in a new standardization of the way teacher educators conceptualize and implement programs throughout the state.
Focus of Study: The authors examine the impact of California's state-mandated revision of teacher education programs on their department's—as well as on individual faculty members'—approach to teacher education. They explore the extent to which faculty were able to uphold their department's ideals of a progressive, learner-centered teacher education program—in spite of the state’s stringent new requirements.
Setting: The research took place in the secondary teacher education department at a California State University.
Participants: The participants were all ten full-time faculty members in the department at the time of the program revision.
Research Design: In this qualitative self-study, the authors conducted and analyzed interviews with department members, and analyzed discussions in department meetings, program documents, and conversations (formal and informal) among the authors themselves. Drawing from critical discourse theory, the authors investigate the ways that the discursive practices in state regulations governing teacher education variously positioned members of the department, making particular teacher educator subjectivities available, and examine how faculty members both adopted and resisted these subjectivities as the department developed and implemented the new state-required program.
Findings: In spite of claims by faculty that the standardization process had little impact on their approach to teaching, the authors' analysis of interview and conversational data and documents suggests otherwise. Faculty members' increased use of technocratic language and terminology reflecting compliance with the new state standards reveals a substantive shift in the ways they think about what they do.
Conclusions: The authors argue that no one should assume he or she is immune to the effects of top-down standardization; but they note that this type of self-study process can enable faculty to realign their actions with their beliefs, to regain control of their discourse and of their identities as a teacher educators.
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