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Transforming University-Based Teacher Education: Preparing Asset-, Equity-, and Justice-Oriented Teachers Within the Contemporary Political Context


by Mariana Souto-Manning - 2019

In this introduction to the special issue of Teachers College Record entitled “Transforming University-Based Teacher Education: Preparing Asset-, Equity-, and Justice-Oriented Teachers Within the Contemporary Political Context,” Co-Editor Mariana Souto-Manning offers a critical reading of the current state of university-based teacher education, situating it in neoliberal times. After exploring the neoliberal gaslighting of university-based teacher education, she briefly plots the landscape of the field, unveiling the priorities of its actors: teacher educators who engage in defending the status quo of university-based teacher education; education entrepreneurs who prioritize reforming teacher education from the outside in alignment with neoliberal premises; and those who recognize university-based teacher education’s shortcomings but commit to transforming it from the inside, prioritizing education’s commitment to the public good and to democracy. She then identifies key commitments undergirding the articles that comprise the special issue, unveiling how, individually and collectively, the articles interrupt deficit conceptualizations of teacher education and take up a transformative stance. Rejecting one-size-fits-all solutions to “fixing” teacher education, Souto-Manning invites readers to read the entire special issue, and in doing so, engage in reimagining locations, relationships, tools, artifacts, practices, and pedagogies in and through university-based teacher education. She draws on the work of the Teacher Education Collective to offer key actions, foundational to transforming teacher education in ways that prioritize the assets of communities of color, foster equity in and through education, and promote the preparation and development of justice-oriented teachers. She concludes by proposing that transformation is an imperative if university-based teacher education is to live up to its promise and commitment to the public good.

There is a prevailing narrative about the field of teacher education: that it is “broken and needs to be fixed” (Cochran-Smith, Piazza, & Power, 2013, p. 7). As underscored in key publications, teacher education operates inefficiently, not enough teachers are being prepared, and teacher candidates are not classroom ready (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005; Cochran-Smith, Baker, et al., 2018; Cochran-Smith et al., 2017; Cochran-Smith, Stern, et al., 2016; Ellis & McNicholl, 2015; Zeichner, 2014, 2018). Additionally, racial disparities in the teaching force, including the severe underrepresentation of Black males, have been highlighted in recent policy analyses (e.g., U.S. Department of Education, 2016). Referring specifically to university-based teacher education within the context of the United States, this diagnosis encapsulates the chief pathology and associated symptoms affecting teacher education.


Calls to improve the quality of teacher education in the United States are not a new phenomenon. Since the Reagan administration issued the report A Nation at Risk in 1983, which declared, “Our nation is at risk” and “found that the educational foundations of American society were being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity,” there have been recurring demands to improve teacher education without a thorough diagnostic (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). The supposedly broken state of teacher education and ensuing demands are visible in reports issued since the 1980s, such as The Report of the Task Force on Teaching as a Profession (Carnegie Corporation, 1986), Tomorrow's Teachers (Holmes Group, 1986), and What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 1996). This rhetoric has persisted and, some would argue, has been magnified since the turn of the century, as visible in speeches made and documents released by Secretaries of Education Rod Paige (2002, 2003, 2004) and Arne Duncan (2009, 2012). While underscoring urgent problems in university-based teacher education, they were invariably interested in extricating teacher education from university settings.


The discursive construction of university-based teacher education as being broken has paradigmatically positioned university-based teacher education as the sum of its (perceived and real) deficits, while downplaying its history and contributions (Anderson, 2019, this issue). And although teacher education has battled for legitimacy for over a century—as a field of study and within the context of institutions of higher education (Zeichner, 2018)—this idea of teacher education being broken has gained significant traction in the United States and internationally (Darling-Hammond, 2016; Darling-Hammond & Lieberman, 2012; Ellis & McNicholl, 2015; Hollar, 2017; Mayer & Reid, 2016; Rowan, Kline, & Mayer, 2017; Zeichner & Conklin, 2016), serving as a political maneuver to justify the dismantling of university-based teacher education (Philip et al., 2018).


“In the last two decades, there has been unprecedented controversy and debate about teacher education in the U.S. among policymakers and the general public” (Zeichner, 2018, p. 1). University-based teacher education programs have been judged disfavorably and depicted in derogatory ways by the U.S. Department of Education and by the media. They were positioned as scapegoats for the educational failure of “other people’s children” (Delpit, 1995). Blaming teachers prepared by university-based teacher education programs, labeling them as “bad teachers,” served to “distort the bigger issue” of educational disparity (Kumashiro, 2012). Yet, this picture of educational disparity is rooted in the history of public schooling in the United States, which, from the very beginning, has had a “colonizing, assimilating mission. . . . Public schooling, as embodied in the White woman teacher, played a central role in assimilating racially and culturally diverse groups throughout the history of the U.S.” (p. 13). While university-based teacher education is not exempt from defining learning as the colonization and assimilation processes whereby racist ideas are perpetuated (Kendi, 2016), it is important to understand that “alternative” teacher education programs (located away from universities) are centrally implicated in re-producing inequities, despite their professed rhetoric (Kumashiro, 2012). To be sure, schooling in the United States serves democratic and social reproduction purposes, thereby reinscribing inequities and upholding injustices (Apple, 2017).


It is within this contemporary political context—where university-based teacher education has been deemed to be broken and withstood repeated attacks—that the preparation of teachers is (yet again) a “new frontier” in education reform (Childress, 2016, quoted in Anderson, 2019, this issue). In response to teacher shortages, these reform efforts have sought to “deregulate teacher education and open the gates to individuals who have not completed a teacher education program prior to certification . . . rather than to improve the conditions in public schools that are driving teachers out” (Zeichner, 2010, p. 1546).


Reading the landscape of teacher education within a context marked by neoliberalism (Lipman, 2011), in this special issue, we—a collective of midcareer university-based teacher educators in the United States—reclaim the power and possibility of university-based teacher education to engage in transformations that prioritize the preparation of asset-, equity-, and social justice-oriented teachers. The articles that comprise this special issue engage in “transformation as a kind of radical change where new kinds of practices emerge as a result of participants’/citizens’ agentic interrogation of existing values/rationalities” (Ellis, 2018). They interrogate the role of venture philanthropy in contemporary teacher education (Anderson, 2019, this issue); problematize simplistic calls for a shared professional language (Horn & Kane, 2019, this issue) and practice (Philip, 2019, this issue); invite us to re-envision how transformation can be enacted, troubling the spatialization of teacher education (Souto-Manning & Martell, 2019, this issue); and offer a number of possibilities for transforming key aspects of teacher education—preservice and in-service—that account for teaching and learning as complex and situated endeavors. Further, the articles in this special issue feature transformative possibilities for (re)conceptualizing teacher education pedagogies (Carter Andrews, Brown, Castillo, Jackson, & Vellanki, 2019, this issue) and content (Varghese, Daniels, & Park, 2019, this issue), and for transforming the preparation of teacher educators (Stillman & Beltramo, 2019, this issue). Each recognizes that there are no quick fixes, while also affirming that transformation is not only desirable but also needed in teacher education—on teacher educators’ stances, alliances, and preparation (Anderson, 2019, this issue; Stillman & Beltramo, 2019, this issue); on the spatialization and practice of teacher education (Philip, 2019, this issue; Souto-Manning & Martell, 2019, this issue); and on the pedagogies, content, and language of teacher preparation and professionalism (Carter Andrews et al., 2019, this issue; Horn & Kane, 2019, this issue; Varghese et al., 2019, this issue).


Together, the articles in this special issue delineate ways to transform teacher education that are both responsible and responsive to teachers, students, and communities. They prioritize issues of equity and justice. Collectively, the authors unveil ties between reform efforts in teacher education and venture philanthropy (introduced by Anderson), critique simplistic attempts to reclaim the profession (Horn & Kane; Philip), and offer theoretically robust alternatives to popular teacher education reform narratives, all of which seek to foment much-needed transformation in the field (Andrews et al., Souto-Manning & Martell; Stillman & Beltramo; Varghese et al.). The articles engage with grounded and generative approaches, accounting for the realities and contexts of a number of teacher education programs throughout the country (namely, in California, Michigan, New York, Tennessee, and Washington).


Instead of privileging the “total disruption of teacher education in favor of ‘market-based innovations’ by ‘education entrepreneurs’” (Hollar, 2017, p. 62) and “blowing up” the current system as advocated by many reformers from within and outside schools of education (Hess, 2001; Hess & McShane, 2014; see also Zeichner, 2018), the articles that comprise this special issue of Teachers College Record move beyond critiques and address real and urgent problems in university-based teacher education. In situated and complex ways, they examine institutional and instructional practices that support the preparation and development of asset-, equity-, and social justice-oriented teachers and teacher educators as they simultaneously engage theoretical perspectives and methodological tools to study such teacher learning environments. Conceptually, analytically, and empirically, they “argue for a transformation of the existing arrangements—roles, relationships, responsibilities, program designs—that will lead to the development of the system” (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015, p. 10) of teacher education. In doing so, they help us trouble a status quo of inequities and move toward spaces of possibility in and through university-based teacher education.


As a preamble to these articles, in this introduction, I offer a critical reading of the current state of university-based teacher education, situating it in neoliberal times (Lipman, 2011). Then, I briefly plot the landscape of the field, unveiling the priorities of actors in the field: teacher educators who engage in defending the status quo of university-based teacher education; education entrepreneurs who prioritize reforming teacher education from the outside, in alignment with neoliberal premises; and those who recognize university-based teacher education’s shortcomings but commit to transforming it from the inside, prioritizing education’s commitment to the public good and to democracy (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015; Zeichner, 2014, 2018). Identifying commitments undergirding the articles, which take up a transformative stance and seek to interrupt deficit conceptualizations of teacher education, I offer key actions for transforming university-based teacher education. I propose that these key actions are foundational to transforming teacher education in ways that prioritize the assets of communities of color, foster equity in and through education, and promote the preparation and development of justice-oriented teachers.


THE NEOLIBERAL GASLIGHTING OF UNIVERSITY-BASED TEACHER EDUCATION


From the 1980s, U.S. “government reports began questioning the value of teacher education offered in colleges and schools of education” (Mayer & Reid, 2016, p. 461).  “Traditional” university-based teacher education was deemed to be expensive and time consuming. Further, university-based teacher education was accused of not producing effective teachers for urban schools, a claim that strengthened commitments to deregulate and privatize teacher education, albeit without conclusive evidence (Cochran-Smith, Carney, et al., 2018; Zeichner, 2018). The discursive construction of university-based teacher education as a failure (Levine, 2006; see also Rose, 2014)—aided by problematic reports, such as Educating School Teachers (Levine, 2006) and Teacher Prep Review (National Council on Teacher Quality, 2014)—was void of critical considerations about teaching and teacher education as systems committed to upholding democratic principles and prioritizing the public good. It operated on the assumption that social well-being would result from privatization and competition, thereby comprising gaslighting, “a form of . . . abuse where the abuser intentionally manipulates the physical environment or mental state of the abusee, and then deflects responsibility by provoking the abusee to think that the changes reside in their imagination, thus constituting a weakened perception of reality” (Roberts & Andrews, 2013, p. 70).


It was within such a context and following No Child Left Behind that the Every Student Succeeds Act imposed (de)regulations1 for teacher preparation that drastically altered the landscape and future of teacher education (Anderson & Zeichner, 2016; Zeichner, 2010, 2015, 2018). These (de)regulations responded to loud cries that teacher education comprised a monopoly (located under the auspices of higher education) and that its low quality was due to the absence of “key incentives for quality” (Hess, 2001, p. 2). They (re)framed teaching and teacher education as an investment opportunity, positioning P–12 and higher education as an “industry” comprising, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2012), “well over a trillion dollars.” This gaslighting of teacher education, combined with the (re)framing of teacher education as an “investment sector” (Duncan, 2012), sanctioned openings for prominent venture philanthropists, such as the Gates Foundation and NewSchools Venture Fund (Anderson, 2019, this issue). Some of these venture philanthropists were key perpetrators of the gaslighting of university-based teacher education.


As a result of this investment opportunity, prominent venture philanthropists poured hundreds of millions of dollars into school reform efforts over the last decade and a half (Anderson, 2019, this issue; Philip et al., 2018; Zeichner, 2015, 2018). The publicly professed logic underlying these investments is straightforward: Improving teacher preparation will produce better teachers who will then raise student achievement, particularly for groups of students who have underperformed historically (Goodwin et al., 2014). Yet, missing from this voyeuristic narrative is (a) that education in general and teacher education in particular are repositioned as money makers, or investment sectors (Duncan, 2012), and (b) how bills such as the GREAT Act, championed by the very venture philanthropists who invested in teacher education, proposed allocating “public funds for promoting the growth of entrepreneurial teacher education programs such as the ones seeded by the New Schools Venture Fund (for example, Relay, MATCH Teacher Residency and Urban Teachers)” (Zeichner, 2015). These changes in the infrastructure of teacher education happened beyond the perception of many people working within it, and they were tightly coupled with a shift in purpose, away from democratic ideals of producing informed citizens and toward market ideals seeking both profit and efficiency.


Gaslighting was crucial to this strategic shift of teacher education’s infrastructure by positioning university-based teacher education as fundamentally inept. Foundational in the neoliberal gaslighting of university-based teacher education, these reports and regulations forwarded an ideology of pathology, “repeatedly and convincingly offering explanations that depict the victim [university-based teacher education] as unstable” (Roberts & Andrews, 2013, p. 70). They enacted a certain level of control over teacher education, forwarding a certain “perception of reality while maintaining a position of truth-holder and authority” (p. 70). It was within this context that Hess and McShane (2014) proposed that teacher quality, and therefore teacher education, needed to move from 1.0 (university based) to 2.0 (market based) and called for a new era of education reform hinged on market imperatives.


Teacher education reform efforts undergirding Teacher Education 2.0 were deeply rooted in neoliberal ideals and market imperatives (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015; Kretchmar & Zeichner, 2016). Contrary to their purported aims and (shallow) appropriations of civil rights language (Kumashiro, 2012), they were divorced from the democratic aims of schooling. They led to the establishment and development of teaching academies—what Cochran-Smith (2018) titled new Graduate Schools of Education (nGSEs)—which under President Obama were sanctioned as legitimate (and even desirable) sites for the preparation of teachers. Different from university-based teacher education, these nGSEs were marked by a new cadre of teacher educators: leaders of charter schools, social and education entrepreneurs, faculty who are practitioners, and very few PhDs (Cochran-Smith, 2018; Cochran-Smith, Baker, et al., 2018; Cochran-Smith, Carney, et al., 2018; Cochran-Smith, Villegas, et al., 2016). As Zeichner (2018) noted, “during the presidency of Barack Obama . . . there was a strong push to ‘disrupt’ university dominance in teacher education and to support the creation of new non-university startup programs through federal teacher education policy and resource redistribution” (p. 8).


Obama-era rules for the evaluation of teacher education programs based on narrowly defined academic outcomes of their graduates’ students were repealed in a 2017 Senate vote. However, the (re)location of teacher education to teaching academies under the title of “graduate schools of education,” albeit apart from institutions of higher education, and the dilution of the role of and preparation of teacher educators (as is the case of Relay and Sposato) remain. So do discourses that position teacher educators who are researchers as problems, as well as discourses that suggest teacher education must be “direct and prescriptive,” focusing on “specific . . . moves and habits” (Sposato Graduate School of Education, 2015), as opposed to entailing a range of pedagogies (Teacher Education Collective2, 2018).


Unsurprisingly, there are palpable consequences to the proliferation of nonuniversity pathways to teaching, such as programs focusing “on meeting only the minimum standards set by governmental bodies” and settling for “‘good enough teachers’ to teach the children of the poor” (Zeichner, 2010, p. 1546). Further, as purported by Sposato’s comparison between their approach to teacher education and “traditional” (university-based) teacher education programs, programs located in nGSEs often purport direct and prescriptive teaching moves, habits, and practices as being best for “low-income students” (Sposato Graduate School of Education, 2015; see also Teacher Education Collective, 2018). The uptake of these reformist approaches to teacher education are due, at least partly, to “how well their prescriptions cohere with [neo]liberal notions of individual progress and social uplift, thereby undermining equity and decentering justice” (Philip et al., 2018, p. 24).


In addition to entrepreneurial reformist approaches to teacher education undertaken by nGSEs and by venture-philanthropy-assisted efforts housed in universities, the gaslighting of teacher education has resulted in what Cochran-Smith (2018) titled “managerial reform.” This “managerial reform” has been supported by the establishment of a culture of compliance and externally imposed surveillance, and enacted through universal tools and standards by well-known organizations in the field; these include NCATE, TEAC, CAEP, and AACTE.3 According to Cochran-Smith (2018), they do not respect or sustain local values and norms and continue to invisiblize and silence historically minoritized communities.


Further, the field’s call to focus on practice has led to the development of university-based teacher education initiatives funded by venture philanthropists; these initiatives often promote overly simplistic notions of teaching practice, positioned “in distinction to (or even in opposition to) theory, reflection or deliberative discourse of any kind” (Ellis & Orchard, 2014, p. 2). From such a reductive and seemingly atheoretical perspective, practice has redefined teaching as a “proxy for going through the motions” (p. 2). Such is the case of TeachingWorks (see Anderson, 2019, this issue, and Philip et al., 2018, for a fuller discussion of TeachingWorks and the core practices movement’s role in market-based education reform).


Even within the context of university-based teacher education programs not so visibly entangled in the web of venture philanthropy (as is the case of TeachingWorks), this discourse of teacher education being broken led to “major initiatives designed to improve teacher preparation,” hinging on “the idea that the key to reform is heightened accountability through close scrutiny and public evaluation of institutions, programs, and teacher candidates” despite the absence of evidence to support such claims (Cochran-Smith, Carney, et al., 2018, p. 6). These, I posit, undertake subtractive approaches to teacher education and continue to exacerbate the education debt owed to communities of color, the amalgamation of debts from year to year, historically, morally, economically, and sociopolitically (Ellis et al., 2019; Ladson-Billings, 2006).


The articles in this special issue collectively call for a move from accountability (and econometrics) to answerability (to historically minoritized communities), centering the needs, priorities, and values of the communities it purports to serve and fostering justice. This is particularly visible in the articles authored by Carter Andrews and colleagues, Souto-Manning and Martell, Stillman and Beltramo, and Varghese and colleagues. They also call for teacher educators to be answerable—and to consider their location in the web of funders and their stance in sponsoring simplistic narratives about teacher education (Anderson) and simplistic notions of teacher quality, whether it has to do with “professional language” (Horn & Kane) or a “core practice” (Philip).


This is necessary given the sizeable debt teacher education owes communities of color (Ellis et al., 2019; Souto-Manning, 2018). For example, the field’s discursive construction of the “disappearance” of Black teachers from public school classrooms blames them for not wanting to go into teaching (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). This ahistorical framing is problematic because it dismisses how Black teachers were pushed out of schools in the name of desegregation post–Brown v. Board of Education (Foster, 1997; Ladson-Billings, 2004; Siddle Walker, 1996; Winn, 2011). It also ignores how Black epistemologies were subsequently silenced (Au, Brown, & Calderón, 2016) and schooling’s democratic aims weakened. With the understanding that teacher education has historically fostered inequities, applying neoliberal solutions to teacher education means ensuring that debts continue to mount and that communities of color are further harmed, exacerbating, as underscored by Souto-Manning and Martell (2019, in this issue), how teacher education is “arguably implicated in the re-production of racial inequities.”


Yet, ignoring a legacy of injustice and inequities, neoliberal solutions were applied to teacher education’s resistance to, or pace of, change (deemed too slow)—as if there were no debts to be paid to minoritized children, families, and communities (Ellis et al., 2019). As such, they further re-produced and exacerbated inequities, including, but not limited to, children and communities of color being more likely to be inundated by teachers prepared through alternative-certification or teaching academy pathways (Cochran-Smith & Villegas, 2015; Cochran-Smith, Villegas, et al., 2016; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Zeichner, 2009), and routinely having “teachers who have not completed a full-scale teacher education program, or teachers teaching outside of the fields in which they were prepared” (Zeichner, 2010, p. 1547).


Applying neoliberal economic solutions to fixing university-based teacher education as a purportedly broken system has led to increasingly blaming “failing” students and schools on teachers and teacher education programs as a result of deregulation, privatization, and reduced government expenditures. Such an approach has focused on the monetary aspects of teacher education while ignoring how education is not a private good, but a public good. In applying private approaches to a public good, it mistakenly assumes that human well-being will result from market competition, and lack of state intervention or commitments will lead to public welfare rather than the magnification of inequities. Yet, this economic positioning of teacher education is problematic on three counts. First, it comprises a deficit conceptualization of teacher education—focusing on its shortcomings without acknowledging its contributions. Second, it blames teacher education for societal conditions of inequities and injustices. Finally, it effectively undermines the democratic aims of education because it replaces education’s commitment to “the public good” with calls for “individual responsibility.” The role of the state is thus neoliberally revisioned—from providing public welfare to fomenting and enabling markets and competition (Birch, 2017), from focusing on human beings as citizens to privileging profit margins and corporations.


UNDERSTANDING NEOLIBERALISM AND ITS PRIORITIES


“Neoliberalism is . . . a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade” (Harvey, 2005, p. 2). As an ideology of “political persuasion” (Thorsen, 2010, p. 189), neoliberalism keeps in place—and even magnifies—the inequities inherent to teacher education. It is predicated on the undesirability of state-sponsored interventions (because these undermine marketplace logics and purportedly diminish economic efficiency) and purports that the fix for teacher education is to remove it from the auspices of institutions of higher education and to detach it from research. It was within such a context and through a number of coordinated legislative acts, particularly under Secretary Arne Duncan, that teaching academies were sanctioned. This sanctioning of teacher education apart from universities quickly mischaracterized the work of teacher education, redefining it “as a form of emergency training for deliverers of human capital in advanced and aspiring knowledge economies” (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015, p. 6).


To be sure, neoliberalism has contributed to the deprofessionalization of teaching as a profession (Zeichner, 2010), in many places redefining teacher education as “‘product implementation’ aligned with standards and standardized tests and . . . increasingly conducted by those employed by the testing companies and publishers who produce and sell the materials that are promoted by the government” (p. 1546). Rejecting such reductive notions of teacher education, this special issue of Teachers College Record is comprised of conceptual and empirical articles that both denounce and reject “an ideology of markets, competition and measurement of outcomes on purely economic terms” (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015, p. 10), regarding the development of human beings as qualitatively different from the growth of dividends.


ON NEOLIBERALISM AND THE LANDSCAPE OF TEACHER EDUCATION


Neoliberal efforts have shifted the landscape of teacher education in the United States. Whereas university-based teacher education programs had a stronghold on teacher preparation from 1960 to 1990, from the 1980s, there has been a reemergence of “alternative” teacher certification programs (Zeichner, 2018). These programs quickly progressed from being justified by the “last resort rationale” (Hawley, 1990) to being hailed as superior to, or at least as desirable replacements for, the supposedly theoretically heavy and practice-light university-based teacher education programs (Ball & Forzani, 2009; Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009). In fact, as Levine (2010) noted, “there is a growing sense among critics that it would be more fruitful to replace university-based teacher education than attempt to reform it” (pp. 21–22). This is the position taken up by education reformers.


To characterize the current landscape of teacher education, I draw on the work of Ellis and McNicholl (2015) in the United Kingdom and Zeichner (2014, 2018) in the United States, all of whom posit a field populated by defenders, reformers, and transformers. Although a conceptual landscape painted in broad strokes, it helps us position our work amid a field mined by particular interests and conceptualizations of teaching quality and of the role and spatialization of teacher education. As their naming suggests, defenders “defend the current system dominated by college and university programs and do not admit that there are any serious weaknesses in current programs” (Zeichner, 2018, p. 10). They do not acknowledge the debt teacher education owes communities of color (Ellis et al., 2019; Souto-Manning, 2018), nor how teacher education is implicated in the re-production of racism and related forms of bigotry (as explained by Souto-Manning and Martell in this issue and by Souto-Manning, 2019). Reformers see “‘disrupting’ or ‘blowing up’ the current system through deregulation and replacing it with a new system based on investments in programs largely . . . .run by districts or nonprofits or for-profits” (Zeichner, 2018, p. 10). This is the position advocated by Hess and McShane (2014).


As Ellis and McNicholl (2015), the authors of the articles in this special issue reject “the reform/defend dichotomy” as we seek to transform university-based teacher education in ways that center justice. Further, our work seeks to break away from “the neoliberal tropes that opposition means supporting the status quo” (Lipman, 2011, p. 164). Thus, we recognize weaknesses in the current system and take on a transformative stance, engaging in re-imagining teacher education in ways that both reaffirm its commitment to democracy and open up the possibility for previously marginalized voices, values, and perspectives to be centered, engaging with and repositioning children, families, and communities of color. Specifically, the ensuing articles recognize that teacher education “1.0 and 2.0 programs largely ignore the issue of preparing teachers to work with students’ families and to learn about and use the resources and expertise in their students’ communities” (Zeichner, 2018, p. 14).


While acknowledging some of the shortcomings of university-based teacher education, such as its overwhelming Whiteness (Ladson-Billings, 2017; Milner, Pearman, & McGee, 2013; Sleeter, 2001, 2017), this special issue offers situated representations of conceptual and empirical transformations in and through teacher education. In doing so, its articles deliberately reject notions associated with what Bartolomé (1994) titled “methods fetish.” That is, this special issue (re)asserts that “higher education’s involvement in the preparation of teachers is a good idea that is borne out by the international research evidence” (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015, p. 5). It counters the discursive construction of failure in teacher preparation by education reformers (Levine, 2006; National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2010; National Council on Teacher Quality, 2014; see also Labaree, 2004), which seeks to disregard teacher education’s “central role in the improvement of educational systems around the world” (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015, p. 6). Such deficit perceptions of teacher education must be interrupted. This is not to say that university-based teacher education does not need to change; it does. Nevertheless, instead of affirming the need for outsiders to reform teacher education, the articles in this special issue, all authored by university-based teacher educators, take up transformations that question the premises of market-based initiatives, unflinchingly prioritizing justice and equity and committing to addressing the debt teacher education has owed communities of color (Ellis et al., 2019).


TRANSFORMING UNIVERSITY-BASED TEACHER EDUCATION


Transformation and reform are “qualitatively different kinds of change” (Ellis, 2018). To reform means to engage in “change imposed from outside or ‘above’ on the basis of a perceived superior rationality or ethos” (Ellis, 2018). Teacher education reformers position economics as being superior to education and thus impose changes that are based on this assumption of the superiority of rationality or objectivity (Britzman, 2003; Scribner, 1970). This comes to life through the role of econometrics in teacher education, (re)dressing teacher quality as test score gains and value-added measures (Cochran-Smith, 2005). Transformation, on the other hand, is “change as initiated from within individuals and organizations.” As such, transformation “leads to a profound change in both underlying abstract values as well as the concrete details of practices” (Ellis, 2018).


Instead of remaining in an unproductive and polarized debate—whether to defend an imperfect system or to reject any and all parts of it—the authors of the articles in this special issue adopt Ellis’s (2018) definition of transformation: “change processes that take place within social systems or formal organisations and that require the need-for-change and the work-on-change to be driven by the momentum of participants’ agency rather than only by—or primarily by—external political energy.” From such a perspective, “transformation involves a shift in underlying values and rationalities as well as concrete labour practices on the understanding that these are in a dialectical relation” (Ellis, 2018).


Seeking to change the values and practices of teacher education to center the preparation and development of asset-, equity-, and justice-oriented teachers within and across university-based teacher education programs, the articles that make up this special issue offer windows into conceptual and empirical transformations in and through teacher education. The transformation undertaken by the authors “is not driven by a mathematical logic of measurement within existing conditions but seeks to change the conditions themselves” (Ellis, 2018). That is, such “transformative change is motivated by a desire not only to do things differently but to have a different object for the activity, to consider not only the how question but the why and for whose interest questions also.”


Rejecting shallow commitments to equity and justice, the articles that comprise this special issue wrestle with these tensions. For example, in this special issue, Anderson raises questions about who benefits, and with what implications, from teacher educators’ alliances with edupreneurial entities. Souto-Manning and Martell unveil how current models of teacher education—whether 1.0 or 2.0—continue to pathologize intersectionally minoritized populations and produce inequities as design features. Horn and Kane explore how the professional language project associated with the core practices movement, in its reductivity and devaluation of the particular, risks reinforcing stereotypes of children and communities. Philip explains how a narrow focus on practice impoverishes the preparation of novice teachers, taking up an expansive definition of practice and establishing the concept of “principled improvisation” as key to the development of assets-based novice teachers. Varghese and colleagues take up race-based caucuses as pathways to foster the racial development of teacher candidates, even if not required by accrediting agencies, as a way of preparing teachers to confront their biases, examine their identities, and foster equity. Carter Andrews and colleagues offer a framework for the development of a humanizing pedagogy of teacher education. Stillman and Beltramo examine pedagogies that foster the development of teacher educators who can and will prioritize justice in and through their own practice. A clear commitment to justice in and through teacher education is the collective stance taken within and across the articles.


Collectively, in this special issue, we offer “a pedagogical agenda for the transformation of teacher education—not to present a completed recipe for ‘rolling out’ or ‘scaling up’, as the pervasive metaphors of reform might have it” (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015, p. x), but in situated and contextualized ways—in ways that honor the humanity of students, teachers, families, and communities. This pedagogical agenda is undergirded by key commitments for transforming teacher education, prioritizing the preparation of asset-, equity-, and justice-oriented teachers.


KEY COMMITMENTS FOR TRANSFORMING TEACHER EDUCATION


The articles in this special issue engage with three key understandings for transforming university-based teacher education in ways that prioritize the preparation and development of asset-, equity-, and justice-oriented teachers. Building on our earlier work as a collective of teacher educators committed to centering justice (Philip et al., 2018; Teacher Education Collective, 2018), we engaged with three foundational commitments to be undertaken by teacher educators committed to transformation. We purposefully shy away from reductive notions of practice or prescriptive methods (Bartolomé, 1994; Ellis & Orchard, 2014; Philip et al., 2018) as we acknowledge how teaching and teacher education are situated and contextual. Below, I identify these commitments and unveil how particular articles in this special issue foreground each of them; they are all present to varying degrees in all the articles that comprise this special issue.  


(1) Take a public stance on how market-based reform efforts undermine the ideals and democratic aims of teacher education, and act on that stance accordingly and transparently.


This commitment is forefronted in Lauren Anderson’s article in this issue, which offers an analysis of the contemporary policy context surrounding teacher education in the United States. In it, Anderson problematizes teacher educators’ participation alongside entrepreneurs in disruptive innovation, considering the implications of such partnerships for public education and for the professions of teaching and teacher education. She explores the influence of proprivatization entities and teacher educators who have partnered with them, raising questions about the compromised positions that the enduring structures of racial capitalism and neoliberal education policy seemingly extend to teacher educators in these times. She argues that while teacher education needs “transformers,” it needs for them to be conscious, careful, and accountable when it comes to the structures of racial capitalism and the (neoliberal) web into which present-day privatizing interests would like to see them woven.


(2) Acknowledge (a) the social, cultural, political, and situated dimensions of teaching and teacher education and (b) how teaching and teacher education stand to re-produce, challenge, and/or transform systems and hierarchies of power.


Three of the articles in this special issue forefront this emphasis on the social, cultural, political, and situated dimensions of teaching, paying keen attention to how they re-produce, challenge, and/or transform systems and hierarchies of power in classrooms and societies. Mariana Souto-Manning and Jessica Martell attend to the spatialization of teacher education as social, cultural, and political, working to interrupt inequities and foster equity in teaching and teacher education. Thomas M. Philip troubles simplistic notions of practice, unveiling the social, cultural, and political dimensions of practice and developing the concept of “principled improvisation” for the development of novice teachers. Jamy Stillman and John Luciano Beltramo explore ways to prepare teacher educators that offer possibilities for critically challenging and transforming teacher education, thereby contributing to the interruption of hierarchies of power.


Rejecting the production of racial inequities as an unavoidable outcome of teacher education and emphasizing the social, cultural, political, and situated dimensions of teaching and teacher education, Mariana Souto-Manning and Jessica Martell unveil the complex sociospatial dialectic of teacher education across settings. Through a three-year collaborative participatory research project, we read the landscape of teacher education, naming its sociospatial injustices. Then, we sought to interrupt these mapped realities by re-mediating teacher education, understanding that perhaps it is the tools and artifacts and/or the learning environments that must be reorganized in ways that foster deep, meaningful, and transformative learning (Griffin & Cole, 1984; Gutiérrez, Morales, & Martínez, 2009). Working to transform systems and hierarchies of power in teaching and teacher education, we unveil how we worked to build a horizontal collaboration marked by intellectual interdependence (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015) and shared expertise across physical, relational, and pedagogical geographies, thereby moving to transform teacher education through the re-mediation of its traditional first space and the design of a third space (Soja, 1996). The kind of horizontal partnership we negotiated stood in stark contrast to dominant and prevalent vertically organized teacher education partnerships, which position universities as having more importance, expertise, and legitimacy than schools—in disconnected ways. Instead, we offer fertile grounds for transforming university-school partnerships.


Acknowledging how any emphasis on the “practical” alone tends to preserve the status quo and thus threatens to undermine further equity and justice, Thomas M. Philip offers an expansive view of practice, arguing that improvisation is inextricably connected to practice. He illustrates how the marginalization of improvisation limits opportunities for novice teachers to learn the relational aspects of teaching, developing the concept of principled improvisation: improvisation that is purposefully oriented toward justice and that accentuates each moment of teaching as political, ethical, and consequential. By highlighting five examples of practice guided by principled improvisation that span a diversity of participants, contexts, and scales, he explores how learning to listen can play a prominent role in teacher practice guided by principled improvisation. Further, he examines how the opportunity to narrate, re-narrate, and re-envision experiences allows novice teachers to learn and collectively build place-relevant theory.


Jamy Stillman and John Beltramo explore critical approaches for transforming the development of teacher educators. Through situated adaptations of two critical pedagogical approaches, Freirean culture circles and Boalian theatre (or teatro), they examine how these critical pedagogical spaces facilitated participants’ development as asset-oriented teacher educators. Through culture circles and teatro, participants came to recognize some of the micro-pedagogies of asset-oriented teacher education, grappled with the relational dimensions of teacher learning, became familiar with possible tools of asset-oriented teacher education, and interrogated the social, political, and historical dimensions of the work. In doing so, they understood each of these aspects of teacher education as linked to specific settings and individuals, as well as to more common dilemmas that may play out across teacher education contexts. Such spaces, they posit, seem particularly well equipped to cultivate critical understandings deemed essential for transforming the field of teacher education.


(3) Name, problematize, and interrupt overt and covert systems of oppression enacted in and through teacher education.


Rejecting neoliberal conceptualizations of equity and justice, three articles in this special issue address historical and contemporary issues of oppression. Ilana Seidel Horn and Britnie Delinger Kane unveil the concept of a “professional language” as a contemporary system of oppression, which centers certain identities, practices, and persons while simultaneously marginalizing others—a concept that covertly enacts oppressions. Manka M. Varghese, Julia Daniels, and Caryn C. Park, as well as Dorinda Carter Andrews and colleagues, seek to address issues of racism as an overt system of oppression through race-based caucuses (Varghese et al.) and the development of a framework for humanizing teacher education pedagogy (Carter Andrews et al.).


Recognizing that no one practice will work in every situation, Ilana Seidel Horn and Britnie Delinger Kane draw on sociolinguistic studies of teachers’ sensemaking to critique the Professional Language Project in order to show its limits in making the intended contribution to teaching and teacher education. Specifically, they compare its goals against empirical findings about how teachers use language to make sense of instructional decisions in their workplaces. Empirical studies of teachers’ in situ language use unveil two fallacies in the Professional Language Project. First, the presence or absence of technical terms in teachers’ talk does not relate to the depth of their sensemaking or instructional sophistication, indicating that technical terms do not accomplish the conceptual goals that some Professional Language Project advocates suggest. Second, a prevailing common-sense discourse culture in teaching often results in conceptual slippage in the use of technical terms, leading words to be absorbed into existing conceptual systems more than they catalyze new understandings. They not only unveil the problematics with simplistic one-size-fits all solutions to the complex issues of teacher education problems but also reject technical answers to intellectual questions in teacher education.


Manka M. Varghese, Julia Daniels, and Caryn C. Park examine how race-based caucuses (RBCs) in one teacher education program attempt to shift candidates’ understandings of their racialized selves as related to their teacher identities. RBCs were instituted in one elementary teacher education program to help White teacher candidates and candidates of color construct critical teacher identities. Candidates were asked to participate in caucuses according to the ways they had been racialized within schools. Facilitators who demonstrated a willingness to sit with the work of engaging race and racialization led the caucuses. For the candidates of color, the “overwhelming presence of Whiteness” (Sleeter, 2001, p. 94) in the teacher education program and in the schools required the RBCs to focus on reframing deficit narratives of teachers of color by developing an asset-based view of their value and contribution to the teaching profession. The RBC provided space for White teacher candidates to explore the consequences of Whiteness for their future identities as teachers and for the kinds of communities that they could, and wanted to, cultivate with students. Messiness and challenges abounded in RBCs. Emotions—and especially emotional labor—were central to RBCs. As Varghese, Daniels, and Park explain, race-based caucusing can provide opportunities to reflect constructively on emotions and produce emotional upheaval for teacher candidates.


Within the context of a university-based teacher preparation program that primarily graduates White women, the article coauthored by Dorinda J. Carter Andrews, Tashal Brown, Bernadette M. Castillo, Davena Jackson, and Vivek Vellanki seeks to interrupt racism by increasing preservice teachers’ critical consciousness regarding the historical and contemporary inequities in the P–12 educational system and equipping them to embody pedagogies and practices that counter those inequities. To do so, they propose a humanizing pedagogy for teacher education. Grounding their initial discussion on naming and interrupting systems of oppression in and through teacher education, they engage with the concept of damage-centered teaching (Tuck, 2009), and offer tenets for the development of a humanizing pedagogy of teacher education, which represents a strengths-based approach to teaching and learning in the teacher preparation classroom.


(RE)TURNING TO THE SPECIAL ISSUE: WINDOWS INTO TRANSFORMATION IN TEACHER EDUCATION


Transforming teacher education in ways that prioritize the preparation and development of asset-, equity-, and justice-oriented teachers demands not only understanding the contemporary political challenges to university-based teacher education but also a clear commitment to center justice. Such transformative change requires historical knowledge, reflection, and action when it comes to the ways in which teacher education (especially restrictive notions of teacher education) is implicated in the production of oppressive ideas and in the maintenance of inequities (e.g., Souto-Manning, 2019). The authors of the articles in this special issue believe that reimagining relationships, rethinking pedagogies, revisioning content, and prioritizing historically marginalized communities—as visible within and across the articles—“can set new parameters and possible solutions, transforming not reforming or defending teacher education” (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015, p. 152). These actions are particularly promising, having powerful implications for transforming education for individuals and communities who have been historically silenced and/or marginalized in and through teacher education.


None of the ensuing articles offers a one-size-fits-all solution to “fixing” teacher education; in fact, their authors do not believe in such approaches to the development of human beings, to teaching and learning. Instead of focusing on “fixing” a purportedly broken system, the articles reimagine locations, relationships, tools, artifacts, practices, and pedagogies in and through teacher education. Within and across settings, they offer a number of windows into transformations—inviting us to critically read and rewrite the landscape of the development of teachers within a problematic context, yet with a clear commitment to justice. Transformation, the authors propose, is an imperative if university-based teacher education is to live up to its promise and possibility. It is the authors’ collective hope that this special issue can offer historical insights, prompt reflection, and inspire action that leads to the kind of transformation that has the potential to realize teacher education’s commitment to the public good.


A SPECIAL NOTE OF THANKS


Because there is more expertise distributed in a profession than in any one practice, article, or special issue, we—the authors of the articles which comprise this issue—are grateful to our external peer reviewers, who offered critical insights and thoughtful suggestions. They critically and thoughtfully helped develop the manuscripts, which comprise this special issue. They are:


Lesley Bartlett, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

Lilia Bartolomé, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA

Todd Bates, Montclair State University, USA

Kristen Buras, Georgia State University, USA

Michael Dominguez, San Diego State University, USA

Elizabeth Dutro, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Viv Ellis, King’s College London, UK

Frederick Erickson, UCLA, USA

A. Susan Jurow, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Adam Lefstein, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

Danny C. Martinez, University of California, Davis, USA

Sonia Nieto, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

Shameka Powell, Tufts University, USA

María del Carmen Salazar, University of Denver, USA

Annalisa Sannino, University of Tampere, Finland

Kathy Schultz, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Ana Maria Villegas, Montclair State University, USA

Shirin Vossoughi, Northwestern University, USA

Ken Zeichner, University of Washington, Seattle, USA


Without their time, care, and expertise, this special issue would not exist.



Notes:


1. I call them (de)regulations because although they are formal regulations, they served to deregulate the provision of teacher education, seeking to extricate it from the context of universities.


2. Members of the Teacher Education Collective include Lauren Anderson, Dorinda Carter Andrews, Ilana Horn, Thomas M. Philip, Mariana Souto-Manning, Jamy Stillman, and Manka Varghese. The Collective’s work started in 2016; it was initially supported by a Spencer Foundation Conference Grant (Award No. 201600181). Since then, members have collaborated on analysis, writing, and conference presentations (e.g., Philip et al., 2018; Teacher Education Collective, 2017, 2018; this special issue of Teachers College Record).


3. These acronyms represent teacher education organizations involved in the assessment, evaluation, and accreditation of teacher education programs and teacher candidates in the United States. NCATE is the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education; TEAC is the Teacher Education Accreditation Council; CAEP is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation; and AACTE is the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.


Acknowledgments:


This article was deeply influenced by Teacher Education Collective members, namely Lauren Anderson, Dorinda Carter Andrews, Ilana Horn, Thomas M. Philip, Jamy Stillman, and Manka Varghese. The Collective’s work started in 2016; it was initially supported by a Spencer Foundation Conference Grant (Award No. 201600181). In particular, I thank Thomas M. Philip, coeditor of this special issue of Teachers College Record, as well as Lauren Anderson, Ilana Horn, Jamy Stillman, and Manka Varghese, who provided insightful comments and critiques on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


Because we recognize that there is more expertise distributed in a profession than in any one practice, article, or special issue, we are grateful to our external peer reviewers. They critically and thoughtfully helped develop the manuscripts, which comprise this special issue. They are:


Lesley Bartlett, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

Lilia Bartolomé, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA

Todd Bates, Montclair State University, USA

Kristen Buras, Georgia State University, USA

Michael Dominguez, San Diego State University, USA

Elizabeth Dutro, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Viv Ellis, King’s College London, UK

Frederick Erickson, UCLA, USA

A. Susan Jurow, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Adam Lefstein, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

Danny C. Martinez, University of California, Davis, USA

Sonia Nieto, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

Shameka Powell, Tufts University, USA

María del Carmen Salazar, University of Denver, USA

Annalisa Sannino, University of Tampere, Finland

Kathy Schultz, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Ana Maria Villegas, Montclair State University, USA

Shirin Vossoughi, Northwestern University, USA

Ken Zeichner, University of Washington, Seattle, USA


Without their time, care, and expertise, this special issue would not exist.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 6, 2019, p. 1-26
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22728, Date Accessed: 10/20/2021 4:13:41 AM

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About the Author
  • Mariana Souto-Manning
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    MARIANA SOUTO-MANNING is Professor of Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and holds additional academic appointments at the University of Iceland and King’s College London. She is founding codirector of the Center for Innovation in Teacher Education and Development (CITED). From a critical perspective, Professor Souto-Manning’s research examines inequities and injustices in early childhood teaching and teacher education, critically (re)centering methodologies and pedagogies on the lives, values, and experiences of intersectionally minoritized people of color. Souto-Manning regularly collaborates with teachers and engages in community-based research. She has published eight books, including the 2016 winner of the American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award, Reading, Writing, and Talk: Inclusive Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners, K-2 (with Jessica Martell), and a number of peer-reviewed articles in journals such as the Journal of Teacher Education, Research in the Teaching of English, Teaching and Teacher Education, and Teachers College Record. She has received the 2011 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division K Innovations in Research on Diversity in Teacher Education Award, the 2017 AERA Teaching and Teacher Education Mid-Career Award, and other research awards issued by professional organizations such as AERA, AESA, and NAECTE. (Access Professor Souto-Manning's extended bio.
 
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