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Teacher Education in a Transnational World

reviewed by Seungho Moon & Jenna Mortensen Nelson - March 30, 2016

coverTitle: Teacher Education in a Transnational World
Author(s): Rosa Bruno-Jofré and James Scott Johnston (Eds.)
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Toronto
ISBN: 1442649348, Pages: 480, Year: 2014
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Rosa Bruno-Jofré and James Scott Johnston, in their edited book, Teacher Education in a Transnational World, present an ambitious project in the field of teacher education by incorporating cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and globalization. Throughout eighteen chapters, the volumes authors provide valuable scope for understanding the role of the economy in education. The two editors select studies that go beyond topics commonly discussed in relation to teacher education in a global context, such as promoting study abroad programs and global service learning initiatives, and enhancing open-mindedness. We found this book meaningful because it covers various topics: (a) socio-political, cultural, and intellectual spaces where teacher education is located; (b) paradigmatic changes in teacher education; (c) aboriginal teacher education in the globalized context; (d) European higher education; and (e) transnationalization and state policies.

The book reveals timely questions relevant to preservice and inservice teachers in a global context by inquiring into the very meaning of important knowledge and the frames for making such decisions. For example, teacher education programs in Chile (Chapter Seventeen) are impacted by neoliberalism, where knowledge is constructed by market-oriented values. Preservice and inservice teachers are viewed as economic persons who only have influential exchanges and associations (Cox, Meckes, & Bascopé, 2014). A neoliberal, postcolonial lens provides salient frames to not only be critical of global contemporary affairs but also sensitive about the current status of our education system across the world. Furthermore, presenting the challenges embedded within market-oriented decision-making exposes the increasingly important yet dangerous role of economics in driving teacher education and university success (e.g., university ranking systems provided by U.S. News & World Report). The editors include leading-edge issues in teacher education from multiple nation states, including Chile (Chapters Ten and Seventeen), Aboriginal areas (Chapter Nine), Māori communities (Chapter Eleven), and post-USSR Ukraine (Chapter Fourteen). These chapters contemplate the Westernized versions of education and how they interact with Indigenous and/or non-Western educational ideologies. Local narratives from diverse nation states offer a valuable glimpse into revisiting the current educational ideologies and practices in a global context.

We pondered the overarching theoretical framework of this book while reading it. Editor Johnston contributed Chapter Two, Theorizing Globalization: Rival Philosophical Schools of Thought, in which he posits that pragmatism has a vantage point for teacher education in a transnational world. Borrowing from John Dewey, William James, and Herbert Mead, Johnston asserts that pragmatism is best for discussing unities and differences because it allows individuals to interact with society on a deeper level. He problematizes critical theory because it relies on a wholesale turn to the negative (p. 65) and post-structuralism because it perpetuates essentialization of differences (p. 65). As such, pragmatism is better to use than the aforementioned theories when deliberating differences and unities simultaneously. The rationale informing Johnstons preference for pragmatism stems from his argument that programs that attempt to understand and change existing structures of global practices seem to require an understanding and acceptance of both differences . . . and unities (p. 14).

We agree with Johnstons argument that rigorous theoretical frameworks are required to respond to urgent problems that teacher educators encounter around the world, namely how to make normative decisions regarding their curricula, personnel, structure, and function, on the basis of changes wrought by globalization (p. 68). There is no doubt that teacher educators and policy makers confront this problem when gauging efficient teacher education programs. We also agree with Johnston that pragmatism may provide a lens to approach the impact of globalization, neoliberalism, and market-oriented decisions in these evaluations. However, we are concerned with Johnstons postulation that pragmatism is the only theoretical tool that can resolve conflicts related to the conceptualization of self-other relations. The focus on problem solving and a monolithic version of resolving such problems raise concerns about Johnstons argument for using pragmatism as the dominant theoretical framework for discourse in the global context of teacher education.

As the chapters demonstrate, the world faces multiple problems, including market-oriented control over education, changing policy terrain, and increased privatization of education. However, the indication of problems varies depending on who initiates the conversation and what frames they apply in articulating these issues (Butler, 2009). Johnston lists Foucault, Derrida, and Deleuze to support his argument proposing that poststructuralism essentializes differences. He argues that poststructuralism does not consider difference and unity in global education. Johnston states that when absent [of] a theory of unity and difference, we cannot draw relationships between occurrences (p. 63). Unlike Johnstons narrow explication of poststructuralism, poststructural theorists have established multiple versions of poststructuralism. This has allowed them to complicate the conversation regarding universalized truths and essentializing cultural differences. The postructural theorists provide frames to debunk essentialized understandings of self-other and to comprehend the intricacies of cultural sameness and difference in a transnational context (Butler, 2009; Miller, 2005). Critical cosmopolitanism, for example, allows teacher educators to encounter difficult features of human interaction in a cosmopolitan community. This provides them with the opportunity to experience the complexity of understanding self-other relations beyond essentialized versions of national, ethnic/racial, gender, and cultural identities (Todd, 2009).

Teacher Education in a Transnational Worlds emphasis on global interdependency in critical cosmopolitanism offers a theoretical ground to investigate a specific sociopolitical, economic, and cultural context. This theory examines interactions between nation states and explores the reproduction of social inequity. Critical cosmopolitanism thus can help discern the ways in which the specificities of place mediate understandings of those within them as they encounter difference, build relationships, and collaboratively construct meanings among themselves and global others (Hawkins, 2014, p. 110). By studying and using multiple theoretical frameworks, preservice and inservice teachers observe the same problem from multiple angles and apply diverse epistemologies and methodologies to solve them creatively. By doing so, they challenge the existing ideologies of nationalism, racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ablism, and other versions of isms. This allows these educators to revisit their limited understanding about cultural difference by recognizing that socioeconomic needs constitute the other for the political and economic interest of a nation state or a cultural group.

While Johnston opposes a wholesale application of a metaphysical theory (p. 67), he generates another version of a wholesale solution by relying on pragmatism exclusively. Teacher educators and policy makers should study multiple theories and epistemologies informed by critical theory, critical race theory, poststructuralist theories, feminist theories, and transnationalism, to list a few, in order to respond to the urgent need to develop rigorous teacher education programs in a global context. The problem is not in establishing a consensus for a universalized theoretical framework such as pragmatism; rather it is in believing that only one theory resolves all the problems that contemporary society produces in a global context. Johnston asserts that we should want a philosophy that privileges neither the self nor the other (p. 68) and a philosophy that has an account of how the self and the other interrelate, as well as how larger iterations of relations form and sustain themselves (p. 68). We support Johnstons claim that teacher educators need to develop and examine the connection among the self and the other and the deeper forms such associations grow and preserve. However, we posit that the real problem is building a frame that does not fully investigate the specific sociopolitical context that values unity over differences.  

Teacher Education in a Transnational World provides ample examples of ways individuals can consider the value of acknowledging differences and applying multiple epistemologies while reviewing teacher education programs in a global context. Bruno-Jofré and Johnston courageously invite diverse authors from multiple nation states to contribute to their book. These international authors with diverse theoretical frameworks share the problem of neoliberalism and market-oriented decision-making in teacher education. We find this book powerful as it implements multiple theoretical frameworks when reviewing current global problems from different approaches, rather than creating a consensus about the best universalized approach to teacher education. Preservice and inservice teachers, as well as teacher educators, will benefit most from this book. Likewise, graduate students and advanced undergraduate students enrolled in International Education and Comparative Education programs will find value in reading this book because it will expose them to the complexities of teacher education internationally. Policy makers will acquire knowledge regarding the urgent issues in teacher education in a global context and rethink their roles and responsibilities in public education.


Butler, J. (2009). Frames of war: When is life grievable? Brooklyn, NY: Verso.

Cox, C, Meckes, L., & Bascopé, M. (2014). Teacher education policies in Chile: From invitation to prescription. In R. Bruno-Jofré & J.S. Johnston (Eds.), Teacher education in a transnational world (pp. 345-366). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Hawkins, M. R. (2014). Ontologies of place, creative meaning making and critical cosmopolitan education. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto Curriculum Inquiry, 44(1), 90-112.

Miller, J. L. (2005). Sounds of silence breaking: Women, autobiography, curriculum. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Todd, S. (2009). Toward an imperfect education: Facing humanity, rethinking cosmopolitanism. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 30, 2016
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 19697, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 10:23:40 AM

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About the Author
  • Seungho Moon
    Loyola University Chicago
    E-mail Author
    DR. SEUNGHO MOON is an assistant professor at School of Education, Loyola University Chicago. His research encompasses urban teacher education and theorizing curriculum as sociopolitical, cross-cultural discourse, diversity & educational reform, and aesthetic education. Currently, he is theorizing democratic citizenship by incorporating students’ aesthetic experience with works of art.
  • Jenna Mortensen Nelson
    Loyola University Chicago
    E-mail Author
    JENNA MORTENSEN NELSON is a doctoral student at the School of Education at Loyola University Chicago. Her research examines the language and literacy development of linguistically diverse adolescent learners.
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