Beyond Knowledge Ventriloquism and Echo Chambers: Raising the Quality of the Debate in Teacher Education
by Kenneth Zeichner & Hilary G. Conklin — 2016
Background/Context: For over two decades, there has been a steady call for deregulating U.S. teacher education, closing down allegedly poor quality college and university programs, and creating greater market competition. In response to this call to disrupt the dominance of colleges and universities in teacher education, and because of the policies and funding allocations of the U.S. Education Department and private foundation funding, non-university providers of teacher education have proliferated in certain areas of the country. A critical aspect of the current call for greater deregulation and market competition in teacher education has been the declaration that university teacher education has failed. While there is no dispute about the need for improvements in the dominant college and university system of teacher education, it is also important to critically evaluate the warrants for the value of programs that critics claim should replace college and university programs.
Purpose: The focus of this paper is to illustrate how research has been misrepresented to support policies and programs that would simultaneously reduce the role of colleges and universities in preparing U.S. teachers and support the expansion of the role of non-university providers. We also examine the print news media’s role in uncritically reproducing a narrative of failure about university teacher education and promoting the success of new non-university programs—attention that has served to inflate the public perception of these organizations and programs beyond what is warranted by the available evidence.
Research Design: Four cases are presented that illustrate the efforts to manufacture a narrative of the failure of colleges and universities in preparing teachers, and to construct a narrative of success for the non-university programs that have been funded to replace them. The authors use the concepts of echo chambers and knowledge ventriloquism to show how this process operates.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Following the presentation of the cases, specific recommendations are offered for raising the quality of the debates about the future of U.S. teacher education. These include greater transparency in the process of reform, better communication between researchers and stakeholders, using research that has been vetted to inform the debates, and genuinely exploring different policy options for teacher education.
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