Sources and Application of Professional Knowledge amongst Teacher Educators Pulane Julia Lefoka

Sources and Application of Professional Knowledge amongst Teacher Educators Pulane Julia Lefoka
Sources and Application of Professional
Knowledge amongst Teacher Educators
Pulane Julia Lefoka
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements
for the degree
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In the
Department of Humanities Education
Faculty of Education
University of Pretoria
Supervisor: Professor Johannes Slabbert (DEd)
(University of Pretoria)
Co-supervisor: Professor Anthony Clarke (PhD)
(University of British Columbia)
July 2011
© University of Pretoria
I declare that all citations from both published and unpublished work have
been acknowledged in this submission. I have fully referenced the citations in
both the text and the reference list. I therefore declare that this work is my own
Signature of Student
In Lesotho, there are no formal opportunities for professional training of teacher
educators. Consequently, the majority of teacher educators have not received a training
that could equip them with professional knowledge base that is foundational to any
profession. Therefore the question: what are the sources and application of professional
knowledge among teacher educators appeared justifiable. Arguably, the teacher
educators’ professional knowledge is intricately linked to education practice. Teacher
educators have to address the discrepancy between education policy and practice
through the training of student teachers who, in turn, have to contribute to the quality of
the Lesotho education system.
An interpretivist approach was followed in undertaking this study. Data was collected
through: narratives, observations of teacher educators and analysis of the curriculum
and assessment documents. The unit of analysis was eight teacher educators who are
based at the National University of Lesotho’s Faculty of Education. Verification of the
extent to which the topic was researchable was through undertaking a pilot study with six
teacher educators who were based in the department of Educational Foundations in the
same faculty.
The analysis of the data revealed an immersion in the teacher educators’ professional
landscape provides them ample opportunities to learn from an array of experiences.
They accumulated experienced-based professional knowledge relevant to their world of
work as they learn to teach, construct, apply and model it in the context that is uniquely
teacher education. They have learned to teach teachers mainly from existing education
practices which perpetuate what already exists. They face numerous challenges; their
teaching is biased towards conventional teaching techniques of a transmissive nature
and to a less extent interactive techniques; construction of professional knowledge
remains a complex and challenging undertaking. Opportunities to construct own
teaching research-based knowledge and supervision of student research are limited.
In practice teacher educators have to rethink their pedagogy. Engaging in research
adopting a “self-study” approach is unavoidable. Research will enhance their
professional development and the quality of the student teachers.
metacognition, modelling knowledge, phronesis, practical knowledge, propositional
knowledge, professional knowledge, student teacher, teacher educator,
This thesis is a realisation of a long felt quest to study teacher educators in their
contexts. The quest could only be accomplished by registering for a PhD programme.
While the process of undertaking the study was consistently challenging, completing the
task would have presented insurmountable challenges had it not been for a number of
professionals, colleagues, friends and family and the universities: the National University
of Lesotho and the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Education. I therefore wish to
express my appreciation for the numerous contributions provided throughout the journey
by these people.
Eight research participants shared their lived professional stories and opened the doors
to their lecture halls. My thanks are due to Fusi, Hoanghoang, Lintle, Mafukuthoane,
Masethabathaba, Peditta, Thabang and Zinzi; there would have been no thesis without
The initial steps were extremely challenging. Thank you Professor De Kock and Dr.
Stoffles for asking difficult questions and making sure that by the time I presented the
proposal for consideration it was a document of acceptable standard.
My sincere appreciation goes to my supervisor, Professor Johannes Slabbert and my
co-supervisor, Professor Anthony Clarke. Engaging in a PhD programme by distance
mode is a mammoth undertaking. Yet with modern technology the challenges were
reduced. Your different styles of commenting on the submitted chapters presented two
interesting worlds to learn from. Professor Slabbert, you made me realise that the
question that I consistently asked my participants after they had shared their narratives,
“So what did you learn from the experiences?” was the salient part of the study. Thank
you for this significant contribution. Thank you Professor Clarke, for being a mentor and
a friend to your students while maintaining admirable professional standards. Thank you
for being a professional who promptly provides feedback. It was your encouraging
words: “remain focused” throughout the research process that helped me persevere.
Thank you Professor Molapi Sebatane, an Education professor at the National University
of Lesotho and Professor Jonathan Jansen, the former Dean of the Faculty of Education
at the University of Pretoria. Interestingly while I grappled with the title of the research,
both of you at the very initial stages of this research, in your own ways and at different
times said that I seemed to be interested in researching the sources of professional
knowledge. Thank you both for your advice at the different stages of my otherwise
extremely challenging research journey.
Thank you Colleagues, especially Drs Samuel Motlomelo and Thabiso Nyabanyaba and
Mrs. Lebohang Motaung at the Institute of Education of the National University of
Lesotho and fellow PhD students especially Dr. Rose Korir. Thank you for your constant
support and encouraging words of wisdom.
Thank you Ms. Annie Smiley and Ms. Lebala Kolobe for becoming my critical friends
especially during the data analysis and writing up times. Those reflective meetings
proved to be very helpful. The journey of a distance student might have been lonely.
Thank you Dr. Nthabiseng Taole and Mr. Monaheng Sefotho for your presence in
Pretoria during my studies. Thank you most importantly for always providing moral and
professional support. What would I do without that constant support?
Thank you Mrs. Beakers for constant reminders of the University procedures and
regulations and ensuring that one does not miss dates.
Letlotlo Lefoka: Thank you for helping with the transcriptions. You have been my
inspiration throughout my PhD journey. Please carry the baton and run with it.
DECLARATION OF ORIGINALITY .................................................................................. i
ABSTRACT..................................................................................................................... ii
Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................ iv
Table of Contents........................................................................................................... vi
List of tables.................................................................................................................... x
List of Figures................................................................................................................. xi
CHAPTER 1....................................................................................................................1
Statement of the Problem: My Academic Context....................................................1
Introduction .......................................................................................................1
The Teacher Educators’ Context.....................................................................10
Teacher Educators: The Lesotho Context .......................................................11
Research on Teacher Education in Lesotho.............................................12
The Multi-site Teacher Education Research (MUSTER) Project...............12
The Pilot Study.........................................................................................13
Conclusion on the Lesotho Context..........................................................14
Teacher Educators: The International Context ................................................15
The Teacher Educators’ Career ...............................................................15
Articulating the Concept Teacher Educators ............................................16
Professionalising Teacher Educators ..............................................................19
Transition from Teacher to Teacher Educator .................................................23
Formal Programmes and Courses for Teacher Educators...............................26
Learning in the Workplace...............................................................................27
The Pedagogy of Teacher Education ..............................................................30
Rationale and Objectives of the Study .........................................................31
1.10.1 The Rationale for the Study......................................................................31
Objectives and Research Questions ........................................................33
CHAPTER 2..................................................................................................................36
METHODOLOGY ..................................................................................................36
Introduction .....................................................................................................36
Interpretivist Research Paradigm .............................................................37
The Case Study of the Faculty of Education at the NUL...........................39
Selecting Research Participants...............................................................40
Triangulation or Crystallisation .................................................................41
Achieving Acceptable Quality...................................................................44
Data Collection................................................................................................48
The First Phase – Piloting the Idea ..........................................................48
The Second Phase – Conducting the Study.............................................48
Leaving the Field......................................................................................53
Dilemmas Experienced in Conducting the Research................................54
Data Analysis ..................................................................................................54
Conceptual Framework ............................................................................54
The Data Analysis Process ......................................................................57
Conclusion ......................................................................................................65
CHAPTER 3..................................................................................................................67
LITERATURE REVIEW .........................................................................................67
Introduction .....................................................................................................67
Policies, Quality Assurance and their Implications for the Teacher Educator
Profession .............................................................................................................68
Contemporary Discourse in Education ............................................................79
The Demands on Young People ..............................................................80
The Demands of Young People ...............................................................82
The Demands on how we Teach..............................................................84
A Contemporary Teacher Education and Teacher Educator Professional
Development Epistemology.......................................................................................94
Addressing the Teacher Educators’ Professional Needs through Self-Study
Relationship between Research Undertaken and Learning ....................100
Research Questions and Implications for Learning as a Construct.........105
3.3.4 Implications of Research and Research Questions on Teacher Educators
Implications of Professionalism for Teacher Educators ..........................108
Researching Professional Knowledge ...........................................................109
Propositional/Received Knowledge ........................................................113
Practical knowledge ...............................................................................115
Learning as a Construct/Paradigm ................................................................128
Constructing Professional Knowledge ...........................................................131
Application of Professional Knowledge..........................................................135
Modelling Professional knowledge ................................................................137
Conclusion ....................................................................................................140
CHAPTER 4................................................................................................................143
Introduction ...................................................................................................143
Biographical Information................................................................................144
Highest Qualification and Areas of Specialisation ..................................144
Teaching Experience .............................................................................146
Becoming a Teacher Educator ...............................................................147
Conceptualisation of Critical Concepts ..........................................................148
The Meaning of the Concept ‘Professional knowledge’ ..........................149
The Meaning of the Concept ‘Teacher Educator’ ...................................150
Sources of Professional Knowledge..............................................................151
Sources of Propositional Knowledge......................................................152
Sources of Practical Knowledge.............................................................155
Application of Professional Knowledge..........................................................176
Enacting Professional knowledge...........................................................176
Other Dimensions of Teaching Practice .................................................188
Student Teachers’ Activities ...................................................................192
Managing Teaching and Learning ..........................................................193
Instructional Media .................................................................................196
Assessment and Feedback ....................................................................196
Curriculum and Assessment Documents.......................................................198
Analysis of Curriculum Documents.........................................................198
Analysis of Assessment Documents ......................................................200
Constructing Professional Knowledge ...........................................................201
Construction Originates from Professional Practice................................201
Construction Originates from Other Settings ..........................................203
Development of Professional Philosophies ............................................205
Modelling Professional Knowledge................................................................208
Conceptualisation of Modelling of Professional Knowledge....................208
Modelling Professional Knowledge in Practice .......................................209
Teaching Practice Replicated Inadvertently ...........................................211
Conclusion ....................................................................................................213
CHAPTER 5................................................................................................................215
DISCUSSION ......................................................................................................215
Introduction ...................................................................................................215
Concepts Pertinent to the Current Study .......................................................217
Analysis of the Understanding of the Concept Teacher Educator...........217
Determining the Sources of Professional Knowledge .............................221
The Teacher Educators’ Practice ..................................................................225
Engaging in Creating Knowledge ..................................................................234
Modelling Professional Knowledge................................................................237
Drawing Practical Professional Knowledge from Practice: the Cumulative
Snowball model .......................................................................................................243
Cases on Learning to Teach Teachers..........................................................245
The Case of Peditta ...............................................................................248
The Case of Zinzi ...................................................................................252
The Case of ‘Masethabathaba ...............................................................255
Correlating the Cases to the Teacher Educator Cumulative Snowball Model 258
Conclusion ....................................................................................................260
CHAPTER 6................................................................................................................261
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS................................................................261
Conclusions ..................................................................................................261
Introduction ............................................................................................261
The Status of Teacher Educators and Implications ................................262
Sources of Professional Knowledge.......................................................264
Propositional or Received Professional Knowledge................................265
Practical or Experienced-based Knowledge ...........................................266
Relationship between Episteme and Phronesis: Contextualising the
Application of Professional Knowledge...................................................271
Skills Needed for Assessing Student Teachers ......................................276
Construction of Professional Knowledge ................................................279
Constructing Personal/Professional Philosophies ..................................279
Production of Professionally Developed Documents ..............................280
Modelling Professional Knowledge.........................................................283
Challenges of this Study for Teacher Educators and their Professional Learning
and Development ....................................................................................................284
Implications of the Study ...............................................................................285
Rethinking the Core Business of Teacher Educators .............................286
Developments in Education....................................................................287
Conclusions and the Thesis ..........................................................................289
Conclusions ...........................................................................................289
The Impact of the Study on the Researcher ...........................................290
The Thesis .............................................................................................293
Reference List .............................................................................................................294
Table 3.1:
Table 3.2:
Table 3.3
Learning Quality
Four Education Paradigms
Types of Knowledge
Figure 2.1:
Code family.
Figure 3.1:
A construction of what learning quality in education entails in
Figure 3.2
How I think I have learned about how other people and I learn.
Figure 5.1:
The Snowball in Teacher Educators’ “landscapes”: A
Cumulative Knowledge Model.
In many ways, just as the student of teaching needs to experience the
tensions, dilemmas and problems of practice in order to learn through
the accumulation of knowledge of practice, so too the teacher
educator is confronted by a similar situation in learning through
accumulation of knowledge of teaching about teaching (Loughran,
2006, p.9).
1.1 Introduction
In this chapter I take the opportunity to introduce the reader to the major motivation
behind undertaking this particular research. The introduction is very important to me
since as I engaged in this research I constantly took an introspective look at my own
career as a teacher educator. In reflecting on my career it became apparent that I
had many biases and assumptions that might have shaped the way I practise
teaching. Additionally, reading about research work undertaken in this particular
context and in international contexts, and observing teacher educators follow their
careers in lecture halls provided lessons that I would not have thought about under
normal circumstances. Observing teacher educators in practice was a revealing
experience. The lessons that are revealed in the concluding chapter illustrate how
this study has impacted on my own career as a teacher educator in many significant
ways. I therefore invite the reader to join me on this journey in which I have
deliberately begun to search for the foundations of the career I cherish.
“Searching for the foundations of the career I cherish” is my story set in a Lesotho
context. I am a teacher educator at the National University of Lesotho. Lesotho is a
small country with an area of just over 30,000 square kilometres, landlocked by the
Republic of South Africa. It is in this context that the search for the foundations of the
career that I cherish is set. My story is based on my teaching experiences at different
levels of the education system in Lesotho and how I came to be the teacher educator
that I am. The story therefore depicts my professional journey, which has largely
contributed to my undertaking the study on the “sources and application of
professional knowledge among teacher educators”.
I entered the world of teacher educators ‘through the back door’, having started in
this career at the level of an unqualified teacher after being invited to join teaching at
various levels of the education system. After completing my studies at a post1
secondary school I was invited to teach in the same school by my post-secondary
teachers. I accepted, despite not having a professional qualification. I never inquired
about the reasons for the invitation but I suspect that the teachers in the school saw
the potential in me to become a teacher. Although I accepted the invitation, which
has led to my eventually becoming part of the teacher education fraternity, I did so
with great discomfort. The question then arose as to how one teaches.
My first day in a post-secondary school classroom confirmed my fears; it appeared to
be a difficult task. There are some researchers who have studied teaching as a job,
but as Calderhead and Shorrock (1997) indicate, even teachers who have gone
through teacher education programmes experience difficulties in learning to teach.
However, unlike trained teachers who have some theories on teaching, one who
enters teaching through a back door does not have anything to depend on.
Therefore, while my story may not be unique, the frustrations, the difficulties, the lack
of a mentoring programme that could have been offered by those who invited me
were some of my experiences in teaching at the post-secondary school. In my mind
the difficulties were complicated by the fact that I had not undergone any training.
Under the circumstances I had to find a way of addressing my anxiety if I were to
survive. I had no choice but to reflect on my secondary school days. There were
compelling images I could draw on.
I therefore depended on the way in which my best secondary school teacher taught
me. The image of that teacher and how she handled her teaching was clear and
dependable. Originally from Swaziland, she had a remarkable style of teaching
English language that was her speciality. In my view she knew the content, was
confident, had a style of managing learners that was uniquely hers and she loved her
students. She was a disciplinarian yet someone who displayed commitment to work.
However, while consistently reflecting on how my best secondary school teacher
taught provided a reference point, I still felt uncomfortable. I felt I had ventured into a
territory that was exclusively for specially trained people. I definitely lacked
something that teachers acquire in teacher education institutions. Secondly,
regardless of the comments by one of my relatives who came to me after my first
lesson and shared her classmates’ views about my teaching, which indicated that the
students were impressed with my teaching, my fear that I might not be doing the right
things had been deepened by that first lesson. I wondered what criteria the students
used to judge my teaching as interesting. I knew then that teaching was not an easy
task and I therefore strongly felt I needed appropriate tools if I were to succeed.
An introspective perspective on the experience of teaching at this level of the
education system clearly indicated that even at this point of my teaching career my
question on where teachers draw their knowledge of teaching from was already in my
mind. Entering teaching through the back door greatly contributed to the current
study. It was probably the concern of not knowing what is expected of a teacher and
the feeling that there are techniques that qualified teachers use in teaching, that
made me enrol in a teacher education programme. This presumably would provide
some answers on the foundations of the career I would come to cherish.
Therefore, having accepted the invitation to join the teaching profession, and having
started teaching without a professional qualification, I decided to enrol in a teacher
education institution. This was an eye-opener. It became apparent that teacher
education is a discipline that uses unique terminology; teachers talk about methods
of teaching; they choose a subject to teach and learn about the content they intend to
teach; they must have skills for managing classroom activities; they prepare for
teaching; and they have to assess learners. There are those aspects of teaching that
students of teaching learn from psychology classes. It was in such classes that I
learnt how to deal with learners with different mental abilities. There are slow learners
and there are extremely gifted ones who, if not attended to, tend to leave school
because it does not challenge them. I was a different individual when I left the
college, having completed the teacher education programme. At this level I felt I had
acquired knowledge and skills for teaching at the secondary or post-primary school
level. However, teaching at the post-primary school level was transitory. I taught at
this level of the education system for only six months because it was at this time that
I got the second invitation.
One of my college lecturers looked for me and invited me to enrol in a Diploma in
Education programme that was offered by the University. This was a specially
designed diploma in education programme, intended for people who would, upon
completion of their studies, serve as supervisors of student teachers during their
teaching practice. Although it did not appear obvious that I was now being prepared
for a different level of teaching, my recollection points to the fact that the courses I
took at both the diploma and undergraduate degree levels were initial steps into the
world of teacher educators. For the Diploma in Education and the first degree
programmes I took one subject or content course and foundation courses which
measurement and testing, educational research, guidance and counselling and
curriculum development.
My first employer after obtaining my first degree was the then National Teacher
Training College, now the Lesotho College of Education. I worked as an intern
supervisor; therefore the actual application of professional knowledge, especially in
the supervision of student teachers during their teaching practice, was a manageable
task. In practice an instructional supervisor observes one student teacher at a time
and may hold discussions with that individual after observation. While observation
and giving feedback to an individual presents technical challenges, such as helping a
student teacher achieve his or her potential or assisting a student teacher who
teaches content with which one is not familiar, they proved to me to be not as
complex as the task of teaching many students assembled in one classroom. As
Shulman (2004) argues, teaching, especially compared to disciplines such as
medicine, is a complex undertaking. Teachers, unlike a physician who works with a
single patient at a time, have classrooms filled with many learners and have multiple
goals and the school’s obligations to achieve. Yet supervision of instruction, perhaps
similar to provision of counselling to individual students, is one of the few areas in
teacher education where it is possible to deal with one person at a time. Perhaps this
might be the reason for Acheson and Gall’s (1992) allusion to the process of helping
student teachers during their teaching practice as provision of clinical supervision.
Following a clinical supervision model, there are times during the process for a preconference, observation of a student teaching, and then a post-conference phase.
Hence the challenges to supervise student teachers during teaching practice were
less demanding for me. This is one area in my career that, while challenging, proved
I must, however, even at this level of my professional development in the career of
teacher educator, admit that there were experiences where the strategies of those
who supervised me impacted on my style of instructional supervision. During my
teaching practice I was supervised by an American lady from whom I drew significant
lessons. She consistently observed each one of us at least twice a week, following
the clinical supervision model, and had time to meet students prior to and after
observing them. We kept diaries of our experiences and the way in which we handled
dilemmas that we came across. There were monthly meetings in which we shared
our experiences and had an opportunity to support one another. The American lady
was a highly committed individual, loved her student teachers, was not hesitant to
share her thoughts about what she observed, and gave us opportunities to reflect on
our teaching. I definitely drew heavily on her style of supervision of instruction when I
became an intern supervisor.
The third and final invitation was to serve as a research assistant in a research
institute which is one of the units of the National University of Lesotho. This particular
invitation, especially compared to the first and the second ones, appeared different; it
proved to be an avenue for gathering research and teaching experience. However, it
too provided worthwhile experience. The opportunity made it possible to engage in
something that was completely new and extremely difficult. Together with nine other
colleagues who worked as intern supervisors, I was required by the Institute of
Education at the National University of Lesotho to collect data for a study titled
Teaching and Learning Strategies in Lesotho Primary Schools. It was a major study
which used numerous data collecting instruments, one of which was an observation
schedule which required us to observe each teacher 25 times. Although supervision
of instruction had exposed me to observing other people teach, serving as a research
assistant was another opportunity to observe teachers, though we were not expected
to give the observed teachers any feedback. It was after completion of this particular
study that I was invited to join the Institute, still as a research assistant. I wondered
why this invitation had been made, given the fact that the task we had just completed
was not only demanding but a new avenue altogether, and one for which I had had
no training.
Lessons were learnt from the data collection phase of the study. As research
assistants, for example, we were required to present our own experiences and
interpretations of the work we were engaged in during debriefing workshops. Joining
the Institute of Education was another opportunity to learn about the various levels of
working on research. Serving as a research assistant and working with seasoned
researchers and professors provided the most valuable learning experiences. I
learned how to prepare a research proposal, collect data, analyse data and come up
with a research report. Although I had not used the research skills attained at that
level for researching my own teaching, it was a worthwhile experience. It definitely
contributed significantly to my knowledge, particularly on what to look for in observing
teachers in a research context.
It was after joining the University that I was required to enrol for further studies. I then
enrolled in a Master’s degree programme at the University of British Columbia in
Canada, which although I was not aware at the time, was a further initiation into the
world of teacher educators. It further exposed me to courses that are, in the
literature, classified as courses to be taken by people who plan to join the teacher
educators’ fraternity. These included supervision of instruction, sociology of the
curriculum, programme evaluation, philosophy of education, teaching in institutions of
higher learning, school effectiveness and educational research. Since at postgraduate degree level I had the liberty to choose courses, and I was mindful of the
focus of the Institute of Education, I took three educational research courses and
audited a PhD course on teacher education. The audited course was not offered at
Master’s level; yet I knew it was a valuable course for the type of work I was destined
to do upon return to my institution. Learning about teacher educators as reflective
practitioners was the most valuable outcome of that teacher education course that I
Therefore, while I fully admit that an exposure to relevant courses from the diploma
level to the Master’s degree level provided much specialised teacher education
knowledge and skills for teaching in teacher education programmes, practice
presents a number of challenges and dilemmas. My first experience teaching at
university was with the second year Bachelor of Education degree programme. I was
assigned to teach a course “Teaching Methods and Instructional Technology” to a
class of 300, comprising a mixed class of people holding diplomas in teacher
education and those directly from secondary school. This assignment presented
numerous challenges.
The challenges included the ability to use the pedagogy of teacher education
effectively and thereby demonstrate teaching to a group of student teachers who had
entered the programme with or without a teaching qualification. Other challenges
included the capability to develop a teacher education curriculum or a course outline,
manage classroom activities to the extent of ensuring that all students, regardless of
their numbers, would benefit from my teaching, manage assessment of student
teachers and manage the teaching itself. One of the major concerns that emanated
from a reflection on my teaching in highly populated classroom situations was the
extent to which I was efficient and whether indeed the students were gaining the
quality of education that I was expected to offer. Indeed, as I argued with colleagues,
I felt as though teaching a course of such paramount importance to the education of
teachers was similar to holding a political rally in which numbers did not matter.
Trying to involve students in their own learning meant dividing them into manageable
groups to discuss a topic or do research and return to report in large groups. This
strategy, which I thought was the best way of involving student teachers in their own
learning, presented me with serious problems. There were students who would not
participate in discussions on a given assignment but would demand that they be
graded. More often than not I mediated in meetings where students complained
about other group members who were reported not to have contributed to the group
work. Lecturing was not my style of teaching but I was, on several occasions, forced
to resort to it.
The many unpredictable results of initiatives which were intended to help ensure that
students benefited from teaching made me doubt my effectiveness and wonder what
lessons student teachers drew from my own teaching. I reflected on courses that had
prepared me to become a teacher educator but could not draw on any that had
prepared me for some of the practical challenges I encountered. Teaching large
classes or dealing with the unpredictability of classroom events constituted some of
those challenges. I concluded that degree courses one takes remain a firm
foundation. However, the courses cannot help one envisage what the practice holds
in store for those who undergo teacher education regardless of the level at which
they take courses in this discipline. Therefore it is in real life and only in the world of
work where one will learn how to handle challenging situations, especially in
classroom encounters.
It is, I concluded, in the world of work where cases present themselves for solution
and the teacher or teacher educator in this context will have to find ways of dealing
with those. Those cases become reference points whenever similar ones arise. One
case that amused me and provided a valuable lesson was when I grouped students
and stayed for too long with one of the groups. I was surprised when I realised, after
helping the one group, that the other groups had left the seminar room, even though
the time allocated for the course was not yet over. I knew that I should not spend too
much time with one group, no matter what difficulty each might be experiencing in
interpreting the assigned task. The essence of this experience is that learning to
teach, no matter the level at which it may be, is highly unpredictable. However,
finding solutions to each case becomes a learning experience from which individuals
gather knowledge and skills for the future.
Additionally, particularly in the context of the current study, I wondered and
subsequently asked myself a question: Where do other teacher educators,
particularly those who never received education relevant to the training of student
teachers, draw their professional knowledge from? The question I asked at the initial
stages of my career became concrete over time, hence the topic for this story:
searching for the foundations of the career I cherish.
Incidentally, an idea to participate in an international study on teacher education
involving 5 countries, the Multisite Teacher Education Research (MUSTER) Project,
provided an opportunity to engage in research on teacher educators teaching in
colleges and universities in the identified countries. Participating in the study as a
researcher exposed me to undertaking research focusing on teacher educators and
most importantly provided me with an opportunity to peep into their classrooms and
see the various styles of teaching. Observing the teacher educators’ practice was a
valuable exposure which added more interest to my intention to undertake the
current study. Although participating in the MUSTER Project did not address my
research concerns, it helped me think deeply about what it was that I wanted to
research. It provided lessons on various aspects of teacher education and teacher
educators in particular, but did not specifically address the element of professional
knowledge on which my study focuses.
Analysing the process that led to the current study and juxtaposing it with the
paradigm that I adopted, confirm that there is a relationship between my quest to
undertake a study on teacher educators and the adopted paradigm. The focus had to
be on sources and application of professional knowledge and my professional
journey. The interpretivist paradigm which underpins the current study involves
individuals’ opportunity to interpret their own situations and therefore establish
meanings. My own experience as a teacher educator and the interest to undertake a
study focusing on teacher educators therefore relates to the context in which the
teacher educators were found. I am, in detailing my experience, alluding to my
interpretation of my professional journey.
In a book co-authored by Clandinin and Connelly (1995), titled Teachers’
Professional Knowledge Landscape, there is a chapter on competing and conflicting
stories, in which they allude to a claim that there are serious yet significant
consequences for how teachers who participated in their research know themselves
as professionals. Clandinin and Connelly (1995) make reference to a school principal
and other teachers who engaged in what they referred to as a new way of engaging
in professional development which they also considered as a new way to challenge
the sacred theory-practice story. In practice, in engaging in professional
development, teachers, instead of relying on experts in the system or from
elsewhere, they were called on to rely on their own resources. This is a fundamental
change in professional development in the context of teacher education.
Writing my story has helped me reflect on my professional life, and has allowed me
to see how it unfolded. In undertaking this particular research I had the opportunity to
listen to colleagues narrate stories of their professional lives and what they had
learned from their experiences. I have observed them apply their professional
knowledge to the real world of teaching and in the process have gathered more
knowledge. Undertaking the study has enabled me to think about my own teaching
much more deeply. In essence engaging in the study has impacted on me in many
ways. I am a different person than I was when I started.
The content of the story I have shared is a brief analysis of my professional journey,
reflecting the interplay between lessons emanating from it and that actual journey.
Therefore the rationale and objectives of this study as presented in this chapter
justify the reason for engaging in the study. Additionally each major section of this
chapter presents contexts; following on my own context is an analysis of local and
international contexts as these relate to teacher educators.
I initiate each of the chapters of this study with a diagram or a box depicting the
contents of a particular chapter. The first of the diagrams presents the contents of
Chapter 1:
1.1. Introduction
1.2. The Teacher Educator’s Context
1.3. Teacher Educators: The Lesotho Context
1.4. Teacher Education: the International Context
1.5. Professionalizing Teacher Educators
1.6. Transition from Teacher to Teacher Educator
1.7. Formal Programmes and Courses for Teacher Educators
1.8. Learning at the Workplace
1.9 The Pedagogy of Teacher Education
1.10 Rationale and Objectives of the Study
1.11 Conclusion
1.2 The Teacher Educators’ Context
In my capacity as one of the teacher educators based in Lesotho I make three
assumptions. Firstly, I entertain little doubt that teaching in practice and the teacher
who delivers it determine the quality of the education provided. In this context the
quality of the teacher education subsequently determines the quality of the teaching.
Secondly, the role of the teacher educator in contributing to the quality of the
education provided cannot be underestimated. In practice, therefore teacher
educators are the ultimate determinants thereof, which is why the teacher educator is
at the heart of this study. Thirdly, throughout the world, teacher educators are at the
forefront of preparing teachers at all levels of education systems.
New developments and reforms in education have inadvertently caused growing
interest in teacher education and teacher educators. This interest is evident in the
increasing rate at which research is being undertaken by educational researchers
and the increasing number of publications focusing to a greater or lesser extent on
the teacher educator fraternity. The research interest is related to a number of issues
fundamental to teacher educators and the quality of their work. One of the primary
foci is the extent to which their work could be identified as professional and whether
they could be regarded as professionals. The key concern revolves around the
training of teacher educators as an area which does not exist in any formal way,
particularly in the context in which this study was carried out. Most pertinent to the
lack of resources for facilitating the education of teacher educators is the need to
acquire knowledge, skills and values or attitudes to ensure that their pedagogy is the
most appropriate for educating prospective teachers. It is important to note that
underlying expertise in teacher education is that teachers who benefit from the
teacher education programmes could subsequently be regarded as professionals.
The main inspiration for undertaking this study is the role I play in teacher education
as a citizen of Lesotho. I have been a teacher at various levels of the education
system. I have taught in the two Lesotho teacher education institutions and continue
to serve as a teacher educator and researcher in one of them. I have had an
opportunity to undertake research and have in most cases done so in collaboration
with colleagues in the area of teacher education. The current study was therefore
undertaken in the Lesotho context that stimulated an interest in undertaking the
study. This is why I begin with a presentation of the context in which I work in this
introductory chapter.
1.3 Teacher Educators: The Lesotho Context
There are only two institutions in Lesotho that offer teacher education programmes,
namely the Lesotho College of Education (LCE) and the National University of
Lesotho, through its Faculty of Education. The Lesotho College of Education is
responsible for the preparation of primary and junior secondary teachers. Initially it
offered certificate programmes to both primary and junior secondary teachers
through pre-service and in-service modes. There are developments in the College
that have led to the shift from certificate programmes to the offering of diploma
programmes at both primary and junior secondary levels of the teacher education
system. As recently as 2007, the Lesotho College of Education introduced two
courses: the certificate for early learning for pre-school teachers and a course for
primary school teachers who will be responsible for dealing with the visually
impaired. The teacher educators who were employed to offer these courses are
specialists in these areas. Since there were no locally trained teacher educators
qualified to teach in such programmes, some were recruited from other parts of the
world. The new courses were introduced to meet the international demands
according to the world declaration on Education for All (EFA) which, among other
things, calls for inclusive education.
However, it is not enough to introduce new courses and meet such international
demands without ensuring that they are offered by teacher educators who have
undergone training that prepares them for teaching the courses at national level. New
programmes have to be sustained and this depends on national teacher educators
having appropriate knowledge and skills.
Another institution that offers teacher education programmes is the Faculty of
Education at the National University of Lesotho, mainly to prepare teachers for the
senior secondary school level. Although for a long time the Faculty has been offering
Bachelor of Education Degree programmes, it recently resuscitated programmes
which had been suspended for some time. During the 2009/2010 academic year the
Faculty resuscitated both the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) for
secondary school teachers who needed a professional qualification, and the Master’s
in Education degree. Additionally, the Faculty has resuscitated a degree programme
for primary school teachers and offers the Bachelor of Education (Primary)
programme through a distance mode. It is imperative that whoever is employed in
teaching any of the Faculty’s programmes is someone with expertise in the education
of student teachers.
The motivation to undertake the current study comes from a realisation that neither
the Lesotho College of Education nor the National University of Lesotho offers formal
programmes for the education of teacher educators, as is the case in some parts of
the world. Hence the key question that forms the thrust of this study is where and
how teacher educators acquire their professional knowledge and how they employ
the most appropriate corresponding pedagogy to ensure that the best quality teacher
education programmes are offered.
1.3.1 Research on Teacher Education in Lesotho
Although a large number of studies on teacher education have been undertaken at
the Lesotho College of Education since its establishment in 1970, studies focusing on
teacher educators in Lesotho are very few. The Multi-site Teacher Education
Research referred to earlier was undertaken between 1997 and 2000. The second
study in the context of teacher educator’s professional knowledge was a pilot study
that I undertook during the initial stages of my PhD programme.
1.3.2 The Multi-site Teacher Education Research (MUSTER)
The Multisite Teacher Education Research (MUSTER) Project focused on the
primary teacher education sub-sector at the Lesotho College of Education. The
teacher educators who participated in it were drawn from the following areas of the
primary teacher education programme: English Education, Mathematics Education,
Science Education and Professional Studies. The study looked into a number of
aspects that relate to teacher education, categorised according to sub-studies within
this large cross-national study. Among several sub-studies undertaken during the
MUSTER Project was one on teacher educators, addressing issues such as teacher
educators’ characteristics, including career paths, induction and continuing
professional development and their perceptions of good practice.
The MUSTER Project established that the tutors who participated in the study,
although they taught in the primary department of the College, had trained as
secondary school teachers. The study further established that only 40 per cent of
them had any primary teaching experience. They were graduates, with a third holding
master’s degrees, some in Education but others in areas such as Development
Studies. It was further established that, in view of their education background in the
context of the teaching of teachers, none of them had been specifically trained as a
teacher educator or had been engaged in a programme of study to prepare them as
teacher educators, although two held a diploma in Primary Supervision specifically
designed to educate intern supervisors.
The findings of the MUSTER Project, in as far as teacher professional qualifications
are concerned, suggest a major gap in the education system. It is a system in which
the majority of teacher educators is not attended to and the education of teachers
who are considered professionals themselves is left in the hands of “teacher
educators” who could, because they do not hold a professional credential, be
classified as “paraprofessionals”. Those teacher educators who may have taken
courses during their careers that are relevant to the teaching of student teachers
have done so of their own choice, not because the employing institutions expected or
required them to.
Additionally, the MUSTER Project established that a dominant pedagogy that
featured at the Lesotho College of Education primary section was the extensive use
of the transmission model of teaching and to a lesser extent some interactive
methods of teaching, such as group work. These methods required student teachers
to participate in more significant ways than transmission methods, in which student
teachers barely participate. The MUSTER Project concluded by posing a challenge
for teacher educators at the Lesotho College of Education, that they produce
innovative teachers who will go out into the schools to break the mould (Lefoka and
Sebatane, 2003). This suggestion was consistent with the college philosophy that
stipulates that the new diploma programme would cater for the complex, challenging
and increasingly diverse difficult role that would have to be played by the primary
school teacher.
1.3.3 The Pilot Study
The pilot study was carried out immediately after a proposal for the current study was
approved. In undertaking it in the Faculty of Education at the National University of
Lesotho, six teacher educators based in the Department of Educational Foundations
of this Faculty were invited to participate. The pilot study was intended to establish
the extent to which the proposed research which was going to focus on the sources
and application of professional knowledge was feasible. In carrying it out the
interviews were conducted and the data analysed thereafter. The pilot study revealed
1) All the participants held postgraduate degrees, with two being at the PhD
2) Each of the research participants was a specialist in at least one particular
discipline or field of study, two in educational management and administration
and one in each of the following fields: supervision of instruction, guidance
and counselling, teaching and instructional technology and the philosophy of
3) Only one of the six pilot study participants claimed to have taken the following
courses: supervision of instruction, testing and measurement, teaching and
instructional technology and curriculum studies.
The courses mentioned on 3 above were the courses that were at the time of
carrying out the pilot study classified in the literature as relevant to the teaching of
student teachers. I then concluded that one out of the six who participated in the
study could be classified as having taken courses in teacher education and would
qualify as a teacher educator.
The significance of the pilot study is that it helped me establish that there was a need
to carry out a study focusing on teacher educators at the National University of
Lesotho. It was clear that a study focusing on professional knowledge of teacher
educators had not been carried out before. Most importantly, given that I did not
observe the teacher educators in practice, it was not possible to establish how in
practice teacher educators engaged in the application of professional knowledge.
1.3.4 Conclusion on the Lesotho Context
The two studies, namely the MUSTER and the pilot study carried out at the Lesotho
College of Education and the National University of Lesotho respectively, although
undertaken at different times, share some similarities:
1) Since the majority of teacher educators in Lesotho had not been educationally
prepared for the career they were following, it was concluded that the majority
were not qualified to be teaching student teachers. It is justifiable to consider
them to be practising as paraprofessional or unqualified teacher educators in
their current field of employment;
2) Employment procedures followed in hiring teacher educators in both
institutions do not require that those who apply must have studied teacher
education to the extent that they could be classified as teacher educators.
3) Neither the Lesotho College of Education nor the National University of
Lesotho staff development policies dictate what courses teacher educators
must take to prepare them for the task of teaching student teachers. Instead,
teacher educators who go for further studies are free to specialise in their
areas of interest.
4) The majority of the teacher educators who participated in both studies had not
taken any course or courses that would fully prepare them for the task of
educating student teachers.
Therefore, the need to carry out the study that specifically focused on teacher
educators’ professional knowledge at the National University of Lesotho became
intense; this institution has a potential to offer programmes for training teacher
educators in Lesotho. The teacher educators who participated in the pilot study
admitted that they did not know much about what constitutes professional knowledge
that underpins or informs their teaching in the context of teacher education.
1.4 Teacher Educators: The International Context
The Lesotho context has revealed the situation of teacher educators in this country.
However, given that teacher education is offered in almost all countries of the world it
suffices to include the international context in this chapter, thus setting the stage for
the research conducted on teacher educators.
1.4.1 The Teacher Educators’ Career
Lewin and Stuart (2003), in a study in which Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi and Trinidad
and Tobago teacher education institutions participated, studied among other factors
the career paths of teacher educators. Their study found that those in the
participating institutions had joined teacher education through applying for advertised
posts for teaching at the level of college or university, and for various reasons. Kunje
(2002) added that a study that focused on teacher educators who taught primary
teachers in Malawi found that they were under-qualified. The study confirmed the
contention that the education of teachers is, in the majority of the aforementioned
countries, in the hands of under-qualified teacher educators or paraprofessionals. It
can therefore be concluded that teacher educators start their careers without a
professional qualification. Moreover the institutions that employ them do not have set
criteria for attracting people with a teacher educator professional qualification.
However, according to Labaree (1992), people who join teacher education as teacher
educators have been found to bring numerous experiences into teacher education
institutions. Teacher educators were found to have worked as classroom teachers,
school administrators and curricular consultants, special education providers for
programmes such as those for children with disability, programme designers and
community developers. Most significantly, their career is characterised by lack of
formal training that specifically prepares them for the role of educating student
The analysis of teacher educators’ careers goes beyond the qualifications they hold
and the numerous and perhaps valuable experience with which they enter teacher
education institutions. These teacher educators have been found generally not to
meet primary standards that exist for other college or university professors employed
in faculties other than Education. Reference is made to faculties such as those of
Law or Humanities, which do not offer education programmes; yet their staff are
considered to meet primary higher education standards. This comparison is based on
research output undertaken by researchers such as Cole (1999) and Labaree,
(1992), which points to the fact that teacher educators tend not to meet the demands
of research productivity. The work of these researchers implies that professional
teacher educators teaching in teacher education institutions are expected to engage
in research and therefore contribute to their scholarship. I revisit this point in the
literature chapter where an extensive discussion is made on people teaching in
institutions of higher learning. However, in the context of teacher educators there are
developments in other parts of the world that show that engaging in research,,
especially among teacher educators, is becoming popular (Kunje, 2002; Stuart
It is important to conclude that the teacher educators’ career is still encountering
problems, ranging from lack of a clear career path and failure to undertake research
or low research output. These are the only yardsticks for judging their suitability to
teach in teacher education institutions. Furthermore, there is a lack of clear criteria or
policies to be used in employing them.
1.4.2 Articulating the Concept Teacher Educators
Some researchers (Fisher, 2005) have studied the concept teacher educator, its
features and the extent to which teacher education can be classified as a profession.
The term teacher educator refers to professionals found in institutions of higher
learning, including those who instruct students and practising teachers. Besides
providing instruction, teacher educators conduct research necessary for, among
other things, educating student teachers and practising teachers, and for their own
professional improvement (Ducharme, 1986; Smith, 2003; Fisher, 2005).
Descriptions of teacher educators go beyond the research findings that they have
worked as teachers; many have a strong academic background, but little or no
preparation for teaching (Lunenberg and Willemse, 2006), let alone teaching student
teachers. Furthermore, those who are trained as teachers may have no training or
experience of working with adult learners, who are more often than not the teacher
education clientele (Smith, 1999; Korthagen, 2000). Therefore, the research work
which studied teacher educators (Zeichner, 1999; Ducharme, 1993; Buchberger,
Campos, Kallos and Stephenson, 2002; Kunje, 2002), confirms that most teacher
educators have not received training in the most pertinent area of methodologies of
teaching or the pedagogy of teacher education that is suitable for teaching student
teachers or adult learners.
Therefore an important feature that distinguishes teacher educators from teachers is
the skill required for different learners, that is, adults and children respectively. Both
require different approaches, and there is one pedagogy for teaching adults and
another for teaching primary or secondary students. Teacher educators are therefore
in need of some form of education which will supposedly prepare them for the task of
educating adult learners found in teacher education institutions (Loughran, 2007).
An international study of teacher educators was reported in Churukian and Lock
(2000), a project mainly intended to determine where the journey to becoming a
teacher educator begins. The study was undertaken in collaboration with the
Association of World-Wide Teacher Educators. Twenty-four teacher educators from
24 countries participated in the study entitled International narratives on becoming a
teacher educator, telling stories of how they became teacher educators. They were
guided on how they were expected to tell their stories and asked to describe the
nature of their work.
The results of the study indicate that there is consistency in that teacher educators
do not have formal training on instructional techniques for teaching teachers. The
majority had taught at secondary or high schools before they were employed as
teacher educators at this level. There were criteria for employing them, with the
majority of the teacher education institutions in which they worked regarding teaching
experience at, for instance, secondary school level as an important attribute. Some
teacher educators joined teacher education institutions by chance, having applied for
an advertised post even though they were aware that they had not taught at college
or university level before. A few were hired straight after completing a university
degree and only one appeared to have joined teacher education even though he had
not taken any courses in it. One of the teacher educators who participated in the
above mentioned study, Drakensberg (2000), related the feeling of being employed
to teach teachers in a situation where one does not even have the skills that those
future teachers are expected to acquire:
I was offered an appointment as a teacher educator at a teacher education
college. All of a sudden, having the formal education needed, a PhD, I was
qualified as a teacher educator and qualified to tell others how to teach –
something I had never done myself! In such a situation good advice is
expensive, so friendly and nice teacher educators at that teacher college
taught me to be a teacher-educator (p.70).
The quotation from Drakensberg’s (2000) biography illustrates the experiences and
frustrations that some teachers of teachers encounter. The case referred to here is
one of an individual who was not in the field of education and had therefore never
trained as a teacher. Secondly, Drakensberg’s work illustrates that teacher education
institutions such as the one he joined do not have criteria for employing teacher
educators. However, others as is illustrated in Churukian and Lock (2000), do have
such criteria. For example, some institutions make it clear that it is necessary that a
person employed to teach student teachers has a teacher education background.
The experiences of teacher educators who participated in Churukian and Lock’s
Project ranged between three and twelve years. Reporting on their work revealed
that besides teaching they were expected to teach research and to publish.
Moreover, the institutions that employed them shared similar policies, with teacher
educators having to be sent for further education to improve their qualifications.
While it is not clear whether the further education equipped them with knowledge and
skills for educating prospective teachers, it is clear that institutions are particular
about further education of teacher educators. Additionally, the criterion that whoever
is employed as a teacher educator should have a teaching qualification implies that,
even though there may be some exceptions, a teacher qualification is considered a
prerequisite to teaching in an institution of higher learning or in educating teachers.
To a large extent the findings of Churukian and Lock (2000) are similar to those
studies undertaken by other researchers in different parts of the world. However,
although their study mainly used narratives for collecting data as the only approach,
and while this approach may have some limitations, it confirms findings of similar
studies in other countries. An additional examination of teacher educators of a crossnational study that covered five countries Lewin and Stuart (2003) established that
teacher educators’ qualifications varied according to the country’s wealth, and with
the opportunities offered for academic and professional development in the education
system as a whole. They indicate that:
… in Trinidad and Tobago half the tutors hold a master’s degree, in
Lesotho almost all tutors are graduates, and about a third have master’s
degree, while in Ghana about three-quarters hold a B.Ed. and very few
have masters’. In Malawi the majority of tutors have only diplomas; the rest
have Bachelors degrees with a sprinkling of masters’ (p.121).
In addition to the established notion that teacher educators in most parts of the world
have not received formal professional education that prepares them for their career,
there is also a concern that there are fewer opportunities for them to participate in
continuing professional development endeavours (Stuart, 2002). Arguably, whether
or not a professional has undergone formal training, it is common practice that
professionals have to participate in professional development programmes. One of
the reasons for participation in staff development programmes is to upgrade them in
terms of new developments in their disciplines.
A study undertaken by Kunje in Malawi established that teacher educators in that
country were not only under-qualified but also had few professional development
opportunities. They had received only a short and superficial orientation to a
paradigm shift that had been proposed and that they were expected to implement. In
this regard Kunje’s study established that teacher educators in Malawi did not have
professional knowledge needed for the work with which they were entrusted (Kunje,
2002). This is supported by Stuart’s (2002) analysis, which suggests that teacher
educators around the world appear to be a neglected group of professionals.
According to Stuart, from a professional point of view, very few countries have taken
seriously the need to develop teacher educators’ skills for purposes of establishing
their career paths:
From an academic point of view, little research has been carried out in this
field and the available literature even in the West is very sparse. From a
policy viewpoint, it can be surely argued that just as teachers are very key
factors in raising standards in schools, so teacher educators are crucial for
improving the quality of the teaching force (p. 367)
The information discussed in the preceding section indicates that there are various
ways of analysing teacher educators. Firstly, one can look into teacher education
programmes in which they study them in that context. Secondly, one could study the
criteria used to employ them. Thirdly the focus could be on characteristics with which
they enter the teacher educator world and the perceptions of what the role of a
teacher educator should entail.
1.5 Professionalizing Teacher Educators
Following on the descriptions of the concept, it is important to explore the extent to
which teacher educators are professionalized. There are debates about the extent to
which they match up the descriptions of the term ‘profession’, with some researchers
concluding that generally they do not (Doyle, 1990; Ducharme, 1986; Labaree, 1992;
Trip, 1993). These arguments may be based on the view that professionals must
receive specialised knowledge, which, as illustrated in Trip’s (1993) work, is
considered to be “scientifically verified and formally transmitted to initiates who are
certified as having mastered it" (p.129). Clarke (2001) examines further the extent to
which teacher educators can be regarded as professionals. It is in the work of
researchers such as Robson (2010), Hoyle (1995), Clarke (2001) where we learn
about the history of professions with some indicating that a profession is regarded as
an occupation requiring instruction in a specialized field of study and therefore also
an advanced knowledge of it.
It is Robson (2010) who reflects on the history of professions and still emphasises
that professions are identified through looking into characteristics of professionalism,
specialist intellectual knowledge and a self-governing body. It is important to note
though that these attributes were, however, derived from the high status professions
such as medicine that tended to meet the given criteria (Robson, 2010). The latter
researcher indicates that professions have sources of social prestige. In a study that
Robson undertook in the United Kingdom in which he focused on professional
challenges for further education teachers, he discusses among other issues, sources
of professional prestige and indicates that although those that she discusses are not
the only factors that should be considered, they are all key to an understanding of the
relative status of professions. The concepts are in his view ‘social closure’,
‘professional knowledge’ and ‘autonomy’. Practising professionals are in his view
primarily concerned with protecting their interest as a group and controlling entry to
their ranks to preserve their autonomy.
These views imply that teacher educators, like other professionals, are expected to
undergo training that is specific to their career if they are to be classified as
professionals. The works of Ryan (1974) and Korthagen, Loughran and Lunenbeg
(2005) indicate that the nature of teaching about teaching and/or teaching others how
to teach, demands skills, expertise and knowledge that cannot be taken for granted.
Related to undergoing specialised training, as observed by Clarke (2001), is a claim
that professionals need to be certified prior to practising in the field. This observation
suggests that to be declared a professional one is required to demonstrate a
satisfactory level of competence within an area of specialisation or a given
There are arguments that indicate that the nature of teaching about teaching and/or
teaching others how to teach is very complex. This view is expressed in the work of
Korthagen, Loughran and Lunenbeg (2005), who suggest that teaching is complex
and consequently a teaching profession is similarly complex. Shulman (2004), a
scholar who has done extensive work on professional knowledge, discusses the
word ‘complex’ in the context of teacher education through comparing it to medicine
as a field of study that deals with people:
The practice of teaching involves a far more complex task environment
than does that of medicine. The teacher is confronted, not with a single
patient, but with a classroom filled with 25 to 35 youngsters. The teacher’s
goals are multiple; the school’s obligations far from unitary. Even in the
ubiquitous primary reading group, the teacher must simultaneously be
concerned with the learning of decoding skills as well as comprehension,
with motivation and love of reading as well as word-attack, and must both
monitor the performances of the six to eight students in front of her while
not losing touch with the other two dozen in the room. … The only time a
physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity
would be in the emergency room of a hospital during or after a natural
disaster (p.258).
The same view can be extended to teacher educators in that they too teach. While
the large number of student teachers or a large class size could be a challenge to
teacher educators, the work of the teacher educator is even more complex. Teacher
educators have to think not only of their own students but also of those that student
teachers will have to teach. Therefore have to equip their students with knowledge
and skills that will enable them to cope with their challenging world of teaching.
There are, however, other professions outside the education arena which have been
represented in the image of those who are its members. Professionals tend to
advance their interests and will argue that their profession has a strong technical
culture with specialised knowledge base and standards that are shared by its
members. Hargreaves (2000) gives as an example, the work of Etzioni that was
reported in 1969. Etzioni (1969) describes professions pointing to some as semiprofessions. Hargreaves concludes that a profession has a service ethic,
commitment to clients’ needs, “a firm monopoly over service, long periods of training,
and high degrees of autonomy” (p.152). Most significantly, Eraut (1994) argues that
“control of the profession of teacher education is in the hands of the profession, and it
is the responsibility of its members to protect the clients against incompetence. The
clients are many; student teachers, the teaching profession, children, parents and the
society as a whole” (p.2). Professionals are known to have a unique knowledge base.
There are some researchers who have conducted studies in the area of teacher
educators as professionals (Cole, 1999). Cole conducted a study over a period of 3
years and focused on the pre-tenure professional in Canada. In conducting the study,
Cole (1999) used a life history perspective approach involving seven participants,
one male and six female pre-tenure faculty members working in different Canadian
teacher education institutions. The said study established that despite facing
numerous challenges they were committed to their work and had a desire to
transform for purposes relevant to their new portfolios. They were also found to bring
to their teacher education classrooms certain attributes, including values, beliefs and
knowledge of good teaching that usually contrast starkly with the traditions and
expectations of the teacher education classroom. Cole (1999) further found that
teacher educators who enter teacher education institutions with this type of
background tend to have as their priority pedagogical reform. In contrast to the work
of researchers who questioned the extent to which teacher educators can be
considered to be professional, Cole’s work suggests the need to look into the
experiences that new teacher educators bring to the teacher education institutions.
Perhaps these experiences, if properly analysed, could be used to develop indicators
of a teacher educator’s profession.
One of the major challenges facing teacher educators is the fact that besides
teaching and undertaking other related duties such as supervising instruction, they
are required to carry out research. Lunenberg and Willemse (2006) who have
established that research is one of the areas that teacher educators find challenging,
studied the value of engaging in research in the teacher educators’ context. They
recommend that there is need for teacher educators to undertake research that
focuses on their unique practices and on valuing their personal experience. These
arguments are based on their understanding that research could enhance collective
learning among teacher educators. Research would encourage them to collaborate,
jointly reflect on research design and, most importantly, they would write for the
community of teacher educators. Therefore the emergence of self-study research,
which has been in the education arena in some parts of the world for more than 15
years, is likely to address the concern that there is a lack of research carried out by
teacher educators themselves.
On the whole there seems to be varying views as to the extent to which teacher
education can be classified as a profession, indicating the need for teacher educators
themselves to engage in research and giving clear descriptions of what it entails to
be a professional in this field. Engaging in research on the professional teacher
educator would be expounding on the work that has already been undertaken by
researchers such as Cole (1999).
More importantly, this could lead to formalising acceptance of the profession and
consequently its recognition. It is, however, important to acknowledge that teacher
education as a field of study or discipline is improving in a number of areas in other
parts of the world. In particular there are attempts towards offering formal education
to prospective teacher educators, and developments towards producing modules that
they can use to improve their own teaching. Significantly, teacher educators are
engaging in research using the self-study approach.
Looking into possible conjectures regarding recent landscapes of teacher education,
Clarke (2001) charted the emergence of journals, reference books and public
meetings as single entities, with each representing developments of legitimate outlets
for work in teacher education. He argues that these “indicate a genuine interest by
teacher educators to construct and disseminate knowledge to advance the field of
teacher education and to bring increasing coherence to the field” (p.603). Clarke
(2001) concludes that, with the developments charted on the landscape of teacher
education he reviewed, there exists a possibility that teacher education is
approaching the point where, in the not so distant future, it will be recognised as a
field of study. Therefore it remains to be seen
... if the institutional homes of faculties of education will simultaneously
support the roles of ‘scholar’ and ‘teacher educator’. It is hoped that
the despair that pre-tenure faculty faced in earlier days, as they
shouldered the burden of ‘teacher education’ … with little time to
establish viable research programmes, is vanishing as we enter the
new millennium (p.610).
The issue of recognition seems to be based on what Clarke refers to as ‘critical
points’ in teacher education, some of which may be applicable to the current study.
While in Clarke’s context, scholarly work is recognised, and he concludes his paper
with an argument that teacher education as a field of study is approaching a “winwin” situation; it is important to note that while in the developed world this might be
the case there is still a long way to go to attain a similar recognition in some of the
developing countries. This is particularly so in the context in which the current study
was undertaken.
1.6 Transition from Teacher to Teacher Educator
Teacher education has been identified as one of the channels for producing future
teacher educators; therefore teacher education has ample opportunities for the
education of prospective teacher educators in formal institutions. Dinkelman,
Margolis and Sikkenga (2006) were involved in studies, which confirmed that teacher
education is facilitated by people who began their career as either primary or
secondary school teachers. These researchers share their research on transition
from being a teacher to becoming a teacher educator. Dinkelman et al. (2006), share
the work that was carried out by Tom in 1997. According to Dinkelman, Tom (1997)
wrote about transition from school classrooms to university-based teacher educator.
Transition between the two worlds of practising teachers sometimes happens as
teachers enrol as graduate students in a teacher education institution. Enrolling in a
school or faculty of education at the graduate level contributes to the creation of
teacher educators as they tend to work very closely with their professors at this level.
Indirectly therefore graduate students are inducted into becoming teacher educators
from within the institutions in which they are registered as students. The study by
Dinkelman et al. (2006) addressed, among other things, the question: What
institutional and contextual challenges and supports are experienced by those
moving from classroom teaching to university-based teacher education roles? One of
the findings was the impact of institutional context on their work: “There are explicit
and implicit sets of norms, morals, messages, supports, and requirements
established by the university’s graduate programme in education and by the teacher
education programme in which they worked” (p.16-17).
The teacher educators who participated in this study acknowledged the powerful
dimension of the experiences provided within an institutional context. It was in this
context that they had an opportunity to grow, as they negotiated the move from their
own secondary classrooms to university education positions. They further
acknowledged that the university climate worked in various ways to both support and
challenge them, especially during the transition period. They admitted that working
with professors in institutions of higher learning provide a very different context from
the one that teachers tend to be familiar with. However, there are some challenges.
The universities’ contexts are shaped by the research orientation of their graduate
programmes and there are therefore mixed signals about the value of their work.
Most significantly, Dinkelman et al., (2006) noted that institutional support was not
easy to come by, except in situations where a professional seemed to engage in
research-oriented work.
It was in this context that the research participants eventually worked out approaches
to the competing responsibilities that they encountered. The approaches they
developed assisted them in the transition from teacher to teacher educator. Most
significantly, the involvement in the world of teacher educators while one is a student
at the graduate level brings a realisation that the world of teacher education differs
from that of a school teacher.
Working in teacher education institutions therefore provides some learning
experience. Dinkelman et al. (2006), for example, learned that there is credibility in
practising what they teach and, most importantly, in accepting that they were no
longer teachers but teacher educators. Working in the context in which there were
numerous challenges but determined to become teacher educators, they found that
they had to survive. They eventually developed stronger identities as teacher
There is a clear relationship between the process that Dinkelman and colleagues
went through as graduate students working with a university-based professor and
what Schempp (1987), in recognising the work of Lortie (1975), refers to as ‘the
apprenticeship-of-observation’. An apprentice in this context learns the skills of
teaching in action and does so in an informal way. Such a person may have to use
his/her discretion regarding what works better. Schempp (1987) refers to research by
Lortie, several decades earlier, into ‘the apprenticeship-of-observation’ as core to
learning to become a teacher. In Schempp’s view Lortie’s work actually indicated that
students, through staying in classrooms for many years, informally learn about
teaching. This conclusion is in line with the study by Dinkelman et al. (2006) in that
prospective teacher educators who worked with their professors learned the art of
teacher education through becoming assistants to their postgraduate professors, and
subsequently observing them, even though they did so informally. Schempp (1987)
indicates that:
The apprenticeship begins the process of socialization by acquainting the
student with the task of teaching and developing an identification with
teachers. The apprenticeship, however, does not appear to lay the
foundation for informed orientation towards the work of teachers. The
individualistic preconceptions of teaching, grown firm from many years in
public schools, hold the strength to weather the undergraduate experience
with little change. They are carried into and even verified by the workplace
of teaching (p.3).
Based on the content of this section on transiting from teacher to teacher educator, it
can be concluded that the education of teacher educators and need for this cadre of
professionals to engage in research are of paramount importance. The studies
quoted in this section point to some form of training, regardless of whether it is formal
or apprenticeship-based, already taking place in some institutions.
Researchers such as Clandinin and Connely (1995) have established that
experience plays a significant role in helping teacher educators learn a number of
skills on the job that enable them to do their work. Additionally, as pointed out in the
study undertaken by Dinkelman et al. (2006), learning as an apprentice through
attachment or working with a university-based teacher educator adds value to those
intending to become teacher educators. These developments indicate that teacher
education, especially as it deals with teacher educators, is developing.
1.7 Formal Programmes and Courses for Teacher Educators
As Kremer-Hayon and Zuzovky (1995) point out, there is a need for teacher
educators to undergo formal professional training, an argument they base on the
characteristics of teachers who become teacher educators. The emphasis is that
success in teaching does not necessarily mean success in educating teachers, and
there is no teacher education course to prepare teacher educators in higher
education on how to instruct and support student teachers. Additionally, as pointed
out by Calderhead and Shorrock (1997), “the experience that teacher educators have
acquired has been developed through their own personal experience, and has often
not been shared with colleagues or subjected to any open and critical scrutiny”
(p.207). Weisterin and Merges (1991) add another dimension to this argument in a
study that showed that teacher educators, in their teaching, tend to focus primarily on
presenting course materials, instructional strategies for communicating content
effectively, and on strategies for teaching students how to learn content.
Although most research studies have revealed absence of formal education for
teacher educators, there are some exceptions. Harris (2003) has established that
there are institutions that have developed programmes at PhD level for prospective
teacher educators. These programmes are offered in some universities in the United
States of America (USA). Thus, besides having a list of courses for a teacher
education programme, prospective teacher educators are required to have five years
of teaching experience before they enrol. In her study Harris (2003) found that a
small number of institutions have designed programmes that could, to some extent,
help to prepare teacher educators. In a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the
American Educational Research Association, Harris (2003) reports on studies carried
out in the USA. The first looked into doctoral programmes which offered courses for
prospective teacher educators, the second into knowledge and experience desired
by the “markets” for teacher educators. While Harris concludes that the results of the
two studies indicate that “only a small set of doctoral institutions have a terminal
degree programme specifically to prepare teacher educators” (p.1), there were
proposals about the possible curriculum for prospective teacher educators:
Curriculum theory
Research in teaching
Theories/strategies of instruction and classroom management
Research in teacher education
Instructional design
Evaluation of education programmes
Supervision/mentoring of new/pre-service teachers
Teacher education policy
Teacher education programmes
Professional development
Instruction in higher education
Internship in supervising new/pre-service teacher
Internship in teacher education.
While the suggested topics appear relevant to the education of teacher educators,
the relevance of these courses has not been fully tested or piloted as constituting a
programme to be offered by teacher education institutions. Therefore the challenge
for designing programmes for teacher educators is still unresolved, implying that the
majority of teacher educators will continue to learn from their workplaces and/or
through experience. A holistic view of studies that evaluated trained teacher
educators would probably illustrate the value of formal training juxtaposed with
experiential knowledge.
This section has examined developments leading to the formal education of teacher
educators by institutions which offer programmes at PhD level. It is now necessary to
look at the value attached to learning to teach teachers while they are working.
1.8 Learning in the Workplace
Research indicates that learning through experience or in the workplace can provide
learning opportunities. Eraut and Hirsh (2007) worked on the significance of
workplace learning for individual groups and organisations, and discussed the
Dreyfus model of progression. Their work, which makes reference to studies
undertaken before the production of their module 9, takes that of Dall’Alba and
Sandberg (2006) further in that they articulate in greater detail how individuals learn
in the workplace. Moreover, they include factors that enhance or constrain such
learning. In a typology of early career learning they discuss work processes with
learning as a by-product, such as trying things out and learning from the experience;
learning activities located within work or learning processes including participation in
conferences; and participating in short courses and learning processes at or near the
The work of Eraut and Hirsh (2007) is related to the current research. It focuses on
the significance of workplace learning for individuals, groups and organisations.
These authors note that
people are engaged in learning in different ways and in different contexts; but
they do not recognise much of this without being prompted to reflect on
particular types of experience or specific changes in their capabilities. Hence
attributions of learning to particular experiences may be unreliable unless they
are accompanied by detailed narratives; and the influence of prior learning
often remains hidden or even unconscious (p.3).
Eraut and Hirsh (2007) argue that occupations require various types of knowledge.
These include generic and specialised codified knowledge and practical knowledge.
Therefore, while individuals enter their workplace with knowledge from their training
institutions, as they engage in their jobs they progress in such a manner that they link
the job expectations with the knowledge they enter with and in the process attain
certain levels of professional progression. Eraut and Hirsh (2007) also make
reference to the Dreyfus model of progression also discussed by Dall’Alba in the
following paragraph. Reference is made here to Eraut and Hirsh’s work on learning in
the workplace precisely because the salient question of this particular study is about
where teacher educators draw their professional knowledge from, given that the
majority of those who participated in the study whose findings are reported in this
thesis had not received codified knowledge in the context of teaching teachers.
Dall’Alba and Sandberg (2006), in their review of education research, looked into
empirical studies in which a Dreyfus model had been used. It is a model that,
according to these authors, indicates that acquisition in each new area typically
proceeds through five skill levels: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient,
and expert. They conclude that not all practitioners achieve expert status. Most
importantly, they argue that advanced skill levels cannot be achieved by acquiring
context-free knowledge and skills, a point which suggests that work-related context
facilitates learning or improving of knowledge and skills acquired. Dall’Alba and
Sandberg (2006), make reference to other research in previous models of skill
acquisition. They indicate that the “Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1996) and Dreyfus (2002)
model highlighted the progression that accompanies experience, the situational
character of professional skill, and know-how that extends beyond rational
deliberations” (p.405). While Dall’Alba and Sandberg (2006) acknowledge the
Dreyfus and Dreyfus contribution, they are of the view that the model has some
limitations as it tends to conceal some fundamental aspects of professional skill
Based on their analysis of Dreyfus and Dreyfus’ contribution, Dall’Alba and Sandberg
(2006) argue that a fundamental aspect of professional skill development is the
actual understanding of the practice itself. In their own words “the way in which
professionals understand and perform their practice forms the basis for professional
skills and its development” (p.405). The work by various researchers on skills
attained in workplaces, highlighting that professionals move from a certain level to
another, for example, from novice to expert, indicates that formal education lays the
foundation for professional advancement. However, there is more work outside
formal education that professionals have to engage in if they are to acquire more
context-based knowledge and skills, and if they are to advance or progress in their
fields of studies from one level to another.
Some researchers (Stuart, Akyeampong & Croft, 2009) view learning on the job as
still needing to be complemented with appropriate materials that can serve as an
analytical frame for understanding practice. They ventured into producing a
sourcebook for use by teacher educators. This sourcebook can help teacher
educators to improve their knowledge and skills. It covers pertinent topics, such as
learning in teacher education, student teachers as adult learners, the pedagogy for
teacher education, assessing teacher learning, analysis of teacher education
curriculum, the design and development of teacher education programmes and
improving the practice of teacher educators.
The production of a sourcebook relevant to the professional development of teacher
educators signals developments in the teacher educator’s field of study. The
sourcebook is written in simple language, has activities, and can be used by teacher
educators independently. The pedagogy for teacher education is one of the chapters
that are user-friendly and perhaps most relevant to actual teaching. It covers the
methods of teaching that teacher educators could test and use, depending on the
context in which they operate. The sourcebook is structured in such a manner that it
provides prospects for teacher educators who will use it to reflect on their use of the
various proposed methods of teaching.
This section, while it does not rule out the value of formal training, articulates the
value of workplace experience. It is in the workplace that teacher educators have
ample opportunities to learn how to teach teachers, to research their own teaching
and to use available materials to support their work. The use of relevant materials to
support their teaching should provide guidance for teacher educators to reflect on
critical aspects such as the use of appropriate pedagogy for teaching student
teachers. Shulman (2004) summarises the arguments about workplace learning
smartly by pointing out that if professionals were to actively
… connect learning with service, with practice, with application, and were
further to capture that practice in a kind of pedagogy that uses cases and case
methods in ways analogous to some of the ways we use them for professional
preparation, we would not only achieve the moral ends of service, we would
very likely do better at overcoming the challenges to liberal understanding.
Through service, through application, through rendering their learning far more
active, reflective, and collaborative, students would actually learn more liberally,
understand what they have learned more deeply, and develop the capacity to
use what they have learned in the service of their communities (p.565).
1.9 The Pedagogy of Teacher Education
The concept “pedagogy of teacher education” has been studied and different
perspectives are presented. Stuart et al. (2009), focus on possible pedagogies that
can be used in the teaching of student teachers. Loughran’s (2007) work on enacting
a pedagogy of teacher education goes deeper into how student teachers can be
challenged as teacher educators to enact the pedagogy of teacher education, and
how they themselves can learn from the process of teaching and from researching
their work. Loughran (2007) argues that endeavouring to act in ways that are
responsive to both teaching and learning about teaching perspectives is
indispensable in enacting a pedagogy of teacher education. He articulates enacting a
pedagogy of teacher education as requiring:
a deep understanding of practice through researching practice. In order to
develop such a deep understanding, it is important not to be constrained
by a teacher educator’s perspective but to actively seek to better
understand the perspective of students of teaching. By drawing
appropriately on both of these perspectives, the sometimes contradictory
and competing agendas and insights into the ways in which teaching is
conceptualized and practised might then influence the way in which
teaching and learning about teaching might be articulated and portrayed
Advocating for researching teacher education using a self-study approach as
suggested by Loughran (2007) adds to Shulman’s (2004) argument that teaching is a
complex undertaking. This view is based on Loughran’s contention that self-study of
teacher education practices has contributed to revealing some aspects of teaching
and learning about teaching. Loughran (2007) concludes that the discovery of selfstudy research has, due to the applicability of this research paradigm in the context
of teacher educators, contributed immensely to developments in teacher education.
As the literature review chapter of the current study shows, there are many other
teacher educators who confirm that the self-study research has proved helpful to
teacher educators. This is particularly so for those who are out to improve their world
of work, particularly through researching the pedagogy of teacher educators. Bullock
(2007) points to the value of researching one’s work in the context of teacher
education, while Russell (2007) articulates a pedagogy of teacher education from his
perspective on the following:
(a) Modelling … educational values, implicitly and explicitly (“walking my talk”);
(b) naming features of school and university culture early and often;
(c) listening to (own) students and playing what they tell (him) back to them as a
way of challenging them to clarify issues and assumptions; and
(d) building on their practicum experiences, rather than attempting to talk over the
experience gap that inevitably separates (his) perspective from theirs (p.189).
1.10 Rationale and Objectives of the Study
In the introduction section of this chapter, particularly the section on the statement of
the problem, my academic context, I allude to a number of issues that indicate
motivation for carrying out the study. The rationale for the study concretises the
The Rationale for the Study
The professional preparation of teacher educators can be provided through formal
training. It gives trainees an opportunity to acquire professional knowledge, skills,
competencies and attitudes that are unlikely to be acquired through experiential
learning alone. In Lesotho, and in many other parts of the world, teacher educators
have not received formal training that would equip them with a professional
knowledge base that is foundational for their task of educating prospective teachers.
Studies on teacher educators have been undertaken, covering a wide range of
issues that include career paths for teacher educators (Lewin & Stuart, 2003). A
critical analysis of being in a career as teacher educator “if I had it to do all over
again …” by Ryan (1974) reveals the need for a structured career path for teacher
educators. However, there is little empirical evidence of the sources of professional
knowledge for teacher educators. Insights into the nature of knowledge acquired and
constructed through involvement in the teaching of student teachers and how it is
used are not well understood, hence the need to investigate these aspects of the
learning experience.
There is a need to establish empirically what constitutes professional knowledge in
the context of teacher education. The fact that the majority of the Lesotho teacher
educators have not been trained for teaching teachers implies that their sources of
professional knowledge could be situated in the college or university lecture halls and
seminar rooms, and in the context in which they perform their task (Clandinin &
Connelly, 1995). However, the scarcity of empirical evidence about their sources of
professional knowledge limits the use of research-based information in teacher
education institutions. Relevant information should facilitate the conceptualisation of
knowledge that forms the foundation of the education of teacher educators. This is
particularly so in the context in which skills, expertise and knowledge on teaching
about teaching have not been carefully examined, articulated or communicated, so
that the significance of teacher educators might be more appropriately highlighted
and understood within the profession (Murray and Male 2005).
Teacher education institutions, particularly with regard to staff appraisal, qualification
frameworks and standard-setting, tend to use set criteria to assess staff. Currently in
Lesotho, even in the context of the 2004 Higher Education Bill, teacher education
institutions that hire teacher educators do not have criteria for assessing their
suitability for the work they are employed to do. There is need to establish what
constitutes professional knowledge in the context of teacher educators if strategies
for assessing and consequently enhancing their professional work are to be
professionally employed. Furthermore, lack of empirical evidence on professional
knowledge in the context of teacher education negatively impacts on efforts aimed at
facilitating identification and designing interventions to improve the existing context
as regards knowledge, skills and practices in teacher education in general. A body of
knowledge that constitutes teacher educators’ professional knowledge is not well
articulated. Classifying the existing knowledge and the sources of their knowledge
might suggest ways of broadening and deepening their professional development.
Description of the concept teacher educator is grounded in the work these educators
do, yet such a concept is not explicitly based on a repertoire of knowledge and skills
they possess. There is therefore a need to make explicit what informs the teacher
educators’ knowledge base so that they themselves can appreciate and understand
the magnitude of the task entrusted upon them. Thus, investment in educating
teacher educators could yield considerable institutional returns, and is therefore
critical for preparing them for the complex task of educating prospective teachers.
Objectives and Research Questions
Objectives of the Study
The major objective of this study is to investigate the sources and application of
professional knowledge among teacher educators. It is to determine what the
sources of professional knowledge are for teacher educators, the extent to which
they construct professional knowledge and how they apply them.
Research questions
The following questions guided the study:
Key research question
What are the sources and application of professional knowledge among teacher
Specific research questions:
What are the sources of professional knowledge among teacher educators?
What professional knowledge do teacher educators construct and how do they
construct it?
How do teacher educators enact professional knowledge?
How do teacher educators model professional knowledge?
1.11 Conclusion
I conclude this chapter by returning to the theme in which it is grounded. It is a
chapter that is grounded in contexts; my context, the national and the international
contexts in which teacher education is being practised and teacher educators
practise. These contexts present the background in which the study was envisioned
or created in my mind; although teacher educators are individuals operating in unique
contexts, they relate to others at national and international levels. The linking theme
therefore is professional knowledge as it pertains to teacher educators. Therefore,
regardless of the varying contexts in which they are located and practise, this chapter
has established that there is some level of similarity. It is through research
undertaken in the context of teacher education that this chapter reveals that there are
aspects that identify teacher educators as a group with certain features.
In particular, as can be deduced from the content of this chapter, with the exception
of those who enrolled in post graduate programmes with courses on teacher
education, teacher educators have not undergone formal training that specifically
prepares them for educating student teachers. There are therefore great challenges
regarding the education of teacher educators and the extent to which their career can
be recognised as a distinct or well-defined profession. Studies of the teacher
educators’ sources of professional knowledge have to be carried out to resolve
challenges posed by the lack of empirical research in this area.
It can also be deduced that workplace experience is regarded as adding value to
teacher educators, as it does to any other profession, including those that require
formal training. However, an analysis of the impact of work-based experience and
how it contributes to the enhancement of professional knowledge, particularly in the
context of Lesotho, remains a challenge.
This chapter has helped me establish the situation as it prevails in various contexts in
which teacher educators practise, have undertaken research or have been
researched. The issue of recognition of the profession is fully addressed in research
undertaken in this area. Therefore the rest of the chapters of this thesis are an
extension of the major objective of this research.
Chapter 2 is a methodology chapter that significantly outlines the procedures
followed in searching for the answer to the questions addressed by the study.
This chapter details the methodology that guided the path I followed in
undertaking the study. The methodology is grounded in established theories.
Chapter 3 focuses on reviewed literature and ensures that each of the areas
that have been captured through the research questions in this study is
addressed. This chapter helps address my concern raised through the
research questions. It is presented in a manner that highlights the main
questions that the study aimed at finding answers to.
In considering the presentation of the findings in Chapter 4, I took the liberty
to have my interpretation infused fully cognisant of the fact that the chapter
that follows elaborates on this one. In this way the “narrative” emerged as
each data set relating to each research question was presented, analysed
and interpreted. This chapter is, as is the case with all the material presented
in the pre-data-collection, organised according to the broad areas that the
study focuses on: sources and application of professional knowledge.
I discuss the results of the research in Chapter 5. In this chapter I present an
interpretation of the data. My intention here is to provide potential readers
with information so that they can freely form their own interpretation. It is also
in this chapter that I take advantage of the literature I reviewed and include it
for a number of reasons. More specifically, I include the literature as a point of
reference for the discussion of the new data. I draw the balance between the
literature or theories that have aspects of the results of this study in as far as
there is relevance with other studies or theories and those that are not
relevant. In the final sections of this chapter I point to limitations of this study
and the need for future research in the area of professional knowledge among
teacher educators.
It is in the conclusions and research implications chapter that I reflect on the
research questions that motivated this particular study and then I draw
definite conclusions. In this regard I present my final position as an answer to
the research question. The implications refer to what the data imply for
teacher education institutions and the teacher educators themselves. I
deliberately avoid presenting recommendations as it would be inappropriate
to make recommendations. A PhD study is different from consultancy work
where clients tend to demand recommendations. It is in this chapter that I
actually link findings emanating from this study to current discourses or
debates in teacher education and education systems.
The process of autobiography is “an act of writing perched in the present, gazing
backwards into the past while poised ready for flight into the future” (Abbs, 1974
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Data Collection
2.3. Data Analysis
2.4. Conclusions
2.1 Introduction
The research methodology adopted in undertaking the current research is qualitative in
approach, following a decision influenced by an understanding that finding an answer to
the overarching question: What are the sources and application of professional
knowledge among teacher educators? The answer to this complex research question
could not be found by merely asking questions following a quantitative approach. I
therefore concur with researchers who argue that there are times when it is appropriate
to use qualitative research. In fact Creswell (2007) puts it more succinctly when he
argues that researchers conduct qualitative research because a problem or issue needs
to be explored.
This exploration is needed in turn, because of a need to study a group or
population, identify variables that can then be measured, or hear silenced voices.
… [in qualitative research] we need a complex, detailed understanding of an issue.
This detail can only be established by talking directly with people, unencumbered
by what we expect to find or what we have read in the literature (pp. 39-40).
Creswell’s arguments are therefore similar to those of Nieuwenhuis (2007a). The latter
author is of the view that qualitative research is naturalistic, in that it is based on
approaches that tend to seek an understanding of the phenomena in their natural
context (Nieuwenhuis, 2007a, Nieuwenhuis 2007b). Nieuwenhuis (2007a) further points
out that investigating human activities in terms of meanings necessitates looking into
why the researched say what they say and act in the way they do. In that regard one
may better understand the phenomenon that is being studied through on-site visits and
conversations. Nieuwenhuis (2007a) says the following:
In qualitative research we maintain that knowledge should emerge out of the
local context and should privilege the voice of the “insider”, taking into
account what people say, do and feel, and how they make meaning of the
phenomena under research investigation. Patterns, trends and themes
should therefore emerge from the research process, and the role of the
researcher should be to understand real-life situations from the point of view
of the insider, rather than from the point of view of the outsider. The
emphasis is thus placed on the participants’ frame of reference and how they
see things from within. It should not be the researcher who decides what
counts as knowledge, but what the participants view as knowledge,
emerging from interactions between the participants and the researcher
The most relevant data collection techniques for the current study therefore were
observation and narrative. The study explores the world of the research participants
through observing individuals’ actions and asking them about professional contexts in
the environment in which they are located and familiar with. Although I expound on each
of these techniques later, a brief explanation of what each entails is in order at this point.
As pointed out by McMillan and Schumacher (2006) the major benefit of an observation
method is that it relies on a researcher’s seeing and hearing things and recording the
observations instead of relying on participants’ responding to questions. Using a
narrative as a method as is the case in this study, is that, while it is, as pointed out by
Rogan and De Kock (2005), a complex method of inquiry, it is still a technique that can
help researchers collect information in a naturalistic manner through asking research
participants to share their life histories or stories. Hatch and Wisneiwski (1992) add that
narrative inquiry involves sharing narrative knowledge through the telling of a story as a
way of knowing the important to life history research.
2.1.1 Interpretivist Research Paradigm
It is important here to note that research paradigms of various types have been
developed over the years. They range from positivism, post-position, critical theory and
constructivism. Nieuwenhuis (2007a) cautions though that other researchers have
suggested three categories depending on the research epistemology. These include
positivist, interpretive and critical. He further indicates that in practice it is difficult to draw
the line between the different approaches as most have evolved into hybrid forms that
overlap and/or complement other approaches. As I stipulate in the following paragraph I
settled for the interpretivist paradigm because of its relevance to the current study.
The relevance of an interpretivist paradigm to the context of the current study is that it
enables the researcher to capture and analyse participants’ actions, beliefs, thoughts
and perceptions (Henning, Van Rensburg & Smit 2004, McMillan & Schumacher, 2006;
Nieuwenhuis, 2007a; Choi, 2008). Furthermore, it is an “attempt to understand
phenomena through the meanings that people assign to them” (Nieuwenhuis, 2007, p.
58a). Such assumptions include the fact that human life can only be understood from
within; that social life is a distinctively human product; that the human mind is the
purposive source of origin of meaning; that human behaviour is affected by knowledge of
the social world; and that the social world does not exist independently of human
knowledge (Nieuwenhuis, 2007a). It is these assumptions that focus on the human being
as central to data gathering that helped me contextualise the study as it concerns
teacher educators working in an education faculty in a university. Their context is the
university in its broad terms, including students, colleagues, classrooms of student
teachers and the community.
It was clear that I would be in a position to understand how teacher educators construct
knowledge within their contexts, and that this would only be possible as they shared the
interpretations and meanings they attach to their professional lives in the context in
which those lives are lived. My understanding is that contexts are unique and that in
order to understand and interpret the meanings the participants make about their lives it
is necessary to be in that context as a researcher. I draw this understanding from
Nieuwenhuis’s (2007a) argument that social life is a distinctively human product. In
essence individuals can be understood in relation to the context in which they are found.
Therefore, using an interpretivist paradigm, and through interacting with the research
participants, a researcher is in a better position to comprehend the findings that would
emerge from engagement. This helped me appreciate that the behaviour portrayed by
the research participants during the process of undertaking the study could be a result of
the knowledge of their own context. Such knowledge might have affected the behaviour
observed in gathering the data. Individual research participants, while they are employed
to teach student teachers, behave differently in carrying out a similar activity. For
example, their lecturing styles differ. The difference only helps to illustrate that peoples’
behaviours differ. Finally, the interpretivist paradigm helped me to realise that the
context in which the research participants work also depends on an engagement with
them and their own construction of knowledge in the research setting. In this regard my
knowledge and understanding of the topic influenced the type of questions that the study
is addressing and the manner in which I proceeded to gather the data (Nieuwenhuis,
Therefore, the interpretivist perspective as articulated by researchers such as
Nieuwenhuis (2007a) relates to how I visualised and planned to undertake my research.
With this knowledge listening more carefully to the research participants as they shared
their professional lives and paying more attention to my role as a researcher proved
beneficial. The question I constantly asked after listening to the individuals narrate their
lived professional lives was: So what did you learn from that experience? This question
was important in situations or cases where the answer to the question did not seem to
be fully addressed in the narrations. The participants’ situations were observed as they
unfolded, particularly at the level of the lecture halls. Observations were made with little
interference and, in the process, valuable data was obtained.
2.1.2 The Case Study of the Faculty of Education at the NUL
This study is classified as a case study that is a detailed examination of one setting or a
single subject (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). The Faculty of Education at the University was,
at the time of undertaking the study, the only institution of higher learning that educates
teachers for the senior secondary school system in Lesotho; therefore it was mandated
also to train teacher educators for other levels of teacher education in the country.
Although some of such programmes have been suspended, this Faculty for example,
used to offer a Diploma in Education for educators who assume the responsibility of
supervising student teachers’ during their teaching practice for the Lesotho College of
Education. Given the focus of the study professional knowledge could be best
researched at this institution of higher learning in Lesotho.
Within the faculty are lecturers characterised by different disciplines and allocated
different areas or subjects to teach. Initially the focus was going to be on teacher
educators in the department of Educational Foundations, as its lecturers were
considered responsible for educating the next generation of teachers. However, a
question posed by one of the professors at the time of presenting the research proposal
persuaded me to include participants from the other two departments in the Faculty,
namely Science Education and Language and Social Education. The question posed
indicated that other teacher education departments involve the teaching of content or
curriculum studies, and they are therefore equally responsible for educating student
teachers. The emphasis was on the value of looking into Pedagogical Content
Knowledge (PCK) that is considered to be more the responsibility of the curriculum
studies departments than that of educational foundations.
In the final analysis, while this is a single case study the inclusion of the three
departments, namely Educational Foundations (EDF), Science Education (Sc.
Education) and Languages and Social Education (LASED), facilitated diversity within the
current research project. There was therefore a mix of participants who offer curriculum
studies in the areas of Language and Social Education, Mathematics and Science
Education, and those teaching the professional courses or educational foundations, in
this case Educational Psychology, Educational Management, Supervision of Instruction
and Teaching and Instructional Technology.
Both the institution in which the study was carried out and the research participants were
purposefully selected.
2.1.3 Selecting Research Participants
The selection of the appropriate research participants was essential to the practicality of
the study, and thus the method of purposive sampling was chosen; the criterion for the
selection was that lecturers had to be from the different disciplines mentioned above.
The inclusion of areas of specialisation, as discussed in the data analysis chapter,
illustrates that there are similarities and divergences in the way the research participants
understand and enact their professional engagements. My criteria also included teaching
experience, from under 10 years to 20 years and even over 30 years. Gender was one
of the criteria that were considered; however, this was possible only for the curriculum
departments, since there were no male lecturers in the Department of Educational
Foundations. A total of eight teacher educators participated: four from the Department of
Educational Foundations, 2 from Science Education and 2 from the Department of
Language and Social Education. There were 6 females; 4 with PhDs, 3 with M.Ed.
degrees and 1 with an M.Sc. Four of these research participants were subject specialists
or curriculum specialists, in English, Geography, Science and Mathematics; 3 were from
Educational Foundations; Educational Management, Instructional Supervision and
Counselling, and 1 was in Educational Technology.
The choice of fewer research participants was informed by arguments on purposeful
sampling strategies presented by McMillan and Schumacher (2006) as being
advantageous. In these researchers’ view “purposeful sampling is done to increase the
utility of information obtained from small samples. … The power and logic of purposeful
sampling is that a few cases studied in depth yield many insights about the topic, …”
In the case of this study, having individuals in each of the three Faculty of Education
departments especially coupled with subject areas, experience and gender served as an
important factor. The purposive sampling criteria were followed even in the choice of
three out of the eight cases that are used in the discussion chapter as cases in point.
As indicated in the concluding chapter, the discussion chapter is not only a freer section
of a research report but it is where researchers have an opportunity to consider all
possible interpretations of the data. It is in the discussion chapter that I choose to
illustrate and/or elaborate on the cumulative model which seems to have emerged from
the interpretation of the data through the use of the selected three cases.
These particular cases, besides the fact that the chosen research participants are based
in the three departments, present pertinent issues regarding teacher educators having
learned from the experience of educating teachers. As Rogan and de Kock (2005) did in
their research, researchers are free to choose research participants deliberately to
represent a number of factors within a given society. In my case, and guided by
reflexivity as I analysed the data, I deliberately chose the three research participants for
the reason that is highlighted in this paragraph. Some sections of their stories presented
scenarios that helped me to appreciate the teacher educators’ articulation of their
experiences for an in-depth analysis.
2.1.4 Triangulation or Crystallisation
Research, regardless of whether one opts for the quantitative or qualitative type,
demands that quality be considered as an absolutely important factor. Guarding or
ensuring that this study too upholds research requirements and expectations, it was felt
that embracing the issues of triangulation and crystallisation was significant in finding a
balance of various aspects of collecting data.
41 Triangulation
Triangulation involves a variety of data collection techniques being used, and although
qualitative researchers tend to question its relevance, arguing that it is commonly used
in quantitative research (Nieuwenhuis, 2007b), they still use it extensively. Triangulation
helps researchers, regardless of their research inclinations, to cross-validate data
sources, data collection strategies, time period, and theoretical schemes (McMillan &
Schumacher, 2006, Miles & Huberman, 1994, Nieuwenhuis, 2007b). Nieuwenhuis
(2007b) adds that while triangulation is used in quantitative studies for the confirmation
and generalisation of research findings, qualitative researchers cannot ignore the fact
that it is a traditional strategy for improving the validity and reliability of research or the
evaluation of findings.
In carrying out this study, several data sources were used. These included participants
selected from lecturers in different departments of the Faculty of Education. The study
also followed a time span, as advocated by McMillan and Schumacher (2006) and
Nieuwenhuis (2007b). I spent at least six months collecting data. Methods comprised
observation of classroom practice, which facilitated capturing the ways in which teacher
educators implement their espoused theories, and gathering data on their life
experiences as teacher educators. Data on their life experiences facilitated obtaining
their views on their experiences and how those impacted on their professional
knowledge and practice. Data in the form of documents was gathered through accessing
their curriculum and assessment documents.
As Miles and Huberman (1994) argue, triangulating data is a test for researchers, as the
different sources could be inconsistent or even directly conflicting, and that this problem
tends to become apparent at the data analysis stage. The major challenge is
establishing the extent to which the data helps to corroborate the findings or explain any
incongruities as they emerge. Crystallisation
Crystallisation is discussed alongside and/or in contrast to triangulation (Maree, 2007;
McMillan & Schumacher, 2006; Nieuwenhuis, 2007b). While triangulation is based on a
determined and therefore fixed position, crystallisation provides researchers with a
complex and deeper understanding of the phenomenon being studied (Nieuwenhuis
(2007b). In the case of this study including triangulation provided an operational
framework. An advantage associated with crystallisation is that it provides researchers
with an opportunity to look at the world from a variety of perspectives, and as
Richardson (2000) claims, it provides them with a complex and deeper understanding of
the phenomenon. With crystallisation one has to be cognizant that contexts are neither
fixed nor rigid, but that their fluidity requires changing perspective in manageable ways.
The context in which I operated was neither fixed nor rigid. Situations changed and
research participants were not always available due to their other commitments. This
might explain the difference between the number of teaching practice observations per
research participant with some having been more available than others. However, it is
critical to bear in mind the caution that it is important to ensure that the findings of the
study are credible, such that the same patterns will, as clearly articulated by
Nieuwenhuis (2007b), emerge.
The emergent reality is not in the first place a result of some form of
measuring. It emerges from the various data gathering techniques and data
analyses employed and represents our own reinterpreted understanding of
the phenomenon. What we describe as our findings are those which
crystallise from the data. This crystallised reality is credible in so far as those
reading our data and analysis will be able to see the same emerging pattern,
and this adds to the trustworthiness of our research (p.81).
Maree (2007) shares Richardson’s (2000) view that crystallisation may be a better lens
through which to view various components in qualitative research. This relates to the
practice of “validating” results by using multiple methods of data collection and analysis.
Analysis of the current research indicates that the collected data can be merged. For
example, responses to the question on understanding of the concept professional
knowledge in the context of teacher educators can be merged while still reflecting
similarities and divergences of the responses but showing peculiarities that may emerge.
However, some parts of the data drawn from the individual experiences cannot be
merged as flexibility in analysing it without compromising credibility of the research
results appears unavoidable. Crystallisation therefore caters for the interpretations that
participants give to their varying experiences.
2.1.5 Achieving Acceptable Quality Validity
In conducting the current research a number of strategies were employed with the aim of
enhancing validity. Firstly, the literature provided explanations and/or descriptions of
terminology used in the current research, thus using established research terminology in
developing the research questions. Although my research participants had participated
in studies that required them to respond to consultancy research questions conducted by
external researchers focusing on programmes such as the teaching practice aspect of
teacher education, this was the first time that they were observed in practice and at
classroom level. Instruments such as a video camera were used for capturing data in
lecture halls and seminar rooms. This equipment was intended to reduce the threat to
internal validity, especially the possibility of teacher educators and student teachers
‘performing’ for the study. It was anticipated that performing for the study was high since
both the educators and student teachers were familiar to the researcher.
Additionally, though one cannot claim that the use of a technician to assist with
videotaping can be compared to having several investigators, as advised by researchers
such as Maree (2007), McMillan and Schumacher (2006) the assistance was helpful in
sharing the responsibility of collecting data.
Member checking was another strategy used. Although it is not clear what “long term
observation” (Maree, 2007) means in terms of months, the time spent in gathering data
was extensive, not only the number of months involved but also the number of lessons
videotaped. Most research participants were observed between 10 and 20 times while
only two were observed fewer than 10 times and only one was available for more than
20 times. The time spent on collecting data added to the extended period and therefore
increased the validity. Member Checking
Involving the research participants went beyond just asking them to share their
professional life histories and observing them in practice. This justifies my decision to
include member checking as a strategy for involving the research participants in this
study. I was aware that this was their first opportunity to reflect formally on their
professional lives and that it was possible to take introspection even after narrating their
stories, a reality which could facilitate expansion of the draft reports on their shared
The question that emerged after reading their narratives and asking them to validate
their narrative was what they thought they learned from their experience as teacher
educators. This particular question gave them the opportunity to reflect deeply on their
experience of teaching in teacher education. They shared what they felt they had
learned which had an impact on how they conduct their teaching of teachers.
The narrative data imparted by the research participants was transcribed, following the
guidelines developed prior to collecting data. The transcripts were delivered to the
research participants to allow them to validate the data or their narratives. The member
checking process aimed at ensuring that the research participants established the extent
to which the text represented what they had shared in the narratives. They were also
asked to expound on issues that were not fully addressed, without necessarily changing
their original stories. At this time it was apparent that experiential knowledge was
emerging as an important element of the study; therefore it was important to emphasise
the question, “What have you learnt in your experience/journey of educating student
teachers?” as the participants were requested to authenticate the data. The reason for
involving them at this level of the research process was to increase validity and ensure
quality standards. Authentic Measures
One of the questions asked by a professor during the presentation of the research
proposal to the department of Humanities Education at the University of Pretoria related
to whether the sample was not too small. While this was acknowledged as a possible
weakness, it was felt that what is lost in size is made up for in diversity. Indeed, the
variety of selected members from one faculty and its three departments greatly reduced
bias. Gender representation would also guard against bias and provide consistency.
This could not be fully achieved, given that there were more female staff members than
males in one of the departments. Nevertheless, representation by disciplines
counteracted the problem as far as possible.
Since the current research is a case study, it follows that the findings cannot be
generalised to other teacher education populations or practices. However, the measures
taken provided authenticity; to the extent that it is anticipated the findings will be credible
and have meaning in a similar context. Vulnerability
Although carrying out a study amongst colleagues could expose the researcher to
methodological vulnerability, I choose to discuss vulnerability as it concerns the research
participants; they are the focus of the study.
Methodologically a variety of data collection instruments to collect both the narrative and
the classroom observation data were used. In the process the research participants
were exposed to vulnerable situations, particularly at the time of observing them in
practice. While all had agreed to be videotaped, some were sensitive to the process.
The research participants appeared vulnerable, perhaps because there was more than
one person with a video camera at different times in their otherwise private places. Video
recording was done by the technician, except on some occasions when this service was
not available and I had to step in myself. A tape recorder backed up by a computer was
used to type while the research participants told their narratives.
At the level at which they narrated their professional life stories I observed some
discomfort, at least with two of the research participants. Therefore capturing their voices
was, for these two, an exposure to a vulnerable situation. This was particularly so in
situations where an individual was asked a question to which he/she might not have fully
provided an answer. The question on conceptualisation of professional knowledge
presented a challenge during the pilot stage of this study and continued to do so for a
very few number of participants. Three out of the eight would, for example, and in great
discomfort, either say, “That question is difficult” or just say, “I don’t know”. While
spontaneity was observed in sharing their life history some of them were not ready to
provide the information that was asked.
Although the research participants were exposed to a situation that made some of them
appear vulnerable, there was no other way to learn about or understand their practice in
reality other than actual observation of their teaching practice. That they had been
exposed to a vulnerable situation was, regardless of their varying experiences, notable,
and the teacher educators reflected on their teaching practice performance at the time
during which they participated in the study. This was illustrated by those who expressed
interest in acquiring the videotaped material once the process of analysing the data had
been completed. The reason that was given by the participants who made such requests
was that watching the video material would give them an opportunity to reflect on their
teaching practice. Reflecting on practice using the video material was something that
they had never done before. Ethical Considerations
Due to the probability of the researcher being personally intrusive in the context of
research, guidelines regarding informed consent, deception, confidentiality, anonymity,
privacy, and caring (McMillan & Schumacher, 2006) were considered. The University of
Pretoria was helpful regarding issues of ethical principles; although I was aware that as
an individual researcher I was free to adopt established ethical principles, collection of
data could only start after the ethics committee had issued a certificate. The same
principle applied to the National University of Lesotho, being the host University. The
Dean of the Faculty and the Registrar of the University were, in accordance with
requirements, also involved; I sought permission which was duly granted. Moreover, the
fact that the study involved human beings and professionals, each with his or her values,
necessitated negotiations. These were for obtaining their informed consent and assuring
them that ethical requirements would be adhered to. All eight research participants
studied and agreed through appending their signatures to the informed consent
document that detailed how the study was going to be conducted and how confidentiality
would be ensured.
Other ethical issues taken into consideration related, firstly, to the topic of the research:
“sources and application of professional knowledge among teacher educators”, which
concerns, among other things, views on how teacher educators survive without
professional training. Since this was of personal and professional interest to me, special
attention was paid to the risks of being biased in collecting and in analysing the data. I
listened without interjecting as the research participants told their stories. Additionally,
although I am not a member of the Faculty staff, I was at the time of conducting the
current research teaching a course on “Teaching and Instructional Technology” in the
Department of Educational Foundations. I was therefore aware that the risks of bias
were quite high, hence the use of a technician for video-taping teacher educators in
practice. Thirdly, the discomfort of being videotaped demonstrated by some of the
participants necessitated assuring them that the materials would be submitted to the
Faculty of Education of the University of Pretoria in line with its ethical review policy. In
order to protect the participants’ identities (Maree, 2007) letters of the alphabet were
offered for completing the ethics clearance form, though all the participants had
submitted preferred names to be used in reporting the findings.
2.2 Data Collection
Data collection was undertaken in phases, with the pilot study being the first and the
actual data collection the second. The first phase helped establish the extent to which
the topic was researchable, and to find out if teacher educators would be willing to
participate. The actual study constituted the second phase.
2.2.1 The First Phase – Piloting the Idea
Seven teacher educators from the Department of Educational Foundations at the
National University of Lesotho participated in the pilot study. Although all seven had
indicated that they would be interested in participating in the study, due to various
reasons only three were available at the time of carrying it out.
Most questions that were used in the guidelines for the pilot study were those to be used
during the actual study. Most of the teacher educators who participated in the pilot study
did not appear conversant with the term professional knowledge. However, the majority
expressed interest in participating in the actual study. In their view the benefit to be
gained from participating in the pilot phase was that this was the first time they had ever
reflected on their work in such a structured manner. Most significantly, they were keen to
reflect more on their professional lives through participating in the research.
2.2.2 The Second Phase – Conducting the Study
In undertaking the study a number of procedures were followed, intended to produce the
data needed for the study. Data Collection Techniques
Meetings were held with individual research participants to explain the data collection
plan. The information discussed in the face-to-face meetings was followed up with a
letter detailing the procedure to be followed. This process was intended to ensure that
the research participants could refer to the documented information from time to time.
Data collection, in which observations were done and narrative data collected, was
conducted over a period of six months, August to December 2007, and January 2008
being the period that the University was in session. This period was divided into
classroom observation from August to November 2007, and narrative data collection,
during the months of December 2007 to January 2008.
Most research participants were scheduled to teach for one hour, with a few exceptions
where some had double periods. The extreme times during which lessons were captured
were 07:00 and 18:00. A challenge was that the technician was not easily available
during these times, hence, my involvement in the actual video taping of some lessons on
those rare occasions. Observation of the Teacher Educators’ Teaching Practice
The idea of observing teacher educators in practice was to counteract receiving
information solely through self-reported data, in this case narrative data. Most
importantly, observation as a qualitative data gathering technique was used to enable
the researcher to gain a deeper insight and understanding of the phenomenon being
observed (Nieuwenhuis, 2007b). Although classrooms are regarded as private spaces or
‘black boxes”, the idea was to observe the research participants as they enacted
professional knowledge.
The use of the video camera to capture the classroom activities helped reduce
weaknesses associated with classroom observation. The major weakness being that
observational data collection technique is by its nature highly selective and subjective.
Additionally, it has a tendency to focus on a specific event or object but seldom the
whole (Nieuwenhuis, 2007b). The issue of observer bias is shared by Macmillan and
Schumacher (2006), who further indicate that observation as a data collection technique
is costly and time-consuming, that researchers are unable to probe and clarify what they
see, and that an observer might have an effect on those observed.
However, McMillan and Schumacher (2006) also see advantages to this approach of
collecting data, since observational methods have as their primary advantage that the
researcher “does not need to worry about the limitations of self-report bias, social
desirability, and response set and that the information is not limited to what can be
recalled accurately by the subjects” (p.208). Most importantly, as pointed out by Mercer
(1991), there is a need to record very detailed classroom discourse. In doing so, the
behaviour of a research participant can be recorded as it occurs naturally (McMillan &
Schumacher, 2006). The advantages spelt out by Macmillan and Schumacher help to
convince other researchers that the observational technique is a reliable way of
collecting data. In the context of this study there was no way of verifying the research
participants’ adopted theories about their practical knowledge other than actually
observing them in practice.
In order to ensure consistency in capturing and presenting the data, an observation
schedule, having the following features was developed:
1) Lecturer’s instruction (e.g. giving a lecture)
2) Specific lecturer’s activities (lecture room management and organisation, such as
distribution of tasks, materials and standing or sitting in strategic positions)
3) Interaction between students and lecturer (e.g. students’ questions posed to the
4) Lecturer and students’ interaction (specific to professional knowledge, e.g. “as a
student teacher of English Language I expect you to behave in this way”)
5) Interaction among students (e.g. during group activity)
6) Assessment procedures employed
7) Instructional strategies used
8) Type of instructional media used Data Collection through Narratives
The process of negotiation for involving the educators who participated in this study has
already been discussed. However, it is important to revisit this process here, given the
sensitivity of using a narrative as a technique for data collection. I negotiated for entry
into the field of the research participant aware that telling a story required them to feel
free and to have time and mental preparedness to tell their stories. Connelly and
Clandinin (1992) emphasise the fact that in narrative inquiry it is critical to negotiate
entry into the field situation. This is particularly so in a situation where the researcher
and the research participant are going to collaborate in the process. These researchers
provide reasons such as that “… the negotiation of entry highlights the way narrative
inquiry occurs within relationships among researchers and practitioners” (p.4).
I have already responded to the value of narratives in the context of research. It is in
Chapter 1 of this thesis that I start with my own story. I have indicated that researchers
such as Rogan and De Kock (2005) and Hatch and Wisniewski (1992) have actually
studied or written about narrative inquiry methodology and methods. The research
participants who were involved in a study undertaken by Hatch and Wisniewski (1992)
saw its values and strengths. A narrative is understood to have as its value a means for
understanding the human condition. Narratives are therefore person-centred and tend to
be subjective, especially given that the participant’s own account may represent a
singular strength (Hatch and Wisniewski, 1992).
In this study I employed the narrative data collection technique, cognizant that narratives
and autobiographies have, as forms of qualitative research been criticized as stories that
lack reliability. However, with arguments raised by researchers such as Clements
(1999), Connelly and Clandinin (1992) and Clandinin and Connelly (1995), who argue
that storied lives are rarely made available in the public domain, using narratives as a
strategy added value to current research. It was helpful to use this technique to
complement the observation of teacher educators as they enacted their practical
knowledge. Given the experience of using this technique I concur with Clements (1999)
who argues that the narrative data collection technique is one of the best methods of
collecting data on personal experience, albeit memories can be problematic.
However, the importance of narrative data was confirmed by listening to the research
participants talk and use distinctive language as they shared their experiences; watching
their body language as they laughed or frowned; hearing them confess that it was the
first time that they had to reflect on their professional lives as teacher educators; hearing
them share incidences of their first experience in a university classroom; and supporting
their stories with incidents of events that were memorable.
Clements (1999) indicates that asking research participants to narrate their lives can be
regarded as learning through hindsight. Moreover, Clements’s (1999) citation of Abbs
(1974) indicates that the process of autobiography is like an “act of writing perched in the
present, gazing backwards into the past while poised ready for flight into the future”
I have to acknowledge though, as I pointed out in the introductory section of this chapter,
that while all the research participants had declared that they would cooperate and were
prepared to share accounts of their professional lives, in reality it was not easy for some.
Two participants displayed signs of discomfort in relating their professional life stories.
However, patience, probing and listening were strategies that proved helpful. I had to
ask them, after transcribing their taped responses, to check their submissions
intensively. This problem was experienced regardless of consultation made and
explanations given about this particular data collection technique.
However, unlike the case of Hatch and Wisniewski (1992), who learned in a study in
which they used narrative as a data collection technique that research participants tend
to worry about the vulnerability of subjects of narratives, those participants in the current
study who appeared uncomfortable sharing their stories, did not disclose reasons for
appearing so. Hatch and Wisniewski’s (1992) participants disclosed that exposing
oneself to another in the research process involves issues of trust, truth telling, fairness,
respect, commitment and justice. For these researchers the major challenge was their
authority to interpret a life and the difficulty of keeping the complexity of life such that it
was not reduced to simplicity as opposed to a coherent text. This caution was helpful as
one engaged in the data collection process.
In order to ensure consistency of data collected from various research participants,
guidelines were developed based on the research questions, and the participants asked
to study these prior to the time scheduled for the narrative. Additionally, they were
informed about the use of a tape recorder for recording their stories. The following are
the broad major features of the guidelines (see Appendix I for detailed guidelines):
1) Biographic data
2) Conceptualisation and/or understanding of key concepts
3) A professional journey in an institution of higher learning or teacher education
a. Experience within a teacher education institution and/or context:
i. Teacher education context
ii. Research
iii. Classroom practice
iv. Supervision of instruction
v. Supervision of research projects, theses and dissertations
vi. Encounter with students and their different abilities
vii. Development of instructional materials
viii. Assessment
ix. Challenges
x. Continuing Professional Development
xi. Experience as an administrator
xii. Participation in national education developments
xiii. Participation in conferences and professional development
b. Other learning avenues
4) Support story with unique incidents Data collection through use of documents
Two types of document, namely curriculum in the form of course outlines and
assessment in the form of examination papers, were collected. These documents
provided written discourse between lecturers and students. Harber (1997) believes that
while documentation can be useful in the context of triangulation, documents tend to
have as a major limitation to describe what is said rather than what is done. My view, on
the one hand, is that course outlines, as much as they describe the lecturer’s plan, serve
as a mode of communication between the lecturer and the students, and a reference
document for both. Both the lecturers and the students communicate about the content
of the course outline for the entire academic period during which the course is delivered.
Assessment is the culmination of teaching, and analysis of how teacher educators
assess their prospective teachers could not be avoided.
2.2.3 Leaving the Field
Leaving the field was necessary as there was no new information generated and the
level of data saturation had been reached. Classroom observations for a period of three
months ended in not revealing anything new, hence the decision to leave the field work,
especially as regards observation of classroom practice. In other cases some
participants were not present. In particular, two of the most experienced lecturers were
mostly unavailable for classroom observation, one valid reason being that they were coteaching courses with colleagues and could not be available during most of the data
collection period. In extreme cases some were on leave and therefore not available.
2.2.4 Dilemmas Experienced in Conducting the Research
Avoiding bias was a dilemma, given that the participants were colleagues and therefore
being an insider researcher meant confronting pertinent issues of objectivity, impartiality
and bias, as well as issues associated with working in familiar settings (Pearlette, 1997).
The above-mentioned measures for controlling bias helped address these problems.
The current research project could have benefited from a larger population of teacher
educators in the Southern African region; however, a PhD thesis undertaken within time
and financial constraints cannot cover as many institutions in which teacher educators
are located and practise as one would have wished. Doing so would require sufficient
human and financial resources. Settling for fewer members of staff and one institution is
therefore one of the limitations of this study.
The decision to reflect on the research journey was informed by two questions asked at
two different stages of the current study. The first implied a need for reflecting on “self as
a teacher educator”, the second on lessons learnt by the participants and lack of clarity
on what they had actually learnt. The question also pointed to the major research
question and what was then the preliminary finding, which was that experiential or
practical knowledge is the core source of teacher educators’ professional knowledge.
2.3 Data Analysis
This section of the methodology chapter presents the process followed in analysing the
data, embarked on after the data collection phase was completed. The process was
largely informed by the conceptual framework.
2.3.1 Conceptual Framework
The study adopted Eraut’s conceptualisation of professional knowledge in teacher
education. While a large number of teacher education researchers, such as Connelly
and Clandinin (1990), Shulman (1987, 1988) and Schőn (1983, 1987) have undertaken
research on and have critically analysed professional knowledge, Eraut (1994) has
studied professional preparation in a wide range of professions, and refers readers to
the context in which knowledge is acquired, constructed and practised. He makes a
distinction between academic, organisational and action contexts as they relate to
professional knowledge, and then explores the nature of professional knowledge and
how professionals acquire and use it from a number of perspectives. The work of Eraut
provided a framework for the analysis of empirical research as it relates to the current
Eraut (1996) critically analyses professional knowledge as enabling the performance of
professional tasks, roles and duties to standards of quality. An understanding of what
this concept or construct entails is therefore important. A profession has a systematic
knowledge base. Professional knowledge is therefore specialised, firmly bound, scientific
and standardised (Schőn, 1983). Stiggins (1999) adds that professional knowledge must
be public so that it can be communicated among colleagues. This would require
establishing methods that can be employed in sharing, verifying and improving it.
Eraut (1994) then maps professional knowledge into “knowing THAT” and “knowing
HOW”. He equates knowing “THAT” with propositional or received knowledge, and
knowing “HOW” with practical knowledge. The propositional form of knowledge is also
known as formal teacher knowledge or, according to Stuart et al. (2009), received
knowledge. It entails content or materials and curriculum or programmes. Propositional
knowledge is written down as statements (or propositions) about facts, principles,
theories and research findings (Shulman, 1987; Stuart et al., 2009). Eraut (1994)
contends that although propositional knowledge and practical knowledge have a place in
teacher education the many activities of teaching require an understanding of other
kinds of knowledge as well. His characterisation of professional knowledge may help
researchers appreciate and understand the importance of a professional knowledge
base. Professionals, Eraut argues, largely depend on their claims to unique forms of
expertise, which in a sense are not shared with other occupational groups. He points out
that professionals prefer to present a knowledge base as:
carrying the aura of certainty associated with established scientific
disciplines, … sufficiently erudite to justify a long period of training preferably
to degree level for all with specialist postgraduate training beyond that for
some and different from other occupations (p.14).
This elaboration on attaining professional knowledge in particular institutions justified
one of the questions that the current study posed: What are the sources of professional
knowledge among teacher educators? Or, if indeed teacher educators have not
undergone formal education to acquire the scientific form of knowledge, then from where
do they draw their professional knowledge?
Referring to practical knowledge, Eraut is convincingly supported by Clandinin and
Connelly (1995) in his argument that practice in relevant contexts provides professionals
with an opportunity to apply and to a large extent construct professional knowledge. He
argues that learning takes place during action, and that the transformation of knowledge
into a situationally appropriate form means it is no longer the same knowledge as it was
prior to it being first used. His contention suggests that professionals in various contexts
can construct new knowledge, be it through research or reflecting on experiences.
Practical knowledge is described as knowledge that focuses on a professional’s actions,
informed by the context and experience in the practice, then carved out of and shaped
by situations. It is knowledge that is constructed by professionals as they live out their
stories and tell and relive them through the processes of reflection (Clandinin, 1992,
cited by Fenstermacher, 1994). It is the knowing in one’s actions that Schon (1983)
describes as practical knowledge, something that is private, implicit, tacit and difficult to
express and/or hard to recognise directly. The term “implicitness” implies that it cannot
be spoken or articulated or explained. He argues that practical knowledge lies close to
the heart of many kinds of artistic expertise and even professional judgment. Practical
knowledge is therefore experiential and not so readily available in books (Wallace 1991,
cited by Stuart et al., 2009).
This form of knowledge is acquired not only from professional practice but also from
other experiences, such as schooling (Paavola, Lipponen & Hakkarainen 2004;
Shulman, 1988; Stuart et al., 2009). Eraut (1994) concludes that practical knowledge
integrates complex understanding and skills into partly re-utilised performance, which
then has to be deconstructed and deroutinised in order to incorporate innovations.
Based on Eraut’s explanations, it would seem that in studying professional knowledge
one has to bear in mind the factors of skill, context and attitudes. Eraut cautions that
knowledge creation takes place within a community. In the case of the current study it
would be through a community of teacher educators.
Eraut (1996) takes this issue further and refers to experts in an intuitive mode. He
indicates that expertise in this mode is based on what the individual practitioner has
“gained from long experience of particular types of situations and their ability to rapidly
access that knowledge and use it with wisdom” (p.11). The emphasis is on the way in
which practitioners accumulate experience, enabling them to recognise the critical
features of each particular situation and to make an appropriate holistic response.
However, Eraut (1996) raises pertinent questions: Does every teacher become an
expert? If not, what factors determine their progress? How could we decide who the
experts were (are)? What criteria could we use, and how fallible are the experts? (p.10).
Eraut’s research work on professional knowledge relates to the current study. Employing
the different techniques for data collection, narrative, observation of teaching practice
and analysis of documents produced by the participants was a strategy that helped
triangulate the data. For example, in practice it may not be easy to separate acquisition
from construction or application of professional knowledge as these concepts are
intertwined. However, observing teacher educators’ practice in real classroom situations
helped me to respond to the question: How do teacher educators enact professional
Using Eraut’s analogy of professional knowledge was helpful in analysing the data
collected for this study. The research questions centre on the very broad knowledge
areas that the study focused on: propositional knowledge by finding out if teacher
educators received formal education that prepared them for the task of educating
teachers, the extent to which they construct professional knowledge and how in practice
they enact and model the said type of knowledge. Eraut’s framework has guided the
presentation and the analysis of the research findings. The same framework has been
employed in the discussion and conclusion chapter of this study.
2.3.2 The Data Analysis Process
The process of data collection for a period of six months, particularly the observations of
the research participants in practice, regardless of the fact that some of them were not
always available, produced volumes of videotaped and audio-taped data. The
presentation below illustrates the level of availability of each research participant:
1) Fusi:
13 observations
2) Hoanghoang:
13 observations
3) Lintle:
12 observations
4) Mafukuthoana:
03 observation
5) Masethabathaba:
21 observations
6) Peditta:
13 observations
7) Thabang:
04 observations
8) Zinzi:
19 observations
All in all 98 observations were made. Some research participant were, as pointed out
earlier, more available than others.
The narratives by individual participants were of varying lengths as they reflected
attempts to capture an authentic and personal account of their thoughts, feelings and
attitudes. Some were elaborate and detailed in sharing their lived professional lives (with
some of the transcriptions being more than 30 pages long), while others were not so
elaborate and their audio-taped materials were as few as 13 pages long. The difference
in length could be due to the level of experience in the field of teacher education,
coupled with some participants being more articulate and open than others.
Additionally, the availability of documents produced by the research participants for
purposes of teaching posed some problems. Some had produced modules and/or
readers and games for teaching purposes, while others had nothing of the kind. In only
two areas did all participants produce documentation of a similar kind, sharing their
documented curricula in the form of course outlines and examination papers. The later
forms of documents were used for purposes of assessing student teachers at the end of
a semester or an academic year. The plan to analyse documents other than the
curriculum and assessments was therefore abandoned because of the inconsistent
availability of similar materials among participants.
Determining how the pile of data was to be sorted for analysis, so that a thesis could be
written, posed a challenge. The initial plan was to use a computer programme and
Eraut’s (1994) analytical framework to guide the data analysis process. The latter maps
professional knowledge into knowing “THAT,” equated to propositional or received
knowledge, and knowing “HOW,” which is the same as practical knowledge, an idea
supported by other researchers (Shulman, 1987; Stuart et al., 2007). Since the
overarching question for the current study was, “What are the sources and application of
professional knowledge among teacher educators?” knowing “THAT” relates to the
question, “What are the sources of teacher educators’ professional knowledge?,”
Knowing “HOW” was accomplished by analysing responses to the question: “How do
teacher educators enact professional knowledge, what kind of professional knowledge
do teachers construct, how do teacher educators construct professional knowledge and
how do they model professional knowledge?”
The data analysis progressed in phases, with some being more time consuming and
exhausting than others, although most enabled me to become familiar with and
internalise the data. The first phase, during which data was transcribed and transcripts
edited, read and re-read, took more than a calendar year to complete. This process was,
on some days, perplexing and forced me to ask questions such as: What is it that one
was looking for in this study? Do I seem to be finding answers to the research
On the one hand transcribing the classroom observations through repeatedly watching
the videotaped material meant watching the participants in practice more than once. On
the other, listening to audio-taped stories and transcribing them meant going over each
story at least three times. Being immersed in the transcriptions helped me to internalise
the data to the extent that going through the process appeared very enriching, learning
what the research participants regarded as the sources of their professional knowledge
and how they applied them. Additionally, the process helped me to identify the most
revealing stories about the teacher educators’ interpretation of their professional lives.
The choice of interpretivism as a theory that underpins the current study was a good
Entering the data into the Atlas ti. computer programme and then analysing it was
dependent upon the critical step of organising the data into major categories for analysis.
Therefore, the process of transcribing, editing the data and reading it several times,
although challenging in many respects, was a helpful process as it facilitated the
formulation of what the Atlas ti. programme (Bogdan and Biklen, 1992) and Creswell
(2007), under various names, refer to as codes, code families and themes. The idea of
studying or reading the data several times is fully supported by Bogdan and Biklen
(1992) and Creswell (2007). It is in this process that “certain words, phrases, patterns of
behaviour, subjects’ ways of thinking, and events repeat and stand out” (Bogdan &
Biklen, 1992, p.166). The process subsequently allows any qualitative researcher to
identify themes and codes. Developing a coding system is a process that involves
several steps in which researchers have to search for regularities and patterns as well
as topics that the data covers, and then write phrases and coding categories. Following
these authors’ suggestions, words, phrases and coding categories were developed. This
process, they argue, is a means of sorting the “descriptive data” that has been collected.
Although Bodgan and Biklen (1992) advise against developing too many themes or code
families, coming up with twelve in the current study, with each carrying multiple themes,
was unavoidable. Despite several efforts to merge similar codes into five categories, the
nature of the collected data defeated the undertaking. Several efforts were made to
reduce the codes within each code family, and to some extent this was achieved.
However, some code families appeared too large, with more than ten codes, while
others were reduced to only three. For example, the code family “Lessons drawn from
experience,” attracted more codes than any other code family. This particular code
family was informed by the data gathered through narratives and the guiding questions
that were used.
However, with regard to the number of code families, Creswell (2007) proposes that
researchers have to move beyond coding and classify the data, a process which he
views as pertaining to taking apart the text or qualitative information, and looking for
categories, themes or dimensions of information. He concurs with Bodgan and Biklen’s
(1992) idea of developing five categories, seeing a dilemma posed by large quantities of
data, and pointing out that it is difficult, especially in a large database, to reduce the
information to five or seven “families”. Instead, in analysing large volumes of data he
proposes following a process of “winnowing the data”, whereby it is reduced to a
manageable set of themes to be written into final narratives.
In the process of coding the data, as also noted by Bodgan and Biklen (1992) it was not
uncommon to have overlapping themes. This problem emerged during the process of
constructing code families and codes. Eventually, some codes were revised to avoid
duplication while others were transferred to code families in which they seemed to fit
better. Another strategy was to code the data twice, ensuring that no data would be lost
or forgotten.
Although the terminology used to describe the code families and codes emerged from
the data, to some extent it was also influenced by the researcher’s own knowledge of the
technical terminology used in teacher education. For example, in a situation where
participants, during their teaching practice, use phrases such as “that’s excellent; that’s a
very good question” after a student has given a response or raised a question, a code
labelled “Reinforcement” was subsequently developed.
The actual process of coding the data under each code family or theme, and therefore
generating quotations or passages of text, also posed a challenge. It was a process that
required one to reread the data and at the same time assign codes to the many volumes
of transcribed data. The Atlas. ti computer programme greatly facilitated this process.
One of the code families, “Critical incidents” is what Bogdan and Biklen (1992) refer to
as an “Event code,” which points to particular happenings that occur infrequently or only
once. The critical incidents code family caters for unique episodes that either occurred
during data collection or were referred to by the participants in their narrations. They are
used to illustrate a point or support an argument in the actual presentation of the
research findings, and had to be noted to ensure that they would not be lost or forgotten.
Figure 2.1 (below) depicts the code families or themes and codes.
Initially, dummy tables for the narrative and the observation data were developed
separately. The quotations under each code family were posted accordingly under each
data set. Developing separate dummy tables to cater for each of the data sets facilitated
the process of categorising data into specific questions and was helpful to some extent.
However, moving to a level that would help synchronise the data was necessary if the
data was not to remain as separate entities.
Therefore, in order to ensure that there was a link between all sets of data, matrices
were developed that clearly showed connections or helped in partitioning the data
vertically and horizontally according to each participant and the data related to each
research question. The idea of constructing matrices is supported by Miles and
Huberman (1994), who point out that matrices should give a researcher reasonable
answers to the question that is being asked or should “suggest promising new ways to
lay out the data to get answers” (p.240).
The analysis of the data emanating from the documents was guided by internationally
developed strategies for analysing the curriculum and assessment documents (Stuart et
al., 2009): Looking at the overall aims: what kind of teacher will come out of the
programme? The objectives: What will a student teacher have achieved at the end of the
programme? The content: To what extent is it appropriate for achieving the aims? The
pedagogy: How are the students taught? How do they learn? Regarding the analysis of
assessment documentation, the questions included: How will students’ performance be
assessed? Analysis of the pedagogy included not only teaching and learning methods,
but also materials and resources, such as textbooks, lists of recommended books,
laboratory equipment and how the instructional materials are used to support and
explain the content.
An analysis of the assessment strategies through studying the examination papers was
therefore undertaken. In this analysis it was critical to establish the extent to which
questions were linked to the aims of the curriculum document and to what extent they
fostered what teacher educators want student teachers to know and do. Additionally, as
Stuart et al., (2009) point out, feedback is a key part of formative assessment and helps
students make sense of their own progress. These authors further point out that
feedback could also come from lecturers or from the students themselves, reflecting on
their performance. The step that followed the analysis of the documented curriculum and
the assessment documents was to categorise the data according to the already
developed matrices.
Some of the data emanating from the analysis of the curriculum document and the
assessment papers facilitated “finding regularities in the data” (McMillan and
Schumacher 2006). For example, analysing the examination papers is a strategy to
cross-validate the findings against the classroom observation data, particularly the
assessment strategies used in practice. In this regard data from the various sources has
been triangulated, helping to establish congruencies and/or discrepancies in the
The analysis of the biographical data could not fit in the matrices. The biographical data
mainly provides data on the professional characteristics of the research participants,
forming a basis for establishing who the teacher educators are. While correlating
analysed biographical data to research findings on the research questions could reveal
further findings, it would be going beyond the research questions. However this is
something worth pursuing in future research.
There were temptations to count code frequencies in the process of analysing the data.
Creswell (2007), in contrast to Huberman and Miles (1994), raises an opposing view to
counting codes and then determining how frequently they appear in the database. His
argument is based on the view that counting codes connotes different messages, as it
does not
provide an indicator of frequency of occurrences, something typically
associated with quantitative research or systematic approaches to qualitative
research. … This is because counting conveys a quantitative orientation of
magnitude and frequency contrary to qualitative research. In addition, a
count conveys that all codes should be given equal emphasis and it
disregards that the passage coded may actually represent contradictory
views (p.52).
From Creswell’s (2007) argument I make an assumption that counting codes in the
current study would convey the wrong message to the reader. The observation data, for
example, reveals that students often laugh and pass jokes during the teaching process.
If the counting of such data were to be considered, it would imply a lack of seriousness
during lectures. Yet it has been coded because it portrays a context in which students
laugh or make noise. It also reflects the ways in which teacher educators respond to this,
sometimes relaxed and at other times regarding it as misconduct.
Data analysis is completed when that data has been interpreted. Kincheloe and McLaren
(2005) argue that the act of interpretation involves making sense of what has been, for
example, observed. Articulation of or making sense of the data has to a large extent
communicate understanding. These authors add that perception itself is an act of
interpretation. They therefore point out that the
quest for understanding is a fundamental feature of human existence, as
encounter with the unfamiliar always demands the attempt to make meaning, to
make sense. The same, however, is also the case with the familiar. Indeed, as in
the study of commonly known texts, we come to find that sometimes the familiar
may be seen as the most strange (p.311).
I fully concur with Kincheloe and McLaren (2005) that interpretation of various types of
qualitative research is a difficult task. I also concur with Nieuwenhuis (2007c) that it is
indeed a tricky process. The tricky part that I personally experienced, given the massive
volumes of data I had, was moving away from the level of interpretation to an “analytic
understanding” (Nieuwenhuis, 2007c, p.111). This is the level that Nieuwenhuis (2007c)
interprets as one in which a researcher begins to explain why things were the way they
have been found.
2.4 Conclusion
The procedures followed in undertaking the study were informed by the qualitative
research methodology. I provide justification for the choice of the research paradigm that
underpins the study and the nature of the study necessitating the use of qualitative
research methodologies. The chapter has benefited from the reviewed literature on
qualitative research methodologies.
The computer program, Atlas ti. used in the process of data analysis facilitated a
structure for a comprehensive data analysis. Data was grouped or categorised into code
families, which made it easy to analyse the data according to the sets of themes or code
families. Figure 2.1 (above) captures the code families and the codes accordingly.
In this chapter I have presented the steps followed in undertaking the research and how
quality standards have been addressed. I reflected on the major questions asked in the
process of undertaking the study and how it has impacted on the procedure followed. I
close this chapter with a section on dilemmas that present a major challenge to the
entire process of undertaking the study.
The procedures followed in undertaking the study have enabled me to achieve my
objective of undertaking the study. The information collected and analysed could only
make sense through using the procedures reported in this chapter. This chapter has
been guided by the research questions that the study is addressing. Borrowing from
Eraut’s work informed the research framework for analysing the data. Therefore, the
entire thesis follows Eraut’s framework.
A literature review, if conducted carefully and presented well, will add much to
an understanding of the research problem and help place the results of a
study in a historical perspective (McMillan & Schumacher 2006, p.75)
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Contemporary Discourse in Education
3.3. A Contemporary Teacher Education
Professional Development Epistemology
3.4. Researching Professional Knowledge
3.5. Learning as a Construct/Paradigm
3.6. Constructing Professional Knowledge
3.7. Application of Professional Knowledge
3.8. Modelling Professional Knowledge
3.9. Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
The unit of analysis of this study is teacher educators. However, education as a whole in
general, as well as education or teaching on pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary
levels determines the nature and structure of teacher education and subsequently teacher
educator professional development or professionalism. Unfortunately, as has been discussed
in Chapter 1, much of the requirements of teacher educator professionalism is not explicit but
has to be deduced from the demands of education and teacher education. The literature
review will therefore source discourse on all the relevant levels and dimensions of education
within the appropriate context. Since this research revolves around the sources and
application of professional knowledge among teacher educators, teacher educators will be
viewed as learners.
Some of the debates that I raise in Chapter 1 are aligned to the fact that the teacher educator
profession, as all other professions has to have a knowledge base; hence the question:
where do teacher educators draw their knowledge from? This question relates to issues of
quality assurance and professional bodies who ensure the maintenance of high standards.
In the next section I present the literature reviewed with regard to policies and innovations
formulated by states and/or governments. There is an observation that recent educational
reforms have been launched to improve education. However, they seem to be launched top
down from governmental education departments. Although these developments are laudable
on paper, they seem to be ignorant of the challenging demands of the super-complex world
with an unknown future we are living in. However, as will be elaborated on in some sections
of this chapter, some educational researchers have engaged in a new educational discourse.
It addresses these new challenging demands and has also constructed requirements for a
paradigmatically new corresponding curriculum and pedagogy. Examples of related teacher
education programmes exist.
However, designing teacher education programmes remains the responsibility of teacher
education institutions that should provide the quality of teachers required. Additionally, since
contemporary education discourse suggests a paradigmatic shift in educational thinking, a
discrepancy between governmental policy requirements and teacher education programmes
will be inevitable. This might be particularly so if teacher education and subsequently teacher
educators fulfil their responsibility in relation to the challenging demands of contemporary
education. This will require courage from teacher educators to provide appropriate teacher
education programmes that will fulfil the demands of contemporary education in the age of
compliance. In the same way, the education of teacher educators will be submitted to the
same risk and its consequent demand for courage.
A presentation of policy and transformation developments in various parts of the world
illuminates the above arguments.
3.1.1 Policies, Quality Assurance and their Implications for the Teacher
Educator Profession Quality Assurance Frameworks and their Implications
Research and experience worldwide, as clearly indicated in Chapter 1 of this thesis, point to
general standards and/or requirements for the qualifications of teacher educators being nonexistent. The major question then has been on their sources and application of professional
knowledge. Closely related to this question is how quality and standards are measured in the
teacher educators’ profession or discipline.
An analysis of what pertains in other countries regarding qualifications and standards
indicates that some education systems have in place qualification frameworks that include
issues such as quality assurance. Although some of these countries, as will be illustrated in
the following paragraphs, have clear policy measures for higher education institutions, it is
not apparent how teacher educators are catered for in these broad national qualifications
frameworks. However, it is equally important to indicate that teacher educators are classified
like any other academic teaching in institutions of higher learning.
I consulted from some of the qualifications frameworks in various countries published on the
Internet. The purpose is to illustrate that while, as argued in Chapter 1, professions have to
be autonomous, governments or states play significant roles in order to ensure that
standards are maintained and quality education is offered to learners. Presumably the
intention is to ensure that the markets will receive or hire candidates of reputable calibre. I
use these examples to also illustrate reactions of professional bodies as articulated in the
literature to the managerial role played by governments or states.
The Republic of South Africa has policies and has instituted organisations to assume the role
of implementing policies. The Wits Education Policy Unit (2005) reports that the South
African Council for Educators (SACE) was established by the South African Government for
purposes of recognition of teachers as autonomous professionals. As autonomous
professionals they can decide on the nature of their work. Wits Education Policy Unit (2005)
had undertaken a study and prepared a paper that was presented in a seminar organised by
SACE in October 2005. The paper was based on document analysis and interviews.
According to the Wits Education Policy Unit (2005) the Norms and Standards for Educators
(NSE) were gazetted as a policy in 2000. These norms and standards
envisage teachers who are not only competent and qualified, but they also envisage
teachers who are curriculum developers. In addition, the policy conceptualises
teachers as researchers and knowledge creators. These have implications for teacher
autonomy, which is central to teacher professionalism. The implication is that teachers
are given more space to exercise their professional judgement on the materials used
in class and how they are used. This means that teachers are not seen as mere
technicians who should implement curriculum conceived elsewhere without
questioning it or engaging with it (p.20).
While this paper does not make reference to teacher educators or academics in institutions
of higher learning per se, an important message is that the role of the state is portrayed as
the manager of professions. The author of the paper summarises this observation by pointing
out that the policy framework appears to be out of sync with the realities of teachers on the
ground. Most significantly, the paper closes with the message that “the global trends of
managerialism and bureaucratic accountability, cost cutting measures seem to [be]
manifesting themselves in South Africa as well. These tendencies do not only undermine
teacher autonomy, but also result in deskilling of teachers and intensification of teachers’
work” (Wits Education Policy Unit, 2005, p.32). The challenge seems to be on the
Governments or states playing a significant managerial role in ensuring that professional
standards are adhered to, to the extent that autonomy of professions remains threatened.
A South African Council on Higher Education and Quality Committee (2007) presents the
Education Qualification Framework (HEQF) and revised Qualification Framework for
Educators in Schooling. It discusses a programme for the transformation of higher education
in South Africa. The policy provides the basis for integrating all higher education
qualifications into the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) for standard generation and
quality assurance. Most significant about this policy is that it is supposed to improve the
coherence of the higher education system and facilitate the articulation of qualifications. In
this regard the policy enhances the flexibility of the system which presumably enables
students to move efficiently over time from one programme to another in pursuance of their
academic or professional careers. Furthermore, the policy applies to higher education
programmes and qualifications offered in South Africa by both the public and the private
A document on the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and
Northern Ireland (FHEQ) (2008) discusses the features of the framework for higher education
qualifications, the relationship between the FHEQ and European development and the
different levels of qualifications implementation issues and guidance. Every qualification has
a title and it correspondingly reflects the level of achievement, the nature and field(s) of study
undertaken and should not be misleading. In this regard, the FHEQ provides the public with a
clear understanding of the achievements represented in higher education qualifications. In
summary, the purpose of the FHEQ is to “enable higher education providers to communicate
to employers, schools, parents, prospective students, professionals, statutory and regulatory
bodies (PSRBs) and other stakeholders the achievement and attributes represented by the
typical higher education qualification titles” (p.3).
The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) website (2010) stipulates that the qualification
framework encompasses all the qualifications in a higher education system. Most significant
about the framework is that it shows that learners know, understand what they are able to do
on the basis of a given qualification and how the various qualifications in higher education
systems interact and in a sense how learners can move between qualifications. It is not
about procedures but it focuses on outcomes. The developers of the EHEA website, namely
the Council of Europe, the Bologna Secretariat and the Coordination Group on Qualification
Frameworks emphasise that qualification frameworks should be designed for purposes of
encouraging greater mobility of students and teachers and therefore should improve
Australia is one of the countries that long established qualification frameworks in tertiary
education. In a press release in November 2010, the Australian Minister of Tertiary
Education indicated that the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment
(MCTEE) approved changes in this sector in Australia. In his view the Australian Qualification
Framework (AQF) aims at providing greater clarity and transparency with regard to the
expected outcomes of qualifications, enables stronger pathways between Vocational
Education and Training (VET) and higher education. Taking VET subjects in schools
facilitates better links between Australia and the global education market.
Other than information on overseas countries and the Republic of South Africa regarding
qualification frameworks and quality in further education, there is progress in this area in
some countries in the Southern African region. The Government of Botswana has two
important bodies charged with responsibilities of a qualifications nature; there is a
Qualifications Framework Authority and the Council of Tertiary Education. The Government
of Namibia too has similar structures. With the qualifications framework the Government of
Namibia has resolved to address a number of challenges including quality assurance in
education and training. The decision to address education and training challenges means
that standards will be set, accreditation will be addressed and that prior learning and
qualifications will be recognised.
The Government of Lesotho has some initiatives towards establishing a qualification
framework and a council on higher education. The draft document on the Lesotho
Qualification Framework is in place. Government still has to approve this document so that it
can be operational. In the context of higher education the Government of Lesotho
established a Council on higher Education (CHE) in 2008. CHE has a broad mandate. It is
expected to, among several objectives, provide a means for the more consistent recognition
and acceptance of Lesotho’s qualifications by employers and other users of qualifications
within Lesotho and within the SADC Region. Towards the end of 2010 this Council launched
a Higher Education Quality Assurance Committee (HEQAC) and is currently working towards
developing a policy on higher education. These are steps intended to regulate higher
education in Lesotho.
Robson (1998) who specifically writes on professional challenges for further education
teachers in the United Kingdom makes reference to critical issues in this sub-sector. These
include licences and conditions, the requirement that further education teachers should be
fully trained, the growing number of part-time staff and the number of hours they teach as
well as the consequences of such developments, and the role of the state. Robson (1998)
concludes by making reference to other stakeholders or players in the professionalisation
process. He notes that the demand for training is “a state-led initiative with the state acting to
protect its own and client interests” (p.4).
Therefore, as the literature illustrates, governments or states are justified to set standards
and qualification frameworks if a nation’s education system has to be regulated. The
education provided should be of acceptable quality. Students at various levels of the
education systems should most importantly meet employer and national needs. However,
Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2007) observe the following:,
If professional standards in education hold any promise for improving quality of
teaching and learning, then it is through their capacity to foster generative and
authentic professional learning that this promise will come to fruition. The capacity of
any system of accreditation or review in this area lies not in the ‘quality assurance’
implicit in quantifying the professional development ‘hours’ required to be undertaken
by accomplished teachers in any period of time, but rather in the process the system
utilises for review and accreditation of professional practice (p.58).
Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2007) conclude this argument by pointing out that in
situations where professional standards are being used, the opportunity to view standards as
a catalyst for authentic professional learning is not realised. This view implies that
professionals who may be striving after adhering to set standards and administrators who
have developed them and have to see to their implementation still need to find synergy.
To a large extent the establishment of councils of higher education and qualification
frameworks provide situations pertaining to the concerned countries’ education systems. The
information displayed on the Internet on qualifications and quality standards, while providing
a useful reference point, is very broad and does not distinctly spell out how in such contexts
professional standards for teacher educators are measured. Furthermore, the Internet does
not distinctly provide clear information regarding procedures followed to evaluate quality and
standards for teacher educators. Additionally it does not show measures or criteria used in
employing teacher educators as they relate to standards and quality.
Nonetheless, a study undertaken by Gray (2010) of the University of Surrey (UK) illuminates
the value of developing criteria for measuring competencies, especially as regards teachers
and trainers. Gray (2010) argues that the value of having clear criteria is to ensure
recruitment and career management and development of training, policy and plans.
Additionally, SAQA also indicates that having a national quality assurance system ensures
that education and training are delivered to certain standards. The content captured in
various national frameworks indicates the value attached to having in place quality
Research undertaken by Van de Groep, Admiraal, Koster and Simons (2005) confirms that
worldwide the general standards and/or requirements for the qualification of teacher
educators are an issue that has not yet been fully addressed. While the major question the
study is addressing is on the sources and application of professional knowledge among
teacher educators, the question arises as to how quality and standards of teacher educators
can be measured. This is particularly important in my own context, in which some of the
teachers educators who participated in this study never received any professional education
to equip them with relevant knowledge or skills. Additionally, as already highlighted, quality
standards have not yet been established in Lesotho. This is why employing teacher
education institutions use their discretion in employing teacher educators. They do so
perhaps not aware that at international level as will be illustrated later in this chapter,
“characteristics of a professional” have been developed and these might serve as a guiding
principle for professions and for hiring institutions.
Other than setting standards and ensuring that there are quality measures even for
institutions of higher learning, governments tend to play a leading role in education
developments. Governments and/or states tend to ensure that education does not suffer say
for example, from lack of teachers or lack of qualified teachers. Developments in this regard
have been observed in a number of countries including the United States of America. The
US Government implemented the Teach for America Programme and/or policy as an
innovation aimed at addressing education ills.
Transforming Education Systems and Implications
The Teach for America (TFA) Programme and/or policy is described as an alternative
teacher certification programme. It is designed for adults with college degrees in a variety of
backgrounds and majors. These would be individuals who would be interested in entering the
teaching profession (Wetzel, 2009). Wetzel indicates the following:
Teach for America Corps Training Programme’s mission is to prepare recent college
graduates from all backgrounds and career interests to become successful teachers.
This adult education programme is designed to prepare adults to become educators in
low-income communities in both urban and rural public schools. Adults entering this
alternative teacher education programme make a two-year commitment to gain an
understanding of the inequities that exist in school around the country (p.1).
Presumably the US Government’s decision in coming up with the programme was to address
the problem that the country was experiencing. The programme was designed to give
trainees the foundational knowledge, mindset, and skills needed to become highly effective
beginning teachers. The strategy employed is to offer the trainees a five-week training that
focuses on broad issues such as teaching, observation, coaching, study, planning and self-
reflection (Wetzel, 1992). The Teach for America Programme is therefore considered to be a
Information gathered from various sources, particularly the Internet, indicates that there are
different views about the programme. There are those who are against the programme and
some are in support of the initiative. Criticisms come from qualified teachers and other
stakeholders, including education professors as exemplified by this submission: “I dislike
TFA because I am a teacher, and I am quite clear that you don’t learn to teach in five weeks,
much less teach students who have a range of social, economic and developmental
problems; who are often hungry … and who come in unruly waves of 40-50 every 45
There are other reasons for criticising the programme. These include:
the fact that it is not so much about reforming schools;
it is not bringing about permanent investment in schools and cannot be regarded as a
the trained personnel do not stay in teaching;
it has not helped to build permanent corps of excellent teachers who can train other
career teachers or use their classroom training to become effective principals;
they (TFA teachers) are not committed to teaching as a career given that it is a
stopgap before, for some, registering in a law school;
TFA teachers take jobs away from veteran teachers.
Responses of those who are in the programme indicate that the Teach for America
Programme has benefits. Their comments indicate that they have learned from the
programme through being attached to a mentor teacher. They indicate the feeling that there
is probably no need for a pedagogy lesson; the programme has retained some for life; it is
less expensive compared to full-time training over stipulated periods of teaching; they
become apprentices for certain periods; and that having an impact on students taught and
helping with the retention of the corps.
Although there are different views about the programme, an analysis of studies undertaken
on Teach for America revealed that there are more benefits. Studies were carried out at the
pre-primary, the primary and the secondary school levels. The following are some key
findings of the said studies:
Studies at the High School Level
Teach for America corps members had a greater impact on student achievement than did
traditionally prepared teachers from UNC’S teacher preparation programme in middle
school math, high school math, high school science, and high school English (Henry &
Thompson, 2010);
Teach For America corps teachers are more effective than other teachers, including
experienced teachers and those fully certified in their field (Xu, Hannaway and Taylor
Studies at the Elementary School and Middle-School Levels
Students for Teach for America corps members attained greater gains in math and
equivalent gains in reading versus students of other teachers, including veteran and
certified teachers (Decker, Daniel, Mayer and Glazerman, 2004);
Teach For America corps members in Louisiana outperformed other new teachers with
the same level of experience and were as effective as veteran teachers across the state
in math, science, reading and language arts (Boyd, Grossman, Hammerness, Lankford,
Loeb, Ronfeldt and Wyckoff, 2009); Morgaen, 2008).
Studies at the Pre-K Level
Pre-K students in Washington D.C Teach for America corps members made significant
progress in vocabulary, letter recognition and easy math skills (Zill, 2008),
Studies on Corps Members’ Qualifications and Retention
Teachers recruited through Teach for America and the NYC Teaching Fellow significantly
reduced the gap in teacher qualifications between the city’s high-and low-poverty schools
and contributed to student achievement gains that were most substantial in the city’s
highest-poverty schools (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb and Rockoff, Wyckoff, 2007).
The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Sixty-one percent of Teach for America corps members continue to teach beyond their
two-year corps commitment. This retention rate is similar to retention estimates for other
new teachers in low-income communities. The study also found that 44 percent of corps
members remained in their placement schools beyond their two-year commitment
(Morgaen, 2008).
Research-based information as indicated in the preceding paragraphs clearly shows that
there are positive views about the Teach for America corps programme in the US schools.
The research falls short of presenting research findings to the contrary. The research
presented paints a glossy picture of the programme. Therefore, while the research findings
cannot be disputed on the basis of the summarised presentation on the internet, the
presentation shows a bias towards the positive impact of the programme. However, some
research work has been conducted that illustrates the relationship of innovations in the
context of education as these relate to teacher education.
One of the researchers whose work relates to the Teach for America Programme is
Haberman. In one of his writings he makes reference to a common saying that education
does not make up for experience (Haberman, 1976, 1997). He interprets this statement to
mean that experience provides for more opportunities to gain knowledge and skills. The
implication of statements such as this one is that academic education may neither be
sufficient nor a necessary condition for effective teaching or management of schools.
However, his analysis of the statement is that there definitely is a gap between attaining
propositional knowledge and acquiring practical knowledge from experience.
Haberman’s work also focuses on issues of star teachers among other areas in the field of
teaching. Star teachers develop attributes that make them effective regardless of conditions
that could otherwise contribute to ineffectiveness. They therefore survive in conditions that
under normal circumstances would deter teachers from serving in poor and usually difficult
urban schools. Haberman (2004a) illuminates characteristics of star teachers as broad and
The characteristics of star teachers include their moral character such as persistence,
physical and emotional stamina and ethical issues, which include focus on learning in the
work place. Haberman (2004a) argues that star teachers tend to: protect student learning,
translate theory and research into practice, cope with the bureaucracy, create student
ownership, engage parents and caregivers and partners in student learning and support
accountability for at-risk students. He further indicates that these “attributes predict the
effectiveness and staying power of teachers serving diverse students in low-income schools.
… ” (p.3). Hence the relationship of his work to that of the Teach for America programme.
A contributory factor to these attributes is the fact that teachers being referred to hear have
the freedom to express their views on issues that pertain to their professional activities. They
are capable of analysing situations that will not add value to their work. While they value
participating in learning communities, star teachers tend to analyse such communities for
purposes of establishing the extent to which they can contribute to “developing the faculty as
a necessary condition of school improvement” (Haberman, 2004a, p. 4). There is therefore
an acknowledgement that innovations and schools can succeed in situations where teachers
are effective. Evidence of the extent to which success is based on effective teachers is
drawn from Haberman himself. He engaged in work in which he assisted failing schools
through engaging teachers who would make a difference (Haberman, 2011) in those
Haberman (2004b) observes that there are numerous challenges that impede government’s
initiatives. He contends that, regardless of challenges that tend to affect government’s
initiatives, there are schools that succeed. Successful schools in his view have a number of
attributes. These attributes include having a critical mass of star teachers whose work tends
to contribute to the success in implementing initiatives.
Most critical about the output of Haberman’s work is the fact that Star Teachers benefit from
learning from the context in which they work. These contexts in his view empower teachers.
For example, a typical learning environment is one that is cognisant of the fact that teachers,
as faculty, have a role to play in their own learning.
There are other researchers who share Haberman’s views regarding empowering teachers
or teacher educators so that they learn from their practice and/or research experiences
especially in the school context. These include Lingard and Renshaw (2010), Broadhead
(2010) and Hulme and Cracknell (2010). For example, Broadhead in her study on insiders
and outsiders researching together to create a new understanding and to shape policy and
practice, studied the literature in the area of policy reforms and research. She concluded that
books reviewed had the potential ‘voices’ of policy shaping. Having undertaken the study that
brought together teachers at the school level and herself as an educator and a researcher
she made further conclusions. One of these is that besides the two (herself as a researcher
and the teachers) having gained substantial knowledge in engaging in the research, she had
“made the greatest leap forward towards understanding ethical practice and towards the
realisation that research can only shape policy and practice if ethical and political awareness
go hand-in-hand with collaborative educational research” (p.51). In essence, Broadhead
(2010) sees the relationship between governments’ transformation initiatives and engaging in
research that assists in implementing policies and in the process learning from that
An analysis of the work of Haberman points to the impact of programmes and initiatives that
aim at providing teachers the opportunity to learn in the context of their work. He has tested
the impact of initiatives that have succeeded in addressing issues of an educational nature.
Haberman’s work seems to challenge teacher educators not only to learn from such
initiatives but also to venture into testing them in their own programmes and/or institutions or,
as was the case with Broadhead, in the context of research. In essence teacher educators
are challenged to look into providing student teachers with opportunities to test new ideas in
the context of teacher education.
Transformation at the school or college level has also been realised in other parts of the
world. The Republic of South Africa and the United Kingdom are cases in point too. South
Africa introduced outcomes-based education under the auspices of Curriculum 2005. This
reform in the context of the country was aimed at changing the Apartheid type of education
system. Jansen in 2010 discussed what he described as the “not-so-obvious damages” of
Outcomes-Based Education. He mainly talks about costs. Jansen points out that the most
critical result of Outcomes-Based Education is with regard to human costs. In his view,
Children already disadvantaged were exposed to a curriculum that made a fragile
learning environment worse. Instead of learning those vital competencies of reading,
writing and calculating, they were exposed to high-brow constructivist theories that kept
many of them illiterate. Those effects not only forced many to leave the school system,
they pushed weaker and weaker students into universities where they again struggled
to succeed (p.1).
While there may be benefits resulting from introducing OBE in South Africa, the messages
coming from the literature reviewed in this area points to problems experienced. One of the
major problems is with regard to the impact of political decisions in education systems.
During the 1980s and 1990s education reforms were, experienced in the United Kingdom
too. This was particularly so during the presidencies of Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
Documentation on the deliberations between the Secretary of State for the Social Services
and the Secretary of State for Education in 1970, revealed that Prime Minister Thatcher had
a view that “provision would have to be made in future for teacher training and other types of
further education to be provided not just as an immediate sequel to primary and secondary
education but as something to which people could return, with a view to specific training,
after a period in employment” (p.6).
In a paper presented in 2000 in a seminar, Witty reports on the policies that were introduced
during the Thatcher regime. The new policies were, among others, intended to address the
Labour Party concerns. The development of policies on General Teaching Council and
Performance Management/Performance-Related Pay sought to combine techniques with
“greater respect for the professionalism of teachers, albeit a ‘modernised’ professionalism”
(Witty, 2000, p.4).
There are dilemmas associated with policies developed by national governments or states in
the context of education. Governments may have as their priorities addressing market
demands through legislature. Yet the markets, as Whitty (2000) observes, may not embrace
the new developments. There seems to be a clash between what governments prefer in their
policy deliberation as they transform education systems and developments and what the
professionals themselves would see as pertaining to their practice. The views expressed by
Furlong, Barton, Miles, Whiting and Whitty (2000) illustrate problems experienced in reforming professionalism in the context of teacher education. This, as I indicated in Chapter 1,
entails knowledge, autonomy and responsibility or accountability.
Secondly governments develop policies and establish education councils in which quality
standards are set. These too are intended to ensure control measures. Groundwater-Smith
and Mockler (2007) report on professional standards in teacher education as common
practice in the western countries, particularly in the UK, the US and in Australia. These
authors observe that setting professional standards for teachers is itself not a bad idea.
However, standards and standardisation viewed as the “one size fits all”-agenda is
problematic. It tends to be regarded as a panacea for an ailing teaching profession.
Whereas there are varying views about government’s roles in setting standards and
qualification frameworks and in transforming education systems, teacher educators as
professionals have a responsibility too. Teacher educators have to find ways of setting
appropriate standards in ways that will be universal and commensurate with possible yet
unknown future demands. I argue here that governments and states constantly think of
reforms and continue to implement those in the school systems, regardless of whether or not
teacher educators infuse those in the teacher education programmes. It is therefore within
the context of the challenging demands of an unknown future that education, teacher
education and subsequently teacher educator professional development have unavoidably
entered unfamiliar territory. The unfamiliar territory referred to here can be associated with
contemporary discourse in the education context.
3.2 Contemporary Discourse in Education
There can be no doubt that a new discourse in education is emerging. The main thrust of the
discourse is in the area of quality in education and subsequently enhanced teacher
professional learning and development. These current developments are many and varied
and are taking place all over the world in countries like, USA, UK, Canada, Australia,
Scotland, the Netherlands, Continental Europe and South Africa to various extents, from
small scale projects to large projects. What I am attempting in this section of Chapter 3 is not
to exhaust this field of study, but rather to highlight some of its main features as they occur
within education as an umbrella discipline and to construct it into a framework that would be
beneficial for the research to be undertaken.
The world, and presumably education as well, is currently witnessing one of the most
significant shifts in human history. Drucker (2000) points out that the paradigm shift is
characterised by an unprecedented change in the human condition. Unfortunately, this
exhilarating prospect of unprecedented change in the human condition has been thwarted. In
fact, Fielding (2007) reports that in England “secondary schooling is conducted in a mindset
that is dangerously anachronistic and deeply superficial” (p.5). Groundwater-Smith and
Mockler (2009) concur that it is the same “in most Australian States and territories and many
parts of North America” (p.78). In view of the recent Progress in International Reading
Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS)
research reports, there is enough reason to believe that this poignant condition might be a
global phenomenon. One of the primary causes of this demise is that educators have been
deceived by the strong emerging culture of compliance within which quality is trivialised
because quality assurance processes may easily result in the perception of quality rather
than the demand and provision of actual quality itself.
Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2009) describe what is necessary in education to escape
the paralysing compliance effect:
While the culture of compliance … increasingly draws us to an approach of
teacher professional learning that is ‘training’ orientated, quantifiable and easily
measured or ‘ticked-off’ for quality assurance purposes … for teacher
professional learning to serve the burgeoning needs of students and their
teachers in the twenty-first century, we must value and vigorously pursue an
alternative model … Putting the need of young people and indeed the
transformational dimensions of education at the heart of professional practice
requires courage and willingness on the part of educators to be deeply
countercultural … (pp.10-12).
In fact, Dreyden and Vos, (1999) in writing about change indicate that “the seismic scope of
this change forces us to completely rethink everything we’ve ever understood about learning,
education, schooling, business, economics and government” (p.21). Consequently,
education for the future requires a new discourse. Hargreaves, (2003) in concurring with
Dreyden and Vos (1999) is of the view that the “future poses radically different challenges to
those placed at the foundation of educational systems and that is why we require a
qualitatively different approach to teaching in the twenty-first century” (p.x).
Hargreaves (2003) sees three challenges highlighted below:
demands on young people;
demands of young people;
demands on how we teach.
I will address each of these demands to the extent the scope of this research warrants it.
3.2.1 The Demands on Young People
The demands on young people pertain to WHAT we teach. A very generally accepted
traditional perception of education in a very simplistic sense is to teach learners the
knowledge which they need to make sense of the world. It means that knowledge such as
that found in textbooks already exists and that the learners need to know it. It is an education
characterised by teaching learners so that they will know the necessary knowledge, skills
and values that already exist.
In a simplistic, static world this would be a very worthy cause and aim of education. However,
the world is not static and the knowledge or information is increasing rapidly. During the era
of the information revolution, the abundance of information causes knowledge overload. Over
a very short period of time, the exponential increase of knowledge causes information
ignorance because of the sheer abundance of knowledge that exists but which cannot be
accessed by an individual even in a lifetime (Barnett, 2007). This makes the world extremely
complex. To make sense of this complexity, educationists deem it useful to divide the
knowledge into smaller groups called disciplines. However, the dire consequences of such
fragmentation can only really be appreciated if it is presented in its original, somewhat
lengthy quotation from the work of Bohm (1990).
It is especially important to consider this question today, for fragmentation is now very
widespread, not only throughout society, but also in each individual; and this is leading
to a kind of general confusion of the mind, which creates an endless series of problems
and interferes with our clarity of perception so seriously as to prevent us from being
able to solve most of them. Thus art, science, technology and human work in general,
are divided into specialities, each considered to be separate in essence from the
others. Becoming dissatisfied with this state of affairs, men have set up further
interdisciplinary subjects, which were intended to unite these specialties, but these new
subjects have ultimately served mainly to add further separate fragments … The notion
that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion
cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. Indeed, the attempt to live
according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has
led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that are confronting us today. Thus,
as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the
balance of nature, over-population, world wide economic and political disorder, and the
creation of an environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the
people who have to live in it. Individually there has developed a widespread feeling of
helplessness and despair, in the face of what seems to be an overwhelmingly mass of
disparate social forces, going beyond the control and even comprehension of the
human beings who are caught up in it (pp.1-2).
Following on Bohm (1990) it would seem that the external environment is being destroyed at
an alarming rate. Consequently, our internal environment suffers and a snowball effect and
self-fulfilling prophecy seem to be reigning. The demand on young people is to get us out of
this mess because they are inheriting it. The resolution for this challenge is only possible
through extraordinary novel ways and means.
To aggravate the observed situation, the overwhelming abundance of knowledge currently
available, especially on the Net even if all of it could be accessed does not suffice in
attempting a resolution to our irresolute destruction. The reason might be that this knowledge
could have been posted on the Net by anyone ranging from an uneducated ignoramus to a
phenomenal expert. This knowledge is subsequently always contested because it does not
carry a tag that guarantees its value or integrity. These developments make the world supercomplex (Barnett, 2007).
Existing knowledge is therefore insufficient to make sense of our rapidly changing world,
because it is effectively knowledge of the past. In addition, knowledge of the future does not
exist. It is difficult not to rely on anything that is in existence to make sense of the supercomplex world given that the future remains unknown. Grulke (2000) describes the current
situation as “the revolution of the empowered individual” (p.3). But, paradoxically, our
individual, contested constructions of the world cause not only external uncertainty but a
serious internal uncertainty which shakes our sense of being. Human beings find themselves
living in “an anxiety-ridden age of insecurity” (Hargreaves, 2003, p.28) and a subsequent
“absurd psycho-drama of self-destruction” (Slattery, 1995, p.248). Vail (1999) is of the view
the rise in insecurity in contemporary society … has been immensely destructive of
human potential and social justice. Insecurity damages individual lives, it destroys selfworth and self-esteem, and it has generated intolerable levels of fear, anxiety,
hopelessness and powerlessness (pp.3-4).
Even though all the knowledge is out there and easily accessible by virtually anyone
(including young people at anytime in the abundance that they choose, even without a
teacher) it is unreliable to the extent that it is always contested. One may ask: what is the
resolution of education for this debilitating disillusionment? Barnett (2007) is adamant when
he warns in this regard: “Learning for an unknown future cannot be accomplished by the
acquisition of either knowledge or skills … neither domain can carry the day in a world of
uncertainty” (pp.258-259).
Although this is not the last word said about knowledge and skills in education, I interrupt the
argument at this stage to emphasise that the demands on our young people is a case of a
self fulfilling “double jeopardy”. Not only are these post modern youngsters already caught up
in a state of insecurity, the best resolution education seemingly has on offer as well as what
is available outside of education are unreliable knowledge and skills.
It should be obvious that this condition places unique demands on young people, which, at
the same time, produces the demands of young people.
3.2.2 The Demands of Young People
It is important first of all to consider the result of the experiences of young people in this
condition of disillusionment.
Although there may be arguments to the contrary, Jukes and Dosaj (2006) believe that ‘kids
of today ARE different! … Really different! … fundamentally different from previous
generations” (pp.2-3). These are some of the reasons for the observed difference:
They have lost their trust in all authority which is currently still represented by adults in
general – past, present and future authority is out because it is that authority that has
plunged the world into the self-destructive state that it is in.
Because they have lost their sense of being, their frame of reference is nothing in particular –
it is “whatever”: Whatever is important to them at any particular moment for as long as that
moment lasts.
Instant gratification is their primary concern.
Their relationships are face-to-screen relationships – even when they are sitting next to one
They have become exceptional in visual-spatial dynamic information processing: up to 70%
faster than adults, being and increasingly becoming the intellectual superiors of many adults
– including teachers.
They are digital experts for whom multitasking has become second nature.
They adore new things, new innovations that challenge them and will emerge in their
exploration until they become bored.
Technology has therefore become their refuge: with the touch of a button there is immediate
response. Therefore they trust technology more than humans.
This has caused the fact that they unfortunately have become socially and emotionally
They deal with human beings in the same way that they do with technology: Switch to
another channel if you bore or agitate them or switch you “off” for that matter.
Human dignity and exploitation have become a commodity in all areas and on all levels of
socio-economic society: Cyber bullying, happy slapping, knifing, and the many other modes
of unprovoked, intentional and deliberate human-on-human abuse are captured on electronic
devices and posted on the internet even as a commodity for sale. The higher the resolution,
the better the sound, the longer the clip and the more extreme the violence, the higher the
price (De Villiers, 2006; Juke and Dosaj, 2006). This information is based on student
teachers’ experiences written in their reflective journals during their school based learning
periods, 2008-2010). Although this is a generalised, bleak and perhaps even an eschewed
picture of
post modern youth, some might claim, its destructive potential can never be
underestimated because educators are already witnesses thereof. However, neither these
youngsters, nor their teachers are necessarily to blame. Instead, one has to recognise their
mute utterance of a desperate cry to be rescued. It would seem that their unexpressed
demand in an overall sense is a call for restoration of their sense of being.
The challenge though, is that their outcry can be addressed by anyone. Doing anything for
them would mean doing it for them and/or on behalf of them. Yet only they themselves can
do that. A critical challenge for teachers given that they have an inherent human potential
should be to create the most powerful learning environment. The creation of that powerful
learning environment will demand that they earn it.
3.2.3 The Demands on how we Teach
Although this section deals with the demands on how we teach the issue on exactly what to
teach has not yet been established. What has been concluded, though, is that knowledge
and skills cannot be the focus of teaching. However, the acquisition of knowledge and skills
in education is indisputable. But, as argued by Barnett (2007), policy makers cannot begin to
offer us a sufficient set of ideas for education in the twenty first century. “At best … they offer
us just two pillars of an educational project … By themselves, these two pillars, … will topple
over: they need (at least) a third pillar – the ontological pillar – to ensure any kind of stable
structure” (p.7). This third indispensable ontological pillar is characterised by dispositions and
qualities and is durable in its nature.
Moreover, “they constitute the student’s pedagogical being. It is they that have to be the
focus of ‘teaching’…” (Barnett, 2007, p.102). It is, as Barnett (2007) further argues, through
their dispositions and qualities that students have the capacity to acquire both knowledge
and skills. Furthermore, it is through their qualities and dispositions that they become
themselves (Barnett, 2007). With this significant statement, Barnett (2007) reveals the key
concept in the deep ontological structure of education, namely authenticity. Although this
may seem a somewhat philosophical perspective towards education, “it is crucial to getting to
grips with what it is to be a student in the contemporary world and with what kinds of human
being are appropriate, indeed called for, in a contemporary world that is full of perplexity”
(Barnett, 2007, p.3). However, as Barnett (2007) points out, an education that does not call
and does not insist on authenticity in the learner is no education.
Correspondingly, an education that calls for authenticity in students’ needs must necessarily
be characterised by authentic pedagogy. This is a pedagogy that require learners to
“become ‘active learners’, capable of solving complex problems and constructing meaning
that is grounded in real-world experience” (Newman, Marks and Gamoran, 1995, p.1). This
kind of authentic learning “calls for a transformatory curriculum and pedagogy … This is a
curriculum that is aimed at the transformation of the human being; nothing less” (Barnett,
2007, pp.256-257).
In designing curricula, there is a need to recognise the demanding challenges of the postmodern era we are living in. There is need to, according to Slattery, (2006):
move from the modern paradigm of curriculum development in the disciplines to the
post modern paradigm of understanding curriculum in various contexts in order to
move toward ..., the construction of the individual in relation to educative moments, the
development of autobiographical, aesthetic, intuitive, and proleptic experience, and the
socio-cultural and socio-political relations emerging from an understanding of the
individual in relation to knowledge, other learners, the world, and ultimately the self
It is important to emphasise that learning is the pivotal constituent that qualifies education as
education. Correspondingly, recent developments in psychology, experimental psychology,
conceptualisation of learning that has turned our conventional corporate and educational
wisdom on its head (Claxton, 1999, p.10). These developments have confirmed that the
biological and physiological functioning of the brain supports the fact that authentic learning
is essentially radically socio-constructivist in nature (Heyligen, 1997; Boylan, 2005: Von
Glasersfeld, 2001).
Authentic learning also means that human beings are born to learn (Smilkstein, 2003) and
are subsequently able to solve complex problems grounded in real-life experiences. To
accomplish this feat, human beings are endowed with a multi-dimensionality in the form of
more than ten multiple intelligences (Sternberg, 2007 and 2008; Gardner 1997, 2004;
Goleman, 1995; De Beauport, 1996; Zohar and Marshal, 2000; Bar-On, Maree and Elias,
2006). These multiple intelligences could be categorised into four intelligence domains,
namely physical intelligence (PQ), mental intelligence, (IQ), emotional intelligence (EQ) and
spiritual intelligence (SQ). These intelligence domains are not only at our disposal for
authentic learning itself, but the added competence of being in complete control and
therefore management of our authentic learning through metacognition (Flavell, 2004),
metalearning (Slabbert, 2002; Slabbert et al., 2009) and self-regulated learning (Zimmerman,
Bonner and Kovach, 1996) as competences to improve the quality of authentic learning
(Sternberg, 2008).
What makes us really unique, however, is not our multidimensionality, but the incredible
potential, encapsulated in our human virtues, each and every one of us is endowed with.
These virtues compose our holistic nature. Life and the world present itself holistically and
not fragmented into bits and pieces. That is why we have been endowed with a holistic
nature to live a prosperous life within the challenges it presents. Our asset is our
consciousness. Consciousness is our experience of life and the source of all meaning, value
and purpose in our lives and in the world (De Quincey, 2005). Authentic learning as “the
growth of consciousness is possible if the factors responsible for the integrity of all
inseparable constituents of human individuality, that is, body, mind, soul, and spirit are
simultaneously activated” (Dimitrov and Wilson, 2002, p.6). This natural multidimensional
holistic interactivity provides the wisdom we need to create a safe sustainable and
prosperous future for all (Sternberg, 2003, 2008; Craft, Gardner and Claxton, 2008, Slabbert
et al., 2009).
However, we are not alone in the world, but we share it with others. As noted by Jacobs,
Power and Loh (2002), since people share the same life in the world, there is an inevitable
sociological relationship which, in education, is manifested in a sociological nature of
knowledge. This is manifested in cooperative learning.
Acknowledging that learning is not about finding things, but it is about finding ourselves
(Purpel and McLauren, 2004), then metalearning will reveal our identity and cooperative
learning our integrity. But what is of crucial importance is that this can only happen in
community and within the context of authentic learning. It has to be a community of authentic
learning practice.
It would be difficult to comprehend learning outside the realm of truth being a very
contentious issue, especially in education. What makes it so contentious is the proliferation
of absolute relativism in the post-modern context, and, towards its opposite pole, the reigning
of mythical objectivism through positivist exclusion. However, Purpel and McLauren (2004)
state very clearly that “the crises that we face today will not abate until we have found a way
to wisdom” (p.203) and wisdom is the love of truth. Our conception of truth is therefore
encapsulated in the Greek word Aletheia meaning unconcealment, exposure or uncovering.
Or in the more concrete description of Palmer (1998): “truth is an eternal conversation about
the things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline” (p.104).
Therefore, the firmest foundation of learning is the community of truth. It enhances the
quality of learning through conflict. It is in our willingness to put forward our observations and
interpretations for testing by the community and return the favour to others. Conflict is the
dynamic by which we test our constructions in the open in a communal effort to stretch one
another and the constructions we create. As pointed out by Palmer (1998), we submit our
assumptions, our observations, and our constructions indeed, ourselves: our identity and
integrity to its scrutiny.
Such an education, as indicated, requires a unique curriculum and pedagogy. It should be a
paradigm not of outside-in (teacher to learner) but inside-out (learner to real life). It should be
a curriculum, not of learning to know, but of learning to be. It should be a pedagogy, not of
the transmission of knowledge, but of facilitating learning in such a way that the learners will
maximise (completely develop and fully utilise) their potential. This is encapsulated in
essential human virtues that generate the power and will to fulfil their purpose of life.
However, the concept of facilitating learning as a proposed pedagogy to achieve the aim of
authentic learning is clouded with gross misconception. In the literature it includes anything
that is educational, from accurate imitation and transmission of knowledge to projects and
When Rooth (2000) defines facilitating learning as “not teaching, not telling, not lecturing, not
preaching, and not directing” (p.35) and subsequently not employing the myriad of teaching
methods, she points out that facilitating learning is something distinctly different from
teaching. Secondly, “central to the definition of teaching as facilitating learning is the shift of
focus from the teaching process to the learning process that happens in the mind of the
learner. If so, the ultimate measure of excellence in teaching is the quality of learning that it
leads to” (Mohanan, 2005, p.1). This means that the ultimate measure of excellence refers to
the quality of the learning that is the primary focus of facilitating learning. Facilitating learning
is therefore qualitatively different from teaching.
Finally, “[T]he problem is that teachers think that if they “teach”, students learn (Sternberg,
2008, pp.143-144) which is obviously not the case. Subsequently, “if the teaching activities
do not result in learning, there has been no teaching. Likewise, if the learning is lacking
quality, the teaching is unsuccessful to that extent” (Mohanan, 2005, p.2). Since teaching
does not have learning as its conscious, singular focus, consequently it is incapable of
ensuring learning quality; the concept of teaching cannot be justified in education. The
contemporary discourse in education, therefore, discards the concept of teaching within the
context of authentic learning because of its irreconcilability with the challenging demands of
an education within a super-complex world with an unknown future and replaces it with
facilitating learning.
Facilitating learning is a unique professionalism with very distinctive characteristics regarding
its purpose, functions, requirements, actions, and options. In fact, in a very concrete fashion
and a significant sense and as argued by Slabbert et al. (2009) facilitating learning is the
direct opposite of the concept of teaching. As indicated in the preceding paragraphs, the
traditional sequential concept that learners must first be taught to know something
(knowledge), then they will be able to do something (skills) with what they know and that will
result in what they will be (values) someone with moral authority is fundamentally flawed. In
fact, as Buscaglia (1996) points out, some of the wisest people who have the fewest answers
and the least amount of certainty have found that the most important thing about knowledge
or learning is not the knowing, but the seeking. The seeking (skills), therefore, effectively
precedes the knowing (knowledge). But it is our primary motivation in life, our desire for
meaning (be: the values which allow us to live a meaningful life), that propels our search for
meaning (do: knowledge constructed personally under conditions that make it meaningful)
into action and that subsequently has the construction of knowledge as a result (know: a
temporal fruit of being). It is our authentic being as a perpetual desire for meaning that
requires an opposing paradigm: Not a know-do-be, but a be-do-know curriculum and
pedagogy of living real life.This is why Dewey (1938) is one author who insists that education
is not a preparation for a future life, but that it must be an experience of life itself.
This brings one to the question of what the core business of education in this context should
be. Contemporary research in learning and instruction and in particular instructional
psychology, instructional design and instructional technology proposed new theoretical
frameworks in the design, implementation and evaluation of powerful learning environments
(De Corte, Verschaffel, Enwistle and Van Merriënboer, 2003). This development has
prompted the realisation of what the core business of education and subsequently that of the
teacher educator is, namely to design, operationalise (or implement) and maintain the best
possible learning environment in order to ensure the highest possible quality of learning.
The developments in all the mentioned intersecting research fields are obviously
characterised by similarities and differences. Although there are differences, it seems as
though there is some consensus about what has become a matter of primary importance:
“Now, it becomes important to answer the question how to design and develop powerful
learning environments in an efficient and systematic manner” (Van Merriënboer and Paas,
2003, p.18). Van Merriënboer and Paas, (2003) purport that
In the last decade research has been conducted on the necessary characteristics of
powerful learning environments. These include: (1) use of complex, realistic and
challenging problems that elicit in learners active and constructive processes of
knowledge and skill acquisition; (2) the inclusion of small group, collaborative work and
ample opportunities for interaction, communication and co-operation; and (3) the
encouragement of learners to set their own goals and provision of guidance for
students in taking more responsibility for their own learning activities and processes
The world of work has become central in designing, implementing and evaluating powerful
learning environments. “Learning tasks nicely fit the ideas that are prevalent in the world of
work. Learning tasks are concrete, authentic and meaningful real-life experiences that are
provided to learners” (Van Merienboer and Paas, 2003, p.9). However, these concrete,
authentic and meaningful real-life challenges present themselves in their uncompromising
complexity and will subsequently constitute the highest possible quality of learning.
The issue of trivialised quality through compliance that creates the perception of quality as
opposed to actual quality itself has been addressed in the opening sentences of this section
of Chapter 3. What actual quality explicitly entails has therefore grossly eluded the pages of
research literature. Fortunately the groundbreaking work of Furlong and Oancea (2008) has
brought a more concrete perspective on actual quality in education. In their response to the
said work, Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2009) state that the overriding criterion
governing quality is to be ethical in professional practice. I cannot agree more with them
when they say: “clearly, for us, recognising the relationship between quality and ethics is no
trivial consideration … As we have argued, ethical practice is the essential foundation upon
which authentic quality enterprises are built” (p.69).
Education, no doubt, has to be such an authentic quality enterprise. Unfortunately the
different needs of different kinds of learners in different kinds of contexts may differ vastly,
which may complicate what actual quality will entail. The challenge therefore is to design an
authentic quality education that will encompass all kinds and levels of learners irrespective of
place and time. Such an educational enterprise may be characterised by its aim. Therefore, if
the aim of education is to maximise (completely develop and fully utilise) human potential
through facilitating lifelong authentic learning in order to create a safe, sustainable and
prosperous future for all, as Slabbert et al. (2009) suggest, actual quality is clearly expressed
with an educational aim that could be regarded as universal. Actual quality education is
therefore characterised not by how much you know, but how well can you learn. That is why
Heidegger (1962) is of the view that the real teacher is one who lets nothing else be learned
than learning. The product of education is therefore not primarily an epistemological task
(knowing something), but an ontological challenge (being the best possible learner
employing the highest possible quality of learning – doing - in order to produce the highest
possible quality of knowledge – knowing).
One may ask: what does the highest possible authentic quality in education constitute? This
has been a hidden secret in plain sight because of the deception of compliance standards.
Table 3.1 indicates what quality generally constitutes authentic learning.
In table 3.2 the work of several authors has been compared in order to reveal how their work
relates to authentic learning quality. These authors include, Dewey, 1944; Vygotsky, 1978;
Joyce, Weil and Showers, 1992; Miller, 2003; Engestrom, 2004; Darling-Hammond and
Bransford, 2005).
Finally in Table 3.1 authentic learning quality is indicated by comparing four education
paradigms. The first three depicted models in education, namely transmission, transaction
and transformation, have their origin in the work of Dewey (1944), Piaget, (1958) and
Vygotsky (1978). Joyce, Weil and Showers (1992), Miller (1996) and others substantiated
them subsequently. Some contemporary authors like Arons (1997), Freiburg and Driscoll
(2000), Miller, (2003), and Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2005) believe that another
model should be added beyond the transformation model. However, it is in particular the
work of Engeström (2004) who included qualitative transformation as a higher level of
learning quality beyond that of the existing models. Since this addition was so transcendental
in its nature, Slabbert et al., (2009) reconceptualised the models as paradigms. These
researchers labelled the latter one the transcendental paradigm because it transcends the
limitations and deceit of the compliance culture going beyond the prescribed curriculum, the
classroom, the school, learning to know, the self and the limited ways of knowing, and
immerses the learner directly into real-life experiences. The dominant characteristics of each
paradigm are depicted in table 3.2 and it is obvious why the transcendental paradigm
constitutes the highest possible level of learning quality. The ethical competence of moral
authority and excellence is inextricably linked with authentic quality. I agree with
Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2009) when they assert that
... quality is to be regained as a genuine virtue, then genuinely meeting accountability and
professional responsibility standards is central … In the end, quality will be determined by the
extent to which professional responsibility is enacted …reclaiming of ‘quality’ is a key
element and tool of teacher professional knowledge …” (p.11).
It is within the context of the preceding exposure of a contemporary educational discourse
that the subsequent sections of this chapter should be interpreted. The purpose of the
following sections is not to address each aspect of the contemporary discourse already
discussed. Instead, the purpose is to address only those aspects that have a direct bearing
on the current research question. It therefore becomes important to establish what an
appropriate teacher education and teacher educator professional development epistemology
should entail. Figure 3.1 depicts what the construction of learning quality in education entails
in general.
Fig 3.1 A construction of what learning quality in education entails in general
(Adapted from Brunner, 1996:11)
Level of
commitment and
understanding by
all those involved
Depth of
Capacity for
generation of
Creating knowledge
Teachers challenge
learners to generate
Constructing meaning
Teachers require learners to construct
meaning of what already exists
Teachers tell learners what to do and
learners follow the instructions
Teachers show learners what to do and learners imitate
Amount of
P Analysis
I Application
holistic complexity
Authentic context
Personal meaning
Real life
Radical Exploration
Creating knowledge
Qualitative transformation
Real life
Clearly defined
More than one focus
Gather information
More than one answer
Incremental Exploration
Constructing meaning
Project based learning
Problem-based learning
Clearly defined
More than one focus
All information given
One answer
Adjustable exploitation
Internalisation of
Clearly defined
One focus
All information given
One answer
Transferable exploitation
Transmission of knowledge
Traditional school learning
Table 3.2 Four Education Paradigms
To apply
To maximise
To impart
To understand
human potential
Process (for
Direct teaching
Learning to
Learning to
apply (facts)
Learning to be
and holistically
Tell, illustrate,
guidance, help
memorise, drill,
Level of
Confront the
learners with a
real life
challenge they
have to resolve
experimentation, new meaning
Core concept
Core concept
Authentic: Living
real life wisely
Learning to
know (facts)
(Adapted from Dewey, 1944; Vygotsky, 1978; Joyce, Weil and Showers, 1992; Miller,
2003; Engestrom, 2004; Darling-Hammond and Bransford, 2005)
3.3 A Contemporary Teacher Education and Teacher Educator
Professional Development Epistemology
The preceding section puts into perspective the main features of a contemporary teacher
education and teacher educator discourse. The main thrust of a new contemporary
educational discourse is that of a contemporary educational epistemology and
subsequently a contemporary teacher education and teacher educator professional
development epistemology.
I do not in this section intend to engage in an elaborate explication of knowledge
theories, rather I focus on two theories underpinning knowledge. These theories have an
exceptional consequence, especially regarding a longstanding dichotomy of the theorypractice gap in teacher education. The theories originate from the perceptions of
knowledge espoused by ancient philosophers, namely Aristotle and Plato.
Some researchers have studied knowledge broadly to the extent of categorising it into
episteme and phronesis, often with reference to the work of Aristotle and Plato
(Korthagen, Kessels and Koster, 2001). Korthagen et al. (2001), for example, elaborate
on these concepts by presenting a scenario illustrating practices followed and
consequences of such practices in teacher education, and in so doing provide an
analysis of the difference between episteme and phronesis.
Expert, scientific knowledge (theory) needs Individual practical knowledge needs
scientific understanding
practical, creative, spiritual wisdom
Knowledge of principles
Knowledge of concrete particulars
Locus of certitude: Principles
Locus of certitude: Particulars
Knowledge is conceptual
Knowledge is perceptual
Knowledge is rigid
Knowledge is flexible
The concept dictates the practice
Uses the practice to construct a guiding
and Knowledge acquired through enough,
appropriate and authentic experiences
and enriched, adapted or changed by
reflection and existing research (critical
judging, choosing actions, execute them,
be confronted with its consequences and
learn from them)
Provides concepts
(wisdom principles)
Teach the student concepts – avoid will, Immerse the student in experience –
emotions, etc. – they disturb
celebrate will, emotions, transcendence,
etc. – they provide insight
(Korthagen et al., 2001, p.15)
In the context of teacher education, especially as regards episteme, Korthagen et al.
(2001) argue that teacher educators tend to be expected to solve the problems of the
students, have knowledge at their disposal and therefore should be in a position to use
such knowledge in a manner that students will be helped by it. The authors argue that
such expectations present problems for teacher educators themselves. Therefore, their
understanding of phronesis is that it is a different type of knowledge; it is not so much
concerned with existing or concrete scientific theories which teacher educators tend to
present to student teachers as conceptual. It is therefore unlike episteme perceptual.
These researchers conclude that in the context of teacher education:
... there is nothing or little to transmit, only a greater deal to explore. And the task
of the teacher educator is to help student teachers explore and refine their
perceptions. This asks for a well-organized arrangement in which student teachers
get the opportunity to reflect systematically on the details of their practical
experiences, under the guidance of the teacher educator both in individual
supervision and in group seminars” (pp.29-30).
Discussions on these theories which underpin the conceptualisation of knowledge in its
broadest terms help to situate professional knowledge and other forms of knowledge as
they pertain to teacher education. Most importantly, as can be deduced from the
information presented in Table 3.3 (above), there is a clear difference between theory
and practice.
This distinction between theory and practice has also been an inconvenient problem in
teacher education throughout its existence in that the theory does not result in practice
as it is expected to do:
We saw that the theory-practice gap is a result of the view that the traditional goal
of teacher education is to teach expert knowledge (resulting from psychological,
sociological and educational research) to student teachers, who can then use this
expertise in their practice … This view leads teacher educators to make a-priori
choices about the theory that should be transmitted to student teachers. Research
has shown that this approach has a very limited effect on practice” (Korthagen,
2000, p.255).
The reason for the above is the implicit assumption that the conceptual scientific
discipline (episteme) is the real thing – the teaching itself.
In fact, such abstract
knowledge is a very poor device to provide any value to acquire a professional practice
such as teaching. Having general, theoretical, technical, rationality disciplined
knowledge at their disposal is not what they need. They need something else, if the
ever-increasing and devastating theory practice gap is to disappear. “This something
else is knowledge of a different kind, not abstract and theoretical, but it’s very opposite
…” (Korthagen, 2000, p.225). In actual fact, even if the teacher education through expert
discipline knowledge was excellent or completely absent, what teachers actually do in
practice, is quite a surprise:
What teachers use, in practice, is phronesis: situation-specific principles, contextdependent, that help them to rapidly arrive at decisions to solve practical problems
… What is important is that it helps the teacher, within the practical situation, to
quickly perceive what is relevant in the situation and to base his or her actions on
that perception (Korthagen, 2000, p.255).
It would therefore be inappropriate to think of the theoretical dimensions of professional
knowledge as theory (episteme) to be applied to practice (phronesis). Such
fragmentation is also the major contributor to the theory/practice dichotomy in teacher
education and the teacher educator providing the education.
The construction of the professional praxis knowledge is accomplished through concrete
experiences of that practice itself. However, to ensure that what has been experienced
in practice becomes knowledge requires a crucial intermediate intervention. This
intermediate intervention is a conscious reflective practice (Schőn, 1983) because
reflection is the instrument through which the concrete experiences are translated into
dynamic, meaningful knowledge (Korthagen, 2001). Such a constructed theory of
concrete experiences represents practical wisdom (phronesis: consisting of principles of
situation-specific, context-dependent contexts) is called a practice theory (Furlong,
2000). Korthagen, (2000) indicates that in order to develop good teachers there is need
for another pedagogy. Such pedagogy should start from a different view of what is
important for student teachers especially if the interest is for helping them to become
people of practical wisdom. Immersion in concrete practical experience (phronesis) is
the foundation of the contemporary pedagogy. The curriculum is therefore an own
construction of a practice theory; a theory of the experienced practice.
However, this constructed practice theory is continually informed and enriched by each
subsequent education practice of the student teacher as such (through reflection and/or
action research on his/her own practice). It is also informed and enriched by practices of
other practitioners and experts as well as the exploration of existing education research
(episteme: disciplinary theories) that may contribute to the improvement of the
professional practice of education. The relationship between episteme and phronesis is
therefore not the one or the other, neither the one and the other. Crucially phronesis is
primary and episteme becomes a source for exploration to improve the professional
practice that has already been constructed. The abstract disciplinary knowledge then
becomes meaningful within the context or framework of education in practice,
contributing to a repertoire of concrete, principled, practical wisdom (phronesis) of and
for education in practice – where it manifests.
3.3.1 Addressing the Teacher Educators’ Professional Needs through
Self-Study Research
In this section of Chapter 3, I align the literature reviewed to arguments that
professionals in the education sector can benefit from engaging in research and learning
from the experience.
As alluded to in Chapter 1, at the regional and international levels, teacher educators
have responded to questions about the extent to which they can be classified as
professionals by engaging in numerous activities, including research of a self-study
nature, collaborating with either colleagues or student teachers in engaging in such
research and presenting research based papers in conferences (Clarke, 3001).
It is important in discussing teacher educators’ professional needs to refer to some of the
work undertaken by some researchers in this area. I recognise the work of GroundwaterSmith and Mockler (2009), particularly as this work relates to research to be undertaken
by teachers and teacher educators as professionals in their own right. They encourage
teachers and teacher educators as practitioners to form “Professional Learning
Communities” through which learning would be collective, collegial and collaborative.
Among the distinct features of such a community would be engaging in reflective
professional inquiry. I choose “reflective professional inquiry” out of five features of
Professional Learning Communities for its relevance to this study.
Presumably, formation of such a community requires the practitioners themselves to be
proactive and address the challenges that might emerge as they implement their
professional activities. Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2009) point to possible
challenges and call for “action-for the teaching profession itself as well as those who
serve it, such as teacher educators to pose a challenge to the compliance agenda in
education in all its manifestations. Such a challenge is not likely to be easy, [though] …
Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2009) argue for inquiry-based professional learning for
teachers. They point out that embracing the idea of inquiry-based professional learning
would challenge teachers and teacher educators to develop some level of courage. They
propose 8 attributes of courage. For example, teachers should have the courage to be
true professionals in their practice, to take a transformative and libratory stance and to
propose the challenging solution, just to mention a few. They argue that courage has
always been part of practising teachers but that it is even more relevant to have courage
in the context in which they are expected to succumb to demands posted by those who,
for example, have the power to develop and impose standards.
There are other researchers who argue that teachers and teacher educators should
develop the practice of researching. Lingard and Renshow (2010) write about teaching
as research-informing professions; research undertaken by teachers should not only be
classified as teacher inquiry or action-research but should in their view be a “researchly
disposition” which should be instilled in teacher education institutions as educational
research in its broadest sense. In this regard teachers and teacher educators would be
empowered to engage in “productive pedagogies research” for its significance to
practising teachers or teacher educators.
Another form of research that is commonly practised by teacher educators is known as
“self-study”. Self-study is valued by teacher educators for its benefits. The benefits
include empowering practitioners to examine their learning about practice, exploring
scholarship through reflecting on their teaching, maintaining focus on their students’
learning and collaborating with colleagues or teachers in schools. Most significantly, as
argued by Loughran (2010), the interplay between practice and scholarship could be
appealing to educators as their work becomes more holistic as opposed to being placed
in sections such as being in a teaching department and not in a research one.
There seems to be a close relationship between self-study and action-research. They
both embrace reflection and reflective practice and are therefore aimed at empowering
the practitioner. These concepts have been in the education sector for many years and
are promoted by researchers such as Schőn (1983, 1987). Kitchen and Stevens (2010),
teacher educators at the University of Toronto, used self-study as an approach in an
action research project in which they worked with their student teachers.
learned from the research include the fact that Kitchen who had utilised reflection on
past experience and present practice, as well as critical analysis and additional field
experience as the tool for professional growth of student teachers, had plans to, as a
result of lessons learned from the study, add inquiry through action research in the preservice teacher education programme. Kitchen and Stevens (2010) conclude that
self-study was vital to our growth because it heightened our level of reflection
during the action research process. By consciously examining our teaching
practice through action research and self-study, we were able to make
adjustments to this assignment and the curriculum as a whole. By reflectively
engaging in interdisciplinary and collaborative teaching we enhanced our skills as
co-constructors and renewed our commitment to work with other teacher
educators. Self-study was a very important part of our process. By reflecting on
both this project and our teacher education practice generally, we developed
deeper understanding of our research findings, identified possibilities for action
research in teacher education, and examined closely our beliefs and practices as
teacher educators (p.4).
In Kitchen and Stevens (2010) we learn about cooperation or partnering as colleagues
with own students and in the process generating new knowledge and developing
professionally. This idea is supported by researchers such as Groundwater-Smith and
Mockler (2010) who report on partnerships between classroom practitioners and
academics. It is a study whose outcomes, regardless of some challenges experienced in
the process, proved to benefit all participants. Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2010)
conclude that this was a professional learning journey that they valued for its “capacity to
open classroom doors, draw teachers and academics into new ways of working together
and foster critical professional discourse [which is] surely an essential part of true
professional learning and collaboration (p.167).
3.3.2 Relationship between Research Undertaken and Learning
The major question that underpins this study is with regard to where teacher educators
draw their professional knowledge from. The literature presented in this section of the
literature review chapter focuses on quality assurance and management issues,
challenges facing teachers and teacher educators in the context in which teaching takes
place. It further focuses on engaging in research as a possible strategy for teachers and
teacher educators to learn from their experience. With the question that underpins this
study in mind I now venture on literature on learning and its various facets for its
relevance to the major question. It is critical to begin with metacognition and
metalearning, given their importance in this study.
Flavell is one of the researchers whose educational psychology work has focused on,
among other areas, metacognition. His 1971, 1976, 1979 and 1987 work is reported to
have focused on, among others, educational psychology areas: metacognition and
cognitive monitoring. In his work he is said to make reference to metacogitive knowledge
and metacognitive experiences. In the description it is indicated that metacognitive
experience can also be a ‘stream of consciousness’ process in which other information,
memories or earlier experiences may be recalled as resources in the process of solving
a current-moment cognitive problem. The description goes further to indicate that
metacognitive experience also encompasses the affective response to tasks. In the final
analysis, success or failure, frustration or satisfaction, and many other responses affect
the moment-to-moment unfolding of a task for an individual. The unfolding of the task
may in the end help determine an individual’s interest or willingness to pursue similar
tasks in the future.
The Institute of Education, London (2001) further provides a description of metalearning
and metacognition and shows the difference between these two concepts. The Institute
asserts that metacognition refers to awareness of thinking processes and ‘executive
control’ of such processes whereas metalearning refers to making sense of one’s
experience of learning. The Institute indicates that metalearning “covers a much wider
range of issues than metacognition, including goals, feelings, social relations and
context of learning (p1). Livingston (1997) takes the point further. He elaborates on
metacognition and concludes that knowledge of a person variable refers to general
knowledge about how human beings learn and process information. Knowledge of a
person variable also includes individual knowledge of one’s own learning processes.
Ridley, Schutz, Glanz and Weinstein (1992) have summed up metacognitive skills. They
include taking conscious control of learning, planning and selecting strategies,
monitoring the progress of learning, correcting errors, analysing the effectiveness of
learning strategies, and changing learning behaviours and strategies when necessary.
Besides researching learning as a construct, other researchers have ventured into
researching metalearning and metacognition. Jackson (2003) explored metalearning as
a concept. In preparation for a paper he was going to present at a symposium, Jackson
engaged in research that would help make his paper research-based. His research
involved symposium participants. The study was guided by a question: “Is metalearning
a valid and useful concept?” [Jackson’s emphasis]. He acknowledges that he
borrowed the description provided in 1985 by John Biggs. The description indicates that
within the concept are ideas such as that “people need to have knowledge of how they
learn; have the motivation to be proactive in managing themselves in this way and have
the capacity to be able to regulate their learning” (p.3). Jackson (2003) went further to
associate metalearning with the concept of managing own learning and concluded that
this concept is a complex mixture of “knowledge products – knowledge of learning / own
learning and how self learns, attitudes such as being prepared to do whatever one wants
to do, capacities and skills involving thinking and acting on thinking and processes for
doing whatever it is one wants to do. He presents what he thinks he has learned about
how other people and how he has learned in a figure.
Jackson (2003) presents how people learn as individuals in the figure below. This figure,
he argues, is informed by the research he did in an institution of higher learning. The
research involved 15 medical general practitioners who were at different stages of their
Figure 3.2 How I think I have learned about how other people and I learn
My own formal
Reading ‘explicit
knowledge’ about
experiences that
contribute to my
beliefs and
Processed experiences in
which I have deliberately
tried to learn about myself
Scientific knowledge
about how people learn
Through collaborative
working that explicitly
tries to reveal how we learn
Learning through research
and scholarship connected to
employment e.g. teacher,
researcher, and consultant in
a range of contexts
My knowledge
about how people
learn has been
acquired in many
Participation in formal
training, development
activities and events,
conferences, workshops etc.
As a bi-product of
collaborative working
By observing others
and trying to emulate
what I considered
being good role
Sharing of tacit
knowledge through
discussions or
By engaging in action
research and reflective
Jackson (2003, p.6)
Jackson (2003) concludes his understanding of how people learn by making reference to
a study that was carried out in 1999 by the United States of America National Council.
The study identified three principles for effective learning and Jackson adopts these. He
then argues that if metalearning means anything then it must relate to these fundamental
Principle 1: Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the
world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged they may fail to grasp
the new concepts and information.
Principle 2: To develop competence in an area of inquiry students must
(a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge;
(b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework;
(c) organise knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
Principle 3: A metacognitive approach to instruction (presumably self-instruction
also) can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining
learning goals and monitoring progress in achieving them.
There are similarities in the analysis of the concept as presented by Jackson, Slabbert et
al. and the Institute of Education London (2001). While Jackson (2003) concludes that
metalearning is the sort of knowledge that enables individuals to be effective learners,
Slabbert et al. (2009) conclude that it is the process where learners are in complete
control of their own learning. Solely the purpose for a learner would be to ensure that the
highest possible quality of learning is attained. Slabbert et al. (2009) take the point on
metalearning further by pointing out that metalearning is the instrument through which
“flexible learning, situated learning, contextual learning and contingent learning are
acquired and practised as integrated constructed competence” (p.110).
The other aspect of learning discussed in the literature is metacognition. Jackson (2003),
while making reference to various researches and people such as Flavell (1979) and
Cowan (2003), comes up with his conceptualisation of the word metacognition. In his
view metacognition entails “thinking, to good purpose, about how the processes of
cognition work, and in particular, about how they can work for us …” (p.12).
Reference to issues of learning in its broad sense is made to Mezirow (1991), Slabbert
et al. (2009), and the Institute of Education London (2001) where the concept learning is
described. Mezirow (1991) describes learning in the context of adult learning and
indicates that
Learning may be defined as the process of making a new or revised interpretation
of the meaning of an experience, which guides subsequent understanding,
appreciation, and action. What we perceive and fail to perceive and what we think
and fail to think are powerfully influenced by habits of expectation that constitute
our frame of reference, that is, a set of assumptions that structure the way we
interpret our experiences. It is not possible to understand the nature of adult
learning or education without taking into account the cardinal role played by these
habits in making meaning p.1.
The literature indicates that learning is a complex undertaking. Learners have to
construct meaning themselves; in this regard they have to be active and creative
(Slabbert et al., 2009). Additionally, learners tend to, especially in situations where they
encounter an unfamiliar context, direct the way they collect additional information,
compare incidents and consequently relate emergent patterns metaphorically to their
meaning perspective. Mezirow (1991) further indicates that it is critical to validate results,
especially in contexts in which learning involves the ability to control and manipulate an
environment or other people.
The Institute of Education, London presents a report in the National School Improvement
Bulletin focusing on learning about learning. The report whose purpose it is to review
evidence which connects learning about learning with higher levels of performance is
based on an analysis of about 100 research studies. It is acknowledged in the paper that
the review is structured according to periods of schooling (preschool, primary school and
secondary school) which may imply a developmental trend to learning about learning.
However, the conclusion reached is that an “explicit focus on learning is an infrequent
experience at any stage of education, and many learners show signs that they have little
understanding of their own learning processes” (p.7). This gap displayed by learners
could justify the reason for this Institute to emphasise the value of reflection in which
“expert learners” employ reflective thinking skills to evaluate the results of their learning
efforts. Therefore learning about learning is a complex undertaking which requires
learners to build on their learning skills through reflecting on the learning itself.
This literature review on learning and the various aspects of learning reveal that
individuals have numerous ways of learning. In a nutshell as pointed out by Watkins
(2001), while metacognition is a defining characteristic of our species, metalearning is
the dynamic episteme.
3.3.3 Research Questions and Implications for Learning as a
At the teacher education level, teacher educators’ practice is partly informed by the
objectives articulated in teacher education programmes. Teacher education objectives
are in turn informed by the broad aims of an education system as captured in national
curricula. Therefore, in this context, teacher educators would be expected not only to
engage in teaching that is cognizant of national educational aims but should do so in the
most efficient ways, thereby ensuring that student teachers benefit from such
endeavours. The implication is that teacher educators are heavily influenced by
developments prevailing in education systems since they have to remain relevant to
national educational goals.
Another implication is that the process of learning is not only targeting student teachers
and their future students but also has to begin with teacher educators themselves. In
ensuring that the teachers’ teaching results in the anticipated learning outcome, they
have to challenge their learners in a manner that will ensure that the aim of education is
achieved. In this regard, what needs to be taught and how it is taught is crucial so that
teacher educators act out or model what they themselves expect of their student
The conclusion drawn by Van de Groep et al., (2005) on professional development of
teacher educators is helpful. These researchers indicate that the most stimulating
condition for the profesionalisation of teacher educators is for them to find an occasion to
reflect. This means that in practice they are learners in their own right and as such have
to be asking questions such as what it is that they want to learn and what it is that they
find important in their work. Such questions could contribute to helping them find passion
and motivation for their work.
Therefore, the need to reform current practice in educating student teachers as
articulated by James (2009) is long overdue. James refers to the frustration experienced
by student teachers in practice. The frustrations experienced are brought about by global
teacher education situations in which the traditional aim is to have student teachers learn
knowledge constructed by experts and use the expertise in their own teaching (Slabbert,
2003). In her further arguments on the need to change the pedagogy of teacher
education, James also makes reference to Schőn’s technical rationality. James’s (2009)
argument is based on a recently undertaken research for the fulfilment of her PhD
programme. She concludes that it is in embracing the technical-rationality approach that
teacher educators make “a priori choice” about the theory that should be transmitted to
student teachers. In the end they tend to use transmissive methods of delivering the
The argument raised by James (2009) points to the current practice as being biased
towards teacher educators modelling episteme; yet currently, as demonstrated by her
study, the trend should be to model phronesis. Further argument on Schőn’s (1987)
technical rationality approach will be elaborated on below, as it is commonly used in
most teacher education contexts, albeit with limited impact on practice.
The other specific question that this study is addressing is on the construction of
professional knowledge. As will be detailed below, constructivism has much relevance to
learning. The argument raised in the literature is that knowledge is constructed internally
and through a process of interaction with the social world (Berman, 1988). Underpinning
the arguments raised about constructivism is that learning is both fundamentally and
radically constructive in nature. Heyligen (1997), in elaborating on knowledge as
fundamentally constructive in nature, is of the view that it is constructed in situations
where students attempt to make sense of their world. Von Glaserfeld (2001) expounds
on learning as radically constructivist in nature, with the emphasis on the ability of
individuals to construct knowledge.
These elaborations on constructivism help to justify the fact that providing student
teachers with an opportunity to construct knowledge is a way of ensuring that they too
will practise what they would have learned from their teacher education programmes. A
graduate’s ability to let his/or her students develop skills that will enable them to uphold
constructivist ideals would be providing them an opportunity to become independent.
3.3.4 Implications of Research and Research Questions on Teacher
I acknowledge here that teacher educators constitute an important section of any
education system. In practice they play a fundamental role of educating teachers for
various levels of education systems. Therefore, while this research revolves around
teacher educators, and more specifically on their sources of professional knowledge,
attainment of that knowledge and relevant qualifications, in the end, is targeted at the
student at the school level. The school level student is expected to achieve a particular
educational aim (Slabbert et al., 2009). The challenge therefore remains for teacher
educators to make that connection as they too learn in practice on best approaches to
educating student teachers.
Consequently, those school level students will benefit from good practice demonstrated
by graduates of teacher education programmes. Therefore teacher educators, given the
very mandate of educating teachers, should be concerned about the ultimate goal of
educating student teachers who enrol in teacher education programmes. In practice,
therefore, learning has to take precedence as a contextualising factor, given that
currently people, including professionals in education, talk about “good teaching when
the teacher has brought the students to good learning” (Vermunt, 2003). It is important to
reiterate here that teacher educators therefore have to educate student teachers in a
manner that will help them engage in a kind of teaching which should aim at achieving
an education aim, and they should do so in the most efficient manner if students are
going to benefit from such teaching endevours.
The challenge for teacher educators and education systems in general is educating
student teachers in a manner that ensures that the required learning takes place. This
centres on the ability of teacher educators to deliver teaching in a manner that ensures
that the student teachers’ teaching activities will result in the intended aim of education
being realised. The challenge therefore is on the teacher educators themselves, as they
too would have to rethink the strategies they have been using to embrace new
developments. For example, issues of co-operative learning (Slabbert et al., 2009)
require a rethinking of the common practice of grouping students to undertake a
particular task. The teacher educator who focuses on rethinking the manner in which
students are helped to become radical in their ways of thinking and teaching is cognizant
of the role of concepts such as metalearning and metacognition in teacher education.
Teacher educators who embrace such concepts strive for empowering student teachers
with the ideals of constructivism that are built on an understanding that knowledge is not
passively received but actively constructed by the individuals through interactions with
the environment (Slabbert et al., 2009). The context of metalearning is such that
students become effective, self-directed, independent lifelong learners. In this regard
teacher educators would be required to encourage their student teachers to uphold the
ideals of encouraging their own students to create interactive environments in which they
would be required to construct meaning. It is in a real life context in which students can
be challenged so that they can resolve real problems, which more often than not do not
necessarily need the support of teachers. Students require skills for resolving challenges
and they would be compelled to do so by prevailing circumstances (Slabbert et al.,
3.3.5 Implications of Professionalism for Teacher Educators
Having discussed professionalism in Chapter 1, I revisit the concept here for its
relevance to this chapter. I wrote about the need for teacher educators to, as is the case
with all other professionals in other disciplines, be certificated (Clarke, 2001). In this
context I refer to professionalism as it relates to choices that teacher educators have to
make in executing the teaching of student teachers. The emphasis here is that teacher
educators should, as they make teaching decisions, be cognizant of the fact that
“professional knowledge is derived from practice” (Slabbert et al., 2009, p.132). In this
regard a professional would act in ways that are illustrative of his or her professional
knowledge, skills and values that are uniquely those of teacher education. In the latter
researchers’ view, teacher educators would therefore be upholding values that
demonstrate their integrity in such a manner that they are distinguishable from other
The challenge for teacher educators as professionals therefore is to harness phronesis
through exposing student teachers to and challenging them through what Korthagen,
(2001) refers to as new experiences and continuously ensuring that they understand the
principles that cause their practice to be successful (Slabbert, et al., 2009). Therefore, it
is only in situations where student teachers are exposed to opportunities that require
them to think beyond education taught in teacher education institutions that they can
construct new conceptions and internalize fundamental changes in their own learning,
and so educate their own students. However, as they adopt new ideas, teacher
educators should bear in mind fundamentals of human virtues which, when examined
alongside professional integrity, call for upholding moral values and norms. Palmer
(1998) summaries fundamentals of human virtues and professional integrity by indicating
that knowing one’s students and own subject:
depends heavily on self-knowledge. When I do not know myself, I cannot know
who my students are, I will see them through a glass darkly, in the shadows of my
unexamined life and when I cannot see them clearly, I cannot teach them well.
When I do not know myself, I cannot know my subject not at the deepest levels of
embodied, personal meaning. I will know it only abstractly, from a distance … as
far removed from the world as I am from personal truth (p.2).
In the final analysis teacher educators, by the nature of their work, have demands to
address in their day-to-day activities. In practice they are not only concerned about their
own learning but they at the same time have to think beyond a teacher education
context. This is a context in which there are learners in the school system; most of them
will be taught by graduates of teacher education programmes.
3.4 Researching Professional Knowledge
Professionals are known to have a unique knowledge base. The “Professional
Character” presented in the box below stipulates professional competencies that could
serve as a guiding principle to professionals. It helps to illustrate what professional
competences entail.
Professionals possess an expert body of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values
in their field of practice
Professionals belong to a professional body and submit to a professional code
of conduct.
Professionals exercise a professional practice.
Professionals design their unique professional practices from the dynamic
interplay between their expert body of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values and
their practical experience of their profession.
Professionals are able to monitor and critically assess all their actions and their
consequences against a solid foundation in a reflective mode to:
- precisely pinpoint the very instances of their success, failure or uncertainty;
- accurately diagnose its cause;
- correctly identify – but even much more importantly – creatively generate
alternative possibilities;
- confidently make the best possible choice for follow-up action; and
- boldly engage in the improvement of the original attempt;
This means that professionals are able to make the most appropriate,
responsible, accountable and instantaneous decisions at any required moment to
pursue the best possible outcome despite what has originally been designed or
Professionals are always working at the cutting edge of their professions:
ensuring that they access the most recent knowledge and skills to make the best
possible choices for incorporation into their practices in a responsible way to
ensure the highest possible quality of professional practice.
Professions are problem-solvers. Whenever a professional experiences an
obstacle of a kind or finds an opportunity to improve the quality of the profession,
he/she engages in the process of problem-solving even if it requires creativity
constructing new knowledge and designing new skills for the profession.
Professionals are therefore continually improving their practice.
Professionals are responsible in all respects. They do not need checking-up on
executing their professional task exceptionally well, and they bear the
consequences for the action they take and the choices they make.
Professionals are professionals because no one else but the professional can do
he job of that particular profession. If a professional therefore engages in
activities that someone else outside the profession can do, then the professional
does not do a professional’s job.
Slabbert, De Kock and Hattingh, (2009, pp.129-130)
The search for literature on professional knowledge has revealed that extensive work in
the form of research and review of published research that highlights the various kinds of
knowledge has been researched and written about (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997, Paavola,
Lipponen & Hakkarainen, 2004, van den Beg, 2002, Schőn, 1983, Shulman, 1988,
Rando & Merges, 1991, Trip, 1993; Fenstermacher, 1994). In presenting various forms
of knowledge, Fenstermacher’s (1994) review of work undertaken on knowledge focuses
on the knower and the known, and looks at the nature of knowledge on teaching. What
makes his review relevant to the current study is the justification he provides for his
review, which, unlike other teacher knowledge reviews, examines research on different
research programmes that “either explicitly purport to be about teacher knowledge or
that expand what is known about teaching” (p.3).
Festermacher (1994) then describes knowledge as ranging from formal teacher
knowledge (TK/Formal) to practical knowledge (TK/Practical), and in doing so terms
such as personal practical, situated, local, rational and tacit knowledge are presented.
He describes knowledge in the context of the mental state and activities of teachers,
pointing out that “knowledge is simply a generic name to describe a broad range of
mental states of teachers that arise from their training, experience, and reflection and
has little if any epistemological importance” (p.35). His review is broad and
encompassing, and helps to illustrate that extensive research has been undertaken in
this area.
However, research on knowledge in the area of teacher education seems to have
focused on teachers and teacher educators in institutions in developed countries more
than in institutions such as the one in which the current study was carried out.
Festermacher’s (1994) review is broad and it raises a series of critical questions that
informed his approach to the review: What do teachers know as a result of their
experience as teachers? What knowledge is essential for teaching, and who produces
knowledge about teaching?
Embodied in the research that has focused on knowledge is the categorisation of
knowledge as an idea, which suggests that there are different types of knowledge that
have been researched. A large number of researchers, including Tom and Valli, (1990),
Hiebert, Gallimore and Sigler (2002), Stuart, (2002), Eraut (1996), Eraut (1994), Schőn,
(1987) and Schőn (1983) have studied and analysed, among other types of knowledge,
professional knowledge. Eraut (1996) defines professional knowledge as “knowledge
possessed by professionals which enables them to perform professional tasks, roles and
duties with quality” (p1). Schőn (1983) adds to this description by pointing out that a
profession has a systematic knowledge base, which means that it is specialised, firmly
bound, scientific and standardised.
In the context of these studies it seems that professional knowledge distinguishes one
profession from others, while also unifying those who are in the same profession.
Stiggins (1999) concludes that professional knowledge must be public, which in his view
means that it should be represented in a manner in which it can be communicated
among colleagues; hence, the value attached to ensuring that professional knowledge is
storable, sharable and that there are established mechanisms for verifying and/or
improving it (Stiggins, 1999).
There are other research studies that have been undertaken on professional knowledge,
some of which point to professional knowledge as often tacit. It is knowledge that
broadly covers a myriad of activities, including: knowledge of: subject matter, classroom
organisational and instructional techniques; the structuring of learning experiences and
curriculum content; students’ needs, abilities, and interests; the social framework of the
school and its surrounding community; and their own strengths and shortcomings as
teachers. The descriptions conclude with a note from Goodnough’s (2001)
acknowledgement that teachers’ knowledge is dynamic, that it is held in active relation to
practice and used to give shape to that practice. It is summed up as follows by Slabbert
et al. (2009):
Professional knowledge is practical knowledge harnessed to an ethical ideal.
Its outcome is creative wisdom. It is therefore qualitatively a different kind of
dynamic knowledge. It is different from academic and technical knowledge
because it is characterised by a professional ethos. A professional ethos is
established through professional development of which the purpose is to
improve the quality of the professional knowledge (p.41).
It would seem that comprehending teacher educators’ work requires an insight into how
they themselves interpret the complex nature of their work. Unless tacit knowledge is
made explicit by the professionals themselves, professional knowledge in the context of
teacher educators could remain implicit. This might explain the new wave of research
into self-study, mainly undertaken by teacher educators. Teacher educators, as will be
discussed below, seem to, in undertaking this type of research, explicitly share their
otherwise tacit knowledge.
The major question that this study is addressing is with regard to sources of professional
knowledge among teacher educators. The literature review has revealed that there are
numerous sources from which teacher educators draw their professional knowledge.
The literature further indicates that these range from those that can be solicited from the
academic institutions and those that are acquired from practice. The work of Jackson
(2003) referred to earlier in this chapter illustrates this point. The sections that follow
elaborate on the various sources of knowledge as they relate to teacher educators.
Therefore the literature in this part of the chapter helps to contextualise the research
questions in the literature.
3.4.1 Propositional/Received Knowledge
Teacher educators acquire knowledge that allows them to engage in professional
activities. The need to prepare teacher educators academically for teaching in teacher
education programmes is real. Teacher educators operate in a double-layered context in
which they prepare adult learners for whom teaching is governed by andragogical
principles. These are the principles by which teaching and learning methods are
considered appropriate for adults and not children. In such a context teacher educators
have to bear in mind that the same adults that they are teaching are being prepared to
teach children (Ntoi & Lefoka, 2003; Mazirow, 1990).
Studies focusing on the offering of formal or propositional knowledge for teacher
educators have been undertaken by Harris (2003) and Kosnik (2005) who looked into
programmes and research on propositional knowledge. Harris’s (2003) study involved 11
universities offering doctoral programmes in education and established that there are
universities that offer teacher education programmes. However, Harris’ study, which was
undertaken in the USA, may not necessarily be generalised to other parts of the world.
Although it is not clear whether there are teacher educator programmes offerings in
other institutions outside the USA there is no doubt that such programmes are needed
by teacher educators. This is particularly so in other parts of the world, especially in the
context in which this study was carried out.
Kosnik (2005) claimed that engaging in research referred to above had been facilitated
by being a member of a Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research
Association (AERA). A realisation by Kosnik (2005), as a teacher educator, was that
failure to move in her professional life implied being left behind as a teacher educator.
Kosnik (2005) engaged in the production of various publications, which in her view
helped in developing a knowledge base for teachers and teacher educators. She points
out that conversation with other professionals on the use of research to define a good
teacher education programme, clarifies effective practices and helps novice teachers. In
Kosnik’s (2005) view, learning from other professors entailed discussions with scholars
such as Shulman, whose suggestions concluded that the use of cases in teaching as is
commonly practised in disciplines such as law, is also relevant in the teaching of
teachers. Therefore, propositional knowledge received in teacher education institutions
can benefit from research undertaken with the intention of improving programmes
offered in such institutions.
In a study in which student teachers were involved in research, Kroll (2005) examined a
possible outcome in a situation which involved student teachers in a two-year graduate
programme. The study required student teachers to research the application of technical
and theoretical knowledge as they systematically answered questions, collected data
and engaged in controlled experimentation. In a case study Knoll (2005) examined
students’ experiences to learn within the specific context of the students’ teaching
seminar. The student teachers were to examine their learning within their student
teaching placements individually. The study allowed her to use her own notes, plans and
reflections about the process as a participant-observer. In a way she fostered self-study
through a case study approach.
The study undertaken by Kroll (2005) illustrates that teacher educators and their student
teachers can benefit from a study in which they are both involved. For her part, Kroll
(2005) learned from the experience in that the study supported “the meta-cognitive
processes associated with developing the inquiry skills needed for the study of one’s
own work as a teacher educator” (p.192). Kroll (2005) concludes by arguing that
inquiring into one’s own practice is essential since it contributes to becoming a life-long
learner. The student teachers who participated in the study also benefited from this
experience. They had been initiated into research that could help them develop
techniques, knowledge and habits of mind that in turn could enable them to address the
issues of practice that would inevitably arise as they teach (Kroll, 2005).
Concerns have been expressed (Lunenberg & Willemse, 2006) with regard to the lack of
formal training of teacher educators to the extent of concluding that “a number of
problems that teacher education experiences could arise from the fact that the whole
issue of education of teacher educators has been rather neglected” (Buchberger,
Campos, Kallos and Stephenson, 2002, p.56). However, the emergence of self-study
type of research addresses some of the identified problems. Teacher educators in some
parts of the world have taken seriously the need to research their work, to the extent of
involving their own students (Kroll, 2005). The fact that teacher educators in some
teacher education institutions have found self-study to be a niche area is exemplified by
studies such as those undertaken by Lunenberg and Willemse, (2006). These
researchers engaged in three studies that focused on research as it relates to the
professional development of teacher educators. Each of the three studies was followed
by reflections on the process that was pursued.
However, while Lunenberg and Willemse (2006) established that teacher educators are
aware of self-study as an effective means of connecting the academic task of conducting
research to their own professional development, self-study has been found to be
challenging for some teacher educators. According to Cochran-Smith (2003), teacher
educators either do not have time to undertake research or lack skills for conducting it by
themselves on their own practice. Hence Lunenberg and Willemse’s study was intended
to bridge the identified gap; their efforts may have helped those teacher educators who
participated in their study. It may also have attracted some teacher educators in other
parts of the world to engage in similar studies. It is difficult, though, to establish the
extent to which the idea of undertaking research on own practice has spread throughout
the world or the degree to which propositional knowledge generated has advanced the
field of teacher education in general.
3.4.2 Practical knowledge
Descriptions of practical knowledge seem to be based on research undertaken in
specific contexts, such as the field in which teachers are situated. The work undertaken
by several researchers, including Clandinin (1992), Calderhead, (1988), Hiebert,
Gallimore and Stigler (2002) and Fenstermacher (1994) has contributed to the
conceptualisation of practical knowledge. Clandinin (1992) describes personal practical
knowledge as being in the person’s present mind and body and in the person’s future
plans and activities.
In Clandinin’s (1992) view, practical knowledge reflects the individual’s prior knowledge
and acknowledges the contextual nature of the teacher’s knowledge. It is considered to
be a kind of knowledge carved out of and shaped by situations. It is constructed and
reconstructed as professionals live out their stories and retell and relive them through
processes of reflection. Practical knowledge is therefore that knowledge that is readily
accessible and applicable since it is mainly derived from teachers’ own experiences
(Calderheard, 1988).
Because “practitioner knowledge” is linked to practice it has been found to be useful to
the practitioners themselves (Hiebert, Gallimore & Stigler, 2002). The “practitioner
knowledge”, according to Hiebert et al. (2002), is useful for practice since it tends to deal
directly with specific problems. This is probably because practitioner knowledge deals
with implicit theories better understood by professionals or practitioners themselves. This
view is supported by Kane, Sandretto and Heath (2002) who, in discussing practitioner
knowledge, refer to “theories-in-use”, which exist predominantly as tacit knowledge or
knowledge held but that cannot be easily articulated. Hence there is a tendency by some
researchers to emphasise the existence and value attached to tacit knowledge. Schőn
(1983) argues that implicit knowledge relates to “knowing-in-action”, which in his view
refers to the sorts of “know-how” that is revealed in observable actions. He claims that
this kind of knowing tends to be more in action and is revealed spontaneously; yet
characteristically one is unable to make it verbally explicit. Values Attached to Practical Knowledge
There are values attached to practical knowledge, though literature suggests that, since
it tends to remain implicit, it should be made explicit and so available to other
researchers or practitioners. Shulman, (1987), Schőn, (1983), Van den Berg (2002) and
Eraut (1994) suggest that implicit knowledge can be made explicit by using cases. In
making practical knowledge explicit, practitioners in the context of teacher education
should borrow from other professions and use a case as a unit of analysis.
Schőn (1983) illustrates the use of “cases” by referring readers of his work to two
professions, namely medicine and law. He points out that a physician who, upon
encountering many different cases of measles or a lawyer who may encounter many
different cases of libel, tend to be informed by many variations within cases of their
respective professions. In this regard small variations of cases would enable
professionals to develop a repertoire of expectations, images and techniques, and to
learn what to look for and how to respond to what they find. To this view Shulman (1988)
adds that a ‘case’ is not just a well-written anecdote, but rather it extends opportunities
for reflection precisely because a practitioner could go beyond the limits of individual
experiences and reflect on the experience of others.
Language appears to be one of the major contributors for ensuring that implicit
knowledge becomes explicit. Munby and Russel (2001) found language to be a powerful
tool in communicating one’s world and how that world is constructed. It would seem that
tied to the teachers’ actions is the language they use that seems to clarify thoughts,
especially as they apply their knowledge and to a large extent as they are interviewed
about their actions.
The issue of language seems to imply that tacit or implicit knowledge needs to be made
explicit if teacher education knowledge is to become public knowledge. Munby and
Russel’s (2001) work suggests that observing teacher educators in practice in
undertaking research on professional knowledge may be critical; it is through their
actions and the language they use that professional knowledge in this field could be
communicated in public fora.
Revealing what practical knowledge entails through language and engaging in case
studies supports the work of Clandinin and Connelly (1995). The works of these
researchers stipulates that knowledge is acquired as professionals engage in using it
over an extended time and through application to new situations. The authors indicate
that teachers’ knowledge “is that body of convictions and meanings, conscious or
unconscious, that have arisen from experience … and that are expressed in a person’s
practices” (p.7). Therefore, knowledge may be acquired through experience and through
deliberate reflection about inquiry into experience (Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1999;
Kennedy, 2002; Zanting, Verloop, and Vermunt, 2003). Learning as a Consequence of Experience
Discussing learning as a consequence of experience, Stuart (1998) argues that
professional learning is part of the process of human growth and development and that
in the end everyone has to do his/her own learning. This view is supported by Eraut
(1994), who posits that professionals continually learn on the job, because their work
entails engagement in a succession of cases, problems or projects which they have to
learn about and make sense of in their practice. However, Eraut (1994) concludes that
there is little research evidence to indicate the overall level of work-based learning in any
In the context of practical or experiential based knowledge, Cochran-Smith and Lytle
(1999) refer to two conceptions of teacher learning, that is knowledge-in-practise and
knowledge-of-practise. The concept knowledge-in-practice entails practical knowledge,
including reflection on practice. The assumption here is that teachers learn when they
demonstrate their expertise, especially in situations where they are capable of making
intelligent judgements. Additionally, teachers demonstrate expertise when they are
designers of rich learning interactions in a classroom context.
Knowledge-of-practice is knowledge that teachers need if they are to teach well. It is
knowledge that is generated when they treat their own classrooms and schools as sites
for intentional investigation. At the same time they treat the knowledge and theory
produced by others as generative material for interrogation and interpretation. In
Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s (1999) view, “teachers learn when they generate local
knowledge of practice by working within the context of inquiry communities to theorize
and construct their work and to connect to larger social, cultural and political issues”
(p.250). Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s (1999) study is directly linked to the current study
because it highlights the different conceptions for categorising sources of professional
knowledge. Nonetheless, the findings of this review highlight that teachers’ sources of
professional knowledge are diverse.
While knowledge-in-practice and knowledge-of-practice convictions imply that practice
could contribute to confidence based on what may accrue from practice, this does not
downplay the fact that professionals can also benefit from other forms of professional
development activities. Empirical research has shown that professional development
initiatives that focus on certain aspects of education tend to help educators understand
the content they teach and the ways in which students learn that content (Guskey,
2003). Professional development is therefore viewed as a cornerstone of systematic
reform efforts designed to increase educators’ capacity to teach (Disimore, Porter,
Garet, Suk Yoon and Bierman 2002).
Smith (2003) shares his experiences as chair of a department of teacher education for
secondary school teachers in Israel. He advances three possible reasons that justify the
provision of professional development of teacher educators. To improve the profession,
Smith suggests continuing professional development for teacher educators. Ensuring
that they are constantly receiving education has consequences for the education of
teachers and the education system as a whole. In practice, the quality of teacher
education programmes is dependent on well-grounded teacher educators. He provides
as the second reason for continuing professional development the need to advance the
profession. In this regard Smith (2003) proposes constant addition to the teacher
educators’ professional knowledge. He argues that they also need to work and look for
other options for offering teacher education, a situation which requires them to find ways
of accessing new knowledge and being prepared to try out new ideas in their own
context. The third reason is with regard to promotion and tenure. The challenge here is
to undertake research that will enhance the recognition of their own institutions’
reputation and that of themselves as professionals.
Smith (2003) is of the view that opportunities for learning include attaining higher
academic credentials, participating in continuing professional development programmes,
using case studies and discussions on specific issues addressed in own institution. He
advises that teacher educators should take advantage of feedback provided by
supervisors of instruction and own students within own institutions. In this regard they
would gain from feedback provided by mentors and voluntary support. Smith argues that
there is value in teamwork where a group of teacher educators may share problems with
the intention of finding solutions as a group of educators teaching the same or different
course. Doyle (1990) and Paavola, and Lipponen and Hakkarainen (2004) agree with
Smith’s findings and indicate that learning to teach in the context of teacher education is
about translating and transferring knowledge from one form to another, for example,
from practical to propositional and procedural to perceptual knowledge.
These views may be related to some researchers’ observations that the nature of
teaching about teaching and/or teaching others how to teach, demands skills, expertise
and knowledge that cannot be taken for granted. Therefore, besides learning in formal
institutions, there are prospects for learning on the job (Korthagen, Loughran and
Lunenbeg, 2005). These researchers make reference to research on mid-career and
early-career professional learning in the business, engineering and healthcare sectors,
in which a typology of trajectories for classifying what was being learned was developed.
The typology of learning trajectories includes task performance, awareness and
understanding, personal development, working with others, role performance,
knowledge of the field, decision-making, problem-solving and judgement.
It is evident that teacher educators are under pressure not only to study their own
practice but to explore how experience in studying their work might impact on their
academic learning. This is more so where opportunities for professional training for
higher education teachers are scarce, as reported in a study by Donnelly (2006)
conducted in the Republic of Ireland. Here integrating learning technologies with
experiential learning in a postgraduate teacher education course involved academic
staff. Donnelly’s study benefited from using a self-study approach. Critical issues were
raised in his study, with scholars developing as reflective practitioners by distinguishing
their own work and offering their personal accounts for public criticism. He asserted that
his professional practice was transformed to the extent that his role in tutoring using
learning technology improved.
Although Donnelly’s (2006) study was concerned with integrating learning technologies
with experiential learning in a postgraduate teacher education course in a developed
country, it has revealed experiences of a teacher educator researching his work and
learning from that experience. The study points to the concern that teacher educators
have regarding what characterises them as they deliver the content. The study further
illustrates that the teacher educator who participated in the study came out of it with
different views, and that, most importantly, he had transformed his own practice. In
essence, Donnelly (2006) illustrates that learning becomes significant if one is conscious
of the process in which one engages. This view is shared by Clarke and Mitchell (2007)
who also engaged in a similar study. Learning Facilitated by Practice in other Contexts
In the real world of practice, teacher education is not only embedded in teacher
education institutions but it is played out in school systems, in places where student
teachers practise with their educators supervising them. The tendency for teacher
educators to engage in research that takes them to schools is therefore evident. The
literature has revealed that some researchers have studied the extent to which schools
in which student teachers do their teaching practice could serve as sources of
professional knowledge for teacher educators. Alexander (2004), Clarke, Erickson,
Collins and Phelan (2005), Zanting, Verloop and Vermunt (2003) researched work in
schools in which student teachers practice are cases in point. Clarke (2007), a teacher
educator today also reflects on his work as a mentor in a secondary school context.
Alexander (2004) decided to spend time teaching children instead of observing, and
undertaking research on student teachers engaged in teaching young learners. There
were a number of reasons for doing so. Teaching children gave him an opportunity to
test new ideas and methodologies and find answers to the questions he was keen to find
answers to. The questions were, What do we know about learning styles, multiple
intelligences, how to teach higher-order thinking skills or guided reading? These are
concepts and ideas that teacher educators talk about in their teacher education
classrooms. A further reason was a realisation that working directly with students in the
schools provides an opportunity to forge connections between schools and colleges or
faculties of education. His other reason was that working directly with students helps
teacher educators gain credibility with one’s pre-service teachers. In both instances he
was developing his expertise as a teacher educator.
However, although the two studies by Alexander (2004) and Clarke et al. (2005) were
undertaken in a school context and provided a learning environment for the universitybased teacher educators, they differ. Alexander (2004) was keen to teach school
children while Clarke et al. (2005) to a large extent collaborated as colleagues and with
their own student teachers. Despite these differences, the two cases illustrate that
schools are a relevant context to improve one’s professional knowledge. Furthermore,
the two case studies provided the teacher educators opportunities to reflect on the
impact of their teacher education programmes on their own student teachers. This is an
experience that Clarke et al. (2005) felt constituted knowledge that could be used in
working with another cohort of student teachers.
While the work of Alexander (2004) and Clarke et al. (2005) focuses on schools as they
relate to either children or student teachers that of Zanting, Verloop and Vermunt (2003)
looks at a different aspect. The later researchers looked into how student teachers elicit
mentor teachers’ practical knowledge. The study illustrates that university-based teacher
educators learn about their programmes and how they are received through working
very closely with school-based teachers and their own student teachers.
There are several other studies in which teacher educators involved their own students
that have provided learning opportunities for teacher educators. Boote (2001), Parsons
and Stephenson (2005), Pereira (2005) and Nicol (2006) conducted studies in which
they involved student teachers. Nicol (2006) investigated “the pedagogy of teacher talk”
with the “pedagogy of what teachers talk is about.” Given that the study involved a
teacher educator and 14 student teachers, it appears to illustrate collaborative inquiry
and how that collaboration facilitates learning.
Nicol (2006) used a reflective approach that employed various data collection strategies,
including journal writing by both the teacher educators and student teachers, analysis of
course-work, audio tape-recordings of the instructors’ collaborative planning sessions
and related email messages. Nicol (2006) videotaped recordings of the method course
class sessions in both landscapes, namely a university and school classrooms. The
study provided a detailed learning experience both for the teacher educators and student
teachers. It showed the different approaches of undertaking research and indicated that
teacher educators and student teachers can participate in parallel yet related studies,
even though the situations were different. The researchers who undertook the studies
referred to here allude to the complexity of studying their own practice and at the same
time helping student teachers do the same.
While researching their own practice the teacher educators realised that they had to help
student teachers research their own practice too. According to Nicol (2006) this
approach necessitated not only experience in teaching at the school or university level
but also theoretical knowledge as foundational to the work of teacher educators.
Additionally, engagement in a study in which the researcher helps her own students
indicates modelling thinking about teaching and, therefore, for student teachers, being
challenged by people responsible for teacher education programmes (Schulte, 2005).
These studies whose unit of analysis ranged from student teachers in schools or at the
teacher education institutions, secondary school students and teachers, helped the
researchers to reflect. They reflected on the relevance of the teacher education
programmes that were being offered in their institutions. The studies seem to have
served as a learning experience for the teacher educators who were involved in the
different studies. Teacher Educators Learning from Colleagues
Besides schools serving as places for teacher educators to undertake research and
learn from this experience, learning from colleagues is another avenue for teacher
educators. This conclusion is based on the premise that there are prospects for learning
through involving colleagues as critical friends. Regardless of the fact that Schuck and
Russel (2005) were teaching in universities in two different countries, these education
professors wanted to study and improve their teaching. They involved a colleague who
served as a critical friend, set conditions for the involvement of the colleague and kept a
journal for documenting the experiences. The involvement of a critical friend provided
the teacher educators with an opportunity to learn that there were parallel lessons
between them and their student teachers. On the part of the teacher educators learning
was facilitated through collaboration, whereby the two colleagues worked on a study that
compelled them to improve their own practice. Furthermore, their research revealed that
new knowledge was generated.
Additionally, preparing a paper for a conference based on the research that tested the
involvement of a critical friend presented yet another learning opportunity. However,
constraints were experienced in the adopted strategy of involving a critical friend,
including the process itself, the duration of the project and failure to engage in dialogue
about the process prior to the beginning of the project. Schuck and Russel’s (2005)
study points to the role that other professionals can play in helping teacher educators
learn or gain professional knowledge. The study has also confirmed that colleagues
preparing papers for presentation in conferences can assist teacher educators in
numerous ways, in particular learning from such experiences.
Therefore there are prospects for learning from collaborating with colleagues. OrlandBarak and Tillema (2006), Griffiths and Poursanidou (2005), Clarke et al. (2005), Bain,
Mills, Ballantyne and Packer (2002) are some of the researchers who looked into
collaboration in studies that they engaged in. Griffiths and Poursanidou (2005) undertook
a study in which they explored collaboration with two colleagues who were responsible
for teaching social justice to student teachers. One collaborated with three other tutors
who co-taught a module. Student teachers participated in the study through focus group
discussion and individual interviews.
Although other teacher educators could not fully collaborate in the study undertaken by
Griffiths and Poursanidou (2005), there were lessons that emanated from it.
Collaboration in a self-study can be very challenging, especially if those who are
required to collaborate do not fully understand their roles. However, preparing and
presenting papers in conferences resulted in participants learning more about reflection
on the process and on the involvement of colleagues in such endeavours. They also
learned about group dynamics within an institutional context, where individuals may
have different views regarding collaborating with colleagues. This study illustrates that
while collaborating with colleagues might provide learning opportunities, it cannot be
assumed that the results would be positive. However, negative results provide a guide
for future research.
It is therefore clear that schools, students and colleagues provide opportunities for
teacher educators to engage in research learn, from such experiences and share those
experiences. Sharing of experience is possible through, among other outlets, presenting
papers in conferences and getting feedback and publishing. However, the context in
which teacher educators work is another avenue for research, as was the case in a
study undertaken by Samaras, Kayler, Rigsby, Weller and Wilcox (2006). Their study
explored the extent to which engagement in the craft of faculty teaching would add to the
faculty building a successful collaboration culture with schools. It involved the faculty and
tenure-track assistant professors and a school-based master’s programme for practising
elementary and secondary school teachers.
The research by Samaras et al. (2006) revealed that university-based teacher educators
had, through participating in the study, gained a deeper understanding of their
collaboration with schools. They had acquired a vocabulary to describe their work and
had refined their understanding of learner-centred theory and critical pedagogy in
practice, and were convinced that the nature and quality of their collaborative efforts
continued to develop. Samaras et al. (2006) confirm earlier assertions that universitybased teacher educators have an opportunity to learn from engaging in work that brings
them to schools or work that connects them with teachers in the service.
Therefore the research experiences shared in this section of the chapter presents
information on research undertaken in the real world of teacher educators. There is no
doubt that the experiences shared illustrate the link between knowledge acquired in
practice and learning from that practice. Linking Professional Knowledge to Learning from Practice
Linking teachers’ professional knowledge to learning from experience showed some
inconsistencies. In a study which involved an analysis of 45 teachers’ lessons, Kennedy
(2002) contrasted craft knowledge with systematic and prescriptive types of knowledge.
She found that although teachers made more reference to learning from experience than
to any other source of craft knowledge, when asked to be concrete about their lessons
there were times when the responses were vague. Kennedy (2002) further established
that teachers in the service learn from continuing professional education programmes,
some of which may be facilitated by university-based teacher educators. Such
programmes, regardless of their diverse nature, were found to provide learning
opportunities for teachers. Additionally, she found that all types of knowledge were
valuable in the context of teaching.
In essence Kennedy’s (2002) findings indicate that polarisation of types of knowledge is
not so important, and that it may present difficulties in the real world of work. However,
there is evidence that teachers were confident in responding to questions in the areas of
curricular guidelines. They were able to interpret them with more latitude than they could
use to respond to questions on other sources of professional knowledge. The relevance
of Kennedy’s (2002) study to the current one is the finding that experience is a source of
knowledge for teacher educators and the extent to which they articulate what they have
learned from their experience.
This section on practical knowledge clearly illustrates that what teachers are actually
using in practice is not their abstract theoretical knowledge, but phronesis, which entails
situation-specific principles. It is context-dependent and helps teachers to arrive at
decisions to solve practical problems rapidly. What is important is that it helps teachers
in practical situations to perceive what is relevant in the situation and then to base their
actions on their perceptions. Thus, what student teachers need to acquire is “knowledge
of a different kind, not abstract and theoretical [disciplinary knowledge], but its very
opposite: knowledge of concrete particulars” (Korthagen, 2001, p.25). Pedagogical Content Knowledge
Teaching in ways that illustrate the accomplishment of pedagogical content knowledge is
the nucleus of the work of teachers and teacher educators. Research that looked into
pedagogical content knowledge points to Shulman’s (1987) work, which describes
pedagogical content knowledge as an amalgam of content and pedagogy. This means
what teachers know about their subject matter and how they translate that knowledge
into classroom curricular events.
The work of Whewell and Thurston (2010) discusses the design of new primary
concurrent degree programmes in one teacher education institution, a programme which
aims at maximising the impact on initial teacher education in terms of leading to more
effective learning and teaching which would ensure that student teachers develop both
content and pedagogic knowledge and skills. In the 1999 publication, Shulman
expounded on his 1987 work as follows:
content knowledge (C)
general pedagogic content knowledge (GPK)
Curriculum knowledge (CK)
Pedagogic content knowledge (PCK)
Knowledge of learners and their characteristics (KL)
Knowledge of educational contexts (KEC)
Knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values and their philosophical
and historical backgrounds (KPhil).
The elaboration touches on various aspects of the horizon of teacher education and
teaching in general. For example, GPK embraces reference to broad principles and
strategies of classroom management and organisation that appear to transcend subject
matter, while KEC touches on issues of contexts ranging from the working of the group
of classroom, the governance and financing of school districts, to the character of
communities and cultures. Therefore, instead of looking at the work of teachers as
mainly on pedagogy and content, Shulman’s expansion on his earlier work illustrates the
breadth of teachers’ work of which teacher educators have to be cognisant.
The literature on pedagogical content knowledge relates to the enactment of
inexperienced or novice teachers (McCaughtry, 2005 & Doyle, 1990). Doyle (1990) cites
Carter’s study which shows how the two differ. Experts in Carter’s study were found to
organise and manage instruction in a rich manner, especially when compared with
Doyle (1990) concludes that the studies she reviewed indicate that experts in teacher
education, in contrast with the novices, draw on richly elaborated knowledge structures
derived from classroom experience. Drawing from rich knowledge helps experts
understand teaching tasks and interpret classroom events which in practice shed further
light on pedagogical content knowledge. The dimension of expert compared to novice as
alluded to by Doyle suggests that experts are more knowledgeable and skilled in the
application of pedagogical content knowledge than their novice counterparts.
There are other researchers who, using various research approaches, have studied
pedagogical content knowledge (McCaughtry, 2005; Hashweh, 2005). McCaughtry
(2005) inspired by the literature on how teachers know subject matter, pedagogy,
curriculum and students’ learning, used a case study approach to analyse the knowing in
instruction of one secondary physical education teacher. Hashweh’s (2005) work on
pedagogical content knowledge is based on a review of the history of pedagogical
content knowledge. It established that there are seven assertions that comprise the new
conceptualisation of pedagogical content knowledge. His articulation of pedagogical
content knowledge stems from an analysis of research undertaken in this area and he
suggests that it be re-conceptualised to embrace “a collection of teacher professional
constructions, as a form of knowledge that preserves the planning and wisdom of
practice that the teacher acquires when repeatedly teaching a certain topic” (Hashweh
2005, p.273). He further argues that viewing professional content knowledge provides
various ways of researching pedagogical content knowledge. These include a precise
way of defining it, clarifying its relations to other forms of knowledge and beliefs.
Therefore, speculating about its development should facilitate future research in this
The findings of these studies (Hashweh, 2005; McCaughtry, 2005), suggest that
researching pedagogic content knowledge has been in the context of school-based
teachers for some time. Pedagogic content knowledge in departments of faculties of
education that offer subject content such as science or English is probably clear too.
However, the challenge remains with what pedagogical content knowledge would mean
in the context of teacher educators who are based in educational foundations
departments in faculties of education. This is an issue worth pursuing with colleagues in
the educational foundation departments. These departments teach disciplines such as
psychology for students to apply and not necessarily to teach.
The review of literature on sources of professional knowledge illustrates that teacher
educators draw their professional knowledge from a variety of sources. Thus, their
sources of professional knowledge include propositional knowledge, research in which
they may collaborate with colleagues, their own students, serving teachers as well as
from engaging in a variety of professional activities. These include documenting their
experiences, reflecting on those activities and presenting research-based papers in
conference settings. Teacher educators’ sources of professional knowledge are
underpinned by practice through which they learn from various experiences.
3.5 Learning as a Construct/Paradigm
Some researchers expound on arguments related to a paradigm shift in teacher
education. They point out that a paradigm shift in teacher education requires a deep
analysis of the place of episteme and phronesis as theories that underpin knowledge
(Slabbert et al., (2009). These researchers write about “learning to know”, which entails
a realisation that the world is not static. Therefore, students can no longer depend
entirely on someone like a teacher to know it all. By implication, learning to know, as was
perceived in the past, is fraught with difficulties. Therefore, no one should depend on
another for the knowledge that such an individual might need to learn. As these authors
argue, learning is constructive in nature. Based on their analysis of the way in which
education was perceived in the past they therefore advocate distinctive shifts in the way
student teachers are educated, to the extent to which they too will educate their learners
at the school level.
Therefore, Slabbert et al. (2009), in advocating a radical change of the aim of education,
make reference to several critical issues. Firstly, since learning is radically constructive
in nature, in that “radical constructivism starts from the assumption that knowledge, no
matter how it is defined, is in the heads of persons, and that the thinking subject has no
alternative but to construct what he or she knows on the basis of his or her own
experience” (p.54), education systems have to value various experiences with which
students enter the schooling system.
Secondly, these researchers make reference to lifelong learning, which in their view
would facilitate students’ achieving their potential through teachers mainly facilitating that
process. They therefore conclude their arguments by pointing out that kindling the
potential in every student is crucial and that in doing so teachers have to acknowledge
that “potential is personal, located inside the learner and can ultimately only be accessed
by the learner him- or herself. No one can maximise potential for or on behalf of the
learner …” (Slabbert et al., 2009, p.49).
Therefore educators, according to Claxton, (1999) and Holdstock (1987), regardless of
the fact that they teach, can, for purposes of maximising human potential, merely
facilitate the necessary, appropriate and sufficient lifelong learning. It therefore follows,
to adopt the argument of Slabbert et al (2009) that learning is a journey of self-discovery
and development to reach the highest possible level of quality of life. Teacher education
programme designers should rethink their current programmes, especially if they do not
yet embrace lifelong learning as a construct that calls for change.
The work of Slabbert and Gouws (2006) takes the point on learning further. In their
research they use an introduction to an accounting education course as a case in point:
The quest for powerful learning environments in higher education. They indicate that
long experience in institutions of higher learning has revealed that major epistemological
features of introduction to accounting education as experienced in practice point to three
major problems, namely that it is content driven, prescriptive and that it produces
technicians. These authors argue for the creation of powerful learning environments
which in themselves facilitate the creation of knowledge by the students. In a situation in
which learners construct conceptual knowledge there is an assurance that they can be in
complete control of that knowledge that they have constructed, and there are high
possibilities that they can manipulate it in any way and to their advantage. Slabbert and
Gouws (2006) conclude that such learning environments allow learners’ intuition to use
the knowledge
to do something creatively new, and, in effect a continuous process of
constructing knowledge ensues. But of crucial importance is that the
knowledge constructed by the individual learner should now be shared with
peers through a process of interaction by which the constructed knowledge is
assessed and through cooperative learning the learners collaboratively refine
the conceptual knowledge with the aid of a facilitator of learning (an expert) to
eventually achieve the highest quality of learning (constructed knowledge)
Nonetheless, while these authors have proved in their research that engaging students
in creating or constructing knowledge is worthwhile, knowledge that gets created has to
be authentic and must therefore be validated. Newmann, Marks and Gamoran (1995)
instead argue for authentic pedagogy. There is justification for this argument:
Educators and reformers often worry that today’s students spend too much of
their time simply absorbing and then reproducing information transmitted to
them. They fear that students aren’t learning how to make sense of what they
are told. Also, reformers often see little connection between activities in the
classroom and the world beyond school; students can earn credits, good
grades and high test scores, they say, demonstrating a kind of mastery that
frequently seems trivial, contrived or meaningless outside the school (p.1).
In order to contextualise the issue of authentic pedagogy and authenticating knowledge
constructed by students, Slabbert et al. (2009) have made reference to a variety of
authors who addressed the issue of achieving authentic learning. In this context these
authors indicate, for example, that the learning process has to be initiated by an
“incessant challenge to the learner’s living of real life as a whole, so much so that
uncertainty is provoked and anxiety not necessarily excluded” (Barnett, 2007, p.257).
In their view, students have to realise that existing knowledge and skills cannot provide a
resolution to new challenges. In the real world challenges arise in different ways and/or
forms, with some being on problems that already exist while others could be based on a
desire to improve life. In such a case a student would be creating a problem where one
did not exist. Such cases would require teacher educators to utilise similar practice for
their student teachers if they too are to endorse such learning for the learners in the
school system.
These arguments by researchers who studied learning are helping contextualise
knowledge in teacher education. A visionary teacher education programme therefore
has to be realistic to the extent that student teachers are made cognizant of new
developments in education and the world of work they would be moving into. Therefore,
as articulated in Nuffied’s review (2010), since teaching quality and the relationship
between teachers and students are central to successful education, such situations
require “a respect for the profession of teaching, for the role of teachers as the
custodians of what we value and as the experts in communicating that to the learners”
However, advocating radical change in the education of student teachers without
justifying the call would make it difficult to convince those who are being challenged to
consider changing their familiar positions. The emphasis should instead be on the
provision of quality learning as the major reason for proposing change in education
systems. Advocates of quality learning argue for the quality of students’ learning
processes (Vermunt, 2003). Rethinking the entire purpose of education is justified for
some researchers. For example, Slabbert et al. (2009) who, looking at the various facets
of life, propose a constructed aim of education for creating the future, see the new aim of
education being for “learners to maximise their human potential through facilitating
lifelong learning to create a safe, sustainable and prosperous future for all” (p.49).
Presumably, the proposed aim of education would cater for new developments
advocated in international fora, such as the world declaration on Education for All (EFA).
3.6 Constructing Professional Knowledge
In the context of teacher education and on the basis of the work of researchers such as
Eraut (1994), Calderhead (1988) and Stuart (2002) acquiring and developing different
kinds of knowledge and skills happens in the process of learning how to teach. Teachers
are in this regard active constructors of their own knowledge. They should also aim for
authentic student performance by, for example, calling students to construct knowledge
through disciplined inquiry, which would enable them to address problems that have
some meaning beyond schooling (Newmann, 1995). In an effort to make sense of the
complex situation in which teaching occurs, teachers draw on many sources, which may
include formal study and experience in the situated knowledge of the classroom (Stuart,
However, some level of competency is a prerequisite to constructing professional
knowledge. Hence, as argued by Erickson (1988), not all professional knowledge must
be constructed by each practitioner. The interpretation further suggests that an
experienced teacher educator or indeed an expert might have better ways of
understanding is that trial-and-error experienced in the process of learning to teach
constitutes one aspect of knowledge construction. They refer to their experience as
novice teacher educators and at the time not having the necessary knowledge regarding
teacher education, indicating that in being a novice there is a need to develop
knowledge urgently. It would seem that the construction of professional knowledge can
begin as early as at the novice level for some professionals.
It is in the work of Schőn (1983) and that of Bereiter (2000 as cited in Paavola et al.,
2004) that emphasis is placed on professionals having the ability to construct
professional knowledge. In discussing the construction of professional knowledge,
Schőn (1983) makes reference to Technical Rationality, which entails knowledge in and
on action. He argues that technical rationality is one way to think about professional
knowledge. In contrast he suggests that Technical Rationality provides only a very
limited view of professional knowledge, suggesting that knowledge in action might better
describe the knowledge that professionals construct, make sense of and enact.
Schőn (1988) indicates further that engaging in activities that enable one to reflect on
one’s own actions provides a learning experience and an opportunity to design
interventions or gain new insights into the phenomenon of practice. These views are
consistent with those articulated by some researchers. There are researchers who have
looked into using reflective practice theory in their teaching, and in the process have
transformed their operational activities after establishing the applicability of research
undertaken by practitioners (Tripp, 1993; Whitehead, 1995).
However, while Schőn’s extensive work on the construction of professional knowledge is
widely quoted in education, a number of researchers critique his work. Green (1994)
critiques Schőn’s distinction and argues that if experts or proponents of professional
expertise were to be relied upon to fill the gap between the scientific basis and
professional knowledge and the demands of the real-world, practice in such a way might
serve the model of technical rationality but not disturb teachers’ or teacher educators’
practical knowledge. This view would be applicable to those practising teachers who
know that their teaching is situation-specific and could not be understood in terms of
generalisation to other circumstances.
Paavola et al. (2004), basing their arguments on other researchers argue that
knowledge can be systematically produced and shared among members of a
community. These authors’ interpretation implies that once knowledge has been created
it has to be made accessible to users. Eraut (1994) cautions that practical knowledge is
mainly created in practice in solving individual cases or problems and that in the process
professionals contribute “to their personal store of experience and possibly that of their
colleagues … such practical personal knowledge is never codified, published or widely
disseminated” (p.54). Eraut’s view is being tested by researchers who have undertaken
research on practical knowledge and published or disseminated it. Teacher educators
who have used self-study as a point of departure from other ways of engaging in
research as already alluded to in the preceding sections of this chapter are
disseminating findings in this area.
Some of these researchers have a different understanding of the construction of
professional knowledge. A study undertaken by Berry (2004), who was aiming to
improve her teacher education practice, indicates that the process of developing
knowledge of practice requires more than simply sharing personal stories as teacher
educators. She acknowledges that she learnt a great deal about her pedagogy through a
careful investigation of her practice. She concluded that investigating her practice meant
analysing and challenging the basic assumptions of her work as a teacher educator, and
trying to understand, name and frame her experiences.
Most significant about creating knowledge in this regard seems to be adopting a
systematic examination of practice that includes sharing research efforts. In order for
one to know the extent to which one has contributed to knowledge creation, one needs
to do so by systematically sharing findings and getting professional feedback from those
who participate in fora in which findings are shared.
Clarke (2001), in a review of teacher education, looked at critical points on the
landscape of teacher education and pointed to a number of issues as evidence that
teacher educators are creators of knowledge. In particular Clarke (2001) makes
reference to the emergence of journals that have teacher education as their principal
focus and argues that these reflect a growing development of outlets that regard teacher
education and scholarship as one and the same, and regard the practice of each as selfsupporting. As noted above, he also makes reference to texts in teacher education,
indicating that reference books serve as a resource for students and perhaps teacher
educators. Clarke (2001) further argues that value is likely to accrue from professional
teacher educators’ meetings as fora that serve as an opportunity for sharing knowledge
generated by others. Finally, Clarke (2001) writes of research trends in teacher
education, confirming that engaging in research facilitates the creation of knowledge.
Underpinning Clarke’s (2001) analysis is a long history of work by teacher educators and
scholars in teacher education. He extrapolates on issues dealt with in a given period and
implies that the construction of knowledge in teacher education has been in teacher
education scholarship since it emerged as a field of study. It is the documentation of
these experiences and their implication that are of critical importance in his analytic
work. Clarke’s (2001) call for recognition of “teacher educators” as “scholars” in teacher
education institutional homes, faculties or schools of education is grounded in an
understanding that it is time to support teacher educators. Teacher educators can be
supported through involvement in outlets such as journals, reference books and
meetings of professionals.
Clarke’s (2001) critical analysis helps one to value how teacher educators and scholars
construct professional knowledge in a discipline (teacher education) that is not fully
supported. His analysis also strengthens the basis for understanding teacher educators’
and scholars’ standing in relation to how the knowledge they construct advances the
status of the profession. However, his work falls short of linking their work to the
application of created knowledge, particularly in the context of classroom situations.
According to Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2005), across their professional lives teachers
play a significant and critical role in generating knowledge on practice. They use their
own contexts, including classrooms and schools, as suitable sites for inquiry and
therefore as an opportunity to create knowledge. Other avenues for constructing
knowledge include the tendency for teachers to work as teams in conducting inquiry,
participating in the design and review of curricula and holding leadership positions. It is
in the context of challenging and addressing their own assumptions about practice and
related issues, in identifying and studying practice-related problems that in the process
teachers are viewed as constructing knowledge.
The relevance of the study by Orland-Barak (2006) lies in the framework used to analyse
knowledge construction in professional conversations. Although the context and
objectives of Orland-Barak’s study differs greatly from the context in which the current
study was undertaken, the analysis of the conversations presents some interesting
findings on professional knowledge. The study: Convergent, divergent and parallel
dialogues, knowledge construction in professional conversations suggests that
participation in professional conversations does provide learning opportunities for those
who get involved in such activities. He found that the three forms of dialogue appear to
provide valuable opportunities for co-constructing different kinds of understanding about
In his study Orland-Barak (2006) established that divergent and parallel dialogue can
constitute important opportunities for constructing knowledge. This may be more so
because they prompt a discourse in which professionals expose, scrutinise and contest
deeply ingrained assumptions about their practice. However, as he argues, this process
requires a ‘mentor of mentors’ to ensure that a relationship between facilitating
professional conversations and learning from that facilitation is attained. Professional
conversations tend to extend to teacher educators who supervise student teachers’
In practice teacher educators engage in the supervision of research undertaken at
postgraduate level. There are writings that indicate that work in this area, while fulfilling
to those who play the role of supervising, has numerous challenges for both the students
and their supervisors (Jansen, Herman & Pillay, 2004, Fataar, 2005). For Jansen et al.
(2004), students’ individual research journeys, due to among other things unclear steps
to be followed in producing a research proposal, experience a number of problems,
some of which are emotional to the extent that students sometimes “break down”. Fataar
(2005) engaged in a study that specifically looked into the supervision of research of
doctoral students, basing his research on personal observations and reflective notes
made throughout the proposal supervision process and two hour interviews with her two
doctoral students. She concluded that the supervision of doctoral proposals was largely
successful because of the students’ ability to incorporate elements of a scholarly identity
in their work. Incorporating these elements enabled PhD researchers to ask appropriate
academic questions. Fataar (2005) was of the view that her role in the supervision
process was to facilitate a shift from just thinking at the level of a student to an
immersion into the required academic and intellectual repertoires required for proposal
Fataar’s (2005) admission to having developed her own personal professional reflexivity
through the supervision process points to creating personal knowledge through reflecting
intensively on the process, entering into dialogue with the PhD students, and reflecting
on her role as research supervisor. Therefore, with hindsight, Fataar’s supervision of
doctoral students was in many respects an application of professional knowledge in her
capacity as a teacher educator.
3.7 Application of Professional Knowledge
The application of professional knowledge involves knowing how to enact professional
knowledge in relevant contexts or in practice. It requires the ability among teacher
educators to enact the pedagogy of teacher education and also model what they expect
of their prospective teachers. The literature points to the need on the part of teacher
educators to enact professional knowledge. Alexander (2004) argues that, “observing
student teachers and telling them what they should do or what they (teacher educators)
would do is hardly the same thing as actually doing it” (p.624). Studying prospective
teachers’ activities at the expense of researching one’s own work could be regarded as
distancing teacher educators from investigating their own teaching and documenting
their professional experiences.
There is evidence that teacher educators have been studied by other researchers and
that they have also researched their own practice. The Multi-Site Teacher Education
Research (MUSTER) project reported in Chapter 1 had as one of its sub-studies
curriculum as delivered. The MUSTER sub-study followed an observation approach in
collecting data on curriculum as enacted. This sub-study found that in all the countries
that participated in the sub-study, most teaching followed a transmission mode, with
lecturing and question-and-answer sessions being the most common (Lewin & Stuart,
In general, the use of observation, although the analysis took into consideration the
documented curriculum, appears to have been restrictive. Interviews of all the research
participants would potentially have revealed their views on why they acted in the way
they did. The MUSTER Project, while it did not focus on the application of professional
knowledge per se, demonstrates a case where teacher educators were being studied in
practice. Contemporary literature as referred to above, however, suggests that
researching one’s own field of study necessarily impacts on teacher educators
themselves in ways that could help improve their practice. This is one of the reasons for
concluding that research by teacher educators themselves especially in their teacher
education context is a worthwhile endeavour. The currently advocated approach of
research for teacher educators is self-study.
The emergence of “self-study” research therefore calls on teacher educators to research
their professional activities in ways that could contribute to transforming their field of
study. There are claims that systematically inquiring into learning through self-study
research (Loughran and Berry, 2005; Smith, 2003, Korthagen, Loughran and Lunenberg,
2005, Hamilton, 2005, and Clarke and Erickson, 2004 as articulated by Loughran and
Berry, 2005) enhances the possibilities for teacher educators to see the relationship
between received knowledge and the actual use of that knowledge in practice. However,
Samaras et al. (2006) propose that an interest in self-study research “must come from
the teacher educator who is willing to utilize the knowledge gained through examining
the self to reframe and better understand practice and provide meaningful learning
experience for students” (p.54).
Nevertheless, there are claims that teacher educators who study how they are learning,
how they generate knowledge and how they enact teacher education curriculum tend to
improve their work. This view is confirmed by Tom and Valli (1990) who maintain that
research findings are a source of professional knowledge for they provide teacher
educators with information needed for reviewing teacher education programmes.
Some teacher educators have actually ventured into researching classroom practices
and in a sense researching enactment of professional knowledge. In a study undertaken
by two instructors in which they, as course instructors, explored two pedagogical
moments that occurred within a diversity-focused secondary teacher education course,
Freedman, Bullock and Duque (2005) found that their teaching faced numerous
challenges. Reflective moments provided for the instructors were facilitated by
problematising their teaching stances.
Hug and Moller (2005), tenured assistant professors, engaged in a study similar to that
of Freedman et al., (2005). The latter researchers examined themselves as educators,
their organisation of instruction and the possibility of collaborative work in pre-service
teacher education across two disciplines namely; Science and Language Arts. To Hug
and Moller (2005) their experience provided a learning opportunity, with the study
helping them to improve as they acknowledged that they felt they had grown as
university-based educators. In the analysis of the data they identified key areas that
contributed to enhanced learning. Their research participants, namely student teachers
and teacher educators, learned from reflecting on classroom experience. The teacher
educators learned from their own students’ experiences. One of these researchers was
able to make sense of how s/he “enacted the curriculum in critical ways yet they (were)
not able to use their dominant culture lenses to support the student’s understanding of
the critical issues” (Hug and Moller, 2005, p.600). It is reflection on the findings of the
researched topics that brings value to the work of teacher educators who study their own
practice and subsequently have an impact on their own practice.
3.8 Modelling Professional knowledge
The application of professional knowledge has implications for modelling teaching.
Loughran and Berry (2005) engaged in a study in which they deliberately wanted to
model the practice of teaching. In their work on modelling by teacher educators, they
discuss their understanding of it. The discussion is based on a self-study which was
longitudinal in nature in which they were both involved in Developing Pedagogy. They
describe explicit modelling as
operating concurrently at two levels. At one level, explicit modelling is about us
“doing” in our practice that which we expect our students to do in their teaching.
This means we must model the use of engaging and innovative teaching
procedures for our students rather than “deliver” information about such practice
through the traditional (and often expected) transmissive approach. At another
level, there is also a need to offer our students access to the pedagogical
reasoning, feelings, thoughts and actions that accompany our practice across a
range of teaching and learning experiences. We make such access through
‘thinking aloud’ …, journaling, discussions during and after class with groups and
individual student teachers… (p.194).
The study illustrates a desire by these researchers to model what they believe their own
students should be able to replicate once they are teachers themselves. They chose to
engage in the study fully cognizant that the articulation of knowledge of practice is a
difficult and a complex task. It demands considerable awareness of oneself, pedagogy
and students. Employing a self-study methodology in which they engaged their own
student teachers, Loughran and Berry’s (2005) study reveals that opportunities for
teacher educators to learn from a demanding process are fraught with tensions. Most
significantly, they conclude that the exposure they went through facilitated metalearning
or learning beyond the immediate, and uncovering learning about learning and teaching
as experience.
Modelling can be deliberately played out in a manner that those for whom it is being
played out are able to observe it. However, modelling can happen without a person who
is being modelled being aware of the modelling. Two studies undertaken by different
researchers, namely Brandenburg (2004) and Hug and Moller (2005) involved student
teachers. In a study in which using negotiations as a strategy to involve his students,
Brandenburg (2004) explored “roundtable reflection” as an innovative approach to
learning and teaching Mathematics. He pointed out that “underpinning this restructured
approach to teaching and learning was the assumption that practices, frameworks,
modes of operation and understandings would be challenged” (p.3). The research was
informed by extensive work on self-study including the work of Russell (1995), which for
Brandenburg (2004) suggested that teacher educators should advocate changes that
they had achieved in their own practice.
The case of Hug and Moller (2005) illustrates modelling in which a study by teacher
educators examined, among other things, how they modelled teaching, listening and
learning. The two teacher educators who were involved in the study taught different
courses, namely Science and Literacy. Specifically the two teacher educators’ intention
was to illustrate best practices of teaching by demonstrating how subjects can be
integrated and made relevant to students’ lives. They had assumed that seeing
collaborative teaching and learning modelled by two new tenure-track assistant
professors could make it easier for their student teachers to practise this way of teaching
when they themselves began working as teachers. They were participants in the selfstudy research in which their students became part of the context of their teaching.
While the findings of the study extend beyond modelling, the two authors argue that their
research contributes immensely to their professional development as university teacher
educators. Hug and Moller (2005) concluded with a hope that “their stories will serve as
a model for other educators engaging in their own collaborative teaching and self-study”
(p.138). While it involved student teachers in such a manner that they were conscious of
the activities involved in the study, the study pointed to modelling in the context of
teacher education as grounded in the actual teaching itself. The use of the term hope by
these researchers implies that even though they deliberately modelled a particular
aspect of their teaching, there was no guarantee that student teachers were going to
emulate the modelled aspect of teaching.
Other educational researchers make reference to research work (Cole, 1999) that
focuses on modelling. Hamilton (2005) analysed modelling as demonstrated by a
professor in her institution. Lessons that were modelled focused on the work of teachers
and the value of research. Through exploring the complexities of teaching and the
contradictions inherent in the learning-to-teach process, and in the development of
educational theory, she saw the need to learn through experience. In learning through
experience she was able to bring trustworthiness and respect to the work of teachers
and teacher educators. Successful modelling relies on teacher educators being
knowledgeable about their own practices as educators.
Failure to model what is expected in a programme has some disadvantages. Student
teachers who may not be aware of programme goals and objectives may leave a
teacher education institution without having learned about the expected outcome of the
programme as it would not have been modelled for them. Ntoi and Lefoka (2002) made
reference to modelling of good practice and that teacher educators’ failure to observe
the demands of a programme which was intended to integrate theory and practice
implied that student teachers could not observe that good practice that was theorised
about in the actual teaching. These authors concluded that in a situation where theory is
considered more important than practice as was the case in the research they
undertook, the message conveyed is that “it is impossible to follow the fundamental
precepts of good teaching” (p.282).
Modelling is yet another complex theory which is not tangible. However, research
alluded to in this section of the chapter has revealed that there are prospects for
modelling in the context of teacher education. Student teachers have opportunities to
learn through observing their educators in practice.
3.9 Conclusion
In reviewing the literature regarding the sources and application of professional
knowledge among teacher educators, a number of profound issues were revealed: some
of them well known but important to revisit, and others that pose serious challenges. The
first is that the sources and application of teacher educator professional knowledge is
inextricably linked with the education practice in the classrooms. In fact, education
practice in the classrooms determines the nature and structure of teacher professional
knowledge and practice, and the latter determines teacher educator professional
knowledge and practice. The sources and application of teacher educator professional
knowledge can therefore not be considered without education practice in classrooms
and the required teacher professional knowledge.
Secondly, however, as we know, there is always some kind of discrepancy between
education policy and practice in the classrooms. Teacher educators’ professional
knowledge should have the latter as its primary concern because it is education in
practice that eventually counts. In this sense, teacher professional knowledge and
subsequently teacher educator professional knowledge need to include the importance
of assuring a policy-practice match.
Thirdly is the issue of contemporary education discourse recognising the challenging
demands for education within a super-complex world with an unknown future. The
subsequent qualitatively different demands on young people result in equally compelling
and qualitatively different demands of young people on the education that they need.
Traditional education that was concerned with an epistemological task has to be
replaced with an education pursuing an ontological challenge as primary aim. No doubt
education in general has not been prepared to take on such a challenge. Subsequently,
traditional teacher and teacher educator professional knowledge and practice are
inadequate to fulfil the demands of young people on education.
Fourthly and lastly, a culture of compliance with policy as perceived quality is obscuring
our vision of actual, authentic quality in education being the only thing that really matters.
There are many and varied sources available for teacher educator professional
knowledge and there are many and varied ways that the teacher educator professional
knowledge originating from these sources could be applied. However, all sources and
applications of teacher educator professional knowledge are in jeopardy unless they are
benchmarked by the identification of actual, authentic and quality education. That is why
contemporary educational discourse requires that student teachers should be
challenged to construct their own professional knowledge. They can do so through
inquiry-based concrete experiences of education in practice as an unadulterated
measure of the level of the actual education quality they have provided – not an easy
task if it was a failure. This is even truer when they need to take the responsibility to
improve on it through a continual process of informal and formal inquiry – which may fail
again in future.
The idea of taking responsibility for their own learning and their own construction of their
own professional knowledge is a daunting endeavour for student teachers, even though
they are appropriately facilitated during the process because they are confronted not
with what they know, but their sense of self and who they are becoming. This constitutes
personal transformation. The argument posed by Palmer (1998) with reference to
schooling is equally valid for teacher education and subsequently teacher educators: He
says that students may leave the institution deeply dissatisfied even though they were
served by good teachers. This statement has intrigued and at the same time empowered
me to strive for good teaching which challenges students. But Palmer was referring to
dissatisfaction of a different kind, whereby students who have been well served by good
teachers may walk away angry, angry that their prejudices have been challenged and
their sense of self shaken. That sort of dissatisfaction may be a sign that real education
has happened.
The challenge for teacher educators is that they also have to construct their own
professional knowledge through enquiry based authentic experiences. This would be to
ensure that their utilisation thereof will have the desired result of how to design,
implement and evaluate the most powerful learning environments for student teachers
within which they have to find the best possible sources. The purpose would be to help
them to construct and use their own professional knowledge in new creative ways to
enhance their professional development.
People are meaning-finders; they can very quickly make sense of the most chaotic
events. Our equilibrium depends on such skills: We keep the world consistent and
predictable by organising and interpreting it. The critical question is whether the
meanings you find in qualitative data are valid, repeatable, and right (Miles and
Huberman, 1994, p.245)
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Biographical Information
4.3. Conceptualisation of Critical Concepts
4.4. Sources of Professional Knowledge
4.5. Application of Professional Knowledge
4.6. Application of Professional Knowledge
4.7. Constructing Professional Knowledge
4.8. Modelling Professional Knowledge
4.9. Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
There were huge challenges in undertaking this study and in analysing the data but it
was guided by the specific questions that the study was addressing and separated into
sections: sources, enactment, construction and modelling of professional knowledge.
These were the same challenges that illustrated the thin line between the four concepts.
The analysis of the two types of document, curriculum and assessment, used by teacher
educators typifies the difficulty experienced in categorising the data into sections.
The analysis could easily be classified as a source of professional knowledge,
enactment, construction or modelling. In discussing documents under sources of
professional knowledge the analysis would be on where the research participants drew
their knowledge from. As an enactment issue, the analysis would focus on how they in
practice apply their knowledge using the documents in the learning and teaching
context. In constructing professional knowledge, the focus would be on how they come
up with the said documents, and finally, in modelling the analysis would be on how they
act out how the documents are used in the context of teaching and assessing.
The chapter draws content mainly from data collected through research participants’
narratives, observation of their teaching practice and document analysis.
4.2 Biographical Information
The analysis of biographical data embraces characteristics of the research participants
that include their gender, credentials and areas of specialisation, teaching experience at
various levels of the education system, including secondary and tertiary levels, and
reasons for becoming teacher educators. Biographical data was provided during the
narrative data collection process.
4.2.1 Gender
The teacher educators who participated in this study were predominantly women; of the
eight research participants only two were males. The fact that there are more female
than male teacher educators is not by design, as even at national level the population of
women in the education sector is generally higher than that of males. The observed
gender imbalance in the Faculty of Education where the study was carried out is
therefore not unique to this faculty even if I had used other strategies other than
purposive sampling for selecting the research participants
4.2.2 Highest Qualification and Areas of Specialisation
Table 4.1 presents participants’ areas of specialisation, highest qualification held and the
department in which they were at the time of undertaking this study. The Table further
illustrates the diversity of the research participants’ areas of specialisation, with most
being unique, except for two who had majored in the same area of specialisation;
educational management. There were four who taught curriculum or subject content,
three of whom were in the educational foundations area, although one of them had
initially majored in Science Education, and a fourth who had no teacher education
background but had studied English Literature at undergraduate level and Instructional
Systems Technology as her major in a Master’s of Science programme (MSc).
The data revealed that four research participants held a PhD and four a master’s
degree. Three of the master’s degrees were in Education, and one was an MSc. The
research participants were specialists at postgraduate level, based in relevant
departments and therefore teaching the subjects in which they had majored. It can be
assumed that they were conversant with the content they were teaching since they had
been placed in relevant departments. It can further be assumed that the institution hires
and places employees according to their areas of specialisation.
TABLE 4.1: Participants’ Areas of Specialisation by Placement in
Areas of specialisation
Placement in Department
Educational Organisation and Management
Department of Educational
Foundations (EDF)
Teacher Education major and Psychology in
Education and Counselling
Department of Educational
Foundations (EDF)
Instructional Systems Technology
Department of Educational
Foundations (EDF)
Department of Educational
Foundations (EDF)
Instructional Supervision and Educational
Management and Administration
English Education: The Teaching of English
Language and Literature
Language and Social Education
Geography Education
Language and Social Education
Mathematics Education
Department of Science
Science Education, Biology Education and
Environmental Education
Department of Science
4.2.3 Teaching Experience
A number of factors are relevant to teaching experience, in particular the level reached.
The most significant of these are discussed below. Teaching Experience at other Levels of the Education System
All the research participants, with the exception of one, had taught at secondary school
level, most for one year or less. Exceptions included one who had taught for four years
and another for eight years, with another having taught at all levels of the education
system, excluding pre-primary school. However, the majority had planned to teach in
secondary school, that being the level for which they had received formal training. Two
indicated that teaching at secondary school had made little impact on their teaching at
the level of a teacher education institution.
However, the rest linked it to their current work as teacher educators. Teaching at
secondary school level had socialised them for a teaching career and taught them to
teach as they would like their student teachers to teach. It is an experience from which,
according to one of the research participants namely, Fusi, one draws from even when
supervising student teachers’ instructional practices. However, the message that it has
taught them a few skills appears to be more espoused than actually practised. Very little
was revealed which could be regarded as a pointer to lessons accruing from teaching at
secondary schools prior to joining the university. Teaching Experience in Teacher Education Institutions
The experience of the research participants as teacher educators ranged from 11 to 35
years, with only two below 20 years, three above 20 and three above 30. For these
research participants the teaching experience has been gathered from teacher
education institutions, including college and university.
While experience is sometimes linked to the level at which one is with regard to work
experience, classification such as being a novice, advanced beginner, competent,
proficient or expert was not conducted; this study does not set out to analyse these
levels, as doing so would have required a different approach in which a Dreyfus Model
referred to in the literature review, or a similar one used for analysing experience, would
have to be used to measure the different levels of the research participants.
I therefore conclude that teacher educators teaching in this institution have varying but
considerable teaching experience. This is particularly so with regard to teaching in
teacher education institutions compared to other levels of the education system.
4.2.4 Becoming a Teacher Educator
A number of factors are involved in becoming a teacher educator. These range from how
each of the participants was appointed to the position to reasons for becoming a teacher
educator. Each of these is dealt with in turn below. Appointment to a Position of Teacher Educator
A number of the research participants became teacher educators by accident while
others applied for an advertised post. Even among some of those who applied for an
advertised post there were those who did not believe this career was what they initially
thought they would follow. Two who thought they had become teacher educators by
accident had been identified as potential university lecturers on the basis of an extremely
good performance during their studies as student teachers. ’Masethabathaba reported: “I
just remember that before the end of the academic year at the time that I was to leave
the university my lecturers called me and said, ‘What would you do if you were offered a
position as Teaching Assistant?” and Zinzi said, “I was just lucky, one of the lecturers
said to me you are doing so well, maybe we would like you to be a Teaching Assistant”.
These two were therefore appointed as Teaching Assistants on the basis of their
performance at undergraduate level. What is not clear though, is whether performance
that was considered in inviting them was in the context of teacher education subjects or
their areas of specialisation ― English Education or Mathematics Education.
Six became teacher educators through applying for an advertised post, some having
applied on the basis that they had majored in a subject for which a lecturer was needed
and others feeling they had a skill that was required.
It can be concluded that the teacher education institution in which the research
participants are employed recruits teacher educators mainly through advertising vacant
positions or identifying potential among their student teachers. Other Reasons for Becoming a Teacher Educator
There were varying reasons for taking up a teacher educator’s position, some personal
and professional, others monetary. Five highlighted the prestige associated with being
an employee of an institution of higher learning. For those who applied on both
professional grounds and those who were invited, the major reason was that such an
institution was regarded as holding a higher status and that it had better earning
potential. Regardless of reasons given, both finance and status reasons were implied.
4.3 Conceptualisation of Critical Concepts
It appeared important to establish the research participants’ understanding of the various
and therefore significant terminology pertinent to teacher education. A knowledge base,
as alluded to in both the introduction and the literature chapters, distinguishes
4.3.1 The Meaning of the Concept ‘Professional knowledge’
There is a shared understanding of the concept of ‘professional knowledge’ among the
research participants, generally believed to embrace knowledge gained through studying
and practice. According to them, studying in a relevant field is foundational to a
profession with specific courses considered key to the teaching profession, in particular
those taken in teacher education institutions at undergraduate level, and to some extent
postgraduate level. However, while formal education is understood to provide an
opportunity to act in ways that demonstrate ability to apply knowledge, it became
apparent that the research participants considered experience to be central; it is through
being exposed to the world of work that knowledge is tested and decisions made
regarding the suitability of specific knowledge for use in various contexts.
In this regard they saw professional knowledge as a combination of formal education in
one’s area of specialisation and experience within it. According to Peditta, professional
knowledge is a combination of what one has learned and the ability to apply that
knowledge and in so doing change as a result of the experience. While educational
foundations courses lay the foundation for professional knowledge, in trying to apply it
professionals may find that theoretical knowledge does not yield the expected results.
There is an understanding therefore that testing ideas may give professionals a solution
for a particular problem, but that since situations are rarely the same what appears
applicable to one may not be transferred and applied wholesale to others. To some
participants, professional knowledge pertains to a particular profession and goes beyond
a classroom setting to social contexts. The contexts in which professionals practise
require them to behave in certain and acceptable ways, and to act and dress in ways
that are deemed professional.
It would seem that the participants value the fact that knowledge can be drawn from
various sources mainly the academic and the workplace. With regard to dress,
presumably the participants were making reference to professions such as law, medicine
and nursing. Members in such professions dress in ways that distinguish them from any
other individual or group of people, especially at the workplace.
Actual teaching at any level of the education system in itself provides ample learning
opportunities for teacher educators, with each year providing opportunities to learn
something new. In this regard experience is considered an enabling factor to enhance
one’s professional knowledge; hence the conclusion that professional knowledge can
never be complete. The experience that one has gathered facilitates change due to
developments that occur in the actual context of teaching. Therefore, the fact that
professional knowledge is not “tangible” as was pointed out by one of the research
participants implies that experience provides ample opportunities for accumulation of
professional knowledge and for professionals to develop their practice continually.
Different situations present new challenges, which in turn promote professional growth.
One of the participants, Peditta, articulated professional growth and challenges in
experiencing professional knowledge with an episode: “It’s like a ball that keeps on
moving and as it moves it gets bigger and what makes it bigger are your experiences
gained by applying this ball to the situation. [However] … the fact that one grows cannot
guarantee the ability to deal with other problems that keep emerging in one’s
profession”. This supports the assertion that professional knowledge is not tangible and
that accumulation of professional knowledge can therefore be compared to a snowball
being rolled over surfaces with and without snow, with moments when nothing is
accumulated due to different situations that present themselves.
The argument here is that challenges and professional growth are facilitated by contexts.
In the context of teacher education there are colleagues, one’s own students and an
individual’s ability to experiment with new ideas. Gaining professional knowledge is
therefore not only complex but there is a high level of dynamism. It therefore can be
informed by professionals making an effort to read more, and broadly, and to be
cognizant of developments in ones’ area of specialisation through taking advantage of
various situations, including interacting with colleagues in the context.
4.3.2 The Meaning of the Concept ‘Teacher Educator’
Information on the participants’ understanding of who they are revealed two
interpretations. To some the term ‘teacher educator’ refers to someone who educates
others through providing them with appropriate knowledge and skills for the teaching
profession. To others a teacher educator is someone who helps student teachers to
develop their own knowledge so that they too develop as professionals. Such an
individual has the ability to: (a) equip others with skills required for a teaching profession;
(b) intervene in peoples’ lives in order to promote change; and (c) unleash the potential
in a person in a manner that demonstrates worthiness in what is being done, and
therefore attract others to the profession. To ensure that these attributes are instilled in
student teachers, a teacher educator has to establish good rapport with student teachers
and at the same time maintain a teacher-learner relationship. It is very clear that there
are different conceptions of what a teacher educator’s job is. It is mainly about teaching
someone to become a teacher and helping that future teacher to become independent
and constructive.
Additional attributes of a teacher educator came from those participants based in the
departments that offer curriculum studies. They went on to indicate that teacher
educators also have to ensure that student teachers are knowledgeable about and
skilled in the subject content areas they are being educated to teach. The implication
therefore is that teacher educators who are in the educational foundations area would be
expected to emphasise pedagogic knowledge, while those in curriculum departments
would be more inclined to emphasis pedagogic content knowledge.
Moreover, teacher educators are professionals who have to be cognizant of a national
education policy and a country’s educational philosophy to the extent that they can
infuse both the national policy and the philosophy in the teaching of subjects in which
they have specialised and that they introduce to their students. The expectation is that, if
properly indoctrinated in these national aspects of an education system, student
teachers will also be mindful of national policies and educational philosophy once they
join an education system.
4.4 Sources of Professional Knowledge
The response to the question on sources of professional knowledge among teacher
educators pointed to the availability of numerous sources. There was reference to
programmes are a foundational source that grounds professionals in the discipline and
upon which other sources, particularly experientially-based sources build on the
furtherance of the profession, or are built upon. Therefore, to the group of participants in
this current study, propositional or received knowledge is gained at both undergraduate
and postgraduate programme levels. However, the overwhelming response was that
those sources were not accessible, and could not be easily provided for or attained in
seminar rooms or lecture halls. These are sources that are facilitated by experiences in
relevant fields or areas of specialisation, and include the following:
practising in teacher education institutions and therefore being in a specialised
context in which one practises;
research undertaken at postgraduate level and at work;
supervision of either or both instruction and research;
encounters with colleagues and own students;
development and use of instructional media;
assessing students;
participation in national developments in which one provides professional
services in a number of endeavours;
holding an administrative position, such as being a dean of a faculty;
participation in professional development endeavours, including receiving training
in continuing professional development programmes; attending conferences or
participating in academic links that involve other institutions of similar status, and
in conferences in which individuals present professionally produced papers; and
membership of professional organisations.
The research participants made reference to production of instructional media in the
form of books or modules with the former being published. However, none of the
participants made reference to production of journal articles or research-based book
publications as some of the sources of professional knowledge. This failure relates to
their apparently not being involved in undertaking research in their areas of
specialisation or in teacher education in general.
4.4.1 Sources of Propositional Knowledge
Several sources of propositional knowledge are relevant to the teacher education
process. They are mainly based on formal education provided in institutions of higher
learning. Undergraduate Teacher Education Programme
All the participants, with the exception of one who did not take courses in teacher
education at this level, agreed that academic programmes provide a foundation for
professional knowledge. Being taught by seasoned professors was considered
advantageous in that they were considered to have better strategies for teaching student
teachers. Academic programmes at the undergraduate level are regarded as having
helped pass on concepts that are the major source of teaching practice. It is at the
undergraduate level that the teacher educators felt they acquired knowledge and
attained skills on how to handle teaching in a real classroom, regardless of the level. In
particular, some saw educational foundations programmes that included courses such
as psychology, assessment, educational management, supervision of instruction and
teaching and instructional techniques, as having laid the foundation for their current
assignment of teaching teachers. To this end, they indicated that they were being
educated as teachers in the subject content in which they had majored. They learned
about how to teach the content and about planning to teach in their area of
In contrast, there were some who revealed that their experience at undergraduate level
could not be regarded as having provided them with knowledge of teaching their subject
content. In sharing her undergraduate experience, Zinzi felt the professors who taught
her had not modelled how to teach content at secondary school level, or at any other
My undergraduate courses did not serve as a source of professional
knowledge for me. Actually my experience was with somebody who didn’t
seem to understand what teacher education is about. He taught us how to
add, subtract and multiply for the entire semester. We also had a lecturer
who had just completed his PhD studies and came with all these high level
theories that really did not have examples that relate to Maths teaching.
These were way above our heads and didn’t help us know what we were
going to teach. So basically what we learned as students here was not very
useful in our teaching; so each time I reflect on my university days I say to
myself that when I left university I wasn’t sure what and how I was going to
Therefore opinions differed with some indicating that there were benefits that accrue
from having enrolled in certain programmes while others could not see the relevance. The Focus of a Postgraduate Programme
All but one of the participants had enrolled in a postgraduate programme that required
them to undertake research. However, one of those who also undertook research
indicated that the postgraduate degree was not preparing her for the work beyond the
programme. Therefore it can be argued that experiences vary to a large extent.
Documentation of these experiences shared by teacher educators could be valued by
others, including those who enter a teacher education field with or without experience.
To most participants however, research undertaken at the postgraduate level was
relevant to their fields of specialisation. It was an enriching experience in that the theses
were informative, especially depending on the relevance of the area of research to the
course being taught. In one of the cases the participant indicated that as a result of
engaging in research which was a requirement at the postgraduate level, she had “lived
that piece of work throughout her teacher education career”, and it enabled her to look at
curriculum not in isolation but in relation to a child, and therefore holistically. Others
shared the same sentiments and pointed out that postgraduate theses had transformed
their teaching of subject content in their areas of specialisation. The research work
constantly informed the way they worked with student teachers and had therefore
significantly deepened their understanding of theories such as reflective practice, their
applicability and relevance to professional development of student teachers.
To some, the findings of research undertaken at postgraduate level in their different
areas of specialisation had been brought to bear in real classroom situations. Therefore,
and to a large extent, research-based postgraduate courses contributed to the
knowledge needed for the teaching of student teachers. In this regard, postgraduate
programmes serve as a source of propositional knowledge, since almost all the
participants had taken an educational research methodology course at that level.
Postgraduate programmes therefore provided an opportunity to construct new
knowledge specifically through engaging in research.
However, the assertion that professional knowledge is not tangible is revealed in
practice. Those who specialised in administrative management had found that research
undertaken at PhD level was helpful in managing student teachers’ behaviour. They
used the theories learned in the courses either to handle classroom experiences or help
student teachers acquire classroom management and administrative skills. Therefore
there can be immediate benefits accruing from a postgraduate course to the actual
teaching. Supervision of teaching practice, to be discussed below, benefits greatly from
the content learned in courses such as administrative management.
154 Experience in Supervising Students’ Theses
Responses indicate that experience in supervising research was mainly drawn either
from the actual courses undertaken at postgraduate level or in workshops offered at
work. Alternatively, this kind of experience is gained through practice and working jointly
with colleagues, and without being guided. As revealed by ‘Masethabathaba, “as a
lecturer you are expected to supervise but nobody cares to know either how you do it or
whether you are capable of providing such a service”.
Others’ experiences were of lessons learned from being supervised by different
professors. Hoanghoang’s experience at master’s and PhD levels is a case in point. His
preference was for professors, who let students have their own space, allow them to use
their own language and freely express their views. He stated that he did not like
professors who were prescriptive and directive, as was the case with his Master’s
Degree professor. His PhD experience exposed him to an individual who raised
questions that made him think deeply. Being given some space to express ideas in his
own words was a preferred approach, which for him was “much more pronounced and
helpful when doing PhD and almost non-existent in Master’s degree supervision”.
It can be concluded that people sometimes still recall their professors’ ways of
supervision and may emulate what they considered to be good practice. It can further be
concluded that being allowed to work on one’s own, but with appropriate guidance, is an
opportunity to become independent in constructing new knowledge.
However, it became apparent that to the majority of the participants the opportunity to
supervise student teachers’ research was minimal. Perhaps this was due to the Faculty
of Education offering more undergraduate than postgraduate courses. This does not
mean that people teaching in this faculty cannot ask students to undertake research,
even as a mini-project. Structuring courses in which students do research would be
instilling in them a level of independence in the way they acquire or construct
4.4.2 Sources of Practical Knowledge
The sources of practical knowledge are varied and include acquaintance with colleagues
and the holding of administrative positions, as well as working in different contexts.
155 Acquaintances with Colleagues, Teachers and Students
Acquaintance with colleagues, teachers and students can be a valuable source of
practical knowledge to the teacher educator, each in its particular way. Such
acquaintances are regarded as valuable since they serve as a source of practical
Acquaintance with Colleagues
Views varied on support provided by colleagues, with some indicating that it was difficult
either to receive it or provide it. However, a few participants who indicated that they did
receive professional support from colleagues expressed satisfaction with the practice.
Much can be learnt from colleagues, more so if both experienced and novice educators
are open to it. In such situations colleagues freely remark about one another’s
knowledge, observe one another’s teaching practice and provide feedback. Individuals
reflect and are able to address the points in which challenges have been identified. Most
significant, though, was a situation in which a colleague received feedback and
constantly reflected on her own professional actions. Although very few participants
claimed they practised collegiality, there were some who were aware of the benefits of
professional support that can be provided by colleagues. Therefore, those who were
aware did make efforts to take advantage of the existence of such opportunities.
A matter referred to as a particular strength in having a good relationship with colleagues
was sharing professional challenges with experienced teacher educators. This was
particularly facilitated by situations in which there were professionals who had been
mandated by the faculty to serve as mentors of newly employed and inexperienced
teacher educators. Some of the participants alluded to the time during which they joined
the faculty and received extensive support from well-read professors. The mentorship
practice provided an opportunity to reflect on teaching while receiving unconditional
support from professionals who were delegated to help them.
While some acknowledged the support provided by the designated mentors, others
observed that it was lacking in some aspects. Mentoring tended to focus on practical
elements of teaching and the use of appropriate materials for teaching certain topics,
rather than looking deeper into issues pertaining to theories of teaching and learning and
An introspective view by the participants suggests that while the
mentoring of newly employed educators was a good idea it was lacking in some areas.
The challenge in receiving inputs from colleagues and reflecting on them goes a step
further and interprets meanings that colleagues give to one’s pedagogical behaviour.
Some of the participants regarded this form of learning as one that is not always explicit,
yet most of the learning in the field of teacher education actually takes place in settings
in which one is often unaware of how others view them.
Acquaintance with School Teachers
In references made to working with experienced teachers there was an understanding
that serving teachers could provide technical know-how. They were experts in their own
fields in terms of context and often knew what was required in the real context of
teaching, compared to university-based teacher educators who were not constantly
working in the school system. There is therefore an appreciation that serving teachers
have knowledge and skills that are unique to the context of teaching, so establishing
links with these is regarded to be worthwhile. Working with teachers during practice
provides opportunities to establish links which is reported to have an impact on teacher
educators who would then use lessons learned to inform their teaching of another cohort
of student teachers.
Acquaintance with Students
Acquiring professional knowledge was said to happen even as teacher educators
intermingled with their own students. Learning through working with students was said to
be facilitated by student teachers who entered teacher education programmes with
some teaching experience and at the same time held a professional qualification. Such
students provided comments that helped teacher educators who worked with them gain
an opportunity to reflect on their own teaching. The experiences shared by
’Masethabathaba and Zinzi illustrate the point regarding experiences with own students
facilitating professional advancement.
I learned from working with experienced teachers initially and learning
from them even if you were not aware that you were learning from them.
Sometimes you come back from postgraduate studies you are big headed
and think these people don’t have masters’ degrees. However,
circumstances force you to learn from them. The foundations of my
professional decisions came from having initially worked with people who
were experienced, far more experienced than I was, but who were
seeking just a higher qualification. These were people who would say:
“No, no, out there, for some students that we taught that’s not how it
goes”. Although initially I didn’t think I could learn anything from them,
working with that caliber of students, I became better although it took me
three years to realise that.
There were many times when I gave my students readings although I
didn’t even know what was in that reading. I would come to class for the
next lecture and ask: “What have you read? Can you please tell us what
was going on in that paper? I would say, “You got to tell me”. It was very
funny because I did not know what to say. I knew that the reading had
something that was useful, but I had not read it myself. Then of course
when I read the article afterwards I found that even though it was very
relevant, it was a very difficult and even the abstract was very difficult to
comprehend. In the process I learned that one doesn’t give a reading
before thoroughly reading and making own notes.
Reference was also made to acquaintance with former student teachers. For a few
participants meeting former students who willingly shared what they had learned from
the courses undertaken at the undergraduate level provided feedback for those
concerned. It is either during or after student teachers had been exposed to teaching
practice that the reports they prepared were revealing, and where they freely shared
their experiences as students. These were regarded by the participants as always
informative, showing the realities of authentic classrooms, how the curriculum was
enacted and indirectly informing teacher educators about how they should teach student
teachers and/or how they should prepare them for their career.
However, there were a few who did not share the view that much can be learned from
the student teachers. The comments by these few were based on university classrooms
in which student teachers did not participate much during class deliberations. Therefore
encounters with student teachers benefited some and not others. Holding Administrative Positions
All the research participants had held an administrative position since joining the teacher
education institution as employees. These ranged from being a deputy dean of a faculty,
head of department (HoD), or a tutor of, for example, first-year students to being a
representative of the faculty in the University’s committees, such as the Academic
Planning Committee (APC). Holding such administrative positions required those
responsible to participate in high-powered institutional meetings, and in this regard gave
them an opportunity to contribute to critical decisions made in such meetings. Most
significantly, the participants used those opportunities to gather knowledge and skills
necessary for teaching, management of departmental and/or faculty matters and
managing the teaching itself. Listening to other colleagues present their programmes in
bodies such as the university senate, the highest body responsible for academic
programmes, also provided an opportunity to learn how to structure own programme/s or
courses especially to meet the demands or requirements of university committees.
Besides participating and learning from formal meetings, the participants indicated that
administrative positions exposed them to students’ challenging problems. Episodes were
shared which indicated that students, whenever they encountered difficulties with a
lecturer whose teaching was not satisfactory, tended to report directly to the dean or
deputy dean of the faculty. In a case in which student teachers expressed concern about
a certain lecturer, to avoid the embarrassment of students deregistering from the course
the deputy dean then held a discussion with the students. The incident helped the
lecturer reflect on her own experiences as a lecturer, and she discovered that student
teachers’ concerns were similar to those she had been expressing: “… these were
things that I used to say in a very casual manner, not thinking that they could be
annoying students and I assumed they understood them to be jokes. So some of the
things that we assume are correct may not be taken positively by the students. In actual
fact I learned not to do such things myself after the encounter".
Students’ reactions are inevitable and teacher educators learn from them as to how to
work with student teachers in such settings. Therefore, encountering real-life problems
can impact on teacher educators as they have to address problems and consequently
learn from how they were addressed.
The responses based on holding different positions indicate that serving in an
administrative position as a faculty tutor provided an opportunity to learn about academic
problems encountered by students and challenges they posed. The lessons learned by
faculty tutors were used in the actual teaching, where students were informed about the
consequences of encountering similar problems. The teacher education institution
experiences tended to benefit the concerned teacher educators and student teachers in
subsequent years.
Serving on high-powered university committees, in which some of the participants
represented their departments or the faculty, provided learning experiences. They
indicated that they had learned from either being a member of such committees and
participating in the deliberations, or actually presenting new courses or programmes in
meetings and getting feedback. To some, deliberations in such committees gave them
an opportunity to see how best to observe the extent to which there are synergies
between the courses students were taking in other faculties and those offered in their
Therefore, serving on such committees provided a holistic picture of programmes offered
in an institution, instead of being seen as isolated entities. For Peditta, sitting on the
Academic Planning Committee was an opportunity “to be presented with a bird’s eye
view of the University programmes”. Presenting newly developed programmes or
courses on behalf of their own departments or faculty not only provided an opportunity to
learn from presenting a poorly conceived programme or course and being critiqued, but
also added to changing the way Zinzi and ’Masethabathaba conceived the whole idea of
teaching and taking professional breaks in order to develop other professional activities,
such as working on publications.
An episode shared by ’Masethabathaba was on learning to manage a classroom in such
a manner that lectures, through well-structured classroom management strategies, could
create time for undertaking research and preparing papers for publication. In one of the
senate meetings, in which one of the university committees that discussed the
promotions criteria presented a paper on the matter, lecturers were concerned about the
non-availability of time for publication. The meeting made it clear that failure to publish
relates to management of teaching time. The discussion in that meeting revealed that
lecturers needed to consider that giving students a period to conduct a library search
and return to class to present their findings could be equated to a double period of actual
teaching time.
Most importantly, it became apparent that students’ research adds value to a lecturer’s
teaching since students tend to discover more things than could be discovered by a
single lecturer. For ‘Masethabathaba, that particular senate meeting she attended
provided a strategy for creating time to research and for preparing papers for publication,
which is something that she had never thought about before. Her experience is
indicative of various learning opportunities presented by the context in which one
To some, serving as Head of Department (HoD) exposed them to knowing the strengths
and weaknesses of other colleagues. In one episode, Lintle, who served as HoD found
that teaching in her department was dominated by transmission methods, a situation
with which she felt uncomfortable. In practice, and as an effort to reduce falling into the
same trap, she invited a colleague to observe and comment on her teaching, and did so
in return for the same colleague. The feedback provided to each other after observations
provided her with an opportunity to involve her students in evaluating her teaching freely
at the end of an academic year. Inputs from students and colleagues contributed to
constant learning about her teaching practice and to a determination to improve on her
Despite numerous challenges associated with administration, the participants seem to
have benefited in many tangible ways from holding administrative positions. These
included gaining a broader view of university programmes and therefore linking them to
a course one offered; being attentive to student teachers’ views in order to address
them; and gathering information about the common pedagogy employed in a
department. It is the encounters in the real life of a teacher educator that provide
experience, most of which impacts on how one would teach in the future. However, it is
also apparent that there are some who indicated that they preferred certain instructional
strategies as will be revealed in the sections in which they were observed in their
teaching practice. It was very clear that some research participants aspire to use certain
instructional strategies but in practice fail to do so. Professional Activities in other Contexts
Other contexts that influence professional development are now discussed. They include
institutional support, participation in conferences and participation in Continuing
Professional Development endeavours. There is a perspective that in principle the
University supports the professional development of its employees. The most common
avenue for professional development other than formal education is attending
and participating
in Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Participation in Conferences
Overall, the research participants had received opportunities to participate in relevant
conferences, present papers, and as a consequence had met professionals from other
teacher education institutions. Participation in conferences is regarded as providing
numerous opportunities, including for teacher educators to recognise gaps in the area in
which they teach, and listen to views different from their own or confirm perceptions held
from conversations with other professionals. They can share challenges and take
advantage of circumstances to improve in their areas of specialisation.
Additionally, participation in conferences facilitates learning about developments in
research and is a direct opportunity to form networks with other professionals in one’s
area of specialisation. The only Geography educator, Fusi, confirmed that there were
opportunities to form links and learning from colleagues from other institutions,
especially since his own had no professionals in his area of specialisation. Fusi’s case
indicates the value attached to internal professional support, and is evidence of how
support provided by colleagues from other institutions can help to bridge the identified
Most significant about participation in conferences is an occasion for professionals to
move from a familiar setting to a different one. It may be a setting where broad education
issues and not just teacher education issues are discussed, a situation which calls for
professionals to view education from a different perspective. In this regard, as argued by
Peditta, attending education conferences “allows one to be broad. You are able to
empathise with situations as you write the paper, as you give presentations, as you
engage in those professional development activities and when you get back to your
students you are a different person and it’s something that develops over time”. There
was an understanding among the research participants that preparing to present a paper
compels professionals to read more and in the process become acquainted with new
developments in an area in which they are preparing a paper. In a nutshell teacher
educators get professional exposures through conferences.
However, there were views opposing the idea of conferences impacting on professional
development, including one that while they may contribute to new knowledge they do not
help in sharpening teacher educators’ teaching skills, despite the major role of their work
being teaching. The implication of the expressed concern is that teacher educators could
benefit from conferences that ensure they are equipped with teaching skills, presumably
with consequences for becoming better in their core business of teaching. This comment
further confirms the need for education in the area of the pedagogy of teacher
Participation in Continuing Professional Development Endeavours
Although some of the participants indicated that they had had very little experience
facilitating in workshops, others considered participation in continuing professional
development either as a facilitator or participant to be beneficial. Such practices helped
participants attain or improve their professional knowledge. Mention was made by some
that participation in staff development workshops that focused on assessment
techniques for example was a major contributory factor to the skill most needed. A
consensus view for receiving education on assessment techniques implies that the
participants regard this area as critical in their work.
There was an observation that, while the University’s practice of engaging external
examiners contributed mainly to education standards at this level of the system, teacher
educators also benefit from the practice. The external examiners’ comments play a
major role in assisting the teacher educators to reflect and refine their assessment skills.
Mafukuthoane shared her more than 30 years experience of working with external
examiners. Acknowledging there are benefits from working with external examiners who
seemed to care about the quality of examination papers, she had this to say: “Those
were the type of external examiners who were very helpful to us in that other than
studying our work they would spare half a day to be with us to address us individually
and as a group. Having discussed problems experienced in constructing questions they
would accord us an opportunity to individually meet them”. The external examiners’
inputs seemed to benefit both the institution’s programme as far as quality standards
and the teacher educators’ knowledge of assessment are concerned.
Based on the comments shared by the research participants, it is apparent that external
examiners’ comments, especially in situations where the former reflect on them,
contribute to professional development in the area of assessment. Professional Avenues
There are several professional avenues available to teacher educators. Teacher
educators who participated in this study regarded the availability of professional avenues
as beneficial.
Participation in Academic Links with Other Institutions
One of the institutional practices alluded to was the establishment of academic links with
similar institutions, which positively impacted on professional development. The stated
benefits included their facilitation of joint projects with similar institutions across the
world. Reference was made to one such academic link with an institution in London, in
which the project participants were provided an opportunity to observe a programme
implemented at school level. The event was attended by Zinzi, a Mathematics educator,
and ’Masethabathaba, an English educator, with Zinzi relating their visit to a primary
school in England. She said:
I was surprised at how much I learned. There were simple little things such
as how students give positive reinforcement to each other. I came out of the
visit saying I don’t remember ever having other students give positive
reinforcement to their peers and you would see the students really beaming
up because the others were recognising that they got the answer right. It’s
always me as the teacher educator who always reinforces students. What
we witnessed in the school we visited was the use of all sorts of very
interesting and encouraging ways of reinforcing students”.
This experience indicates that academic links are helpful in providing experience in
programme development. It also illustrates how academic links can be built between
schools and teacher education institutions in one’s own country and institution.
Reflecting on academic connections or links, some felt they were able to negotiate with
their institutions to arrange visits from lecturers in areas in which they were deficient. In
one case teacher educators who went on a visit negotiated for a lecturer to visit their
institution for purposes of assisting with designing a new programme and mentoring a
local professional to help with its implementation. There are numerous prospects for
improving one’s own programmes through academic connections, including acquiring
skills to supervise students’ research projects through collaborating with professionals in
institutions in which academic links have been established and are working. The
practices in which teacher educators participate in academic links seem to benefit both
individual professionals and their home institutions.
Membership of Professional Associations
Almost all the participants indicated that they held membership in professional
associations, the majority holding membership of the local research associations and
some of international associations or networks. It was more the benefits that accrue from
such membership that they discussed. Hoanghoang made reference to membership of a
UNESCO-run teacher educators’ network which expanded its membership knowledge
base through such events as international debates, and consequently deepened its
members’ conceptualisation and teaching of their own subjects or disciplines. This is
evidence of the significance in participating in professional associations, especially in the
context of knowledge sharing and advancement of scholarship.
Professional associations are regarded as an avenue for learning and widening one’s
horizon of knowledge. Interacting with other scholars facilitates knowing more about
one’s area of specialisation, in this case teacher education. Professional associations
stipulate requirements and expectations for joining, and tend to impact on professionals,
given that they interact with other professionals in meetings. As Peditta commented, it is
in professional fora where professionals’ ideas are tested: “The ideas that one knows get
crystallised as professionals engage in sharing ideas and are provided with feedback̶ a
professional’s response to the feedback, especially in the contexts in which one meets a
new group of professionals facilitating learning”. Here, it would seem, experience in
professional organisations served as an extension of content received from teacher
education institutions and learning became expansive. Supervision
All but one participant indicated that they had received no formal training on supervision
of instruction. Therefore, for the majority, the responsibility for supervising students’
teaching practice had been directly informed by involvement in the supervision activity
Supervision of Instruction
It was indicated that working with colleagues in the field provides prospects of learning
from others, especially from those with extensive experience, and to a lesser extent from
the only member who is a specialist. Supervising students’ teaching practice is in itself
an opportunity to learn from the students themselves as they practise what they learned
in their seminar rooms or lecture halls. To some, learning from one’s own students and
colleagues indicates that supervision of instruction is not an individual undertaking.
Therefore, as summarised by one, there is
“a lot of prospect in learning during
supervision because there is a lot of change that has to happen to one as one
understands how other people do things and how young teachers have to be adapting
what they have learned to fit the situations”.
Approaches to supervision of students’ teaching practice are linked to an individual
teacher educator’s area of specialisation. Some participants indicated that in undertaking
the supervision of student teachers’ instructional tasks they drew knowledge from their
discipline. On the one hand, an individual who has specialised in English Education or
any other curriculum studies course would be inclined to look for certain behaviours as
students apply knowledge gained. On the other hand, an individual who has specialised
in a particular discipline such as Administrative Management would tend to focus on a
student teacher’s ability to manage learning and teaching. Mafukuthoane, an
administrative specialist, pointed out that “one has to advise students to try various
methods and different managerial skills and see what works for them”. It was the
feedback obtained from her students that confirmed that advising students on how to
manage learning and teaching that substantiated that administrative management is
fundamental to teaching across all levels of the education system. There are therefore
prospects for learning how to undertake supervision from the student teachers
themselves, especially if teacher educators not only reflect on the experience but use
the lessons for improving future instructional supervision activities.
Supervision of Research
Some of the participants reported having had an opportunity to supervise research, but
cautioned that it was not extensive. In practice this was an area in which they felt they
tended to be “thrown in at the deep end” and were expected to help students undertake
research in ways that would enable them to
produce reports of quality standard.
Students were allocated to lecturers, especially those who had reached the seniority
level and held a PhD. Co-supervision was alluded to as a great learning opportunity.
Additionally, an opportunity to engage in research at national level and being expected
to produce quality work served as an enabling environment to transfer the research skill
to supervising their own students. This knowledge, which is received through
involvement in research and supervising students, is valued as knowledge that tends to
remain with professionals. To one of the research participants, observing difficulties
students experienced in undertaking research presented an opportunity to learn what it
means to supervise a student undertaking research for the first time.
There are ample opportunities to gain knowledge on supervision of research in the field.
These include the following:
Knowledge gained in workshops and seminars;
basic knowledge gained from teaching through an ability to provide structure to
an argument;
how to follow up an argument and ensuring that there is a logical sequence in
providing information;
type of training obtained from courses of research methodology and trying to
apply it to others as one guides and helps students at work;
knowledge gained as one works with colleagues;
jointly supervising students and reflecting on comments provided by external
examiners; and
extensive reading in the relevant field which enhances one’s research knowledge
and skills.
Most significantly, reading facilitates supervision of research in general and actual
engagement in undertaking research. The Internet facilitates getting up-to-date research
information. Those who had undertaken research courses in their postgraduate
programmes pointed out that they still drew from the experience of the work undertaken
at this level of their studies in supervising research. In one case one of the participants
said that his PhD work followed an action research approach and his thesis required him
to supervise teachers who participated in his study. At work he referred to this
experience whenever he had to supervise research undertaken by his own students as
an example of professional learning.
Reviewing academic papers, research proposals for associations and institutions to
which one is affiliated, and knowing about research undertaken by colleagues, were
considered by the participants as serving as a fountain of knowledge. Different
orientations of postgraduate research supervisors provided different perspectives on the
supervision of research, pointing to various lessons that accrue from supervising own
students and using that experience and one’s own discretion as to how one would like to
supervise own students.
It can be concluded that individuals reflect on various experiences and select those
experiences that would be helpful in their work. However, instead of merely reflecting on
the experiences, some seem to think about those that seem to present persistent
challenges. Perhaps it is the challenges that might facilitate learning from own
experiences in an own context.
167 Teacher Educators’ Teaching Practice
Teaching practice may take place at several levels, each of which offers a particular
benefit to the teacher educator. The most valued teaching practice is experience
teaching in a teacher education institution.
Teaching at University Level
Teaching at university level was described as one profound source of professional
knowledge. As alluded to in the section on characteristics of the research participants,
most participants did not, at least at postgraduate level, enrol in programmes or take
courses that prepared them for becoming teacher educators. They had, however,
learned to teach teachers through practice in teacher education institutions, an
experience similar for all the participants. All participants with the exception of one
admitted that it was something they did without prior knowledge or specific preparation.
The teaching of student teachers has therefore been facilitated by the context, which in
itself was different from teaching at secondary school level. Despite the apparent
similarity of the actual teaching to delivery of content, it was indicated that teaching
student teachers was very challenging, given that teacher educators had to ensure that
they merged theory and practice.
The context of teacher educators with a responsibility of teaching curriculum studies is
one in which the major challenge is practising and modelling pedagogic content
knowledge. In essence, teacher educators are faced with a range of dilemmas, between
giving a student teacher theory intended to enrich their content base and at the same
time providing them with skills through which they will convey the content in a classroom
setting. Therefore, the actual teaching in teacher education institutions in itself serves as
a major source of practical knowledge.
That teaching in teacher education institutions as a source of knowledge is exemplified
by an admission by the participants that it is in the context of teaching from which they
learned the most. It is in this context where, as ’Masethabathaba puts it, one “learns
from blunders, correcting and reflecting and coming up with answers, identifying
limitations, correcting till you say, “This is what it takes to educate a teacher. Being
open-minded, letting a situation in which you are operating present itself to you and
learning from it”.
The teacher education context is therefore valued as one in which teacher educators
experiment with their professional knowledge continuously, and one that provides the
best experience of testing new teaching ideas and addressing new teaching challenges
This include activities such as modifying the style of teaching or the way a course outline
is constructed in preparation for a new group of students. It is in this context that
educational research and interaction with other colleagues and professionals in one’s
area of specialisation tends to contribute to perfecting the skill of teaching the discipline,
content or field of study.
Experience in Being Attached to a Mentor
The research participants alluded to their experience whereby they were attached to a
mentor while others were not. For ’Masethabathaba there were many benefits attached
to a mentorship programme, even if it was not formal: “I think I was lucky that when I
joined the University as a teaching assistant, people like Professor MJM who was my
mentor were so meticulous and very responsible. So probably I got that from him in the
sense that he taught me at undergraduate level, he mentored me when I became a
teacher educator and I was trying the best I could to emulate him”.
However, some of the research participants were not so fortunate, even though they too
had mentors. Much was not attained from such an attachment. Zinzi, a newly employed
lecturer who had recently joined a teacher education unit of the University, had to
understudy a lecturer she was about to replace. In such cases individuals have to find
ways of surviving. Zinzi’s episode puts the issue into perspective. She went to class,
observed and took notes, which she indicated she held close to herself. Her hope was
that the notes would make her a good teacher educator. While observing she also tried
to copy what Dr. GM did, coupled with what she had learned from her undergraduate
teacher education programme. She reported that she was then given a course to teach
after Dr. GM’s term of service had expired with the University, and she started teaching
by going to class with his notes. Reflecting on her experience Zinzi indicated that her
problem was timing her lessons.
I would teach what he taught in an hour in fifteen minutes and I would run
out of class. I did that a couple of times; then I had to have a good reason
for leaving. I remember I used to carry a file and told students that my
lessons seemed to have been scheduled/time tabled at the time when I
had to be at meetings. I carried the file and visited my friends up the
Faculty head office and would stay with them for two hours just to make
up for using very little time. I would come to class late and I would leave a
message that I would come late because I was in a meeting because it
was very difficult for me to make up a lesson that fitted into one hour. The
greatest problem was at that time we had a lot of very elderly and
very mature students and they asked quite a lot of challenging
questions and I was running away from that. It wasn’t easy but I got
through that semester with no big problem. [Emphasis mine].
In response to my question, “So what have you learned from this experience? Zinzi
responded as follows:
I learnt a lot from this because now I have weekly plans that I prepare at
the beginning of a semester. It is now easier to put them together
because I have some basic ones that I use to build on new material. I
even have more and I end up giving more home assignments that I had
initially planned. Planning is now no headache at all.
These episodes point to the varying experiences that the different teacher educators go
through as they learn to teach teachers. In both cases teacher educators identified with
the experiences and seem to have learned from them. The episodes clearly portray a
situation in which some research participants were presented with real-life problems and
had to find solutions themselves. Most importantly, especially for Zinzi, she had to learn
on her own from the real-life encounters. Documenting and sharing these experiences in
teacher education would go a long way towards educating both newly employed teacher
educators and experienced ones.
Teaching at Other Levels of the Education System
It has been indicated above that some of the participants had no experience of teaching
at other levels of the education system. Others had taught at the secondary school level
and others still had taught at both the secondary and at a college of education levels.
Anecdotes about teaching at secondary school level indicate varying experiences. To
some the experience laid a foundation for classroom teaching in which one was forced
to address a large group of people. It is an experience that assisted in helping
individuals understands the needs of teachers at that level. Constant reflection on the
experience, although not systematised, helps them prepare their student teachers for
that world of work. It is an experience from which some got mentored by experienced
teacher educators who brought that experience to teaching student teachers on social
and professional issues.
Teaching at secondary school level therefore has not impacted on the education of
student teachers and the way in which they teach at university level. As almost all the
participants had so little teaching experience at the school level, they did not attach their
experience of teaching at secondary school to teacher education. It had very little impact
other than giving individuals some context as a novice teacher or teacher educator.
There were minimal opportunities for professional development at this level.
Assessment in Practice
The participants shared varying experiences regarding their assessment knowledge and
skills, some gaining knowledge on assessment at postgraduate level due to assessment
being part of a discipline they were studying or a system that practised a particular type
of assessment. Peditta revealed that she had been exposed to assessment through
being a Psychology and Counselling student, and through studying in a country that
commonly used multiple choice questions for assessing students. She argued that even
though she was a student she was well versed in being able to, for example, “identify
distracters in a multiple choice question, and identify a question that would be more
plausible as an answer”.
In another case Hoanghoang reported that he had been introduced to assessment skills
both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. During a course on assessment it was
illuminated that examination or test instruments could fail to measure what they purport
to measure, therefore becoming apparent that formulation of test items and formulating
objective tests are complex activities. These experiences confirm the view that at either
undergraduate or postgraduate level there are lessons to be drawn from the styles of
teaching demonstrated by professors.
Given the above scenarios in which only two of the research participants had taken
courses in assessment, it is apparent that assessment in teacher education for the
majority of the participants was learned on the job. For some the teacher education
institution in which they were working engaged a Measurement and Testing specialist to
run training on assessment for its staff. However, for all but one of the participants,
assessing student teachers during their teaching practice had been more a hands-on
experience. For some this is an area in which they confessed to still needing extensive
help, as Zinzi admitted: “It was after my PhD that I realised that this is one of those areas
… I think I need more help with”. There was a view held by all those who did not receive
formal education on assessment at either undergraduate or postgraduate levels that this
was an area where there is need for training on assessment area.
However, those participants who had identified training on assessment as a critical area
indicated that they had found ways of surviving. They read relevant materials and
participated in continuing professional development programmes that focused on how to
assess students’ knowledge. Studying previous examination question papers,
particularly those used to examine students at the end of secondary education, also
served as a source of knowledge on assessment. The purpose of studying such
question papers has always been to familiarise student teachers with the way in which
secondary school students are examined. Additionally, having to assess students
continuously, complemented by the University practice of having external examiners, are
some of the activities that have helped the participants to learn on the job to assess
student teachers.
Knowledge of Instructional Media
All but one of the participants had not received any professional education on developing
instructional media. Some identified the undergraduate teacher education programmes
as the ones that could have exposed them to the development of instructional materials
but that failed to do so. The knowledge had rather been gained through exposure to
various situations that required them to develop instructional materials. Some
participants reported that they were required to develop various types of instructional
media, including video or cassette tapes, while others developed reading materials for
their students.
Developing instructional media for some has been facilitated by participating in
regionally organised workshops, while for others it is a matter of observing students’
abilities displayed through responses to questions or having different perspectives in
class. Only one research participant indicated that her PhD research work provided her
with an opportunity to develop instructional materials. The skill for developing materials
is used to encourage student teachers to develop their own. However, other participants
indicated that with the modern technology in place they relied more on the Internet as
opposed to developing own materials for teaching. This view, while showing the value
attached to modern technology, implies that there are some participants who had not
considered developing instructional materials as an aid to their construction of new
knowledge. Additionally, it means that teaching student teachers to develop their
instructional materials is not considered a relevant instructional technique.
Three participants had been involved in producing reading materials at different levels of
the education system. One had been commissioned to develop teaching modules for
serving primary school teachers, based on research in which she was involved. The
second had participated in a project in which she and colleagues developed learning
materials for an adult education programme. The third had accumulated the experience
to develop instructional materials throughout her career, having started developing
materials when teaching at the then National Teacher Training College (NTTC). She
participated in the production of science books for secondary school students and
developed modules for distance education students both locally and regionally.
All these research participants indicated that the fulfilment of their experience of
developing instructional materials was seeing something they learned to produce “on the
job” used successfully. They regarded this development as part of their professional
knowledge. The research participants’ various experience is demonstrated at work, with
only three having developed modules or games for teaching and the rest having not
done so.
This implies that an experience in developing instructional media is beneficial, and that
lack of knowledge means that production of instructional materials is minimised in this
institution. Almost all those who had no experience of developing instructional materials
had not developed any in their field of work. It can be concluded that student teachers
cannot in such situations be expected to learn how to develop instructional media
without seeing any produced by their own educators. This reality is likely to impact
negatively when they join the teaching field.
Participation in National Education Developments
All the participants reported that national development activities facilitate attainment of
knowledge that can be transferred to the contexts in which they work. Amongst national
institutions located in government ministries or departments, mention was made of
national institutions such as the Ministry of Education and Training, the National
Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), which is a department of this Ministry, and the
Examinations Council of Lesotho (ECOL). NCDC facilitates the activities of the National
Curriculum Committee (NCC). All the participants indicated that they served on
curriculum development and assessment initiatives, the most significant being
participation in the development of curriculum or syllabuses. They further admitted that
this is not only an informative and enriching experience but that information drawn from it
is directly useful in the teaching of course content as student teachers are prepared for
the system in which they will serve.
It was pointed out that working with government departments as they developed new
policies is a process whereby professionals get opportunities to be directly immersed in
the process that forced them to read and engage in dialogue with relevant stakeholders
in teacher education. Contributing to policy development allows professionals to relate to
contexts different from their own, and in turn their outlook and, most importantly, the new
knowledge, is transmitted to their own classroom situations.
Participation in Research Activities
Working at institutions that require one to undertake research, and having an opportunity
to be a member of a team that conducts research served as a learning experience which
is transferable to the actual opportunity to supervise students’ research work. Mention
was also made of undertaking commissioned work for a variety of clients. In practice,
some teacher educators tend to transfer the research undertaken on behalf of clients
such as the Ministry of Education and Training to the classroom level. One of the
participants explained how commissioned research had impacted on her teaching.
Carrying the findings of the study to her classroom situation and focusing specifically on
visually impaired students in the course that she teaches persuaded her to change her
outlook. ’Masethabathaba reported that she had held a meeting with her visually
impaired students and inquired about their needs. Their input pointed to the need to
combine writing on the board with talking, to enable them to capture the content into
their tape recorders. They further expressed the need to be called upon to respond to
questions as often they did not put up their hands, not always knowing that they were
expected to do so.
Some of the research participants raised a point regarding undertaking commissioned
research related to one’s area of teaching. It is more helpful in situations where a
teacher educator is commissioned to undertake research in an area in which one
teaches, especially if such research involves teachers in the school system as
participants. It is an opportunity to contact former students, an encounter reported to be
revealing. On the one hand research findings illustrate that the graduates are still getting
wrong what they were taught, to the extent that the teacher educator would decide to
approach the teaching of concepts to current student teachers differently.
Presumably problems of teaching that are experienced by graduates are then brought to
bear in the actual teaching of student teachers. Research also provides an opportunity to
learn from graduates’ creativity in their work. Zinzi’s commissioned research experience
is a case in point:
There is a lot that we learned in undertaking research. We learned very, very
exciting things because much as we had taught them certain approaches to
teaching, when we went out to schools to see what they were doing we
found that they have their own very, very interesting ways of going around
teaching in the real classroom. I have actually brought some of these to
class for my teaching. So we have also learned from that as well even
though our graduates do not use practical approaches which we encourage.
They do have their own ways of dealing with the problems, but in most cases
we have to ask them to change them in certain ways so that it is more useful.
Engaging in research outside one’s institution has positive impacts; the scenarios shared
in this section of the thesis clearly indicate that research provides ample learning
opportunities which tend to impact on the teacher educators’ own teaching. However,
undertaking research on their own teaching appeared to be a major gap among the
participants, given that none made reference to research undertaken in their own context
or on their teaching practice. Another gap is the failure to engage in joint research with
teachers in the service and to have that research feed in the training. Research Participants’ Professional Challenges
Almost all the participants indicated that the context in which they worked posed a
number of professional challenges and required a refining and revision of their
professional knowledge. The challenges ranged from classroom contexts, teaching and
learning materials, assistance provided to teacher educators and a variety of academic
challenges, such as teaching large classes. Concern was expressed over the latter
challenge; large class sizes affect the extent to which they can use interactive methods
of teaching. They indicated that they taught in a context in which there were inadequate
facilities or personnel, such as not having a technical person to assist with the use of
technical equipment such as ensuring that an overhead projector was not only available
but that it was in working condition. For some lack of collegiality stifled working
collaboratively and learning from one another; for others the context in which they
practised was highly individualised. Hoanghoang, in wishing for a context in which there
was collegiality, pointed out that “… lecturers are often busy with their own things. If
there could be opportunities, deliberate opportunities to work more as a team I think
there could be useful collaborative work in a number of aspects including teaching”.
It is a context in which the major challenge is being able to balance theory with practice
for their students, given the dilemmas facing teacher educators. According to Peditta
they have to decide between giving student teachers theory which will enrich their
content and providing skills they need in order to convey the content. Her major
challenge to teaching at a teacher education institution level was ensuring that the
students visualise themselves as teachers and therefore understand theory from that
Based on the overwhelming response to the question on sources of professional
knowledge, it can be concluded that while the knowledge attained from the degree
programmes served as a foundation, it was more in practice that teacher educators
acquired practically-based professional knowledge.
In practice there is exposure to
numerous challenges, most of which have to be attended to by the teacher educators
themselves, hence practice-based or experiential-based professional knowledge.
4.5 Application of Professional Knowledge
The previous section has addressed the question on the sources of professional
knowledge. In this section, the intention is to present and analyse data addressing
questions on construction, enactment or application and modelling professional
knowledge. It draws its content mainly from the research participants’ teaching practice;
construction of professional knowledge section is based on data generated from two
sources: the teacher educators’ narratives and their classroom activities; and the section
on modelling of professional knowledge by teacher educators is informed by both the
narrative and the observation data.
4.5.1 Enacting Professional knowledge
The participants were asked to share their own understanding of the concept: enactment
of professional knowledge. In their view this refers to working towards maximising the
knowledge of students so that they are fully prepared in both the content and the
methods they will use once qualified to teach. In the process of acting out they claimed
that they assigned student teachers tasks that resembled possible teaching and learning
activities typical of a secondary school classroom. The intention would be to help student
teachers appreciate the importance of relating the teaching of subject content to the
secondary school students’ contexts.
Acting out professional knowledge is influenced by a number of factors, including the
type of prospective teachers one teaches, the subject content being taught and the
philosophy that underpins a faculty’s programmes. There was a view that some
members of staff might be inclined to focus on practice more than theory, while others
might prefer that students be philosophically grounded in a subject in which they are
specialising and being prepared to go out and teach. To other teacher educators,
enacting professional knowledge is about involving students in various ways, using
strategies that emulate a teacher educator’s confidence and experience in teaching.
In the context of educating student teachers in such a manner that they would be able to
teach their own students, enactment of professional knowledge was considered to be a
complex ability to relate theoretical understanding to practice in a given context. That
complex ability would imply that professionals are constantly challenged to present the
content to student teachers to ensure that they think beyond themselves and about their
own students. Peditta summed up the complex nature of educating student teachers as
involving and challenging: students have to be challenged “to think beyond the context
and in doing so help them to move in terms of their intellectual level from that level of
simplicity to some level of sophistication of thought and in the process hope that they too
will challenge the learners they will be working with to move from a certain cognitive
level to the next level”.
In this regard, enactment of professional knowledge is understood to mean moving
beyond simply acting out and assuming that student teachers are observing how
teaching is done, to addressing cognitive developments on the part of student teachers
who in turn would be expected to emulate the teacher educator who models this level of
thinking. Peditta concludes that moving learners from simple to the complex level can be
compared to moving them from the “profane to the sacred”.
The participants concluded that enactment is informed by extended experience,
exposure to different settings in which one finds oneself, gaining confidence and being
committed to the profession. It became apparent that confidence was understood to
afford professionals courage, given that they would be knowledgeable about the content
they taught and would therefore be authorities in their fields of study. However, building
confidence was regarded as dependent on a number of factors. Professionals would
have to read extensively and move with the times or with technological developments in
their fields of study, adopt new information for application and be critical, so that in
applying what had been learned they could avoid doing so mechanically but rather
modified and adapted new information to own situations. Therefore, as summed up by
’Masethabathaba, “experience, openness and open-mindedness including addressing
individual students’ personal or social problems, assisting students to achieve their
objectives of studying enhance enactment of professional knowledge” are imperative. Instructional Techniques
Although the methods of teaching varied among teacher educators and even within
curriculum subject content and/or discipline or field of study, ranging from didactic to
interactive methods in both the curriculum studies and educational foundations courses,
they did nevertheless follow a clear structure. In all the observed lessons teacher
educators clearly demarcated these so that opening, giving a presentation and closing a
lecture were distinct. On the one hand, in opening lessons the focus was highlighted,
students were asked to submit assignments or marked scripts were distributed,
directions were provided about the content of a lesson and revisions of the previous
lessons were made, either through a summary or through asking questions. There were
times when students were asked to keep quiet so that teaching could start.
On the other hand, lessons were either formally or informally brought to a close, and in
so doing lesson points were given on what the next one would cover, directions provided
to students to prepare for the next lesson, changes of time scheduled for tests
discussed, and at times students were instructed to prepare for the next lesson by
pointing to a topic in their readers or textbooks. Occasionally, closure of lessons was
informal, especially in situations where another group of students would be waiting to
use the same lecture hall. In essence, a form of framework was promoted even if it was
not mentioned, but since this was taught in drawing up of lesson plans it can be
concluded that students observed it as it was implemented.
In practice the predominantly used method of teaching used by participants was of a
didactic nature. This varied from giving a very short explanation of concepts to giving
extensive lectures in which theories or concepts and processes were explained and
supported with examples. Depending on an individual’s expository style, there were
situations in which teacher educators took an entire hour of lecturing with very little or no
contribution from the student teachers. These long lectures were common in the
Language and Social Education courses and some Educational Foundation courses, but
not so common in Science and Mathematics Education courses. The following excerpt is
a small proportion of a lecture in which the Language Education teacher educator had a
one hour uninterrupted lecture in which she lectured on a number of issues. These
included technical documents such as a syllabus used in secondary schools, related
policies, her expectations, and relating the philosophy of education to the topic to be
taught. Although these issues were interrelated, giving an uninterrupted lecture could
have worked against internalisation of each of the concepts or issues being taught.
Didactic Teaching Methods
First set of Excerpts:
Name of Lecturer:
Number of Students:
Year of study:
Time scheduled for the lecture:
English Education
4th year
14.10 – 15.00
22 October 2007
Science Lecture Theatre
Lecturer: Your knowledge of the philosophy of your government; your knowledge and
thorough understanding of the English language syllabus are very critical in the
effectiveness of your teaching in your becoming an enthusiastic English language
teacher. I will definitely assume that you know your English language syllabus even
when I set assignments and examinations. We have said the philosophy for English
language teaching in Lesotho is education for national development. I’m not going to tell
you about the documents in which that statement is found; but I will expect that you will
make that statement and provide the source for that so that it is part of your planning. It
starts as broadly as that so that by the time you decide you are teaching a noun you
have to be able to explain why you are teaching them the noun and you have to say it is
the syllabus that says a noun is part of the syllabus …
The following excerpt illustrates yet another almost uninterrupted lecture in an
educational foundations course in which only one student asked a question and all that
the rest of the other students did was to respond in chorus to the questions using the
word “yes” and take notes.
Name of Lecturer:
Number of Students:
Year of study:
Time scheduled for the lecture:
Introduction to Educational Foundations
1st year
11.00– 12.00
14 October 2007
DTF Lecture Hall
Lecturer: Gender socialisation refers to what we talked about at the beginning when we
were discussing the concept gender; it is a socially constructed concept, it is socially
determined. We talked about gender socialisation and what it refers to. Do you
remember in our course outline when we first met and I was helping you recap of what
you did with the other two lecturers, we did address the concept socialisation?
Students: There is a perception that boys are better at Mathematics and the sciences
than girls. Why is it that boys are more inclined to perform better in Mathematics and the
sciences than girls?
Lecturer: Exactly, that is what I am asking; already there is perception that boys are
good and that girls are not good enough with figures; why is it so? Have you made a
similar observation?
Students in chorus: Yes
Interactive Teaching Methods
Second Set of Excerpts:
Interactive teaching methods also featured as the most commonly used methods of
teaching. Teacher educators posed verbal questions to which students were expected to
give answers. Sometimes students too asked questions.
Question and Answer Method
One of the interactive methods of teaching that was common was questioning.
Questions were commonly used by the teacher educators and to a lesser extent by
students themselves. The verbal questions that were predominantly used during the
actual teaching were of various types.
They included exposition, which required prospective teachers to explain.
Some were thought-provoking for which research participants used words such
as why, how and what.
Rhetorical questions were asked and some questions required a respondent’s
It was also common to ask questions having prefaced a question with a
statement that appeared to be aimed at setting the scene.
Almost all the participants asked several questions or a cluster of questions at a
The second most commonly asked type of verbal questions were those which
tended to persuade student teachers to answer in chorus. Therefore those types
of questions persuaded students to give an affirmative or a negative response or
a one-word response.
The following excerpt helps to illustrate the points raised about verbal questions of
various types. All the participants asked these questions.
a) Prefacing a Question with a Statement
Hoanghoang: There are some San paintings; what do you learn about the animals that
existed in the past? The assumption here is that the paintings that the San made
were based on the observations at the time and there were these animals that
you observed that you saw. What are they? Can you name those that appeared
in the painting that you saw during our field trip?
Peditta: Think of an example of classical conditioning in a class situation or how you
learned something from classical conditioning or through classical conditioning.
Are you able to relate classical conditioning to your own learning of some things
sometime, somewhere in your life?
Mafukuthoane - If it is like that, think about your male teachers and your female teachers
from primary or secondary school. What can you say about them? You are
reflecting; reflect on those teachers and also imagine if you were to be the head
of a school, would you prefer to be head of an all boys’ school or of an all female
school or a mixed sex school?
Think about external factors or societal needs. How can you make sure that your
teaching addresses these?
Zinzi: Now let’s assume that you didn’t have one horse, you had two horses that were
tied in the fields; what would you see? This time you don’t have one horse you
have two horses; what would you see?
Lintle: You did not interact much; instead you only asked questions and after that you
summarised their points. Why did you do that?
b) Expository Question - Single Focus
Hoanghoang: Can you explain all those concepts about floating and actually point to
Us? Does the water have to assume any level on the board for it to float? Explain
those concepts to us.
Peditta: What do teachers do to link old knowledge with new knowledge? Explain
that to us.
Thabang: Why do we scheme on quarterly basis? What is the importance of
Mafukuthoane: What is the difference between a community school and a private
How else can we teach about environmental education?
’Masethabathaba: What is the difference between pre-writing and brainstorming?
Lintle: In what way does the world celebration of teachers’ day challenge you? Are there
any comments on that?
c) Expository Questions ― Multiple Focus
Hoanghoang: How has technology such as airplanes improved our lives? What are the
problems? What are benefits? What are some of the current problems that we said can
be associated with the current possibility of moving across the world in jets?
Peditta: Why are psychologists interested in these two things? What do they say about
them? Which forms the basis of behavioural theory? They say that psychology is
a science; we must be interested in that response. Why? Why must we be
interested in these two aspects of behaviour? What do they say about them?
Mafukuthoane: What kind of services can those be? What kind of services come to
What does it mean to analyse the syllabus or analyse something? Can you
reflect on that question before I can tell you whether you have or have not
analysed the syllabus? What does critical analysis mean? If I give you geography
textbook and say critically analyse this book, what does it mean?
’Masethabathaba: Do group members want to add anything? What has she left out?
Any other observations? What do others want to say? What did you learn from
the presentation?
Lintle: Are there people who did not understand anything? Let’s go back to the planning
conference. Did the supervisor apply those skills?
d) Lower order questions
Hoanghoang: What was the video that we watched essentially about?
Peditta: What do you think those debates will be revolving around?
Thabang: Do you remember the components of a lesson plan?
’Masethabathaba: What do we mean by free writes?
e) Eliciting Opinions
Peditta : Do you see the relationship between Vygotsky’s and Piaget?
Thabang: Do you think that adults need to be motivated?
’Masethabathaba: What do you think was unique about their presentation?
f) Eliciting Students’ Questions
Lintle: Do people have questions on what has been presented?
Hoanghoang: Anybody with a burning question or comment?
Peditta: Are there any questions?
’Masethabathaba: Do people have comments or questions?
g) Thought-provoking Questions and Opinion
Hoanghoang: Could there be the case where you think that the knowledge of science
can conflict with students’ conceptions of how things were brought to them if they come
to class with a belief or an understanding that traditional medicine works?
Thabang: Why do you think intrinsic motivation is superior to extrinsic motivation?
Fusi: How would you teach Geography to illustrate the holistic view of the subject?
’Masethabathaba: So what have we learned from these presentations?
h) Group Work Methods
Secondly, interactive or participatory teaching methods included students working in
large groups of up to ten students in a group and paired groups of two students in a
group. Both large and small groups were common in both small and large class sizes.
Instructions in a psychology class and in a science lesson illustrate the point regarding a
paired group assignment:
Name of Lecturer:
Number of students:
Year of Study:
Time scheduled for the Lecture:
Educational Psychology
2nd Year
7.00 -8.00
13 September 2007
BTM 105 Lecture Hall
Lecturer: We are starting on one of the most important topics in educational psychology
which is learning. Learning is something that you have been doing since you were born.
You have been reading for the topic that we are to do over next two months. We are
going to be looking at learning from a number of different perspectives.
Instruction: So I want you to chat with your neighbour just to clarify what learning is; what
do you understand by learning? Can you discuss with the person sitting next to you what
you understand by learning.
Name of lecturer:
Number of students:
Year of study:
Time scheduled for the lecture:
Science Education
4th year
21 August 2007
Boitjaro Seminar Room
Lecturer: Remember there is a difference between weak gases which include carbon
dioxide when we talk of transport but the depletion of the ozone layer is caused by
something else. … under what conditions do we say transport is not energy conserving?
What kind of transport system would you say is not energy conserving? Or what is your
assessment of our transport system here in Lesotho? Is it energy conserving?
Instruction: I would like you to think about this one right now, for a few minutes in the
small groups with the person sitting next to you, just spend a few minutes thinking of our
transport system. Think about our transport system in its current state of energy
Students: They discuss among themselves
i) Demonstration
There were other methods that were rarely used.
Demonstrations were not used extensively. A
supervision” in which the teacher educator played
student acted as a teacher and the rest of the three
on the demonstration is a case in point.
Name of Lecturer:
Number of Students:
Year of study:
Demonstration was one of them.
demonstration of “instructional
the role of a supervisor while a
hundred students gave comments
Supervision of Instruction
4th year
08.00 – 09.00
12 September 2007
Science Lecture Theatre
Lecturer: Today we are applying the skills that we said we acknowledge and so on. You
sit and watch what we said we will do at the same time jot down points like the
supervisor and also jot down skills that are being used by the teacher in the presentation
and then go into the conference phase and continue jotting down the points because
yours is to analyse all that is going to be demonstrated here.
Lecturer and students
They are now seated in the form of a circle;
Lecturer (Acts as supervisor)
How do you plan to deliver your lesson?
Teacher (student teacher acts as teacher)
I have the following objective for my lesson (and reads it out)
It seems those are the aims and not the objectives. So what are the objectives?
They will be able to develop …
Since these are student teachers what do you want me to observe?
I want you to observe whether I will be able to interact and ask good questions.
So you want me to observe whether you will be able to ask students questions?
j) Project Method
The project method of teaching was used in the Science and Geography courses.
Students were assigned projects to research and present. It was in these courses that
students were given the opportunity to visit project areas and to come back and discuss
their observations in class.
Name of Lecturer:
Number of Students:
Year of study:
Geography Education
4th year
19 September 2007
CMP Seminar room
Lecturer: Distributes more papers on the audit and explains:
What I distributed there is an environmental audit checklist; it’s an instrument that you
should use to conduct an environmental audit; remember here we are looking at the
impact of conducting an environmental assessment but we are assessing the quality of
the environment; we are just getting information on the state of environment on the
university campus; so I developed this checklist to guide our audit; to guide means the
list is not exhaustive, you can also add other areas to investigate, so let us look at part
one. What can you say about the social or activity areas of the university campus; what
are those activity areas; we have lecture rooms, we have library, we have rest places;
play grounds, students’ residences and refectory? That area around Mzalas, I don’t
know if you have other student complexes on campus; that is very important if you
patronise that place during your lecture time, it means students’ complex even though
it’s not on campus. You might want to look at that also. What can you say about the
quality of lecture rooms? What is the purpose of lecture rooms? Would you say the
environment about lecture rooms is conducive to learning and teaching?
So write descriptive statements about the quality of lecture rooms. Resting places, what
can you say about the quality of the environment there? Play grounds.
Talk with dissatisfaction about the rest places and laugh; a student asks a question:
What are resting places?
Describe the resting place as a place where you go and rest when you are tired, you
want to be alone. Do we have such places?
k) Illustrations
Other than these methods all the research participants used illustrations to clarify
concepts or to illustrate the use of a technical document such as scheme and record of
work. The following excerpt illustrates how Thabang went about illustrating the use of
some technical documents.
Name of lecturer:
Number of Students:
Year or Study:
Time scheduled for the lecture:
2nd year
17.00 – 18.00
10 October 2007
BTM 105 Lecture hall
Lecturer: I have a transparency to show that scheme and record book has two sides; on
the left hand side that’s where you scheme. You plan for one quarter at a time and then
on the right hand side that’s where you report what has been taught. At the end of every
week you report showing exactly what was covered during that week. It gives teachers
something to aim at.
4.5.2 Other Dimensions of Teaching Practice
A number of dimensions of teaching practice were a common feature in the lecture halls
and seminar rooms. Technical Language
The use of technical language included referring or recognising content that ought to
have been covered in other courses or in secondary school. In the majority of cases
student teachers were referred to courses that they would have covered either in the
previous year of study or that would be running simultaneously. In a situation where a
research participant taught the same group of students in the previous academic year
reference would also be made to similar content that had been covered in that year of
In essence the research participants were directly challenging the students to view the
teacher education courses as contributing to a programme, and that separating them
was for purposes of ensuring that they adequately learned more content in various
courses. The following are examples that illustrate reference to technical language by all
research participants:
Hoanghoang: Those who do Biology may be aware of the topic ecology as usually
taught in school in our setting. To what extent is that knowledge often
related to the ecological degradation or environmental degradation
that is going on in our context?
These schedules of reinforcement are the tools that teachers use in
classroom management. I am not sure if you have done classroom
management already in EDF222.
This is the stage in which you are going to apply all those things that
you have learned or you are learning in your psychology class at the
time that you will be bringing that psychology to a classroom setting.
Do you know philosophers like John Dewey? You know him of course.
Oh no! You don’t seem to know such a great philosopher. What
happened in EDF 111? What about science education?
’Masethabathaba: I realise I have to refrain from teaching students how to write and talk
to you about how they must write. I assumed that this was done in
E100 and I know it was done in E100 but people cannot transfer their
learning into other learning situations.
I am sure you did assessment in EDF 222 or EDF 223. This topic
should be easy for you.
What I know is that you were introduced to E100. You were
introduced to academic writing, how organising writing an assignment
is concerned, academic freedom and about giving your assignment to
somebody to edit it for you.
Use of technical language included reference to secondary school students and to the
appropriate techniques for teaching in a secondary school context. Reference to
secondary school students included how they should be taught, suitable activities for
teaching particular concepts and what would best facilitate their learning. An excerpt
from Peditta as she addressed students in her Psychology class helps illustrate the
point: “So it’s very important that we understand our learners holistically; we do so by
knowing where that learner comes from, the families and the difficulties that might be
posed by that family, setting or opportunities for that child’s development in that family”,
and in another lesson in which she taught classical conditioning she made reference to
secondary school teachers: “Hopefully next time you will be able to understand how our
students become classically conditioned by what we do as teachers. Something that is
neutral, something that is supposed to be enjoyed starts generating feelings that are
uncomfortable in children”.
Furthermore, in the use of technical language, reference was made to possible use of
instructional techniques such as expository methods, field trips and questioning. After a
Science Education lesson in which Hoanghoang taught about technology, he referred to
students and teaching techniques: “I think for learners to explore, both advantages and
disadvantages with such technology, as a teacher you have to outline the disadvantages
of the technology in society”. He went on to say, “This approach that was used by our
imaginary teacher, Mr. Mponyane, is what we could refer to as an inculcation approach,
an approach that incorporates lecture and persuasion or persuasion of learners”.
The participants provided justification for using a particular method referred to and how
problems experienced in classroom situations could be rectified. Suggestions included
rectifying problems through giving remedial lessons and through collaborating with
colleagues. Advice was given on how previously experienced challenges could be used
to tackle new problems in helping learners. In the actual teaching process some
participants occasionally made reference to research findings on commissioned studies
in which they had participated. Those who did so did it in the context in which they were
giving an example. Infusing the research experiences in the course outline did not
feature, hence the sporadic examples that were given to illustrate a point. Styles of Communication: From Simple to Complex Reinforcement
In observing the participants’ teaching practice various styles of communication were
apparent. They tended to instruct students to present an assignment, respond to
questions, discuss and in some situations to watch and comment on a video, to give
some illustrations using a white board, submit assignments, ask questions, collaborate in
tackling a problem, do an Internet search, search for books and journal articles in
libraries, search for technical documents in relevant institutions such as searching for
curriculum documents at the National Curriculum Development Centre, engage in a
number of activities, including choosing a group that would be responsible for organising
group activities such as a field trip and, in almost all the lessons that were observed, to
This shows that teacher educators use a multitude of approaches to engage prospective
teachers with the purpose of ensuring their involvement. Some, such as asking students
to collaborate when they tackle problems, are socially grounded. Students learn to
collaborate with colleagues. This is a strategy that could be preparing student teachers
to emulate such practice in their own teaching practice.
Reinforcement was another style of communication. Typically, most research
participants reinforced students using single words and phrases such as “excellent; very
good; he is correct; that’s correct; that was a brilliant presentation; up to this point the
presentations have been very good; I think that you did well; and he is bringing up a very
good point”.
However, while some research participants preferred using single words, and to some
extent phrases, there were some who used a whole sentence or paragraph in reinforcing
learning. These were common in the language education course. The excerpt from
’Masethabathaba illustrates her style of reinforcement which was more in the form of an
explanatory statement than a single word of reinforcement.
What was unique about this presentation was the citations. We have been
presenting as if everything came out of our heads which is fine if it all came
out of our heads but at the same time acknowledging that some people have
written about these things is very important and it helps us when we share
who the sources are that we have referred to so that our colleagues can also
refer to those.
I personally liked what they said in their presentation. That is the use of
group members and activities. What I liked most about this particular group
that was on stage is the involvement of other learners.
Styles of communication were also observed as the participants responded to students’
questions, some on subject content and others related to pedagogy. They elaborated on
a point made by a student who had responded to a question, appreciated a wrong point
and considered that as an indirect way of ensuring that issues were clarified, the type of
response commented on, students’ responses repeated and students guided on how to
respond to questions. Sometimes they expounded on a response given by a student.
It was also very common for all participants to answer their own questions. An excerpt
from Fusi illustrates how he did this, while the ones from Lintle and Thabang illustrate
how they responded to students’ questions.
Fusi’s students:
How would you employ the model of curriculum development? You
are to review the process model of curriculum development, discuss
aspects of the process model; this model is supposed to be your
analytical tool and you have to understand this model before you
analyse the syllabus. You have to look into its main aspects and the
general view of curriculum from the perspective of this model. How
do you define it?
Lintle’s student:
I want to know whether the supervisor will come to my class without
telling me before coming to my class.
I am the supervisor and I will come because you will be on teaching
practice; when I come to your classroom and you started some 5
minutes ago I will just come into your class;
Thabang’s student: Am I correct to think that you cannot force students to learn if they
lack motivation?
Yes, she is correct; you cannot force students to learn if they lack
motivation. In an instructional setting we normally speak of two
types of motivation. The first one is intrinsic motivation and under
intrinsic motivation that’s where we are talking about the motivation
that comes from within the learner himself or herself …
4.5.3 Student Teachers’ Activities
Student activities took place in seminar rooms and lecture halls that could accommodate
large numbers of students. The smallest class size was 15 and 40, in Mathematics
Education and Science Education respectively. These were followed by those in
Language and Social Education, which were below 160. All the Educational Foundation
student populations were very large, with the largest being 400 or more. It was in this
context that students engaged in numerous activities, either as instructed by lecturers or
Student teachers engaged in numerous learning-related activities. They asked various
questions for which they sought clarity regarding either subject content or pedagogyrelated issues. Student teachers interacted amongst themselves, especially during group
work and in situations where some presented papers based on group assignments or in
some cases new initiatives. Student teachers were observed responding to questions by
answering in chorus, depending on the type of question posed. The questions to which
they responded in chorus were those that required a recall type of answer. They also
responded to questions individually.
At individual level the responses varied from a simple “yes”, that would be supported by
a very sound argument, through relating content to their own situations, giving own
interpretations of a concept or through clarifying or arguing a point in response to a
question raised by another student or the teacher educator. They asked questions in
situations in which concepts were not clear and they therefore sought clarity. The
following excerpts illustrate the points raised:
Course: Curriculum and Teaching of Geography
Student argues a point: “the assignment was difficult because of the way in which the
questions were structured. It was too packed and I got the idea that it was confusing in
that out of that one question we could have had two or three assignments”.
There were times when as students, student teachers remained silent and would not
respond to a question. This happened in cases where they appeared not to have an
answer to a question or were focusing on taking notes. Taking notes was peculiar in
lecture halls where teacher educators used didactic methods of teaching.
4.5.4 Managing Teaching and Learning
Managing teaching and learning required participants to discipline students by asking
them to keep quiet so that teaching could take place or so that presentations by group
representatives could be done in an environment that was conducive to learning.
Disciplining students also meant requiring them to act in responsible ways while still at
University. Zinzi, in her efforts to know her students by name at the beginning of the
academic year, practised calling a register. On one of those days in which she
discovered that there was one student whose absenteeism was worrisome she took
advantage of this situation to comment on her principles, “what is important while we are
still around this place is being responsible; don’t just disappear, I will also do the same if
I am not coming to class. For example, I have just arrived from town but I called the
office to tell them that I am likely to be late; this is something for you to practise”.
Teaching management and discipline are carried out by addressing the issue on the
spot and by setting a good example with reference to own encounters.
Discipline was enforced in a number of ways. There were times when gentle approaches
were employed and other times when decisive actions were taken to ensure learning
was not interrupted. This was done through reprimanding those who made teaching
unmanageable. Disciplining student teachers also meant assuming a parental role. The
following is an episode in a large Psychology class in which Peditta reprimanded
students and at the same time, given the words she used, assumed a parental role.
Typically, in the Basotho cultural context, children are disciplined strongly if the best
behaviour is to be inculcated.
Peditta: There is a lot of disturbance; there is moving in and out. From now on we are
starting with the class and I don’t want to see any movement. If you plan to leave,
leave now because you are causing a lot of disturbance.
Students: About 10 student teachers walk out and others continue talking aloud and
laughing as the 10 leave. Other students are still entering the lecture hall. They
are late for class.
Peditta: It’s not a joke; I am taking these things very, very seriously because I am
dealing with a class of second year university students. I am really, really
concerned. If we don’t take things seriously and if we don’t take our studies
seriously, I mean you are here to study, you and many others are taking this
particular course; and if you don’t do it well why else are you here. I just don’t
understand the mentality behind some of the attitudes. I look behind some of our
students who do not really take life seriously because I don’t think it is this
course only that you are not taking seriously, it is life generally, and I am raising
this in the context of what happened today; its not something that I have heard
from somebody; its something that I have observed right here and now; and I
hope that you are going to reflect on yourself, you are going to reflect on where
you come from, you are going to reflect on where you want to go to in life and
you are going to make an effort; you are going to make an effort to change this
behaviour. I am talking to you as a parent.
The other form of classroom management involved managing procedures. This is a
common form of management which featured in seminar rooms and lecture halls and
involved requiring student teachers to respect colleagues to the extent of giving each
other time to argue a point or respond to a question without interruptions. It also involved
encouraging student teachers to raise their hands and avoiding responding to a question
in chorus. Indicating by hand that one wanted to answer a question was emphasised,
even if the lecturer encouraged chorus response through the type of questions posed.
Therefore classroom management also meant respecting colleagues, warning students
that when they raised questions on a group’s presentation it should be directed to the
entire group. Other management of classroom procedure activities included asking
students to keep quiet, perhaps to ensure that the environment would be conducive to
learning. At other times student teachers were required to prepare for the next lesson or
to prepare for a test or to prepare for procedures that were to be followed in forming
groups. It also involved organisational management, such as asking student teachers to
organise themselves into groups. The following excerpts from some of the research
participants illustrate the point:
Hoanghoang: Cautions students about respecting others: “Usually the procedure is that
if you have anything that is triggered by the presentation you write it down, you
don’t say it until after the presentation. So when you are provoked by some
statements scribble them down and ask at the end of the presentation. I note that
you are provoked by a number of points raised so you can respond by scribbling
them down”.
Mafukuthoane: Prepares students for the next lesson: “on Thursday we are going to talk
about the education policy”.
Guides students about the choice of group members: “The fewer
the group members the better and do not choose friends because if you choose
friends you tend not to be serious”.
Another aspect of classroom management was the provision of a supportive
environment during the teaching and learning processes. They tended to do so
particularly in situations where students were working in large groups. The tendency was
to monitor group discussions by visiting each group and ensuring that guidelines were
followed in undertaking an assignment. In monitoring group activities, student teachers
were provided with detailed and elaborate explanations on how they should tackle an
assignment which may seem to be creating some difficulty.
Providing a supportive environment took place even beyond the four walls of seminar
rooms and lecture halls. Some lecturers called group leaders to their offices to elaborate
on a group assignment. Others were flexible and provided student teachers additional
time to complete an assignment. They were guided on how to respond or tackle an
assessment such as a test, and on very rare occasions were provided with booklets to
help them undertake an assignment.
Guides students on how to tackle the assignment: “The assignment reads: Write
the critical analysis of 2004 JC geography syllabus. You are expected to critique
the syllabus. I am going to guide you through questions that you could ask
yourselves as you critique the syllabus. What are the general principles
embedded in the syllabus? What power relations exist between the teacher and
the learners? Who controls the syllabus? Is the practice learner-centred as would
be encouraged? If not, how do you describe it and if it is learner-centred what
evidence from the syllabus is there to support this argument?”
Peditta: Cautions students about how to go about analysing a test question: “Simply
looking for lead words or something that will help you without understanding
exactly what the question requires is not that helpful because that is what a
person who sets a multiple choice exam capitalises on: the mistakes that
students might make and those students who don’t understand by and large will
make mistakes”.
Zinzi: Refers students to teaching and learning materials to be used: “What I have
done is that I have actually brought some books with a couple of problems in
them. All you have to do is to look into books and do the assignment. I only have
four of these. I think what we can do is that we can divide the sixteen people in
this class and have four people to one book.”
Peditta: Comforts students: “Remember, we are all learning, you don’t have to be
perfect. We want to see if you have understood what we have been saying all
In practice classroom management was illustrative of what teaching in an environment
that is conducive to learning meant. It can be assumed that student teachers would
model after their teacher educators how to ensure that the teaching context supports
4.5.5 Instructional Media
Instructional media comprised electronic and non-electronic materials, including books,
journal articles and technical documents, such as curriculum documents. An overhead
projector was the only electronic medium used by some teacher educators. Commonly
used was the whiteboard to present concepts or display students’ contributions. Student
teachers were often referred to the library and to prescribed text books, or, in situations
where the participants had designed readers or modules, they were also referred to
these. In using reference materials, student teachers were required to read ahead, for
example, a specific theory, either in preparation for the lessons to follow or to revise
what had already been discussed in class. Technical documents were used, including
curriculum documents in the form of course outlines as key reference material,
secondary school curriculum and syllabuses. Only one participant had developed a class
schedule which detailed dates and topics including dates for tests. This particular
participant who had developed a class schedule encouraged student teachers to refer to
the class schedule alongside a course outline as a document that would guide them on
what had been and/or would be covered.
Almost all the teacher educators who participated in this study did not provide student
teachers with a class schedule, a document which communicates a clear plan for both
the teacher educator and student teachers. They were not proactive in developing other
teaching materials, including modules or readers. Most importantly, failure to
demonstrate to student teachers the need to develop own materials means the latter will
not be motivated to do so themselves.
4.5.6 Assessment and Feedback
A variety of assessment procedures were used in a number of ways. Student teachers
were given tests and assignments, were verbally asked questions during the actual
teaching and were given feedback on work done. The tests were mostly announced well
ahead of time. In very rare cases, for example the case of the only teacher educator who
had a class schedule, the dates for the tests would have been included in the class
schedule at the beginning of an academic year.
The practice observed was that student teachers were given assignments to work on
either as individuals or as groups. The excerpts are illustrative of the assignments that
were given to students:
Hoanghoang: [Group Assignment] There is your assignment for those of you in Physics.
Your task is to go and establish some Physics concepts associated with
flight, airplane. In the next lesson tell us who exactly invented the first
airplane, in which year, and how it differs from the modern airplane or the
recent model of airplanes that we use.
[Group Assignment]: The first part of the theory Erickson and Piaget were
part of and that is what the volume of the work is. We have looked at the
case of Sharifa and actually tried to apply theories to a case study. We
have also looked at the case of Nomza to enable us to apply the
ecosystem perspective on a case study. So those two sections of the
assignment should not be difficult because we actually did it in class. The
group leaders will actually guide you because they have the guidelines.
’Masethabathaba: [Group assignment]: In your groups discuss giving a remedial
lesson and be prepared to present it in the next class.
[Individual assignment]: What I would like you to do tomorrow is to
develop an activity sheet that you would use together with a shape.
[Individual assignment] I would like you to engage in a reading
assignment. Tomorrow we are discussing the Johari window and I would
like you to read about it in preparation for discussion.
Therefore there were opportunities for student teachers to work on individual tasks and
perhaps test their potential on a given assignment. There were also opportunities to
illustrate to students that some tasks can be shared among students and in that regard
build a community of learners.
Another aspect of assessment which participants consistently used was giving student
feedback, most of which was constructive, after a test had been marked and scripts
distributed. Feedback was also given after students had presented an assignment that
involved more than one or a group in class. It was also provided on an assignment that
had been submitted and an individual would be given feedback on the marked script.
The following excerpts illustrate what transpired when feedback was given:
you had to look at the structure here, who does what in curriculum
development and how is that process of curriculum development
undertaken. You could do that in half a page because there wasn’t
much to write about.
Read my comments, I have underlined where there are more topic
sentences in a paragraph. A lot of your paragraphs are made up of
several topic sentences; that’s why in the marking you’ll find where I have
come across them I have said that you would have had ten paragraphs
out of this paragraph because there are ten topic sentences in that
paragraph; none of them has been elaborated. This problem has
recurred so often that I thought I had to spend time talking about
I am just pointing out some of the glaring mistakes that I found; and all
those are caused by the fact that you don’t read the question; each time
you get a multiple choice question it is not an easy question and there is
no way that you can randomly select the correct answer; you have to
show your understanding; that is what is important.
4.6 Curriculum and Assessment Documents
In practice the participants indicated that common documents they used were curriculum
and assessment ones . However, as alluded to earlier, there were very few participants
who had developed reading materials. These were used by both the teacher educator
and students.
4.6.1 Analysis of Curriculum Documents
Curriculum and assessment documents were in the form of course outlines and external
examination papers respectively. However, other participants used modules or readers
and games they had developed. There is therefore a discrepancy in that all the
participants used curriculum and assessment documents and only three used other
forms of documents with two having developed either a module or a reader and one
having developed games. It can be concluded that while they were all required to use
course outlines and examination papers, there was no policy that bound them to use
other documents in their teaching, an experience which would benefit both the student
teachers and the teacher educators. Student teachers would, on their part, use a wide
range of materials for learning purposes while teacher educators would be learning from
constructing teaching and learning materials. Most importantly, having materials
developed internally could serve as a quality support mechanism for student teachers. Goals and Objectives of the Course
There was a distinction between the goals for educational foundations and those for
curriculum or subject content. On the one hand, the goals for educational foundations
courses included introduction to the field of study and/or equipping students with
content, in some cases skills being included. One of the courses highlighted a model
that constituted the framework for teaching methods under the goals. On the other hand,
the goals for a curriculum subject such as Mathematics mainly focused on content and
pedagogy. There was, however, consistency between the goals and objectives of a
course. The course outlines stipulated objectives on application of the knowledge and
skills to be attained in the course and some required student teachers to demonstrate an
understanding of the field of study.
Some participants had not spelt out the objectives for their courses, a discrepancy that
made it difficult for one to know what principles guided such a course or the actual
teaching itself. Content and Pedagogy
The content was articulated as including curriculum for the subject content, pedagogy for
the delivery of the content, teaching and learning materials as well as assessment
strategies. A few of the curriculum documents spelt out the reference materials to be
used. Reference materials mainly pointed to library books and to some extent the
modules prepared by the research participants themselves. A few of the curriculum
documents indicated that issues such as classroom management, lesson planning and
instructional media would also be taught.
All but three of the participants spelt out the pedagogy to be employed in the teaching of
the content. Most prominently mentioned was the lecture method, followed by interactive
methods and to some extent some demonstration, observation and field work. The
pedagogy mentioned in the course outlines seems to be consistent with the teaching
The major gap observed in analysing the curriculum is the inconsistency among the
different curricula. While autonomy and the theory that underpins a particular course can
be regarded as guiding principles for individual lecturers, some consistency with
documents such as curricular would portray the faculty’s philosophy and could enhance
collegiality which was considered to be lacking.
4.6.2 Analysis of Assessment Documents
An analysis of the assessment section of the curriculum revealed that assessment was
included in all the course outlines, with two categories, namely continuous assessment
and examinations or end of course examinations. All the participants included
continuous assessment in the form of tests and assignments. Most course outlines
indicated that there would be at least two tests and an assignment. There was only one
case where the coursework would be made up of three assignments and no tests. The
ratio was 50% course work or continuous assessment and 50% final examination. In
almost all the cases group assignments were indicated.
Examination papers were studied too. I established that examinations were written at
either the end of a first semester or at the end of an academic year, depending on credit
hours; some are semester courses and others year courses. The smallest number of
questions on an examination paper was six, and the largest 12. In all cases examinees
were given the opportunity to choose a question to answer and there were compulsory
questions. Some questions were on subject content while others required students to
apply knowledge gained. Additionally, some questions required students to recall
content, others either to analyse or evaluate. One course presented students with cases
to analyse and challenged them to discuss, analyse or evaluate. The educational
psychology course was the only course whose assessment was structured completely
differently from the other courses; the examination questions were structured in such a
manner that student teachers were required to apply knowledge. For example, some of
the examination questions required student teachers to analyse a case using the
knowledge gained during the course.
Development of a course outline and a curriculum, as well as tests and examination
question papers, is based mainly on experience. Teacher educators are probably
required to have these as the devices necessary for their own practice.
4.7 Constructing Professional Knowledge
Construction of professional knowledge is facilitated by activities undertaken formally in
practice. In some instances construction of professional knowledge is facilitated in
informal settings. However, regardless of the setting, the research participants had
opportunities to construct professional knowledge.
4.7.1 Construction Originates from Professional Practice
The research participants, in describing the construction of professional knowledge,
made reference to experimentation, indicating that constructing professional knowledge
is grounded in formal education. It also has to do with a professional’s experimentation
with his or her students. They indicated that the value of experimentation of ideas lies in
the outcome. A new idea is put into practice and, depending on the outcome, may be
accepted or rejected. The reasons for trying something new may be prompted by
students’ responses to questions posed in class, examination results, curriculum change
and many other teacher education-related aspects. Therefore, in discovering that an
idea does not work, the tendency is to change and try something new. Hence the
emphasis on experimentation.
Consequently, construction of professional knowledge comes about because of
situations that professionals encounter. They may have to, given a particular condition
within a situation, adapt acquired theories for purposes of addressing challenges they
are confronted with. Conditions within a given situation may require conversations with
others, including own students and colleagues. They also require implementation of new
ideas, establishing and making meaning about what works and what does not in the
profession, and dialoguing with others in the field. The outcome of establishing what
works and what does not provides professionals with opportunities to gain some
experience. Most significantly, new knowledge that a professional constructs becomes
an invention in a particular field of study, as it would be based on that professional’s
understanding and interpretation of situations.
In responding to the question on construction of professional knowledge, there were
some who indicated that it was informed by interaction with other people. The idea is
that once a professional comes across a new reading, interprets it and presents the new
knowledge the way in which he or she understands it to others, there is an opportunity to
get inputs from those who become involved. There seems to be an assumption that
interaction with other professionals provides an opportunity for one’s new ideas to be
tested and to gain feedback. Therefore, in practice, professionals crystallise what they
know by sharing ideas with other people and may, depending on consultation, change
ideas before actually moving into something else. The idea of constantly changing as
one meets a new group of professionals provides an opportunity to adapt and improve
what one has constructed and to eventually get fulfilled. There was consensus that,
fulfilment becomes more significant in situations in which professionals hear knowledge
that they have constructed presented by others in seminars or read papers in which their
work is referred to or referenced.
There are situations that facilitate the creation of professional knowledge. Initially it is
through being taught how to construct certain documents. Therefore, creating lesson
plans, setting examination or test papers and strategising on how to mark test scripts are
a manifestation of having received knowledge from a formal institution. Nonetheless,
facilitation can be through interaction with students themselves. In practice, as
professionals deal with individuals who engage in discussions and come up with new
ideas, in the process they contribute towards those professionals’ understanding of
There are other opportunities for constructing professional knowledge that were referred
to. Visiting student teachers in teaching practice in real classroom situations and playing
the role of an advisor who guides them on how they should handle teaching facilitates
the creation of professional knowledge. Giving a student teacher advice on the basis of
what occurred in such a student’s classroom is something that a professional comes up
with in action. Working with student teachers is a context that facilitates the construction
of knowledge, as teacher educators meet different student teachers in different
situations and use various strategies to assist them in handling their own challenges.
Engaging in research and gaining experience facilitates construction of knowledge. In
undertaking research independent of the supervision of a professor at the work level
presented challenges to the majority of the participants. There was acknowledgement
that mistakes had been made in the process of undertaking studies alone or jointly with
colleagues. However, the very task of engaging in research and coming up with new
information, being able to analyse that information, is in itself a process that the
participants considered as an opportunity to construct new knowledge.
There seems to be an understanding that there are various possibilities for constructing
professional knowledge by teacher educators. These range from engaging in activities
that require them to use their competencies in responding to situations such as that of
helping student teachers or in engaging in tasks such as research and in the end coming
up with new knowledge.
4.7.2 Construction Originates from Other Settings
Some of the research participants indicated that in the real life of helping student
teachers undertake research they felt they too had opportunities to create knowledge.
Research experience, especially as professionals engaged in supervision of students’
research and observing the experience that supervisees went through, provided some of
the participants with an opportunity to change the style of asking questions in
examinations. For others the understanding was that an ability to actually challenge
students to the extent of observing them as they moved from one cognitive level to
another, and in which they appeared to be very comfortable with their own work, was
also a manifestation of the creation of professional knowledge.
In practice, some participants tested the applicability of the knowledge they had
constructed. Those who reported having developed models based on research
undertaken or designed materials for new programmes indicated that they tested the
applicability of the knowledge they had created in practice. One, in an effort to
implement a research-based model, tested it through transforming her teaching
approaches, observing the outcome and settling for those approaches that appeared
effective. ‘Masethabathaba revealed that she had developed teaching and learning
materials and actually presented these to teachers in service. She claimed that she
learned from the teachers’ actual interpretation of the newly developed materials. Lintle
and ’Masethabathaba reported that their curricula were not static. Students are
challenged to comment on course outlines before these can be distributed for
consumption. Involvement of students seems to be understood as providing an
opportunity to refine a tentative course outline and consequently an improvement of
such curricula.
A number of lessons emerged from different experiences, one such being said to be
based on construction of materials. Therefore, one’s own professional knowledge for
these participants was that teacher education institutions charged with the responsibility
of producing curriculum and teaching and learning materials have to be cognizant that
they cannot provide a fixed curriculum. A perception was expressed that professionals
must be aware that the content they have designed remains tentative, and they on their
part have to practise the principle of flexibility if they are to improve their own creation.
Furthermore, the type of students that the research participants engaged with provided
an opportunity to meet students with unique experiences. It was reported that meeting
dynamic students, particularly in the process of introducing new ideas, presented new
challenges. Dynamic students challenge professionals to think deeply, beyond familiar
contexts. They are required to come up with strategies for challenging learners, thus,
according to Peditta, “move from a comfortable and simplistic intellectual context or level
of thinking to one that requires them to engage in sophisticated thinking about such
strategies. They have to be critical of the knowledge they have constructed”. Presumably
such teacher educators also challenge themselves to experiment with what they require
of their own students; they probably are not satisfied with the simplistic ways of teaching
but consistently reflect on their own teaching with the intention of ensuring dynamism in
their teaching.
Construction of professional knowledge for some of the participants meant the ability to
identify a niche area through reflection on practice. Such ability allows professionals to
be more focused, sharpen an area of specialisation and in the process develop, to the
extent of becoming expert in their field of study. It is at this level that professionals view
themselves as individuals and think at that level, as opposed to thinking at the level of an
institution. Therefore there was an understanding that the type of students one comes
across facilitates change in professional movement and looks at life from various
perspectives. It is at the level of considering oneself as an expert that ’Masethabathaba
indicated having come up with own philosophy that served as guiding principle for
teaching. She identified a niche area for focusing on mentoring newly employed teacher
Hoanghoang reported that his work had been heavily influenced by reflection on practice
facilitated by knowledge of action research. He contents that “Action research raises
one’s consciousness about a number of things, one of which is the social construction
nature of knowledge”. He argues that in collaboration with colleagues he realised the
potential to make a difference to his own teaching. Consequently, teacher educators
have opportunities to test the applicability of theories in their own contexts.
Transforming one’s teaching has for some participants facilitated constant improvement
for assessing prospective teachers. Zinzi illustrated that asking questions at the end of a
lecture and getting correct responses did not mean that all students had understood
what had been taught; merely that a few students got the opportunity to respond to a
question. It was only after assigning students an individual task that she learned that the
majority had not grasped what had been taught. Spreading the questions throughout the
lecture is an idea that she had come up with in her experience of teaching.
Hoanghoang’s experience was similar to that of Zinzi. He gave students fewer written
assignments and allowed them to have more class work which they discussed in groups
in class. In his view this is a strategy that allowed for immediate feedback on their work.
In his view, written group assignments were problematic in that a few students would
actually do their assignments on behalf of the entire group. Furthermore, he allowed
students ample time to think critically and argued that this was a strategy that emanated
from his research work. It was also a strategy which, when tested, revealed that taking
learners slowly through a process of critical thinking facilitates better response to a given
task. Therefore, to these participants a classroom is regarded as an important context or
site for the construction of professional knowledge and for growth and development of
knowledge and ideas.
Another context is the school system in which there are serving teachers. Ideas are
therefore tested in a classroom with student teachers and in schools with serving
teachers. Some of the participants reported that teaching at any of these levels had also
contributed towards the development of their own philosophies.
4.7.3 Development of Professional Philosophies
All but three participants indicated that they had developed their own philosophies but
this study has established that those professional or personal philosophies vary. Those
who claimed to have professional or personal philosophies admitted they had not
documented them. One of the two indicated her wish instead for a professional
philosophy, a wish that seemed to be based on her experience of having taught in an
institution which was biased towards theory over practice. Thabang felt strongly that the
number of students she taught was too high, which in reality made providing practical
opportunities even for micro-teaching almost impossible.
The philosophies were for some informed by courses undertaken at undergraduate and
postgraduate levels, their own students especially experienced ones and having taught
at other institutions or at secondary school level. The philosophies seemed to centre on
three areas: students, the decisions that one takes and challenging their thinking
capacity. The participants indicated that philosophies help guide decisions about
teaching, modelling teaching and preparing student teachers for becoming professionals
suitable for the community for which they are being prepared. The second and the third
participants expressed their own views, in which they indicated that their philosophies
were borrowed. Hoanghoang’s and Fusi’s views illustrate what borrowing a philosophy
meant to them, while Peditta’s case points to building on what one has learned:
Hoanghoang: I cannot really talk of my professional philosophy as my own philosophy
about teaching and learning is informed by the work and ideas of others. I
am committed to a philosophy and that would be a belief that knowledge
is a social construct, open-ended and not fixed and that the teaching of
any subject matter should therefore provide learners with a sense of
exploration, discovery and invention.
My philosophy is that teacher training is both professional and academic
training in that teachers need a sound subject content knowledge and
also pedagogic knowledge. This belief is based on the theory of
pedagogic content knowledge. Theory informs practice, rather than
relying on common sense alone.
It (my professional/personal philosophy) has to do with the fact that the
person who engages in teacher education is a person who has to believe
in change and in others’ ability to change. Such a person has to be
perceptive of behaviour and attitude change. Has to model what he
believes in if he is to get the benefit from that. An individual’s activities are
therefore informed by her philosophy. The courses which I have taken
have influenced what I do, but I believe in the fact that I actually studied
psychology at an undergraduate level and came back to it at a later stage
actually shows the fact that even when I was teaching science education I
was influenced by the concepts of psychology about behaviour change.
Modelling or actually acting it out is something that has developed over
years and is confirmed over the years by feedback given by former
students who come back to you and tell you what they did because of you
which confirms that what you have been doing is valued. Different former
students come back and say, “I did this and this in my life and it is
because of you,” then you realise that you were modelling something to
these people. So I think the philosophy that one believes in, if one
believes in it so strongly, becomes who you are, so you become the
statement/gist, you become the statement of that philosophy even if it is
not like a written philosophy as such.
Understanding the needs of prospective teachers is dependent on
experience teaching at the level at which people graduating from
programmes would be posted, engaging in relevant research and
participating in administrative positions. Having taught at that level
informs the decisions I make in actual teaching. Decisions include moving
away from focusing on writing essays and engaging students in designing
hierarchical concept maps to assist them in planning their teaching. That
experience of teaching in secondary schools is complemented by the use
of researches undertaken. I believe that engaging in relevant research,
having relevant books and using the Internet and sharing ideas with
colleagues help to improve teaching. Central to my philosophy is allowing
student teachers to communicate in ways that will allow them to use the
same approach in their teaching. I strongly believe that ideas emanating
from students facilitate improving the following year’s teaching. I never
teach the same lesson in exactly the same way and my files will reflect
that I have different notes for each academic year.
My philosophy of teaching teachers is ensuring that upon
graduation they are able to fit into the professional community they get
into. It has developed over the years and it is informed by student
teachers who came and went through my hands, participation in national
institutions such as the National Curriculum Committee and the national
English panel. It develops in one because of experiences, responsibilities,
exposures; even the type of student that you got admitted in the university
and enrolled in your course and are upon graduation able to fit into the
professional demands of his specialisation out there. Is about production
of English language teachers who are able to implement English
Language teaching in accordance with the national philosophy for
education, namely relating the teaching of English to subject-specific,
local and international needs in the competitive world of work, but not at
the expense of the observance of the role of indigenous knowledge
systems in acquisition of normal education. The foundations of my
professional decisions came from having initially worked with prospective
teachers who were experienced teachers. I respected them, tapped
practical-based knowledge from them to inform my course outline which
means my course outlines are tentative and that I share and discuss them
with students and allow the process to inform my professional decisions.
There are varying prospects for constructing professional knowledge and the
participants’ views match in some instances and differ in others. Therefore, their
responses on the construction of professional knowledge clearly illustrate the level of
complexity of developing professional knowledge and the extent to which they were
themselves conversant with the idea. That none of them had documented their
philosophies illustrates the existence of a huge gap between what they think and the
documenting of their experiences.
4.8 Modelling Professional Knowledge
This section discusses a response to the research question: How do teacher educators
model professional knowledge? The analysis is therefore based on their own
interpretation of the concept: modelling professional knowledge and the kind of activities
in which they were observed enacting it.
4.8.1 Conceptualisation of Modelling of Professional Knowledge
To these research participants modelling professional knowledge relates to giving a
sound foundation to student teachers, helping them improve their personalities,
modelling the expected behaviour and helping student teachers love the profession to
the extent of enjoying the type of work they intend to do once qualified. However, to
some, modelling is facilitated mostly by playing a parent figure, being a role that women
tend to play well or are popularly known for in certain African cultures.
Providing a sound foundation was considered to be building on Educational Foundations
background that student teachers would have acquired in their teacher education
programmes. It is in the context of modelling teaching, of the content of the subject they
would be employed to teach after completing their studies, that student teachers would
be expected to do so in a dynamic and interesting manner.
Helping a person build personality that would be acceptable to the profession for which
he or she is being prepared was discussed in the context in which the participants
claimed they encouraged student teachers to act on their own strengths. These research
participants for their part indicated that they helped student teachers to learn to become
effective teachers.
There are pointers to having the potential to model the expected behaviour to the extent
of helping student teachers build acceptable personality and love for the profession, with
enjoyment for the type of work they intend to do once qualified. This could be achieved
by preparing student teachers in teaching the content of the subject in which they have
specialised, to act on their own strengths. In this context teacher educators have to be
inspirational, as alluded to by one. According to Peditta, a sentiment she shares with
Zinzi, teacher educators have to “go deep into people’s lives and kindle something which
may be flickering a little, the teacher in the individual. Moving learners from one level to
the higher level which is what they will be doing to their learners – from a certain
cognitive level to the next level.”
The challenge therefore is to nurture and mentor student teachers by playing a parent
figure, by acting in ways that student teachers will learn through observation and by
addressing what may not be an obvious talent in such a manner that student teachers
would be bound to model themselves after that character. This view is informed by
feedback some teacher educators acknowledged having obtained from teachers who
went through their hands or who they taught.
4.8.2 Modelling Professional Knowledge in Practice
Several incidents help to illustrate how teacher educators in practice actually model
professional knowledge. In educational foundations courses student teachers learn
about such values as working on a clean whiteboard, the use of which, as indicated
above, was found to be the most common of instructional materials. Most teacher
educators modelled good practice by always cleaning the whiteboard before they started
teaching. In one incident Fusi found that the whiteboard had not been cleaned by the
previous lecturer, and before he could start teaching he cleaned the board and pointed
out to his students that “teachers should learn to clean chalkboards after using them”. In
another incident ‘Masethabathaba indicated that using a textbook with pictures and
showing it from a distance is common in secondary schools, but she did not encourage
them to adopt this strategy. This was discussed in the context in which she was holding
and showing pictures in a book but being too far from the students. ‘Masethabathaba
therefore argued that she was acting in a manner similar to that of secondary school
teachers, in her case due to lack of adequate textbooks. In essence she justified her
action but discouraged student teachers from following it.
Developing one’s own teaching materials is an activity reported to be one of the
strategies used to modelling the enactment of professional knowledge by a smaller
number of participants. One of the participants engaged students in the use of games,
most of which she had developed herself. In class she consistently encouraged her
students to develop their own. According to Zinzi developing games is a skill that could
be used once a student teacher graduates from the programme. The games they were
encouraged to develop included those produced from local materials as well as those
accessible through computers or the Internet. Thus, professional knowledge has a
generative, not just duplicative, dimension.
Enacting good behaviour is one aspect that had been referred to as critical in teacher
education. Modelling good behaviour is the entire work of teaching, which more often
than not takes place at classroom level. It was in the context of a classroom that
participants felt they had to demonstrate that teaching is something worth doing, and in
acting out they had to model what it meant. According to Peditta, to “walk the talk and
walk it in a way that shows that you are very sure of the steps that you are taking. In that
context the people for whom you are modelling could get confidence in you and they too
can show it to their own students”. Therefore, modelling was seen as a form of education
that appeals to students’ emotions, attitudes and beliefs to the extent of preparing them
for the profession they are going to be part of for the rest of their working lives.
In practice and in at least two incidents, the participants informed their students about a
change of plan. Instead of teaching the topic reflected on the class schedule, they
altered their plans and gave student teachers feedback. One of the two actually pointed
out that what she was doing was related to the topic she would treat in the lessons to
follow. She argued that since they were discussing the topic behaviourism, they were
going to practise reinforcement which is part of the theory on behaviourism. She
indicated that she wanted to practise what she preached by marking the test quickly so
that students could get feedback on how they had performed and where they needed to
make improvements. In her own words, Peditta said: “I am demonstrating that giving
feedback in time is a sign of good practice.” Thus, modelling and articulating the reasons
for one’s practice is a powerful enactment of one’s professional knowledge.
In some cases, acting in professional ways and modelling good behaviour were
achieved through creating relaxed environments that seemed to enhance students’
participation. In one incident the participant modelled a time management attribute
through constantly asking students to observe lecture time and actually acting it out by
being punctual for all the lessons observed.
In one instance one of the research participants modelled love for the profession. Lintle
actually impressed upon students to prepare to celebrate teachers’ day. It was during
the celebrations that student teachers dressed formally to present poems or talk about
the profession passionately.
Most of the research participants expressed the view that modelling in the classrooms
was sabotaged by a context in which they taught large classes. They would like to model
giving individual attention, something that is impossible to do in a large class. The
context of teaching large classes, though, is a phenomenon that student teachers would
have to handle once they have completed their studies, given the reform in education;
the Education for All World Declaration requires that all students should access quality
education. Modelling teaching large classes seems to have been a challenge that could
have been addressed by the participants.
However, while modelling is considered difficult, as understood by the participants, this
is an area that happens without the person modelling being aware, hence reference to
Lotie’s (1975) theory, commonly known as ‘apprenticeship of observation’. In other
words, whether modelling is deliberate or not students tend to “take in” attributes that
they like without the person being modelled realising it.
4.8.3 Teaching Practice Replicated Inadvertently
Student teachers were observed already replicating what they had observed their
teacher educators do in practice. While observing and listening to the use of language in
lecture halls it became evident that, student teachers demonstrated replication of the
way in which some of their lecturers taught. Although this may have not been intentional,
in practice they were already implementing what they were learning and in a sense
modelling after their teacher educators without either group realising it.
In practice participants reinforced student teachers in a number of ways. The sub-theme
Reinforcement discussed in this chapter therefore emerged from observation of teaching
practice. It was common for student teachers to reinforce one another in ways similar to
those of their lecturers. A student in the Science, Technology and Society course
reinforced a colleague using a sentence:
I was struck by the group that presented about the invention of a nail as a
simple thing; we didn’t know that a nail was invented until the group
presented this information. I was interested in that and it’s good to include a
little history about the technology that is behind the science syllabus so we
fostered interest in the topics.
This was a form of reinforcement similar to those that emerged in the curriculum and
instruction English Language course. In that course it was very common for the
language lecturer to reinforce her students using phrases, and here follows an example
of ’Masethabathaba’s student teacher using reinforcement similar to hers:
I like what she is coming up with because we always say,” Make sure you
know your students and make sure you call them by name”. The reason why
you have to call them by their name is that, they should feel that you know
them, they belong to you; also I like what she is pointing out, and you are
ensuring alertness on their part. They should never know when you will call
on them, so everybody has to remain alert.
It was also during presentations of papers produced by student teachers in their group
activities that they reinforced learning, especially after a paper was well-presented. It
was common that they encouraged one another through clapping hands and to a lesser
extent by giving positive comments and/or remarks.
There were situations in which student teachers used instructional media, especially
overhead projectors to give a presentation, or the whiteboard to illustrate a point. They
shared information on where to obtain materials such as dissertations or theses and
curriculum documents. Sharing of information is a strategy that implied they were
collaborating in their learning, one that might have resulted from group work activities
and one that surely builds on collegiality, even if unintentional.
In practice all the participants asked a variety of questions. Student teachers also posed
questions either to the lecturers or colleagues. Incidentally, the types of questions they
asked were similar in structure to those that their lecturers asked.
For example, a
student in a Geography Education course asked an expository multiple focus type of
question: Does it mean the University cannot do anything about the environment
situation? You said we should not be specific about some shocking things we come
across but how does that help the University?
The research participants consistently used technical language and student teachers
were observed doing so. The student teachers used technical language or concepts in
which they referred to secondary school students as their own, and to issues of
secondary school curriculum or syllabus. Making reference to secondary school students
was commonly used by the teacher educators. These are technical comments that
student teachers were also using. A student teacher in curriculum studies in Junior
Certificate Mathematics walked to the chalkboard and made a similar technical
I can draw the number line and explain to my students that everything
should have a positive and a negative. Therefore this means that we should
consider this zero and all these numbers on this side are negative and all
those on this other side are positive; so from there I will start by, may be
giving my students something.
In Science, Technology and Society reference was made to a teaching approach
commonly used in this course, and through a student’s comment it is clear that these
Science Education student teachers had absorbed this concept of teacher-centred
learning: “In science we encourage what is called discovery learning or studentcentred approach and the guest speaker did much of the work and didn’t let the
students do the work themselves”.
In almost all the lessons observed there were occasions when student teachers were
required to give presentations and a student teacher in Curriculum Studies in Junior
Certificate Mathematics made reference to curriculum which has featured prominently in
their course:
Okay, in this group we have chosen measurement and accuracy.
Measurements and accuracy can help students to identify objects in terms of
mass and weight. I think it is very important to include this topic in our
curriculum because it refers to time. The calendar designers will be able to
design how we are going to look at it, basing ourselves on region and also
the length of the day.
4.9 Conclusion
I fully recognise in this chapter that teacher educators learn from the theories that were
taught in their degree programmes, be it at undergraduate or postgraduate level. It is in
their voices as they articulated their lived professional lives that it becomes very clear
that while the received knowledge from their educational institutions lays the foundation
for the practice, there definitely is more value to what is learned in practice. It is in
practice that they of the participants gather professional knowledge on how to teach
teachers. It is in practice where they encounter numerous challenges and have to deal
with them without necessarily relying on any other person. Hence the conclusion that
their professional lives are about experimenting with new ideas all the time, never being
sure of what will work in practice.
It is in observing the teacher educators who participated in this study that it becomes
apparent that learning to teach teachers is facilitated by practice. The research
participants were immersed in the actual teaching of student teachers with little guidance
for some while the others had to learn in the process. It is in this process where they
learn all aspects of teacher education; they do not only teach but they have to supervise
instruction during student teachers’ teaching practice and have to, although minimally,
supervise research. They encounter numerous challenges, including having to assess
student teachers. This is a problem that was experienced by six of the eight teacher
educators who participated in this study.
Other challenges include the fact that there is no research culture in this institution. In
sharing their professional philosophies it became apparent that much can be shared
either in research or in documenting experiences. That there is no culture of research in
the institution in which the research participants were based remains a challenge for the
majority of the teacher educators.
It is in Chapter 5 where, in discussing the implication of this study, I clearly indicate that
the study has revealed the value of taking advantage of learning in practice. I therefore
refer to episteme and phronesis.
Invisible Colleges: An invisible college is created when the boundaries of a
collegium are stretched beyond the walls of a shared building or department. A
serious problem for teaching as a profession has been the absence of
opportunities to communicate what has been learned from experience through
literature (Shulman, 2004 p. 328).
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Concepts Pertinent to the Current Study
5.3. The Teacher Educator’s Practice
5.4. Engaging in Creating Knowledge
5.5. Modelling Professional Knowledge
5.6. Drawing
Cumulative Snowball Model
5.7. Cases on Learning to Teach Teachers
5.8. Correlating the Cases to the Teacher Educator Cumulative Snowball
5.9. Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
Eight teacher educators participated in the research and narrated their professionallybased stories. They opened their classrooms for the researcher to watch and document
their teaching activities. Furthermore, they shared their documented curriculum, course
outlines and assessment documents.
This study has established that out of the 8 teacher educators who participated in this
study only two had the opportunity to enrol in a programme that prepared them for
teaching in teacher education contexts. Barmber, Walsh, Juwah and Ross (2006) have
undertaken research looking into the training of academics to prepare them for the role
of teaching in institutions of higher learning. They studied programmes offered for
lecturer development in Scottish institutions of higher learning. These programmes
known as Lecture Development Programmes (LDPs) were developed in response to the
national standards for people who teach in UK Higher Education (HE) Institutions. The
main modes of delivery are said to be the workshop-based model, distance learning
model, enquiry-led model and hybrid model. Murray (2010) adds that in the UK, a Post
Graduate Certificate (PGC) in HE programmes is offered; “a qualification that most new
academics in the UK take on entering the university” (p.101) and he outlines the reason
for having such programmes. Murray points out that “most of these new academics have
PhDs in their subject but little experience of teaching” (p101). The PGC in Higher
Education programmes is, according to Murray, designed to support the processes of
learning to teach.
Although the National University of Lesotho occasionally offers training workshops for
lecturers, these are neither legally binding nor do they lead to any qualification. Perhaps
with the establishment of the Council on Higher Education in Lesotho, this University will
acknowledge such workshops, as is the case with its counterparts in other parts of the
world, (Barmber et al.,2006) and Murray (2010).
This discussion chapter focuses on three areas: sources of professional knowledge, its
application and the consequences of the findings of the study. Application covers three
very broad areas pertaining to professional knowledge, viz. Enactment, as it refers to the
actual putting into practice knowledge acquired, construction, which refers to discovering
something or generating meaning from experiences such as research, and modelling, or
acting out professional knowledge. Although it became apparent that separating findings
and subsequently the discussion into sources, application, construction and modelling of
professional knowledge made it possible to analyse each area as an entity, it also
became clear that in practice there is a thin line between these concepts and/or
components of professional knowledge.
5.2 Concepts Pertinent to the Current Study
Although many educational concepts could be considered pertinent in the context of this
study, the terms teacher educator and professional knowledge are more relevant to the
interpretation of the findings. Other pertinent concepts are discussed in the relevant
sections of this thesis. In the literature review I make reference to the two types of
knowledge: episteme and phronesis (Korthagen et al., 2001) as very broad types of
knowledge relevant in this chapter.
5.2.1 Analysis of the Understanding of the Concept Teacher Educator
An analysis of the teacher educators’ understanding of the concept as a unit of analysis
necessitated the inclusion of a section on them in this chapter. The study has revealed
that the majority of teacher educators who are serving at the National University of
Lesotho’s Faculty of Education had not undergone training that specifically prepared
them for teaching teachers. Most had trained as secondary school teachers and upon
being employed as teacher educators went for further education and specialised in
different academic disciplines. Therefore, all but two had not enrolled in programmes or
taken courses that prepared them for the role of teacher educator. Such programmes
would include courses such as the “pedagogy of teacher education”.
This finding is, as fully illustrated in the introductory chapter, consistent with many
studies that have been undertaken in this area. The work of Lewin and Stuart (2003) in a
study undertaken in Lesotho’s College of Education, illustrates the consistency referred
to here. Ryan (1974) and Harris (2003), with the latter researcher having analysed
teacher educators’ programmes offered at PhD level, have established that some
institutions have started offering such programmes. This recommendation implies that
on the one hand teacher educators should attain teacher education as their educational
qualification and on the other that they should also have a specialty in a particular
academic discipline. Attaining appropriate educational qualifications would probably
empower them to know how teachers are to be taught. McGuiness (1990), in her classic
statement on thinking about thinking in which the argument is that “… teachers should
be taught in the manner in which they are expected to teach” (p.305) is a crucial and
powerful statement. McGuiness (1990) argues for the education of teacher educators.
As has already been alluded to, two of the participants had taken courses that the
literature recommends should be taken by prospective teacher educators. Some had
specialised in what Harris (2003) recommends as fields of study or academic disciplines
for teacher educators, including educational psychology and counselling, management
and administration, and supervision of instruction. The teacher educators who had taken
academic discipline courses were mostly in the Department of Educational Foundations.
The rest of the teacher educators were those whose areas of specialisation were in the
subject content areas, namely, Language Education, Mathematics Education, Science
Education and Geography Education. They seemed to be well grounded in their areas of
specialisation. Therefore there are two categories of teacher educators, namely those in
Educational Foundations having taken courses classified as relevant to the education of
teachers and those in subject content having specialised in a specific content area.
This study further established, as was the case in a study undertaken by Lewin and
Stuart, (2003) that teacher educators had no clear career path. They either joined the
University through applying for an advertised post or were recruited to a position
because they performed well in their undergraduate degree programmes. All the teacher
educators who participated in this study, with the exception of two, were identified as
secondary school teachers. This finding is similar to that found in a study undertaken by
Murray and Male (2005). It can be concluded that secondary teacher education
programmes, although unintentionally, contribute substantially towards the production of
people who end up being teacher educators. This view is based on the extent to which
most of the research participants referred to their undergraduate courses more than their
postgraduate courses in sharing their stories about their sources of professional
There were other attributes about teacher educators that the current study established,
including the high proportion of female teacher educators in the entire faculty from which
the research participants were drawn. This might explain why even among the research
participants there were only two male participants. However, although the study did not
set out to establish the extent to which gender would be a factor, it did not find any
differences that could be associated with gender.
Another attribute about teacher educators was teaching experience, especially in a
teacher education institution. Even on this issue the study did not set out to measure the
differences that could be linked to the number of years in a teacher education institution
and/or teaching experience. However, only teacher educators who had been in the
service for at least 20 years had developed their philosophies. What they articulated as
their professional philosophies reflected their experiences.
For example, Peditta’s philosophy centres on change and she actually makes reference
to time: Modelling or actually acting it out is something that has developed over time. It
has developed over years and is confirmed by feedback given by former students who
come back to you and tell you what they did because of you which confirms that what
you have been doing is valued.
Zinzi too makes reference to time and indicates that time spent teaching in secondary
schools has impacted on her philosophy. Understanding the needs of student teachers
is dependent on experience teaching at the level at which people graduating from
programmes would be posted. 'Masethabathaba too confirms that her philosophy of
teaching teachers has developed over the time and that it is informed by student
teachers who came and went through my hands over the years …
Conceptualisations of the term teacher educator by the participants focus on equipping
student teachers with knowledge and skills that prepare them for the task of teaching so
that they can intervene in students’ lives. It is also understood to be about helping
student teachers realise their potential. While their understanding of the concept teacher
educator may be to a large extent similar to established descriptions of this concept,
their interpretation was particularly lacking in key areas, such as viewing them as
researchers or as professionals of a certain calibre. This is in spite of the extensive
research on teacher educators that has revealed that over and above being instructors
of learning, they are researchers and professionals and/or scholars (Fisher, 2005; Smith,
Failure to make reference to research in particular suggests that the participants did not
view it as a priority or an important dimension in their work. Perhaps if their descriptions
of the concept teacher educator featured research they would do more research in their
own areas and use research-based information to inform or improve their practice. It is
apparent that the participants viewed their status as that of teaching teachers mainly and
therefore making an impact on those who have gone through their hands.
Professional Knowledge
The current research has revealed that to the teacher educators who participated in the
study, professional knowledge refers to knowledge of subject matter and that being
conversant with such content is vital to teaching. The dimension of professional
knowledge that the participants were referring to is the episteme which is propositional
knowledge or knowledge that has been scientifically derived. According to the literature,
the concept episteme embraces issues such as knowledge of the subject, classroom
organisation, teaching techniques and curriculum content (Hiebert et al,. 2002,
Korthagen et al., 2001, Stuart, 2002 and Eraut, 1994). However, a point that these
research participants missed is the other dimension of professional knowledge
underscored in the literature. The second is phronesis or the epistemology of practice
(Korthagen et al., 2001; Schőn, 1983) which is practical wisdom derived from
understanding specific situations and cases. Failure to make reference to practical
knowledge implies less recognition of practice as a source of professional knowledge.
However, as already illuminated in the published work (Stuart et al., 2009) formally
derived professional knowledge, while it may serve as a basis upon which to build other
forms of knowledge, has not been found to help teachers to immediately address their
teaching practice problems. It would therefore seem that gathering knowledge through
experience contributes more to the professional work of teachers and teacher educators
than the scholarly study or studying scientifically proven material in teacher education
Consequently the latter type of knowledge (phronesis/practical) is developed and/or
acquired through experience and tends to be appropriate in given situations (Loughran,
2006; Korthagen et al., 2001)). However, since none of the teacher educators who
participated in this study had researched or documented their own practice or their
practice of teaching experience, an analysis of their practice-based knowledge could not
be undertaken. Therefore the information that these teacher educators shared as they
participated in the current study could have remained tacit, never to be shared with other
teacher educators or with teacher education students.
A further analysis of the teacher educators’ understanding of professional knowledge
has revealed a collective view. Apart from professional knowledge being received from
formal education and accumulated through practice, it is regarded as complex,
especially for teacher educators. Teacher educators have a dual role to play in that they
have to think and act beyond themselves as providers of such knowledge to student
teachers and at the same time ensure that their students are taught in a manner that will
prepare them for teaching their own students in future.
Its complexity is acknowledged by education researchers such as Goodnough (2001).
The complexity of teacher educators’ professional knowledge is compounded by the
context in which they practise. It is a context wherein experimentation of ideas features
highly. This means that in practice, due to the nature of their work which requires them
to act in certain ways and the fact that the context in which they operate is highly
unpredictable and therefore challenging, teacher educators have to experiment with
ideas all the time.
However, with the exception of one participant who explicitly articulated the complex
nature of professional knowledge, especially as it pertains to educating student teachers,
the others did not seem to acknowledge the complexity of their work.
5.2.2 Determining the Sources of Professional Knowledge
Determining the sources of professional knowledge for teacher educators helped
address the question, “Where do teacher educators draw their professional knowledge
from?” Two sources of professional knowledge were determinable with one of these
being practical or experience-based knowledge, presenting a myriad of sources. The
current study confirms the claims that academic education is foundational to professional
knowledge. The participants consistently made reference to undergraduate and
postgraduate programmes as having contributed to the knowledge and skills they use in
the teaching of student teachers. Those who enrolled in a teacher education degree
programme tended to point to this as core to the foundations of professional knowledge.
Acknowledging that teacher education programmes have contributed to the formal
education of the research participants therefore is in line with the published work on
formal education which indicates that it facilitates “knowing THAT” Eraut (1994) or
acquiring propositional knowledge offered in teacher education programmes. However,
in the majority of the cases studied, formal education falls into two distinct categories.
The first is the undergraduate teacher education programme, which focuses on two
areas, namely subject content and pedagogy content. The second is at the postgraduate
level, where individuals specialised in disciplines of their choice with two actually having
taken courses that prepared them for the teaching of student teachers.
While propositional knowledge is acknowledged as important, some researchers have
critiqued it especially in the context of learning about teaching. Korthagen and Wubbles
(2001), the Institute of Education, London (2001) and Ponte (2010) discuss learning
about teaching. Korthagen and Wubbles (2001) point out that the technical rationality
model commonly used in teacher education institutions tends to create a gap between
theory and practice. They suggest a teacher education model that starts from practical
experiences as a better option.
Korthagen and Wubbles (2001) suggest that “starting from practical experience can be a
viable avenue in teacher education to help integrate theoretical notions into teacher
actions and to help take into account both types of human information processing. Such
an approach to teacher education does not necessarily, guarantee success. There are
views that long student teaching periods can be a socialising factor rather than offering
an opportunity for professional development for student teachers. Ponte (2010) argues
that it has been proved that academic knowledge cannot simply be transferred in the
expectation that teachers can apply this knowledge. Therefore views differ regarding
whether student teachers should be placed in the schools and do teaching practice prior
to enrolling in the pre-service programme.
Still following on Eraut’s (1994) analysis of professional knowledge, “knowing HOW” is
practice-based. In this study classroom practice was found to be an activity that teacher
educators did more often than any other. It therefore became apparent that classroom
practice is the most common source of practical knowledge for teacher educators who
participated in this study. Every teacher educator teaches. However, the frequency of
engaging in teaching or teaching for a certain number of years compared to other
sources of professional knowledge needs to be thoroughly researched and critically
analysed, using specific indicators if it is to be regarded as a significant source of
professional knowledge for teacher educators.
The work of Clandinin and Connelly (1995) confirms that practice facilitates the
gathering of experience and consequently experiential knowledge. These authors
present practice-based knowledge metaphorically as “teachers’ professional knowledge
landscapes”. The current study has brought to the fore a similar analogy as the use of
the image of professional knowledge landscapes. Their analogy provides a picture of
experiential knowledge or “Knowing how” as open and never ending.
Openness implies a never-ending situation in which there are ample opportunities to
source, enact, construct or model professional knowledge. Therefore openness implies
that teacher educators gain more experience as they get to know how to act in
professional situations and in the process continue to source more knowledge.
Therefore the fact that teacher educators begin their career with a degree in teacher
education implies that such an academic base has connotations of a novice, while
expanding and broadening knowledge through practice suggests moving towards or
becoming an expert. In essence therefore, epistemologically, theory and practice are, as
observed by Clandinin and Connelly (1995), intricately linked.
Within the teacher educators’ field of work, contexts or “landscapes” are components
that are similar to those identified by Clandinin and Connelly. In the context of this study
the research participants gathered practice-based knowledge in the actual teaching
through formal relationships with other similar institutions, including student teachers
they met in their teaching practice classrooms. They gathered practice-based knowledge
through encounters with people ranging from professionals based in other institutions,
mostly met during conferences or academic visits to similar institutions. They also had
encounters with colleagues, student teachers and serving teachers, especially those
teachers that they taught. Furthermore, opportunities to gather professional knowledge
were through participation in the capacity-building workshops with other similar
institutions and through working with government ministries on pertinent issues such as
formulation of policies. This study has therefore established that within a teacher
educators’ “landscape” there is an array of sources of professional knowledge.
There are values attached to involving prospective teachers in the work that teacher
educators undertake (Hug and Moller, 2005; Freedman, Bullock and Duque, 2005;
Clarke and Erickson, 2004). The current study has established that supervision of
student teachers’ research work is a challenge to the majority of those who participated
in this study. Some indicated that they had not had an opportunity to supervise research.
This situation implies that there are fewer opportunities for supervision of research
undertaken by student teachers, a situation which reduces the teacher educators’
opportunities for gaining knowledge and skills likely to accrue from such an experience.
It would seem that the participants are justified in pointing to the need for more
opportunities to supervise student teachers’ research work.
The work of Jansen, Herman and Pillay (2004) conveys the complex nature that gets
played out as doctoral students engage in proposal writing. This is an issue which
suggests that the process of supervising and observing postgraduate students engaging
in research is in itself a learning avenue. This is an avenue which could add to
professional enrichment of teacher educators. One of the challenges facing the
participants therefore was coming up with courses that require students to undertake
research if they themselves want to learn how to supervise research.
It was not until the teacher educators revealed where they drew their professional
knowledge from, that what had remained tacit became explicit both to me and the
participants themselves. This view was confirmed by an admission on their part that they
had not seriously reflected on their practice nor documented their experiences. One of
the participants, after sharing her professional life story and having had the opportunity
to validate the documented narrative, admitted that it was the first time she had deeply
reflected on the relevance of her master’s degree dissertation to her entire work. She
admitted that it was during her reflection that she actually saw that she had lived the
dissertation. This positive reflection is a clear indication that while some teacher
educators act out their research work in their teaching of student teachers, they do so
without being conscious of their influence or without relating their work to formerly
acquired knowledge.
Nonetheless, it became apparent that the professional life of a teacher educator is
mainly experimental, actually messy and/or haphazard, and therefore very challenging in
many aspects. That it is haphazard is exemplified by the many incidents that were
shared in this study. Talking about their experiences, which for some teacher educators
appeared to be introspection into their professional lives, they suggested that there were
times when they encountered problems and that sometimes they experienced positive
and enriching encounters. While these experiences were not documented in detail they
were regarded as worthwhile by the participants. Experiences that were classroombased proved to be some of the many that were valued. Reflecting on these enabled
those who did reflect to come up with strategies for handling problems encountered
immediately or for using new knowledge to bear on what they were to teach. In practice
teacher educators were in fact adhering to the domain of phronesis (Korthagen et al.,
2001) as they learned how to teach teachers in practice.
However, that they never fully documented their experiences or shared them means that
teachers’ and teacher educators’ experiential knowledge remains tacit, as alluded to by
Connelly and Clandinin (1995). These argue that teachers do not tell their classroom
stories out of class since they tend to regard these as secret events. Although the
current study did not investigate the reasons for not documenting their experiences, it is
highly likely that the benefits of sharing experiential knowledge were not explored.
communities and therefore contribute to making public the teacher educators’
professional knowledge.
5.3 The Teacher Educators’ Practice
This section discusses teacher educators’ enactment of professional knowledge,
construction of professional knowledge and the “how” of modelling it. Teaching about
teaching or enacting professional knowledge is more than just teaching as it happens at
other levels of the education system; there are two layers involved. One of the layers is
when teacher educators teach student teachers knowledge or impart skills that are
relevant to them as students of education; the other layer is about preparing them for
teaching their own students. It is my view that the nucleus of teacher education is
teaching about teaching.
Therefore, enacting professional knowledge cannot be viewed simplistically as just doing
teaching, since it is much more than that. In Loughran’s (2007) view, teacher educators
are required to make teaching in this context a site for inquiry. As has been established
by various researchers, teaching about teaching has been identified as complex.
Lougharn (2007) argues that it is important to understand the complex nature of teaching
about teaching or enacting professional knowledge in the context of teacher education.
The complexity is embedded in the very nature of teaching itself. Lougharn (2007)
actually outlines what enacting professional knowledge or teaching about teaching
entails. He identifies 4 aspects that include the following:
The focus on the problematic nature of teaching;
making the tacit explicit;
teaching as a relationship, and
challenging the tyranny of talk.
Therefore as Loughran (2007) argues, teacher educators have to develop the pedagogy
of teacher education. The intention in developing a pedagogy of teacher education is to
signify the relationship between teaching about teaching and learning about teaching. In
such a context, teaching about teaching might be purposefully examined, described,
articulated and portrayed in ways that enhance an understanding of this complex
The complexity of practising the pedagogy of teacher education or in the context of this
study enacting professional knowledge is described by many researchers (Ritchie and
Wilson, 2000; Loughran, 2006). Loughran (2006) sees teaching about teaching as
playing a complicated dual role; it requires “vigilance that is perhaps not so easily
apprehended in the normal day to day expectations and experiences of teacher
education programmes” (p7).
In this regard teacher educators necessarily have to engage their students in researchbased activities leading to their understanding of the nature of their work. This is why the
finding that teacher educators who participated in this study hardly undertake research
on their own teaching came as a surprise. I agree with Loughran (2007) that it is
imperative to research the practice of teaching if one wants to understand one’s
perspective as a teacher educator and those of the student teachers. Presumably
understanding one’s practice through research could impact on the practice itself. I am
of the view that researching one’s work would add to addressing professional challenges
in constructive ways.
A number of points emerged from observing the teacher educators enact professional
knowledge. Firstly, they used numerous methods of teaching. These included
transmissive and interactive methods. A transmissive mode of teaching, especially in the
context of teaching about teaching is criticised by some researchers. Bullock (2007)
argues that the reason for not using the transmissive mode of teaching should be the
tendency for extensive bias toward a technical rationality approach to teaching.
Additionally in pursuance of reducing the technical rationality, teacher educators should
strive to make the tacit explicit which, among others, requires them to constantly “answer
questions from students of teaching” (Loughran,2007 p.4). These should be questions
that actually challenge teacher educators’ knowledge of practice which he argues is vital
to enacting a pedagogy of teacher education. In practice teacher educators should
according to Bullock (2007) and Loughran (2007) endeavour to develop ways of
engaging learners in learning.
Notwithstanding that a variety of methods were used in the majority of cases, these were
intended for the student teachers themselves instead of preparing them for teaching at
the secondary school level, being the level at which, upon graduation, they will be
working. Therefore their conceptualisation did not seem to influence the teaching as
articulated in their description of the concept enactment of professional knowledge
For instance, one of the interactive methods of teaching commonly used was the
questioning-and-answer method. It was revealed that the types of questions asked
during the use of this method did not seem to challenge the student teachers to
deliberate critically on the very teaching methods that were used. Critical thinking in the
context of methods of teaching was not so noticeable as only a few made reference to it.
Furthermore, as research in teacher education (Loughran, 2007) indicates, student
teachers should be made to explore teacher-related problems so that they appreciate or
understand that teaching is complex at the very time that they are involved in their
This study, except for a few incidences, did not establish the extent to which in practice
teacher educators challenged student teachers to think about both the content of the
course and also the methods employed in teaching. It is an idea that Loughran (2007)
fully articulated as related to challenging and in the process contributing towards
cognitive development of student teachers. If student teachers are not provided with
opportunities to discuss consciously issues that would equip them with such skills while
they are still in their teacher education programmes, the question arises as to where
they will solicit such skills.
There were very few incidences where such opportunities were provided. One of the
participants, Hoanghoang, constantly challenged his students to think about how they
would teach their own students. More often than not he presented student teachers with
hypothetical cases in which they critiqued a method of teaching that he would have
explained in class. One of the hypothetical cases was whereby student teachers were to
challenge the idea of using a guest speaker as a method of teaching. This was one of
the moments during which student teachers had an opportunity to think deeply about
and to question a particular teaching method. The questions they raised in arguing about
the relevance of the method in teaching a topic that was presented in the hypothetical
case indicated that, given an opportunity to critique a method of teaching, student
teachers were capable of challenging the taken-for-granted situations.
Another activity that presented ample opportunities for teacher educators to challenge
student teachers was in their use of a question-and-answer method of teaching. It
emerged that student teachers had ample opportunities to pose questions. However,
most of the questions they asked did not illustrate an ability to ask thought-provoking
questions. In a situation in which they were provided such opportunities, they probably
would appreciate the complex nature of teaching and in the process develop critical
thinking skills which they would in turn use with their own students.
The efforts that appeared to prepare student teachers for the work they would engage in
were mainly through mentioning what is expected of them to do in practice. Therefore,
the extent to which student teachers would be observing how to teach would be more on
how each student interprets what he or she would have observed. They would perhaps
carry that with them to their places of work once they graduated from a teacher
education programme. Doing so would be propagating, consciously or unconsciously,
the theory developed by Lortie, “The apprenticeship of observation”, which has been
tested by some researchers. According to Borg (2004), Lortie coined the term to point to
a phenomenon “whereby student teachers arrive for their training courses having spent
thousands of hours as schoolchildren observing and evaluating professional actions”
(p.274). However, failure to be explicit about expectations and hoping that they are
observing the teacher’s actions has its own problems because, as Borg (2004) in
acknowledging Lortie’s (1975) work indicates, in the real practice of teaching, teachers
do not invite their own students
to watch [their]/teacher’s performance from the wings: they are not privy
to the teacher’s intentions and personal reflections on classroom events.
Students rarely participate in selecting goals, making preparations, or
post-mortem analyses. Thus they are not pressed to place the teacher’s
actions in a pedagogically-oriented framework (p.62)
Lortie’s (1975) observation could apply to student teachers who indirectly participated in
this study. Teacher educators who participated in this study did not involve their student
teachers in planning lessons they were to teach. The challenge for teacher educators
therefore is being explicit about what is expected of student teachers and at the same
time providing them with opportunities to practise what they are expected to practise
once they are qualified and have taken up teaching positions.
Regarding assessment practice, the current study has established consistency in the
use of a variety of assessment techniques. Assessment is a common feature that
transpires mainly through assignments and tests. However, generally the types of
assessment or questions that students had to address were not so challenging. This
implies that teacher educators do not challenge student teachers to realise the
complexity of teaching. Therefore it can be concluded that teacher educators do not fully
engage their students to challenge their own work or their teaching. Therefore, it would
be advantageous not only to assess students but to get them to think critically about
assessment practices.
In addition to the teaching methods that the teacher educators used in practice, there
were numerous activities observed during the actual enactment of professional
knowledge. These included the technical language the teacher educators used during
their actual teaching, communication styles, tendencies to open and close lectures, the
way the actual teaching was managed or organised and the type of activities that were
presented to student teachers.
The use of technical language is intended to help student teachers think like teachers.
They were referred to teachers in schools and to secondary school students who were
likely to be their own students. While some of the teacher educators who participated in
this study used what has been referred to as technical language, Crowe and Berry
(2007) suggest more can be done towards helping student teachers think like teachers.
In practice they need to be engaged in activities that require them to think more like
teachers as opposed to thinking routinely, like secondary school students.
In essence, just making reference to secondary school and doing so sporadically within
a teacher education programme is itself inadequate for student teachers. It has to be a
concerted effort by all teacher educators. They could draw from established theories
such as that of Schőn (1983) on reframing of practice situations to the extent that
student teachers begin to move from “predominantly thinking about themselves" to
thinking beyond their contexts. In this way, even as teacher educators make reference to
secondary schools, serving teachers and students at this level, the reframing of practice
would contribute to student teachers viewing teaching as “problematic” and not routine
practices that they are probably much familiar with.
It is in talking about teaching as problematic and complex that Loughran (2007) maps
this complexity as embedded in the “very nature of teaching itself”, and more so in the
context in which the teaching is about teaching itself. It is in this context that the
literature challenges teacher educators to make what tends to be tacit explicit. The
question that Loughran (2007) argues has not been properly addressed when
discussions of professional knowledge are held, is why the “why” actions are carried out
in the way they are.
These arguments tend to suggest that referring to the schools system and its related
matters such as what methods to use in teaching or how to teach are far from enacting
“the pedagogy” of teacher education. Instead, they can be regarded as tips on how to
teach and what the school context holds for student teachers. Relevant here is Crowe
and Barry’s (2007) argument that due to the complexity of teaching, young teachers
should be helped to become creative through being presented with complex situations,
so that they can develop strategies intended to challenge situations. The incidences in
which student teachers were challenged were very few and not all the research
participants practised the said skill development strategies.
Yet in a situation in which teacher educators would not only be making reference to what
student teachers are likely to encounter as they enter the field of teaching, they would be
encouraging them to engage in learning about teaching. In learning about teaching
teacher educators would embrace what Lougharn refers to as being a student of
teaching: knowing yourself, a point that Korthagen and Verkuyl (2007) tested in their
own work as teacher educators. Teacher educators learn if they allow themselves to
play the dual role of being a learner and teacher through allowing students to critique
their teaching. Lougharn (2007) argues that “students of teaching are continually
confronted by struggles, difficulties and dilemmas that affect their understanding of the
nature of teaching as a consequence of their experience in learning about teaching”
One of the findings is that the actual teaching followed a clear path in which lessons
were introduced, the content presented and in the majority of cases lessons neatly
brought to a closure. Teaching was therefore well structured and allowed student
teachers to follow the pattern of teaching even in situations where they participated
through giving presentations on an assigned task. However, while orderliness provides a
form of structure, what was obvious was routine in the majority of cases. It was on very
rare occasions, and in one particular course, that student teachers could not predict how
the next lesson would be organised. In practice the majority of the teacher educators did
not appear to be ‘practising what they preach’. Realistically, as pointed out in this
section, complicated ways of involving student teachers should be communicated if they
are expected to learn deliberately from such experiences, and there should be more
such exposures.
It also emerged that student teachers participated in actual teaching. They engaged in
numerous activities, including posing questions mainly aimed at seeking clarification
either from the lecturer or from colleagues who would have done a presentation. Most of
the questions were on content, regardless of whether it was in the area of subject
content or field of study or discipline. The style of asking questions was very similar to
that of the teacher educators themselves. My interpretation is that student teachers were
already imitating their teacher educators and that in practice teacher educators are
indirectly demonstrating certain skills unaware of the overall impact. The observed
implications of teacher educators’ practice confirm Lortie’s (1975) apprenticeship of
observation theory referred to in this chapter.
Other activities that were established as enactment of professional knowledge included
instructional management and the use of instructional techniques. Clearly teacher
educators were consistent in ensuring that teaching areas were conducive to learning,
particularly in terms of the students’ involvement in activities and behaviour. In practice,
therefore, teacher educators supported the learning activities, especially in cases where
student teachers were assigned learning tasks either as individuals or as groups. They
for example provided elaborate explanations on a given task and actually supervised the
Disciplinary measures were used and the purpose was to maintain a good environment
for teaching and learning. It occurred to a small number of the research participants to
take advantage of destructive student behaviour to help student teachers see classroom
management in practice.
One of the points that emerged in the narrative data was the value of undertaking
research. However, in the actual teaching, research was mentioned in passing and
student teachers were not provided with opportunities to research the pedagogy of
teaching. The literature encourages teacher educators in particular to engage in a selfstudy type of research for its benefits in the teacher education fraternity.
Self-study research has been in the field of education for close to 20 years this year
(Loughran, 2005). There are reasons for engaging in self-study research. The research
findings emanating from self-study have been found to be applicable to teacher
educators as they are the ones doing research. And the growth in the field is propelled
by the desire on the part of scholars to understand and to bring to the surface aspects of
teaching and learning about teaching. Learning from studying one’s own teaching is
likely to impact on the teacher educator’s understanding of the complex nature of
teaching and learning (Loughran, 2005, Campbell and McNamara, 2010; Clarke, 2007,
Miletta, 2010). Campbell and McNamara, (2010) add that self-study is a possible
response to educational policy makers’ demands regarding standards and quality. In this
regard teacher educators can collaborate with teachers, own students and colleagues in
an endeavour to study the practice of teacher educators. However, Lingard and
Renshaw, (2010) caution that since contexts differ it is important for researchers to be
study their own context first.
It is important, though, to note that there were some small scale research projects
requiring student teachers to research and present their findings at the classroom level.
However, none of these required student teachers to research the actual teaching itself.
It was in one case where one of the research participants indicated that she has
established a practice which required her students to assess her teaching. Lintle used
the findings emanating from the students’ assessment of her practice to improve it. The
extent to which the findings were shared with student teachers and/or the extent to
which students had the opportunity to interrogate these were not verified. Researching
teaching therefore, although highly encouraged in teacher education programmes
(Loughran, 2007), does not seem to feature much in the context in which the current
study was carried out.
However, taking Lintle’s case further, there emerges a situation of trust and openness to
her own students. She demonstrated what Loughran (2006) refers to as promoting
personal relationship with own students. Encouraging student teachers to assess her
might influence her students to build such relationships with their own students.
Loughran (2006) argues that building personal relationship with own students adds to
shaping the nature of pedagogy of teacher education. Additionally, enacting the
pedagogy of teacher education requires that teacher educators observe relationships in
teacher education as a critical element (Loughran, 2006). In fact, as the proponent of
this aspect of enacting the pedagogy of teacher education points out, teacher educators
can promote relationships through their own actions. They can also do so through
encouraging student teachers to learn from the questions and critiques of the teaching
used to teach them.
Instructional media emerged as an area that pertains to facilitating teaching in the
context of this study. Although in very few instances teacher educators had the
opportunity to use other forms of instructional media, a not so positive issue in this
regard was the predominance of the use of the whiteboard and to a lesser extent the use
of an overhead projector or modern technology. None of the participants used modern
instructional technologies such as a PowerPoint presentations and a projector, even in
situations where the class size was so large and the students would have benefited from
such an instructional medium. As established in a research study undertaken in the
Lesotho College of Education by Lewin and Stuart (2003), it is fair to conclude that
student teachers who mainly observe their educators using traditional forms of media
frequently tend to depend on their teacher educators more than would be expected at
this level of education. Additionally, it is very likely that student teachers would follow this
pattern in teaching their own students.
I conclude that determining the sources of teacher educators’ knowledge indicates that
they operate in complex and difficult circumstances. The literature (Kroll, 2007) clearly
illustrates the numerous challenges facing teacher educators in various parts of the
world. In particular it has been established that teacher educators are the only teaching
professionals who operate within very complex situations (Loughran, 2006). As indicated
above, their role extends beyond just teaching but requires them to demonstrate to their
own students attitudes that are appropriate to teaching and knowledge and skills of
teaching (Loughran, 2006).
The teacher educators’ complex responsibility is not only to assist student teachers to be
cognizant about learning their content but also to help them see the “competing
agendas” whereby they learn about the content and at the same time learn about
teaching. Therefore, for the teacher educators who participated in this study to
constantly mention school-related activities or practices might have been an attempt to
make their student teachers realise the two agendas.
However, they seem to have done so without actually making students question such
issues. Therefore the teacher educators were not analytical about how to engage their
students in seeing teacher education from the teacher educators’ perspective.
Additionally, they were not analytical about seeing teaching about teaching from the
student’s perspective, an aspect that Loughran (2006, 2007) argues is critical in enacting
the pedagogy of teacher education. Seeing practice through students’ eyes is an aspect
which Loughran (2006) believes teacher educators have to experience anew. He
challenges teacher educators to think about participating in a conference in which a
mass of complicated PowerPoint slides are presented. Presumably encountering
problems in such a conference would help teacher educators think about their own
practice and how it impacts on their student teachers.
Discussing the findings and grounding the arguments on research undertaken seem to
indicate that enacting professional knowledge is an avenue for teacher educators to
learn from their every-day teaching experience. Another avenue could be learning from
engaging in research and constructing professional knowledge.
5.4 Engaging in Creating Knowledge
It transpired from the research participants’ conceptualisation of construction of
professional knowledge that formal education positively contributes to professionals’
tendency to engage in the creation of professional knowledge. It emerged that the
construction of professional knowledge is facilitated by numerous situations, including
relationships with people, engaging in intellectual debates and being in the field with
student teachers. It became clear that constructing professional knowledge can be
realised where teacher educators are free and courageous enough to take initiative
steps towards trying out ideas and being prepared to pursue what is being experimented
with, regardless of failure or success experienced.
The study revealed that in practice professionals encounter numerous challenges.
However, it was not clear whether or not in actual practice teacher educators took
advantage of the challenges within their own practice to create and test new ideas.
Instead, in some cases it may have been an interpretation of situations that accidentally
presented themselves. ’Masethabathaba’s idea that teaching about teaching begins with
making blunders and learning from them implies the lack of an actual plan to research,
other than trial and error, the implementation of new ideas.
However, since the literature (Kremer-Hayon and Zuzouskys, 1995) supports the idea of
trial and error it would seem that the blunders referred to here, since they were made in
the context of teaching, would, provided they were analysed rigorously, serve as
knowledge constructed in the actual world of teaching student teachers. The trial and
error method is classified by Kremer-Hayon and Zusouskys (1995) as constituting one
aspect of knowledge construction.
It also transpired that the manifestation of engaging in the construction of professional
knowledge can be observed in the outputs emanating from a professional’s efforts to
construct knowledge. It emerged that some of the participants had created, although not
documented, their professional philosophies and that their documented materials were in
the form of curricular and assessment materials. For those who had created
philosophies, although theoretical, to a large extent these serve as a guide in their
professional activities. Although some of the research participants involved their
students and challenged them to critique their course outlines it was clear that students
did not have the skill to do so.
Other than the creation of professional philosophies, there were no lessons that
emanated from involvement in the production of teaching and learning materials. This
view is based on the fact that student teachers were minimally involved in activities that
would challenge their views and the fact that they were not provided with opportunities to
do so. Therefore involvement of student teachers remained technical, with teacher
educators having expressed their espoused practical knowledge. In particular, the idea
of being flexible with regard to sharing materials developed and accepting the critique,
and reviewing them with the purpose of improving upon those, added to lessons
emanating from creating own materials and being flexible about their use.
Given that only two of the teacher educators had undergone training that prepared them
for the job, it would seem that all had the freedom to come up with their own
philosophies, to question the style of asking questions they used and to develop their
own curricular and assessment documents. Therefore, while a technical analysis of the
depths of professional development could not be done in the current study it is apparent
that professional development on the part of the teacher educators escalated. As alluded
to above, there is a clear move from the novice level of a professional to other levels.
Research (Bullock, 2007) has established that teacher educators have to find their own
ways from thinking as teachers to thinking as teacher educators. Bullock’s contention is
similar to some of the findings of the current study in that he has established that those
who claimed to have developed their own philosophies, even if these are not
documented, have moved a step towards ownership of teaching and therefore towards
thinking beyond the routine of educating student teachers. However, while the idea of
developing their own philosophies and constructing their own curriculum has implications
for engaging in activities that are of a constructive nature, and at the same time
illustrates the capability of such creation, creating own knowledge is more complex than
this. It is in the work of scholars such as Hamilton (2005) where efforts clearly aimed at
creating new knowledge are articulated through research. Therefore the real challenge
for the teacher educators who participated in this study, especially in the context of
constructing professional knowledge, is undertaking research on their own professional
activities. Doing so should provide meaningful information in the teacher educators’
All the research participants had developed their curriculum in the form of course
outlines. In essence they had engaged in constructing materials needed to facilitate their
own teaching. Analysing their materials revealed that there was one major gap; none
had included pedagogic content knowledge. In the actual teaching three consistently
referred to the course outlines. Yet, making reference to this type of documentation in
situations in which student teachers can engage in analysing the curriculum could serve
as an opportunity to engage them in work created by teacher educators themselves.
Another gap that was established was the failure on the part of the research participants
to analyse these materials critically. Such an analysis would be an opportunity to
establish the extent to which they challenged students’ learning abilities.
Ponte (2010) illustrates the interface between the application of professional knowledge
and its construction. He argues that studying one’s own practice means that learning
would be characterised by simultaneous construction and application of professional
knowledge. Construction and the application of knowledge is in Ponte’s view part of the
same cyclical process in that professionals apply knowledge, gather information,
interpret that information and thereby construct new knowledge which they then apply.
To construct the knowledge student teachers would have to develop methodological
knowledge, about how to study practice.
Construction of professional knowledge therefore implies engaging in research and
producing new knowledge and in the context of teacher education researching own
practice. Russell (2007) shares his experience whereby he pursued Schőn’s concept of
reflection-in-action. Pursuing Schőn’s concept required him to study his own teaching to
understand whether he really was changing his teaching and whether his students
perceived him as modelling new practice. In essence Russell tested the theory with the
intention of constructing new knowledge in the context of teaching. Other researchers
share Russell’s view that constructing professional knowledge can be achieved through
research among other activities. Dinkleman et al. (2001), for example, encourage
teacher educators to undertake research. They see teacher education as a place where
the breakthroughs and insights of knowledge and practice in teaching and learning are
immediately applicable and constantly questioned and tested. Such a view confirms the
value attached to teacher educators generating new knowledge through undertaking
There ample opportunities for teacher educators who participated in this study to explore
creating professional knowledge in their teaching practice and in researching their work
were not explored.
5.5 Modelling Professional Knowledge
Information on conceptualisation of modelling in the context of teacher educators
revealed that teacher education should provide a sound foundation to the student
teachers that will emerge from the programmes offered to them. The expectation is that
they should emulate personalities that are considered representative of teacher
education. In this context teacher educators should model the expected behaviour. Most
importantly, teacher educators should help student teachers to love the profession
through acting in ways that will provide lessons on how to teach effectively.
Furthermore, modelling professional knowledge as conceptualised by the research
participants entails moving beyond the actual teaching and ensuring that student
teachers are nurtured and mentored. A particular group of student teachers who needed
more attention were classified as those who may have either enrolled in the education
programmes because they did not qualify to be admitted in a faculty in which they would
have otherwise preferred to be enrolled, and are therefore in the faculty of education by
accident. This group of students were classified as a special group that would require
teacher educators to work in ways that would attract them to persist in the profession.
Although such a group was identified as a special group, I argue that all student
teachers need to be addressed as a group or individuals so that they can graduate from
a teacher education programme having been provided with similar knowledge and skills.
Other researchers who have tested the theory of modelling in the context of teacher
education provide more descriptions of modelling as a concept. The descriptions help to
clarify what this concept entails and help to elaborate on what the research participant
thought it entailed. Kroll (2007) is of the view that modelling is inherent in all that teacher
educators do in teacher education which in practice may be intended or unintended
regardless of whether they are conscious of their actions or not. Therefore, in her view
modelling, can be “conceptualized as teaching in the very ways we encourage our
students to teach but to do so with the intention of offering them access to thoughts of,
and knowledge about, such practice by explicating the underlying purpose of that
teaching approach” Kroll, 2007,p.94).
Observing modelling good practice in action seemed to be a challenge for both the
researcher and most teacher educators. The challenge for this researcher mainly
regarded what to classify as modelling in situations where activities remained tacit. One
of the participants pointed out that in modelling good behaviour teacher educators have
to walk the talk and walk it in ways that ensure that the one’s ‘walking the talk’
demonstrates the best way of doing so. It was again in this particular teacher educator
where ‘walking the walk’ was observed not only in her dynamic ways of delivering the
content but in her level of involving students, her decisions to work with groups of
students in a class of more than 300 which illustrated her dynamism. The type of group
activities that students presented challenged them to the extent that some observers
could classify her lessons as chaotic while others might view them as facilitating learning
so that student teachers could adopt such strategies or model after her.
On the one hand she was consistent in acting out her Master’s Degree thesis and her
philosophy, which tended to focus on challenging students to act in ways that do not
take things for granted. In another example, as clearly stipulated in the data analysis and
interpretation chapter, she challenged students to critique test or examination questions.
On the other hand, the challenge such as the problems of teaching large classes as
referred to by most participants, did not seem to affect the dynamic ways that Peditta
used in delivering her content heavily.
However, even for this teacher educator, whose efforts could be classified as
exceptionally good, efforts to model professional ways of teaching teachers fell short of
empowering the student teachers with what research suggests is modelling professional
knowledge. The literature indicates that modelling entails involving student teachers in
activities that allow them to critique or question the very teaching process. The purpose
of questioning the very teaching would be to provide student teachers with opportunities
of seeing the complexities of the practice (Loughran, 2006). In this regard efforts
intended to facilitate “walking the talk” are not as simplistic in nature as the cliché might
suggest, especially given that teacher educators operate on a number of levels. These
levels include demonstrating how to “walk the talk” and help prospective teachers to,
according to Guifoyle (1995), understand how theories are implemented in practice.
Observing the explicit activities and perhaps good practice that could be classified as
modelling professional knowledge was mainly in the use of instructional materials. This
was particularly so in the use of the whiteboard, textbooks and the development of
games that could be used in teaching Mathematics Education. In this regard fewer
research participants were observed acting in ways that could be classified as
observable modelling of professional knowledge.
Besides the use of instructional media, a peculiar incident was in modelling time
management and motivating prospective teachers to act in ways that indicated that they
too respect time. Despite the value that may be attached to time in the teaching
profession, students never, at least during the period of observing the concerned
research participants, had the opportunity to deliberate on time as a factor or relevant
concept. Such an opportunity would probably indicate to them that teaching is not just
about content or pedagogy but that there are many other teaching and learning-related
aspects that are equally important in their field of study.
Another explicit activity that may be regarded as similar to those not directly focusing on
the actual learning and teaching was observed in the context in which student teachers
were encouraged to celebrate Teachers’ Day. The celebration was deliberate and
intended to motivate student teachers to love the profession that they were pursuing.
The presentations by individual student teachers were moving, as one student talked or
commented after another recited a poem. These presentations were their own creation
and were meant to contribute towards celebrating international teachers’ day. The
celebration may have had an impact on the attitudes and perceptions of all student
teachers who participated in it, yet failure to deliberate on the issues raised in the
presentations or in poems that were recited delimits the extent to which the student
teachers could critique the profession itself. Thus the teacher educator who facilitated
the celebration of Teachers’ Day missed the opportunity to engage student teachers in
critical thinking.
While it was clear from the conceptualisation that the participants were conversant with
modelling and how to model professional knowledge, there were some challenges. The
dilemma is that modelling good practice for the majority mainly remained espoused
rather than enacted. In their view their efforts to model were hampered by working
conditions. Complaints about large class size, infrastructure and lack of equipment
suggested that the context had to be conducive in order to facilitate modelling. It does
not seem that this group of research participants realised, as pointed out in the literature,
that the actual teaching of content and the pedagogy employed to convey that content
(Loughran 2006) embrace modelling.
Therefore, as articulated in the published literature, modelling in the context of teacher
education, in which teacher educators teach about teaching “something”, is always being
modelled, regardless of whether it is good or not so good, deliberate practice or not so
deliberate (Loughran, 2006). That modelling does not have boundaries might explain
why in one incident one of the participants who consistently used the words “you are
stupid or don’t be stupid”, was surprised when in one of her classes she cautioned
students to be careful about the language they use; for example, she reminded them
that they should never call students stupid, to which they all reacted by laughing. By
implication, even the language that those who teach student teachers use in their
teaching could have an impact of a modelling of either good or not so good behaviour or
Although scenarios were used to illustrate some of the modelling activities observed in
undertaking this study, modelling is in itself a complex undertaking. It may remain
implicit; yet those who are observing an individual act out in certain ways may choose to
or not to adopt what may be transpiring in a classroom situation. The issue that was
shared by the research participants regarding the students who passed through their
classes indicates that student teachers may choose to model after their former teacher
educators. A study undertaken in the Lesotho’s College of Education confirmed that
student teachers emulate or identify with their best teachers. That they emulate their
teacher educators is dependent on their perception regarding what they consider as
good or bad. Therefore the criteria that student teachers use to model after a particular
teacher educator is subject to further research. Additionally, the extent to which they are
consciously aware of this remains unanswered.
However, as Kosnik (2007) argues, modelling, especially in the context of effective
teaching, must be accompanied by an appropriate narrative that explains one’s teaching.
In such a context, student teachers would begin to understand the complexity and
challenges of teaching. A demonstration whereby teacher educators for example model
how to handle a “perplexing pedagogical situation” would reveal to student teachers that
teaching is not easy even to people who are teaching teaching. Senese (2007) adds that
teacher educators who are perceived as continuous learners of teaching tend to
command respect from student teachers. He concludes by pointing out that, “making
practice transparent is [as] equally important as being informed instructors” (p.57). The
implication of Senese’ views is that one strategy of modelling teaching practice or
modelling professional knowledge is being open about lessons accruing from one’s
practice. Observant student teachers could draw from such situations how they would
act in their own teaching.
The participants of this study, while they appeared knowledgeable of what modelling
entailed, had not undertaken any research on this aspect of their work. However, some
researchers have studied modelling in their own contexts. Modelling in the work
undertaken by Hamilton (2005) is demonstrated by learning from an experienced
colleague. She points out that in undertaking research that influenced her life as a
teacher educator she was influenced by a colleague whose career was at its end while
Hamilton had just joined the carder of teacher educators.
Hamilton (2005) explored researching her work using self-study as a way through which
she would solicit more information about her own teaching. Her literature review
revealed that extensive research on teacher knowledge had been undertaken. There
were therefore a number of lessons drawn from the literature. One of the important
messages that the literature portrayed was the suggestion that teacher educators must
“be good models in the ways that they examine research, demonstrated knowledge, and
address experience” (p.91). Engaging in research and reviewing the literature impacts
on the professional development of those who embark on such literature reviews.
One other finding regards the prospects of learning from producing teaching and
learning material. Although about three of the research participants for the current study
claimed to have engaged in the production of teaching and learning materials other than
documented curriculum in the form of course outlines, none had in practice studied the
impact of using materials that one has produced. Research, however, suggests that
producing and publishing own work adds to professional knowledge (Kosnik, 2005).
Presumably such an experience could add to modelling producing own materials for use
by students.
Kosnik (2005) shared the research work in which researchers celebrated the publication
of the International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices.
The two volume work which addresses key issues in teacher education, in her view,
seemed to have “moved [them] both symbolically and literally into a central place in the
teacher education community. The handbook further formalises “much of what [had]
been learned about being a teacher educator and detailed qualities of effective teacher
education programmes” (p.216). Kosnik’s ideas about publishing research work and
being fulfilled from the experience relates to an expression by some of the current study
participants that professionals are fulfilled if their work is referred to in publications or in
conference papers. Presumably the teacher educators who felt this way saw
publications as contributing to their professional development.
One issue missing in discussion about research was actually engaging student teachers
to undertake research themselves; yet, as the literature suggests one of the objectives of
teacher education programmes as articulated by Kroll (2005) must be to help pre-service
candidates develop the technical theoretical knowledge that will allow them to create
their own solutions to the challenges they meet as they teach. Kroll (2005) further argues
that inquiry is a powerful tool that can help teachers problematise the situation that they
encounter. They can systematically examine the issues involved and subsequently find
solutions that may carry over into more than one situation. Educating teacher educators
on the benefits of undertaking research could help them not only to attain research skills
but also to see the value of researching their own work. In this way reflecting on their
practice for purposes of improving that practice would not be informed by experience
only but experience would be coupled with empirical information. Most importantly, they
would be modelling to student teachers how research on one’s career could contribute to
professional development.
Based on the discussions presented above it is appropriate to conclude that this part of
the chapter presents lessons learned by the research participants and the challenges
that they are faced with. The following section of the chapter depicts, by presenting
cases of three of the participants, the numerous lessons that accrued from practice. The
following section is presented as a deliberate link between the preceding section and the
one that follows. The last section of the chapter focuses on learning in the context of
teacher education as a possible consequence of the current study.
5.6 Drawing Practical Professional Knowledge from Practice: the
Cumulative Snowball model
This study has revealed that teacher educators who participated in it draw their
professional knowledge from both the programmes they enrolled in as students
(propositional knowledge) at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and the
practical knowledge (phronesis) they draw from practice. They have learned to teach
teachers in the teacher education institutions and in their capacity as teacher educators.
In this regard, while not downplaying the fact that in practice they still make reference to
documented information and learn from it, what they have accumulated is practical
knowledge. The conclusion that they have drawn from practice as I indicated earlier,
does not dispute the fact that they use propositional knowledge in teaching. Hence
reference to the work of Van Driel, Beijaard and Verloop (2001) in this regard.
Van Driel et al. (2001) view practical knowledge as a form of knowledge developed or
constructed by teachers in their context of work. The relevance of their work in this
section of Chapter 5 is the emphasis on the idea that practical knowledge integrates
experiential knowledge, formal knowledge and personal beliefs and that it is often
implicit in nature. As I illustrate with the 3 cases to follow, accumulating or learning from
practical knowledge is an important area that this study has established.
I have also discussed various types of knowledge in the literature review chapter.
However, due to the relevance of “knowledge” in this section, I revisit the concepts
episteme and phronesis, especially in the context of teacher education. On the one
hand, according to Loughran (2006), episteme is propositional knowledge, consisting of
assertions of a general nature that apply to many different situations and problems. It is
traditional, scientifically-derived knowledge that is often described in abstract terms and
considered to be objective and timeless. On the other hand, Loughran (2006) argues,
phronesis is a form of practical wisdom that is derived through understanding specific
situations and cases. It is therefore understood as being developed through experience
whereby the knowledge gained may not be immediately generalisable, but is certainly
appropriate to a given situation. This assertion about phronesis was emphasised by one
of the research participants as she articulated that practically-based knowledge is not
“tangible” and that it is not transferable.
Loughran’s (2006) work is more relevant in this section as he contextualises these two
forms of knowledge in teacher education. In his view, to both student teachers and
teacher educators, epistemic knowledge is not immediately helpful in addressing
problems of practice. Instead, experiencing the tensions, dilemmas and problems of
practice is necessary in order to learn through the accumulation of knowledge of
The other two and equally related concepts that have been discussed in the literature
chapter are metalearning and metacognition. Metalearning is described as the
knowledge that enables learners to be effective as they learn about learning or take
control of their learning (Jackson, 2003, Institute of Education, London, 2001, Slabbert et
al., 2009). Loughran (2006) refers to metacognition as thinking about thinking and
Livingston (1997) adds that metacognitve knowledge refers to general knowledge about
how human beings learn and process information, including an individual’s knowledge of
one’s own learning.
I elaborated in Chapter 3 what the concept learning as articulated in the work of Flavel
(1979) entails. In the context of this study and following on Loughran’s (2006) assertions
about recognising metacognition in teacher education, the extent to which teacher
educators who participated in this study were able to question their own teaching would
be an indication of employing these various forms of learning.
In this section of Chapter 5 I present my analogy using the “teacher educator teaching
snowball experience model”. I do so to illustrate that experience has provided the
teacher educators who participated in this study with a landscape from which they have
drawn their practical knowledge and have therefore acquired knowledge on teaching
about teaching.
As I indicate in the pages that follow the snowball cumulative model I adopt Pillay’s
(2007) ideas about choice of research participants. She correlates her methodology to
telling three tales of her research participants. She indicates that she does so to find the
complementary values that may bring some depth to understandings of her research
participants. In the case of this study, the three cases are meant to illustrate issues
pertaining to cumulative learning.
5.7 Cases on Learning to Teach Teachers
I emphasise here that while the unit of analysis for this study was eight teacher
educators, I chose three research participants, mainly to illustrate that while professional
knowledge is drawn from both formal education and practice, practice presents more
opportunities for acquiring professional knowledge.
Put differently, and as articulated by one of the research participants, professional
knowledge is not static as it expands like a “hypothetical ball which keeps growing”
(Peditta). The study adopts the idea of a snowball to illustrate that as long as teacher
educators continue to practise they at the same time are accumulating practical
professional knowledge:
Description of Figure 5.1: The Snowball in Teacher Educators’ “landscapes”: A
Cumulative Knowledge Model
The small ball of snow represents academic or formal knowledge obtained from training.
It is the core of professional knowledge gained in both undergraduate and postgraduate
courses including research courses.
Once it starts rolling down the hill or the teacher educators’ professional lives evolve, it
picks up snow along the way and grows bigger and bigger.
The added snow is the person’s experiential knowledge, what he gains from all the main
experiences he has in a professional life, across the varied landscape. The snowball
does not shrink but grows with each experience. These are the bits and pieces of snow
that get gathered: experiences gathered through others including colleagues, school
teachers and students; holding administrative positions and participating in meetings that
reveal what may have been taken for granted; the actual teaching practice itself at the
university, other levels in which one taught before taking a position of a teacher
educator, using instructional media and assessing students; supervision of instruction
and research; engaging in professional activities such as undergoing training and
participating in conferences; opportunities provided by other avenues such as academic
links, membership of professional organisations and through contribution in national
education development by providing services, including undertaking research. Some
parts of the landscape may be snow free, where professionals do not pick up any new
professional knowledge and some may be especially snowy where professionals pick up
a lot of snow.
In this snow ball analogy there are instances where teacher educators pointed to the
numerous challenges in the context in which the ball rolls; these are possible situations
in which they would not gather any snow.
Presumably, as the ball gains momentum and the professional moves through the varied
“landscape” he/she learns from the experiences as novice, advanced beginner,
competent, proficient teacher and eventually becomes more of an expert (Eraut. 2006).
It may be that while going through the landscape and moving through the different levels
the teacher educators could reach a level at which they are comfortable with bridging the
gap between theory and practice. It is experiencing and moving gradually but being
conscious of the movements that teacher educators could learn through experience
(Loughran, 2006).
Figure 5.1: The Snowball in Teacher Educators’ “landscapes”: A
Cumulative Knowledge Model
Illustrative Cases
Three cases of three research participants were chosen out of 8 for illustrative purposes.
I describe the approach used in selecting these 3 elaborately in Chapter 2 being the
methodology chapter. I add a few points on the approach followed in the choice in this
While it may not be common to use a “winnowing” strategy with the research
participants, given that it is commonly used in analysing data, this strategy is used here
to illustrate a point; the 3 research participants present a clear picture of their
professional progression in teacher education and therefore help to illustrate how they
have been learning how to teach in practice; Chapter 4 shows how much of their data
has been used to illustrate the various findings presented in that chapter. I cannot deny
the fact that while there may be other participants with extensive data, 3 is a reasonable
number to work with, especially for illustrative purposes. I therefore decided on
winnowing to use a reasonable number with extensive data.
I am influenced at this level by the justification that Pillay (2007) followed in choosing her
research participants. In her study the stories of the participants tended to complement
each other; there were commonalities. In the case of the current study, besides the fact
that the participants came from three different departments, their narratives and lessons
observed were more telling. In her work Pillay argues that “if methodology is not only
about gathering data but also about hearing the data, writing the data and giving form to
the data, not only by the researchers but also by the participants and readers, then
methodology is constantly in progress (p.24). I borrow this idea of a methodology that is
constantly in progress. It was in analysing the data that I decided that three of the eight
participants would help illustrate how the research participants have been experiencing
teacher education in practice.
The cases chosen are those of Peditta, Zinzi and ‘Masethabathaba who were from the
departments of Educational Foundations, Language and Social Education and Science
Education respectfully. These cases illustrate the point being made regarding the
accumulation of professional knowledge. This is a section that builds on the
“snowball/cumulative” model presented above.
5.7.1 The Case of Peditta
There definitely is consistency in what Peditta believes in and her practice. The Basis of Entry into Teacher Education
Peditta entered teacher education accidentally in that although she had not taken
courses on teacher education at undergraduate level she joined it through applying to an
advertised post. She admits that while she became a teacher educator by accident she
had grown to like and enjoy it. Interestingly, the fact that she entered ‘through a
backdoor’ propels her constantly to seek out those areas where she thinks that the
needs that she has will be addressed.
The circumstances of teaching teachers without a teacher education qualification
persuaded her to enrol in a programme that would prepare her for the task. It was during
her work on her thesis, which required her to use a developmental approach that she
learned about life skills, which included making predictions, being skills that are needed
by children. Undertaking research at Master’s degree level laid the foundation for the
career that she was going to embrace: teacher education. She says her Master’s degree
dissertation helped her to see the relationship between it and a child. In teaching she
sees this dissertation unfold, and it has remained a major point of reference throughout
her professional life. The decision to take courses that would prepare her to teach
teachers was taken with the understanding that she needed knowledge and skills that
could be provided by academic institutions. Using Propositional Knowledge as a Guide
Peditta’s philosophy very clearly correlates with her dissertation. She sees herself as
someone whose mandate as a teacher educator is to assist her student teachers to
change. She perceives herself as a person with the ability to intervene in people’s lives
to promote change and help them realise their potential, even if it is lying dormant. She
uses her own experience as someone who joined teacher education by accident and
takes advantage of her background in psychology, which requires her to intervene in
peoples’ lives and to go deep into those lives to unleash the potential which may be
flickering a little, and therefore try to kindle it. She therefore perceives herself as
someone who has the burden of first of all showing that what she does is something
worthwhile, so that student teachers can feel that they also want to do it. The Teacher Education Context and Implications
Peditta sees the context in which one operates as a teacher educator as important; it
can contribute to professional development or can make one feel stagnated. She feels
that teacher educators can either choose to stay within existing contexts or create their
own. She sees working within the context of the University as helping her to grow as a
teacher educator. There are, however, challenges of working with students and
colleagues that contribute to her tendency to reflect constantly in terms of what she
actually does or what she tries to do.
She indicates that the context of the University in terms of its mandate of teacher
development provides an important dimension to the training of teachers. It is through
her work with teachers who are out in schools that she feels she gets to know the extent
to which she has made an impact in her teaching. Working with teachers in the schools
provides a rich experience in terms of how teacher education has to be conducted. She
has learned that teaching teachers is very complex as it depends on individuals to do the
best with what they have, because what has been taught cannot work the same for
everybody else. Additionally, teachers in the field have come out with their own ways of
interpreting what they have learned. They are sophisticated in their way of interpreting
their environment and making use of what they have learned. Peditta says the best
approach that she has adopted is to give theories, but also make things tentative so that
student teachers, even after qualifying as teachers, should know that what has been
taught has to remain flexible enough to use in whatever context one finds oneself.
At another level, Peditta sees the importance of teacher educators actually creating a
context for themselves by identifying niche areas. It is a context where she feels as a
teacher educator she has moved from the general broader view into the specific. It is at
this specific level where she says as an individual she can have an impact through
devoting her time to activities about which she feels passionate. Building Professional Knowledge through Practice
Peditta says the ability to apply propositional knowledge to the extent that application
actually changes this knowledge has proved crucial in her career. It is within a teacher
educators’ landscape that she gets the experience through the opportunities of applying
the knowledge. She has discovered that more often than not plans to apply knowledge
drawn from the theories do not work out as well as she expects. She feels that
experience provides opportunities to keep trying since what may have proved applicable
in one situation may not be transferable to other situations, given that in real life
situations differ. In her view, therefore, propositional knowledge merely lays a foundation
upon which one has to build, although that building never pauses at any point in one’s
professional career. She is able to analyse her practice basing herself on the fact that
she received knowledge that prepared her for the task of teaching student teachers.
250 Relating Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Student Teachers
Peditta says the ability to relate one’s theoretical understanding to practice has to do
with the contextualisation of the theory. In her view it is crucial to present theory to the
student teachers in a sophisticated manner. She admits she enjoys challenging her
students so that they can think beyond their context to help them move in terms of their
intellectual level from a level of simplicity to some level of sophistication of thought.
In this regard students are guided to analyse their context through creating an ideal
situation for them to explore. In doing so she knows that she is saying to her student
teachers that she wants to move them as far as their thought processes are concerned
and expects that they will do the same to their learners, which means moving students
from a certain cognitive level to the next level. She thinks cognitive development is
something that she has been engaged with in her entire career as a teacher educator. In
practice, therefore, she sees the relationship between theory and practice as applying
professional knowledge through theory and practice and in the process helping student
teachers within their context to move from the simple to the complex. Central to Peditta’s
professional activities is student involvement in their own learning. This may be a typical
example of a teacher educator who learns jointly or together with her student teachers. Extent to which Teaching Practice Correlates with Beliefs
I observed Peditta teach student teachers 16 times. In practice she lives her philosophy
and what she truly believes in. She is outright in involving student teachers in their own
learning. Students study cases from the module she produced herself. On rare
occasions they may perform their tasks individually but would be expected to return to
present their interpretation of what they had been assigned to do.
Peditta’s common strategy is for students to work in groups. She builds communities of
learners and creates a context in which students collaborate as they investigate a topic
in preparation to come and share their findings. She does so also after posing a question
and asking students to discuss in small groups of sometimes just two students.
Peditta did not appear to be disturbed by the almost deafening kind of noise that fills her
lecture or seminar rooms when more than 300 students are in her classes. The
experience of my technician who videotaped lessons and on one occasion claimed that
it did not appear as though there was a lesson to record, is illustrative of the learning
environment in which Peditta operates. Her students research and analyse cases,
discuss and share their interpretation of their assigned case studies. On the day on
which the technician disappeared, Peditta had spoken for three minutes, during which
she instructed student teachers to discuss a case. She mingled with the groups and
students noisily discussed the task at hand. The technician could not regard this as an
exciting part of teaching. He concluded there was no teaching and decided to walk out of
a situation which I interpreted as electrifying.
There were times when she provided explanations or actually lectured. It was only in one
lesson out of the 16 in which she lectured for 32 minutes. Otherwise her explanations
ranged from three to seven minutes. That most of her talks are short illustrates that in
the majority of cases she lets students discover things themselves and present them to
the entire group. Peditta therefore mainly practises a phronesis approach. Her most
common questions are thought-provoking and mainly why and how type of questions. To
a far lesser extent she asks what questions.
It is only in the way she conducts her teaching that one sees the correlation between
what she believes in and her practice. Her interest is helping student teachers to attain
their highest potential and actually involves them in such a manner that they search for
information, and present it so that she can detect the extent to which their interpretations
reflect understanding. In summary she plays the role of facilitator in which she intends to
see student teachers change and become different people from those they were before
enrolling for her course.
Observing Peditta teach confirmed her claim that she upholds the theory of helping
student realise their potential. She concluded her narrative by referring to what could be
considered as her guiding principles: “walk the talk and walk it in ways that ensure that
the ones walking the talk demonstrate the best ways of doing so”. It is Peditta who, after
validating the content of her story, made a comment that the study, in particular being
asked to narrate her story provided her an opportunity to reflect on her thesis. She
realises that she has actually been living her thesis throughout her professional life.
5.7.2 The Case of Zinzi
This is a case of a teacher educator who believes in student creativity. Her background
is in Mathematics education.
252 The Basis of Entry into Teacher Education
Zinzi is an invitee into the world of teacher education. She never dreamed of following
this career. She says she had planned to become a secondary school teacher. Her
university lecturers saw potential in her and invited her to join teacher education at the
level of a teaching assistant. She says she was just lucky. She joined teacher education
as a person prepared to learn from others; a situation which presented tremendous
challenges. Although she was provided with a mentor from whom she would take over,
she could not learn from the colleague’s ways of teaching. Even though she had hoped
that observing her mentor teach and taking notes on how it is done, neither the notes nor
observations served as a guide, when confronted with the task alone, she would not
handle it with ease. She says she grappled with the teaching of student teachers and
had to learn from being immersed in it; a situation she considered messy. Using Propositional Knowledge as a Guide
Zinzi says the courses taken at undergraduate level did not prepare her for teaching in
the school system. Her Mathematics Education lecturer was too theoretical, focusing
mainly on the content of the subject and not on pedagogical content. She left the
university puzzled and not knowing how she would teach. Therefore the propositional
knowledge acquired at the university was not immediately applicable to her world of
teaching. Instead, in practice she listens more to a group of students and transfers ideas
from one group to the next. She learns more from her students.
Her philosophy is that people intending to become teacher educators should start at the
school level. There is value in the practice of teachers in the school system.
Researching education should therefore be a priority. However, she has never seriously
considered doing research on her teaching.
Her Master’s degree programme did not make her a different person in the context of
educating teachers. She says she came back with notes and many new ideas. She used
the notes for teaching. These notes were based on her studies in a foreign country.
Upon reflection she realised that they were not relevant to the Lesotho context. Her
student teachers were very vocal about the claim that the notes were irrelevant. She
says she was lacking in coming up with her own style of teaching and she realised
student teachers were not gaining much from her teaching, as what she was teaching
did not seem to relate to what they would be teaching. However, her PhD course
confirmed her belief that student teachers have to be given some ideas on how they can
improve the teaching of content. The Teacher Education Context and Implications
Zinzi operates in a context that presents numerous challenges. Two of these challenges
are important to her. One is that there is a lack of collegiality in her department and
therefore individuals live in isolated contexts. It is a context in which she prefers to focus
more on students who present another challenge to her life as a teacher educator. Zinzi
says that the problem with many of the students she teaches is that they did not choose
to be teachers. They came because they had nowhere to go, given their low
performance at the end of secondary education examinations. It is for her a difficult
context in which she has to encourage them to like teaching. She strives to help student
teachers attain the knowledge and skills they will use after completion of their studies.
Zinzi says one of the strategies she uses is doing activities as she walks around the
class. She takes advantage of walking around the class to talk to students about what
they want to do in teaching. She says she observes them as they engage in their
teaching practice; they do many unacceptable things. Zinzi says she has to pick them up
by saying positive things so that they do not become depressed, still bearing in mind that
they have to do correct things. It is working with similar groups of students over the
years that inspires her to encourage them to remain in teaching. Building Professional Knowledge through Practice
Zinzi says she uses practice to guide her teaching. She is mostly guided by her intention
to work towards maximising the knowledge of her students. It is in practice where she
says she guides student teachers in terms of the relevant content and pedagogy they
will need in their own teaching. One of her guiding principles is to solicit student
teachers’ backgrounds and their expectations of the syllabus they will use in teaching. In
her actual teaching she relies heavily on the school Mathematics syllabus and engages
students in analysing it. Relating Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Student Teachers
Zinzi says that she learned to use games in teaching her subject content. Most of her
materials were developed at the time that she did her PhD. For the PhD. they took a lot
of computer programmes that have numerous strategies for and are useful in teaching
Mathematics. She teaches them to use games for teaching although her challenge is
that student teachers are so dependent on her that they find it extremely difficult to
construct their own games. She says they are neither able to pick up and design their
own nor do they take her advice to draw from computers and adapt the games so that
they can use them in their situations, often because there are no computers in their
schools. Extent to which Teaching Practice Correlates with Beliefs
I observed Zinzi teach 15 students for 20 lessons. Practical lessons are at the centre of
her teaching. Students are given tasks to work either as individuals or as groups. They
discuss these in class and present them to the rest of the class. Most of the lessons are
guided by the use of games, some of which she has developed herself. This is the only
seminar room that still uses a chalkboard. The chalkboard is mainly used by student
teachers as they explain the answers they came up with. She hardly lectures and in
situations where she has to use expository methods she does so in a few minutes. Her
shortest explanations take a minute and her longest 11 minutes.
Her belief is that student teachers should be helped to acquire the skills and knowledge
they will need for teaching students. She strongly believes that the best approach is a
hands-on one. This belief is clearly displayed in the way she conducts her teaching, with
very little talk but ample practical activities. Her class size made it possible to talk to
individual students as she tried to encourage them to stay in a teaching career.
5.7.3 The Case of ‘Masethabathaba
’Masethabathaba’s orientation is that of language teaching. This orientation becomes
clear from her style of teaching. The Basis of Entry into Teacher Education
Twenty seven years ago ‘Masethabathaba was invited by her former lecturers to join
teacher education. She was identified by two ladies who made her realise she had the
potential to join teacher education. She says she gladly accepted the invitation although
she did not know what it meant to become a teaching assistant. ‘Masethabathaba is an
English language specialist and she was identified as someone who could contribute to
the teaching of English language to student teachers. Her Master’s degree therefore was
to equip her with more knowledge on English language education, especially as it relates
to teaching student teachers. Using Propositional Knowledge as a Guide
‘Masethabathaba says she was taught curriculum studies in English by professionally
seasoned English educationists who knew their subject. She says they emphasised the
importance of being prepared when one went to teach and for some reason much of this
has influenced how she approaches her own teaching. ‘Masethabathaba says she was
socialised for teaching by those professors who later mentored her when she joined
teacher education. Her critique, however, is that it was ‘easier said than done’, because
even as things got emphasised they were not getting involved in the actual development
of instructional materials. Nor was her postgraduate degree in a foreign country helpful.
She was not understood to be seeking for a course that would prepare her for teaching
teachers of the English language. She had to come up with a research topic that would
help her answer her needs: training English language teachers to teach for
communicative competence in English. ‘Masethabathaba says this is what she has lived
since then. She gives student teachers assignments that are grounded on her
dissertation. The Teacher Education Context and Implications
‘Masethabathaba works in a difficult context that is without appropriate teaching
materials or technical support. It is a context in which she cannot even use appropriate
gadgets or infrastructure to deliver her content. She says teaching language education
would benefit from a language laboratory.
She also recognises student teachers who join teacher education after having been
teaching in the school system. They enter teacher education institutions with certain
characteristics and she draws many lessons from this context. The recognition of the
value of those characteristics has stayed with her throughout her 27 years of teaching at
tertiary level. Experienced student teachers bring their experience to bear on their
256 Building Professional Knowledge through Practice
’Masethabathaba has been involved in a number of commissioned research studies.
She says she uses findings of studies undertaken when she teaches. She admits she
was not trained as a teacher educator but that she took advantage of conferences
whenever she could. These would be conferences where teacher educators would be
sharing their views and their experiences in training people in English. It was in such a
context that she acquired the idea of becoming a teacher educator. She indicated that
she values real life exposures more than going to class to be taught and specialise and
come out with a certificate. Some of her experiences include interactions with others,
participation in conferences, sitting in large committees and commissions, and being
assigned or commissioned to undertake professional work in her field of specialisation.
These are meaningful to her. She concluded that if she could claim any authority or any
professional knowledge at all “it’s because of acquisition more than being formally taught
learning”. Relating Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Student Teachers
In practice, ‘Masethabathaba argues that her teaching is more practice-based than
theoretical. She says she has learned from her mistakes; coming into the lecture room
and lecturing and walking out at the end of her 50 minutes has never worked for her as it
does not help much on the part of student teachers. ‘Masethabathaba says she has
realised that if she comes to class, presents a topic but engages her students in the
presentation of that topic, she tends to reap better results. Her students tend to
understand and learn more and, depending again on activities that she gives them, they
are better able to be active and take responsibility for their own learning. Extent to which Teaching Practice Correlates with Beliefs
‘Masethabathaba was observed teaching 21 lessons. She is an outright expository type
of lecturer capable of lecturing for 50 minutes. Her shortest explanation was 6 minutes.
In practice she was observed giving 13 lectures, ranging from 6 to 15, 27, 30, and 45
minutes, with 3 being 50 minutes. In five of the observed lectures, student teachers did
presentations and 3 of the lessons were a combination of her presentation and asking
questions. So in practice very few of her lectures actually involved students.
5.8 Correlating the Cases to the Teacher Educator Cumulative
Snowball Model
The cases exemplify how teacher educators who participated in the study have
accumulated practical knowledge through learning to teach student teachers. It is very
clear that the three combine their propositional knowledge with practical knowledge in
their day-to-day teaching. All have encountered challenges in their work which
persuaded them to reflect constantly on their practice. A challenge that Kroll (2007) says
is very important is that teacher educators reflect on their practice through framing a
problem and reframing it for purposes of learning from that experience.
The idea of reflecting on practice is facilitated by working with student teachers who
require teacher educators to think constantly about how they can engage students in
their learning. It is in the context of practice where, whether intentionally or
unintentionally, enactment of professional knowledge provides opportunities for
accumulating practical knowledge. It is in the same contexts of enactment of
professional knowledge that learning takes place.
All three research participants whose stories are used to illustrate the accumulation of
professional knowledge had the opportunity of either teaching experienced student
teachers or meeting graduates who shared with them their experiences gained from
teaching. The shared experiences are indicative of learning from experience
encountered by the student teachers or graduates. Teacher educators do reflect on
these experiences to the extent of using scenarios in their own teaching and in the
process accumulate professional knowledge. Teacher educators think about how they
have been conducting teaching and how that experience impacts on their own teaching.
But most importantly, the depth of the experiences illustrates that theoretical or
propositional knowledge gathered in teacher education institutions merely lays the
ground but practice needs to be experienced as there are practical experiences to be
dealt with in the real world of work.
Modelling comes out as an area in which these teacher educators have had an
opportunity to accumulate knowledge. It is from the relationships that they have
established with their student teachers that they realise they have in many ways
contributed to their learning.
Although it is clear that practice has facilitated learning as illustrated by the research
participants, the fact is that in practice teacher educators gather more snow or
experience and there are situations where there is little or no snow to gather. Very
clearly they make reference to research but the research being alluded to, while it
provides opportunities to construct new knowledge and learn from it, does not seem to
inform practice. It does not immediately enrich their practice as would be the case with
research undertaken in their own context. Accumulation of knowledge in this regard is
biased; it is mainly in the context of teaching and other activities such as participating in
developing policies that they seem to have accumulated knowledge. The lack of snow to
gather or small patches of snow are clear signs that the major challenge for these
teacher educators is in undertaking research in their own teaching. The observed
challenge is noted, fully cognisant of views expressed by other researchers who seem to
sympathise with the situations in which teacher educators find themselves. For example,
Murray (2010) is of the view that there are factors that restrict the time and opportunities
for teacher educators to participate in research. One of these is declining financial
support from governments.
Regardless of Murray’s observations, as pointed out by several other researchers,
Campbell and McNamara (2010), Groundwater-Smith and Campbell (2010), and
Kessels and Korthagen (2001) teacher educators’ or academics’ work has to be
informed by research. Campbell and McNamara (2010) point out that research is central
to professional learning; it is more about assimilation of knowledge rather than its
gathering. Teacher educators have to take ownership of their professional learning and
manage change in their classrooms through knowledge production. Another area that is
alluded to in which there is little snow being gathered is with regard to learning from
colleagues. Kessels and Korthagen (2001) acknowledge that teacher educators need to
collaborate and perhaps learn from colleagues.
In conclusion, the model illustrates that in practice teacher educators accumulate
professional knowledge or that they learn about teaching regardless of some serious
discrepancies such as a lack of undertaking research on their own work. There are
situations during which learning is more significant than in others; hence the idea that
they gather more snow and depend less on a situation in which they operate. Reflections
or the various experiences gathered as teacher educators enact the pedagogy of
teacher education discussed in the previous chapter is elaborated on in this chapter.
Reflections could provide an opportunity for teacher educators to analyse their own
learning. Therefore, the concepts discussed earlier in this section, namely, learning,
metalearning, metacognition, episteme and phronesis are made relevant in this study by
the incidences discussed in this chapter and in Chapter 4 and concretised in Chapter 6.
5.9 Conclusion
This chapter has discussed the findings of the study. It is clear that, while the sources of
professional knowledge presented in the chapter on data analysis and interpretation are
numerous, these are mainly based on practice. It is practice that facilitates
experimenting with ideas, constructing new knowledge and using the acquired
knowledge in the context of teaching teachers. The research participants did not even
realise how much they have been guided by knowledge they have accumulated over the
years of teaching as teacher educators.
Based on the findings of the study, particularly that learning for most of them happened
without them actually planning it, I decided to include a section on learning in this
chapter, but direct it at moving beyond the teacher educators themselves to how the
proposed new learning could guide the way in which student teachers will be helped to
shape their own learning. The understanding here is that once they (student teachers)
emulate learning as a construct they too will transfer this into the school system and
therefore to their own students.
Based on the discussion presented in this chapter, I move to the conclusion chapter,
which ends with suggestions for the future. The first suggestion is on how learning could
be infused in the Lesotho teacher education programmes and the second proposes
future research by teacher educators and subsequently the creation of new knowledge.
Wisdom of Practice in Teaching: The practice of teaching involves a far more complex
task environment … teachers and students can probably learn to engage in more
complex and unpredictable students’ responses. But more careful preparation of
teachers and of their classes may be needed to support such an effort. For one, a
teacher may have to develop deeper content knowledge and pedagogical content
knowledge to respond adequately to higher frequencies of less predictable student
contributions (Shulman, 2004, p.258 and 264).
6.1. Conclusions
6.2. Challenges of the Study for Teacher Educators and their professional Learning
and Development
6.3. Implications of the Study
6.4. Conclusion and the Thesis
6.1 Conclusions
6.1.1 Introduction
The details of the methodology used in carrying out the study, including the justification
for its appropriateness are provided in Chapter 2. Nevertheless it suffices to refer briefly
to them in this chapter in order to contextualise the conclusions drawn and their
implications. An interpretivist approach was followed in undertaking this study. Data was
collected through three approaches: narrative, observations of teacher educators’
practice and an analysis of the curriculum and assessment documents.
The unit of analysis was eight teacher educators who were based at the National
University of Lesotho’s Faculty of Education. Their teaching experience, the department
in which they were based, their disciplines, their willingness to participate in the study
brought about diversity in carrying out the study. Verification of the extent to which the
topic was researchable was done through undertaking a pilot study.
There were immense benefits that accrued from using a qualitative methodology in
carrying out this study. As articulated in Chapter 2 it was possible to solicit the research
participants’ stories about their experience as teacher educators only through engaging
them in sharing those experiences. The benefit of qualitative research is seeing action in
reality through observations as opposed to being told about how teacher educators
teach. Narratives alone would not have revealed the massive data that was collected
through actual observations.
The study intended to find answers to the major question, “What are the sources and
application of professional knowledge among teacher educators? The encompassing
sub-questions are: What sources contribute to teacher educators’ professional
knowledge? How do teacher educators enact professional knowledge? What types of
professional knowledge do teacher educators construct and how do they construct
them? And how do teacher educators model professional knowledge? However, they
were manageable, especially given the approaches that were used to collect data.
Asking the questions facilitated gathering data that informed the entire study.
I have derived several conclusions after undertaking this study. The institution that hired
the teacher educators who participated in this study has immersed them in the work of
teaching teachers regardless of the credentials they held. Therefore, the challenge for
this institution is not so much on the credentials that the newly employed teachers hold
but its ensuring that teacher educators are provided with facilities that will facilitate their
efforts to learn at work. Work-based learning has been found to be more relevant than
learning in a formal setting.
The major finding of this study however, regardless of whether some have relevant
credentials, is that working in teacher education programme and teaching student
teachers has provided them an opportunity to learn to teach teachers in practice. They
therefore sourced professional knowledge in practice.
6.1.2 The Status of Teacher Educators and Implications
Despite the fact that this was not a cause and effect study, there is no doubt that a
number of issues have a direct relationship to teacher educators. For example, some
questions were on characteristics of teacher educators. Additionally, reviewing literature
on the profession as well as looking into the impact of reforms on education systems and
mechanisms that governments or states put in place to manage education were other
issues. These issues illustrated a direct relationship between these and teacher
educators. Education provided, especially where education reforms are commonly
implemented, directly benefits from institutions that train teachers. In practice, whether
directly or indirectly, international and local initiatives such as the Education for All
initiative, impact on the training of teachers.
The finding that few teacher educators received training on teaching student teachers is,
as elaborated in Chapters 1 and 3 not unique to Lesotho. In this study only 2 out of the 8
research participants had taken courses that prepared them for teaching in teacher
education programmes. It is therefore important to record that it has been empirically
established that this is the case at the National University of Lesotho too. A lack of
professional qualifications in the teacher education field has implications for teacher
education stakeholders.
The employing institution, being the National University of Lesotho, needs to encourage
teacher educators to formally engage in continuing professional development
opportunities. Most importantly, the teacher educators need to drastically engage in
researching their practice and learning from that activity.
The literature review has also revealed that training of academics is the trend in some
developed countries. In Lesotho as illustrated earlier, sporadic workshops are held for
people and/or academics teaching in various faculties of the National University of
Lesotho. Additionally, this study has established that teacher educators who participated
take part in workshops and conferences that equip them with new knowledge. However,
the major benefit for training in as far as teacher educators are concerned would be to
ensure that the knowledge that they have accumulated in practice is deliberated on and
made to contribute on new developments in teacher education. In that regard,
accumulated knowledge would be considered relevant in the education of teacher
educators. Such training could be facilitated by educators who are well grounded in the
teacher educator pedagogy and/or discipline. Presumably, well grounded teacher
educators would ensure that there is synergy between practice based knowledge and
emerging theories. Most importantly, public awareness of the on-going training
structured in the manner described here might impact on professionalisation of teacher
educators in Lesotho.
The literature review has further revealed that education reforms are initiated and
implemented by governments or states. Reference has been made in the literature to
programmes such as Teach for America. Decisions made at government level to reform
education systems impact on the education of student teachers. The Education for All
(EFA) initiative is one such programme from which Lesotho implemented a Free Primary
Education Programme (FPE). FPE has an impact on the education of teachers who
teach in the school system and are a product of teacher education institutions. As a
result of the FPE initiative, class sizes at the primary and secondary school levels have
suddenly become very large. Therefore, using teaching techniques that will respond to
this development requires teacher educators to be innovative and model strategies for
dealing with innovations.
The literature review also makes reference to standards and government’s and state’s
decisions to maintain quality through establishing and operationalising quality assurance
institutions. The said organisations are responsible for ensuring that education systems
adhere to quality and standards. This development, while being addressed in other parts
of the world, remains a challenge in Lesotho and therefore needs to be resolved. The
recently established Higher Education Quality Assurance Committee (HEQAC) of the
Lesotho Council on Higher Education, in addressing issues of quality assurance, should
pay special attention to the teacher educators’ carder.
6.1.3 Sources of Professional Knowledge
Two major sources of professional knowledge have emerged: propositional and/or
received professional knowledge, and practical and/or experiential knowledge.
Question 1: What sources contribute to teacher educators’ professional knowledge?
Teacher educators holding a Bachelor of Education Degree (B.Ed), as well as those who
took postgraduate courses related to the teaching of teachers resort to knowledge
gained at the various degree levels to inform their practice and/or the teaching of student
teachers. Narrative data revealed that courses that were considered relevant to the
teaching of teachers by those who enrolled in them are supervision of instruction,
educational management. Teacher educators, therefore, given that their initial
professional knowledge was propositional, relied on conceptual knowledge received
from teacher education programmes in their teaching of student teachers.
Teacher educators with an education background regard propositional knowledge to be
foundational to the practice of teaching teachers. In practice, the majority of teacher
educators use the teaching methods they were taught to use at the time they enrolled in
teacher education programmes themselves. Nonetheless, learning to teach teachers in
practice is crucial to attaining professional knowledge on teaching teaching.
While learning to teach at the undergraduate level introduces those who enrol in teacher
education to the field of teaching, and while it is recognised by various teacher education
institutions that employ teacher educators to be a relevant exposure to teaching
experience, it is risky to assume that the content offered and skills that are taught at this
level are necessarily transferrable or applicable in teacher education. The purpose for
acquiring appropriate teacher education content or learning about the pedagogy of
teacher education is to be relevant in the field in which one practices. The implication
therefore is that teacher educators need to be trained in the pedagogy of teacher
education. Most importantly, they need to take advantage of teaching in teacher
education programmes to learn in practice that pedagogy of teacher education.
That teacher educators use the methods of teaching they acquired at undergraduate
level and approaches to teaching for the years during which they have been in the
teacher education system as this study illustrates does not justify continuity.
perpetuation of methods of teaching and practices whose viability at the teacher
education level have not even been tested calls for the renewal of teacher education. It
is incumbent upon teacher educators as professionals to seize an opportunity of being in
practice to improve upon their profession.
6.1.4 Propositional or Received Professional Knowledge
Teacher education programmes for those who enrol in such programmes serve as the
reservoir of professional knowledge. Therefore propositional knowledge attained through
the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the relevant field of study prepared
the research participants who participated in this study for teaching at the various levels
of the education system. Additionally, propositional knowledge acquired at postgraduate
level, except for the research participants who indicated that they took courses that are
of a teacher educator type, strengthened their discipline knowledge such as, for
example, mathematics education, language education and geography education.
It would therefore seem that the technical rationale practice observed as a common
feature in the lecture halls in this study is an indication of what these teacher educators
inherited from the academic programmes. However, the major shortfall of the finding that
academic programmes serve as a source of professional knowledge is that teacher
educators are still lacking in the content or skills necessary for teaching teachers.
While recognising propositional knowledge as providing requisite knowledge, its major
limitation is the fact that it does not fully prepare academics for the unpredictable world
of work. Additionally, propositional knowledge acquired in undergraduate and
postgraduate programmes, while it may be recognised as valid, does not necessarily
prepare teacher educators for the task of teaching teachers. The pedagogy of teacher
education as I note in Chapter 3 is broader and very demanding on teacher educators
who practise it fully knowledgeable of what it entails.
Most intriguing about teaching teachers is the “dual role” that teacher educators have to
play in their task of teaching teachers. It makes their task much more complicated than
teaching them content only; they have to prepare them for the task of teaching others.
Therefore the dual role they are expected to play posts as a challenge for these teacher
educators. The question that one may ask is: can they do so if they have not been
equipped with appropriate skills for performing the task? In the real world of teacher
educators, they have to be innovative to move beyond propositional and/or traditional
knowledge. In fact as fully illustrated by the “cumulative model” analogy, more is learned
in practice.
6.1.5 Practical or Experienced-based Knowledge
A common feature for all the teacher educators, given that they all started teaching
before acquiring a postgraduate degree, was that they were immersed in the teaching of
teachers. They learned the art of teaching teachers in the actual context of a teacher
education programme. It is therefore significant that the other source of professional
knowledge for teacher educators is practical and/or experiential.
Numerous components were found to constitute professional knowledge that is
experience-based. It was ascertained that the components of practical and/or
experiential knowledge include human resources. Teacher educators are constantly in
contact with student teachers. The groups of student teachers vary from those who enter
teacher education directly from secondary school to those who have taught before. They
all bring perceptions of teachers and teaching. The varying experiences provide a
valuable opportunity for teacher educators to learn from these groups. Lessons learned
from the experience of teaching different groups of student teachers, while expressed as
valuable remain as knowledge stored in their memories and gets used in the actual
teaching whenever necessary. The valued lessons have not been critically analyzed by
the teacher educators themselves or shared with the student teachers for the latter to
In practice, teacher educators meet serving teachers in schools, especially those who
supervise teaching practice or when undertaking research. Contact with teachers,
although minimal, provides opportunities for teacher educators to reflect on their
teaching. They use messages emanating from their contact with teachers to rethink their
teaching. Additionally, as part of the human contact, teacher educators have colleagues
within their own departments or broader university contexts. Although there is very little
that accrues from contact with colleagues, institutional opportunities facilitated by serving
in administrative positions and engaging in professional activities provide ample
opportunities to learn from experiences. Therefore the teacher educators’ acquisition of
professional knowledge benefits from the exposure to such numerous experiences.
6.1.6 Relationship between Episteme and Phronesis: Contextualising
the Snowball
There is tension between the two forms of knowledge, namely episteme and phronesis
referred to in this study. On the one hand, episteme is knowledge attained from
academic programmes. On the other, phronesis is the type of knowledge based on
appropriate reflection; it provides for construction of knowledge or practical experience
and it is attained from wisdom. However, although epistemic knowledge is considered
valuable as clearly articulated in Chapter 3, its shortfalls are immense; knowledge
acquired through academia programmes does not always help individuals to deal with
the real challenges encountered in the world of work. It is in practice where educators
engage in activities that provide them opportunities to construct new knowledge and in
the process accumulate practical knowledge-based on experience.
I have used the cumulative model or snowball model to illustrate what Lortie (1975)
regards as an apprenticeship of observation. In the work context teacher educators
significantly acquire professional knowledge that is necessary to handle work-related
challenges and in the process learn in context how to teach teachers. I resort to the
three cases that I indicated in Chapter 5 that I, using Creswell’s “winnowing” concept
selected. The cases I used are in this section meant to illustrate the tension that might
exist between episteme and phronesis. Administrative Camouflage: The Case of Zinzi
Zinzi has a degree that equipped her with epistemic knowledge in teacher education.
She is a qualified secondary school teacher. Yet as a newly recruited teacher educator,
because of fears, discomforts and perceptions about teaching at university, she during
her novice days, resorted to deliberately missing a part of her teaching time.
In practice, regardless of having been attached to a mentor, she still could not handle
teaching university students. As a beginner or novice (the beginner in the snowball figure
has not accumulated much snow), Zinzi can be portrayed in her initial years of teaching
as having little snow gathered. The problem of teaching experienced student teachers in
the world of work could not be solved even if she made reference to her mentor or her
undergraduate content. In the real life of teaching she had to find a solution to her
teaching problems herself.
As a consequence of her experience and upon reflecting on her experiences, she
changed the strategies for managing her teaching time by engaging in planning. She
had to solve her teaching problems herself by means of practice-based knowledge. She
passed what she had accumulated over the years to her students. This is one of her
messages at the time that she shared her professional life: Unfortunately I have not had
time to be actively involved in research due to administrative duties. However, the little
commissioned research I have been involved in has contributed to the way in which I
teach. For example, helping students interpret syllabus objectives and designing
activities to match these. Another important lesson one learnt is moving away from
focusing on writing essays but now engaging students in designing hierarchical concept
maps to assist them in planning their teaching”.
I note that she does not say any person told her how to use the little research
experience she has. I also note that she must have reflected deeply on her experience
and its implications. The implication is that engaging in research related to her work
could see her become more creative in her teaching and in the process constructing
professionally based knowledge.
268 Learning through being thrown in at the Deep End: the Case of
Peditta is one of the few teacher educators who actually took courses in a postgraduate
programme designed for teacher educators. She had taken an educational research
course and had actually undertaken research which she admits has remained a relevant
point of reference in her practice. The challenge, she admits, was being asked to
supervise a student teacher undertaking research for the first time. Although she had
fears and discomforts too, she had a helpful mentor with whom she worked in the task of
supervising a student teacher.
However, the tension for her was actually observing a student teacher going through an
extremely difficult moment of coming up with a research proposal. Although her thesis
has proven to be a valued point of reference, she could not in this incident refer to her
thesis which of course covered a topic different from that of her student teacher.
Additionally, she could refer to her educational research course content in helping a
student resolve her practical problem. Yet, her challenge was more in observing the
process and helping the student find a solution to the problem herself. Her admission
that she is still struggling with balancing theory and practice could be contributing to the
tension that surfaced when she had to help students. In her real world of work, Peditta
might have reflected on the relevance of her propositional knowledge in the context of
her professional challenge and realized that it was not going to immediately assist her
address the real life problem she was expected to resolve.
Part of Peditta realises that she had to learn from being thrown in at the deep end. In her
narrative she reported as follows: Regarding supervision of research I wouldn’t say I
have a lot of experience but thanks to my working at … because, there, one did not have
a choice. As soon as you teach, … they just throw you in, and you either swim or sink.
They will give you a student and you will work with a senior member of staff. So I cosupervised a student and drew my knowledge for undertaking this task from doing
courses in research and experience from teaching - the ability to provide a structure to
an argument; and how you are going to follow it up and the logical sequence of
presenting stuff. I saw how difficult the process of linking what one has read with
research ideas is. I learned the difficulty a novice researcher finds in actually developing
that new knowledge.
An important observation here is that her postgraduate epistemic knowledge alone could
not help her address a student teacher’s problem. This research participant
acknowledges that she took courses that she thought prepared her for engaging in
research or could be used for assisting student teachers. Additionally, she did not have
much experience that could have helped her address the problem she was experiencing.
However, she had to tackle the problem in the context in which it was presented. Her
work required her to come up with solutions that were not theoretically based. Relationships with Students Come in Many Shapes: The Case of
’Masethabathaba’s experiences involved enacting professional knowledge through
building relationship with students. She had a student who smoked marijuana and
became mad. She is a motherly teacher educator whose students rely on her even
during difficult times. This is an aspect of her teaching that she claims she acquired from
her undergraduate degree programme; she had a psychology teacher educator who in
many ways acted as her role model. However, the way in which she handled a case she
experienced in her encounter with a “mad” student teacher could not have come from a
psychology lecturer. I have encountered students in my course who are even mentally
disturbed; one just dashed into my office, locked my office door, and I knew he had
become mad due to marijuana. He said, “I know you are the only person who can
understand”; he came and hugged me and said, “Don’t be scared of me madam, it is
because they are chasing me” and indeed the security guards were chasing him. He sat
there, was calm and we talked, and I immediately said to him “Remember, at this rate
you will not graduate and there is no reason why you should not graduate”. It worked. He
completed his studies and is a regular teacher at high school and whenever we meet he
reminds me, “If it were not for you I would not be where I am”. You have to be there for
them, no matter what.
’Masethabathaba believes that her psychology course helped her deal with
psychologically-related cases she experienced in her role as a teacher educator. What
she was not aware of as she related this story was that enacting the pedagogy of
teacher education extends beyond lecture halls; building relationships with students is
an aspect of being a teacher educator and is part of the pedagogy of teacher education.
In conclusion, the three cases present real work experiences and how the research
participants learned from these by being engaged in working with their student teachers
to address the cases. Therefore I reiterate here that professionals may have a
knowledge base to draw from to address some aspects of their work. This study’s
research participants seemed to consider knowledge gained from their further studies as
a reservoir from which teacher educators get guidance as they engage in professional
activities. The challenge, though, is that real life contexts provide ample opportunities for
professionals to gather practice-based knowledge. This is true for the research
participants who participated in this study. The working context as elaborated in the
literature review and the discussion chapters presents numerous challenges, most of
which will not depend on the knowledge one may have acquired in teacher education
Professional knowledge cannot be drawn from one source after which professionals
would not need to continue to develop. Instead, the finding that the two forms of
knowledge complement each other confirms the fact that the essence of building on
initially received knowledge is critical. The level of expertise can only be attained through
continuing to learn and in the case of teacher educators that learning would come from
engaging in activities such as researching own discipline, and publishing and attending
relevant continuing professional development activities.
Therefore, one of the lessons that I have learned from reviewing the related literature is
that teacher educators too begin their teaching in their own landscape at a very narrow
level based on their epistemic knowledge. They soon realise this narrow base expands
as they grow professionally. They in the end expand their narrow base in the process of
learning more in the very landscape in which they find themselves. Professional
development therefore is basically based on their experience in which they continuously
reflect and find solutions to real-life challenges.
6.1.7 Application of Professional Knowledge How do Teacher Educators Enact Professional Knowledge?
Observing teacher educators in practise unearthed the complex part of a teacher
educator’s role. The literature on enacting professional knowledge is crystal clear on
what it entails to enact or apply professional knowledge in the context of teacher
education; enacting professional knowledge as explained in Chapter 5 refers to teaching
teaching. Teaching teaching entails playing a dual role whereby teacher educators teach
the pedagogy of teacher education and in that regard prepare student teachers for their
role of teaching and teaching the content that student teachers will themselves teach.
Therefore enacting the pedagogy of teacher education goes beyond just teaching.
In my view listening to the research participants narrate their professional lives
presented part of that teaching which could not be directly observed. They shared
incidences portraying relationships with student teachers, yet parts of the stories
revealed what teaching teaching beyond a classroom context entails. Issues of personal
relationship with own students, for example, are one of the examples provided in detail
in narrative data.
Another aspect of the enactment of professional knowledge that the research
participants did not mention, although it is implied in that they have been teaching at this
level of an education system for years, is the very fact that they teach teacher education
programmes. This means that they had the opportunity to learn about teaching student
teachers. Being part of a teacher education programme required them to be constantly
thinking about teaching student teachers, acting in different ways to challenges posed by
the very nature of teaching and reflecting on their teaching teaching. Additionally, they
had to engage in developing the curricula and implementing their curricula ideas in the
real world of teaching and in the process learning about the trade of teaching teaching
as they constructed the material they needed for teaching. In this regard, the
professional advancement was observable and thus learning from serving in the context
of teacher education programmes was valued. Learning about learning is what I refer to
as metalearning in the literature. However, the major gap is the lack of research
specifically on what these teacher educators regard as lessons learned. The scenarios
shared about their experience are potential research areas.
Observing teacher educators engage in the act of teaching illustrated that the majority
use conventional ways of delivering content. In practice the teacher educators enter a
seminar room or lecture hall and lecture. However, lectures varied a great deal in length
and in what was taught. Some teacher educators were working in the area of subject
content while others were in educational foundations disciplines. Aligned to their areas of
specialisation they used technical language specific to a particular field. The teaching of
Geography Education, for example, exposed student teachers to such methods as field
trips, which were considered relevant to this particular subject. It is therefore evident that
conceptual learning or episteme is a common feature in the teaching of student
teachers. Presumably in such courses student teachers begin to have practical
experience on what it takes to undertake some research.
In the observation of teaching practice it was established that there are instructional
techniques that are used more in particular subject areas than in others. Extensive use
of transmissive instructional methods such as lectures is common in English education
and in most of the Educational Foundations courses. Extensive lecturing does not seem
appropriate for Mathematics and Science Education. While there might be an
understanding that certain teaching methods facilitate better learning in some subject
areas, in others this is not the case. The common method of teaching therefore, does
not provide student teachers with ways to explore other avenues of learning.
Dynamism was observed in the way in which some teacher educators within the same
discipline use methods that challenge students to be more responsible for their own
learning. Although some of the teacher educators may not have been cognizant of the
paradigm that they were promoting, namely episteme, disparity was obvious.
Coincidentally, some teaching methods that could promote individual learning were
rarely used, while project methods and field study were occasionally used. These
methods of teaching remain espoused to those research participants who mainly used
transmissive methods of teaching. Methods of teaching such as those mentioned here, if
properly used, could, besides encouraging student teachers to be responsible for their
own learning, promote the idea of unleashing student teachers’ potential to begin to
learn, for example, how to research in their own discipline.
Observing teaching also revealed that some participants use interactive methods of
teaching. Most common of these is question-and-answer. Asking questions is an
interesting strategy for engaging students, depending on the type of question. Higher
order type of question would, for example, provide a great opportunity to become critical
in analysing those questions. An advantage of asking questions is that they should not
always come from the teacher educators as has been exemplified in this study.
Questions asked by the students would also persuade teacher educators to reveal their
otherwise tacit knowledge. The example that I constantly refer to in this study because it
reveals how a student teacher can ask a question that puzzles a teacher educator is that
of one of the research participants, Hoanghoang.
This particular research participant, Hoanghoang, presented a scenario from which he
appeared to assume that students would accept inviting a guest speaker as a good
method of teaching. He appeared frustrated when students asked him to explain why he
thought that inviting that guest speaker is a good method of teaching. One of the student
teachers elaborated on his question by indicating that to him that was “spoon feeding”.
Watching Hoanghoang struggle to address the challenge posed by the student teacher’s
question could have been a great opportunity for him to share with the student teacher
his “tacit knowledge” by explaining why he thought so. Yet, he referred this question to
other students and denied himself the opportunity to display his teacher education
I have indicated in Chapter 5 that critiques of use of the lecture method or transmissive
methods of teaching refer to these as a tyranny of talk. Extensive use of the lecture
method for those participants that I call expository outright lecturers seems to have
reduced opportunities of engaging student teachers in their own learning. The research
participants for this study seem to have the perception that they need to teach student
teachers by using a transmissive mode of teaching. This is a counter productive
perception if one considers that student teachers need to learn to teach, but their
teacher educators do not provide them opportunities to learn to teach. The consequence
of this practice is that teacher education is eventually characterised by a perpetual
imitation of the same delivery mode which is transmission. One is forced to ask: what is
professional about that? There are some serious implications for the use of this
particular method of teaching, particularly in teacher education. These include the
Firstly, student teachers are provided with tips on how to teach. The research
participants constantly referred students to the value of using technical language in
teaching. While the idea of technical language could contribute to helping student
teachers to become conversant with the language of a particular discipline, it falls short
of engaging them in critical thinking on teaching itself.
Secondly, telling student teachers about what to expect as they enter teaching practice
to the extent of sharing previous scenarios based on lecturers’ observations of teaching
practice poses as a challenge. The idea of sharing stories is in itself a good practice but
it does not mean that students will use such scenarios when they themselves encounter
challenges during their own teaching. Furthermore, sharing stories without challenging
student teachers to interrogate these means they are not provided with opportunities to
question some of their lecturers’ interpretation of the field-based scenarios.
Thirdly and most importantly, teacher educators have to rethink the lecture or
transmissive method/s of teaching and how it can be used to challenge student
In the final analysis two distinct scenarios emerge from watching teacher educators
enact professional knowledge. The first is the one discussed above in which teacher
educators use transmissive methods of teaching. The second is whereby some use
interactive methods. The interactive methods that were explored by at least two of them
through engaging students to analyse cases are one of the many ways of engaging
students in ways that allow them (student teachers) to be critical thinkers. Engaging
student teachers to analyse cases implies that teacher educators have to consider what
the literature challenges them to explore. Teacher educators are required to see
teaching through the eyes of a student teacher. In this regard they have to think beyond
themselves and position themselves, in terms of thinking, as those who are watching
and listening to them as they enact the pedagogy of teacher education.
Teacher educators who participated in this study have more opportunities of learning
from engaging in research at the school level than just relating experience-based
scenarios. Following the research route would perhaps not interrupt the current teacher
education programme; instead it would provide ample opportunities for learning in the
process of enacting the pedagogy of teacher education.
My observations of teacher educators as they engage their student teachers in teaching
and learning activities have revealed that what students do is a true reflection of the
teacher educators’ styles of teaching. In the narrative data it is clear that there are
incidents that have provided valuable information for teacher educators to the extent that
they were able to rethink their teaching. A typical example is that of the research
participant who, based on the visually impaired persons study she undertook, was able
to rethink her teaching. She called her student teachers and inquired about her teaching
and how best she (’Masethabathaba) could involve them in their own learning. That
inquiry as discussed in Chapter 5 of this study seems to have persuaded her to think of
ways of involving them in her teaching.
This particular participant seems to have reflected on her teaching and did so basing her
reflection on the study she was commissioned to undertake. However, while I would
argue here that reflection on teaching or on implications of a study that one undertook
may be common among teacher educators, the problem is that implementing change
based on research experiences remains tacit. It may get revealed during in-depth
interviews such as was the case in this study; the narrative data was revealing.
The need for parity that recognises individual differences in teaching teachers could be
one way of promoting advancement in teaching student teachers. In enacting
professional knowledge teacher educators also assess student teachers.
6.1.8 Skills Needed for Assessing Student Teachers
In their narratives the research participants presented three scenarios in the context of
assessment. Firstly, there are research participants with clear assessment skills. They
took courses in assessment and measurement at the postgraduate level. The skills are
proving to be helpful in the context of assessing student teachers. The second position is
that of research participants who have benefited from workshops on testing and
measurement organised by the teacher education institution that they worked for prior to
joining the Faculty of Education in this institution. The third scenario on assessing
student teachers is that of a group that does not have this skill. It was revealed in
Chapter 5 that this need has to be addressed.
Clearly there is tension between what the research participants know about assessment
and practice. There is a clear connection between skills attained in an academic
institution and the ability to apply that skill in the real context of assessing student
teachers. The common practice is that of a pencil and paper mode of assessing student
teachers and perhaps teaching practice. The use of a pencil and paper mode has been
alluded to in Chapter 5 in particular. In this chapter I refer to researchers who refer to
assessment in teacher education as assessing content. In fact their examination papers
are a true reflection a bias towards pencil and paper mode of assessment. An exception
was noted where only one research participant, while using a pencil and paper
assessment required student teachers to, instead of recalling content, apply their
knowledge in analysing scenarios. The finding that the research participants lack
assessment skills has implications for teacher educators.
Firstly there is an acknowledgement of the need to be equipped with testing and
measurement or assessment skills. This acknowledgement is indicative of the extent of
the problem. Assessment is a grey area for teacher educators teaching in this faculty;
they need to sharpen their skill in this area.
Secondly, the mode of assessing student teachers while on campus needs to be
reviewed. The literature referred to in Chapter 5 cautions that passing grades in content
courses cannot be taken as evidence that a future teacher adequately understands the
facts and principles of the school subjects in the curriculum that he will be working with.
There is therefore a need for teacher educators to review the assessment practice
commonly used in their programmes. An example is that of using portfolio assessment
that would deeply involve the learners in their own learning. Exploring the involvement of
student teachers in their own learning could, among other avenues be dealt with during
teaching practice. During teaching practice student teachers have an opportune moment
to reflect on their own teaching and what they would have learned in the process of
learning to teach. Students’ Activities in Real Classroom Situations
This study has revealed that student teachers’ activities are those that are initiated by
the teacher educators. One of the interactive methods of teaching that is commonly used
is the question-and-answer method. The flipside of this activity is that students, among
the many activities in which they engage, include answering questions mainly from the
teacher educator, and to a less extent questions from their own colleagues. The practice
followed, whether intentionally or unintentionally, promotes dependency on the part of
student teachers. There are implications here too.
In the first place involvement of student teachers in teaching about the pedagogy of
teaching should, in a typical teacher education context, go beyond just involving them in
classroom-based activities, most of which are not that challenging.
In the second place the literature review has revealed that researching with student
teachers, can promote both the teacher educators’ teaching capabilities or potential,
their metacognition and metalearning abilities as well as instil a research culture in
student teachers. This would be a culture of undertaking action research to improve their
own teaching; a culture that, if initiated in a teacher education programme, could be
pursued by the student teachers once qualified to teach.
In the third place, involving student teachers in research work, especially at the
postgraduate level, has been researched by numerous researchers as alluded to in
chapters 3 and 5. One of the cases discussed in the said chapter is where postgraduate
programmes serve as platforms for joint research involving, among others, student
teachers. A similar culture, I believe, can be built even at undergraduate level given that
most programmes in my institution are at undergraduate level. Teacher educators would
probably learn from research in which student teachers also play a significant role.
In the fourth place and as opposed to the routine of seeing teaching practice as a
student teacher activity that teacher educators observe and evaluate, there is a need to
consider shifting from this paradigm. There are possibilities that new practice would
benefit both the teacher educators and the student teachers in a practice that deplores
their involvement in evaluating their own teaching. Given such an opportunity, student
teachers would probably be in a better position to view teaching differently from the
current position in which they act mainly as recipients. Teacher educators on their part
would reason about their own practical knowledge as opposed to constantly referring to
teaching practice scenarios or research on teaching undertaken by teacher educators
elsewhere; an idea that is good for purposes of learning from others. However, while
such ideas are good there is a need to use our own expertise and own scenarios based
on one’s own practice. Use of Instructional Media
Very clearly teacher educators strictly adhere to the use of conventional instructional
media, mainly whiteboards, textbooks and to some extent overhead projectors. The
latter is the only electronic and probably the only contemporary instructional medium
used, and then by only two of the research participants. Other than these, some teacher
educators make reference to the Internet facility, indicating that it provides ample
materials that could be downloaded and used. While studying the curriculum documents
and course outlines it became apparent that library materials in the form of books and
readers are the major reference points.
The fact that most teacher educators, with the exception of two who developed and used
their own teaching modules or games, preferred to use conventional media points to a
failure to challenge student teachers to create their own teaching materials.
The fact of the matter is that the National University of Lesotho’s Faculty of Education is,
as was articulated by the research participants, lacking in modern technology. However,
relying on conventional teaching and instructional media has serious implications for
student teachers too. It is most likely that student teachers will themselves continue
using teaching materials with which they are conversant and will hardly challenge their
students to be creative in their own learning environments.
6.1.9 Construction of Professional Knowledge
This study to a large extent illustrates that teacher educators have learned the pedagogy
of teacher educators from practice. I reiterate this point in this section to extend my
argument that learning the pedagogy of teacher education does not end in the teaching
arena only. Constructing professional knowledge, while it could be more challenging
cognitively, is yet another avenue from which teacher educators would continue to learn
the pedagogy of teacher education. I argue this point because I strongly believe that the
construction of professional knowledge requires teacher educators not only to think
about teaching; it also requires them to construct knowledge through research for
purposes of creating new knowledge and learning from that experience. It would be an
experience that would be based on concrete research experiences. Conceptualisation of
a new paradigm as I suggested earlier would benefit from engagement in research to
inform the paradigm before shifting to it.
Constructing Personal/Professional Philosophies
Teacher educators construct professional knowledge to some extent. It has been found
that they can comprehend what construction of knowledge entails. It has further been
established that some have constructed individual professional philosophies but others
have not. That is, even those who affirm that they had professional philosophies and
actually articulated them spontaneously, only to disclose later that these were not
documented, confirms the notion that having an individual philosophy could be
considered one of the many outputs of the construction of professional knowledge.
Clearly the challenge is for teacher educators to concretise what they consider to be
their philosophies as this might guide the way in which they enact their professional
Production of Professionally Developed Documents
It was evident that teacher educators have to adhere to the principle that there should be
curricular documents, even if only in the form of course outlines. All teacher educators
had developed course outlines and used examination papers as instruments for
assessing student teachers. There are some consistencies with the course outlines; they
spell out goals, objectives, content, pedagogy and assessment. It is under the content
section where teaching and learning materials are indicated.
It is also evident that pedagogical content knowledge, even to one research participant
who very strongly made reference to it as the concept that informed his professional
philosophy, is not included in any of the course outlines. Similarities in the course
outlines clearly illustrate the line of thinking followed by the majority of teacher
educators. Examination questions, with the exception of one subject, mainly focused on
student teachers’ content knowledge.
Although my initial plan was to analyse materials other than the curricula as indicated in
Chapter 5 of this thesis, this could not be pursued due to the fact that only two out of
eight had developed modules for use by student teachers or for teaching purposes. The
third developed games for the teaching of Mathematics. These games were intended to
enable student teachers to learn to use them and to learn to create some for future use.
There is a relationship between people who have developed materials for use during
teaching. In one case where student teachers were assigned assignments to study and
analyse cases presented in the module, it was clear that the materials were used to help
students to learn to become critical of real life incidences. These cases, I want to argue,
help student teachers to see psychology in the context of their everyday life.
There is therefore a clear link between the narrative and the lessons observed. In the
Mathematics lessons the concerned research participants had learned how to develop
teaching and learning materials during her PhD studies. This is something she shared
during the narrative and was observed practising it in her teaching of student teachers.
Here is an individual who used knowledge gained in an academic world to inform the
practical world.
In the second case the research participant had made it clear in her narrative that she
had at least three exposures in as far as developing teaching and learning materials was
concerned. In the first instance she, together with colleagues at the Lesotho College of
Education, was introduced to the idea of developing Self-Instructional Materials, an idea
that she applied as a Science teacher then. She further indicated in her narrative that
she had other opportunities for developing teaching and learning materials; at the
national and regional levels, science teachers had an opportunity to write Science
books. Her recent experience was during her sabbatical leave in one South African
University where it was mandatory for her and colleagues to develop modules for use by
student teachers. The exposure experienced by this particular research participant
clearly illustrates the magnitude of learning at work and taking that as part of life by
developing materials for use in her current teaching assignment.
While other research participants in narrating their stories made reference to developing
teaching and learning materials, these were not in the context of teacher education.
Most importantly, other than the three mentioned here, the rest of those who indicated
they had developed materials did not have any materials developed for use in their
teaching of student teachers. Their experience of developing materials in other context
was definitely not transferred to the teacher education context.
The major implication here is that teacher educators need to develop materials for use
by student teachers or for modelling the idea of creativity to own student teachers. They
themselves have acquired the skill mainly in the world of work and by actually
developing the needed materials.
Participation in conferences or professional fora which was mentioned in the narratives
by research participants was considered an enriching exposure. Emphasis was on the
papers that they prepare and present in the conferences and the benefits accruing from
meeting professionals from other institutions. However, in practice none of the teacher
educators referred their student teachers to materials they themselves developed. This
gap can be easily addressed by requiring student teachers to read and critique
materials, including conference papers developed by teacher educators. Such an activity
could encourage student teachers to develop writing skill and critique locally developed
It is in the literature chapter that I make reference to an understanding by some
educational researchers that constructing professional knowledge has connotations of
learning. Some of these researchers refer to a communal journey in which individuals
have the opportunity to discover their identities to the extent of constructing their own life
trajectories and in the process learning from such experiences.
My reference to the said researchers here is specifically because the research
participants, by referring to the lack of collegiality in their institution, implied that teacher
education is a lonely field. However, some participants suggested that co-teaching could
serve as a strategy for promoting collegiality. While this view is justifiable, engaging in
joint research with colleagues could serve as an avenue for creating new knowledge or
actionable knowledge. The purpose as purported by some researchers would be to
contribute towards enhancing professional learning. An additional benefit in my view
would be the provision of lessons that could inform teaching. In as far as constructing
professional knowledge is concerned, the implications for the teacher educators in the
institution in which the study was carried out are many.
Firstly, there is a need for the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho
to rethink its core business. The major challenge is ensuring that student teachers who
enrol in this Faculty are helped to move from the dependency syndrome resulting from
the transmissive methods of teaching to independent learning. The focus should be on
cultivating the essential components of teacher educator professional development.
Secondly, there is a need for teacher educators to articulate their philosophies,
document them and develop principles to guide their realisation. A learning teacher
educator would not have a never changing philosophy or permanent principles to be
applied to all groups of student teachers. Reflecting on the philosophy and rethinking
own principles would allow teacher educators to think constantly about what they are
learning from applying their philosophies and from implementing their principles to
different groups of student teachers who join teacher education every academic year
and enter with varying characteristics and expectations.
Thirdly, being explicit about professional philosophies and principles directly impacts on
teacher educators’ construction of what other researchers have labelled constructing a
personal pedagogy. Constructing a personal pedagogy implies that teacher educators
would be reflecting on their experiences and finding solutions to challenging teacher
education endeavours. Most importantly they would find their unique areas of expertise
or what they are good at.
In the process of addressing issues pertaining to teacher educators, they will probably
learn more about teacher education and in the process enrich their practical knowledge.
In this regard the wisdom of practice/phronesis will be explicit to all. Perhaps teacher
educators may be attracted to the idea of documenting their accumulated practical
knowledge as was the case with Lee Schulman’s 2004 work. He found it worth sharing
his life as a professor of education in his book: The wisdom of practice: essays of
teaching, learning and learning to teach. There are benefits of sharing experience as the
future teachers may, while learning from such experiences be motivated to engage in
similar if not best practices.
Sharing experiences could provide lessons to share with colleagues and students to the
extent of building case studies for the teacher educator profession. I have learned from
the literature that other professions particularly learn from cases documented by
professionals in similar fields.
Finally, it was found that research was considered to be one major area where the
research participants felt they had opportunities to construct professional knowledge.
However, the research studies in which they were involved appeared to be either those
they undertook during their graduate studies or commissioned research. In practice and
as alluded to earlier none of the research participants undertook research on their
professional activities. As a result undertaking research to inform practice was found to
be a major gap for these teacher educators. Yet, if research in one’s own area of
specialisation was the norm, it could, more than informing practice contribute to the
construction of new knowledge.
Undertaking research at postgraduate level and using it in context, as some of the
research participants claimed, is a worthwhile practice. However, research undertaken at
postgraduate level cannot help resolve the need for research undertaken at this level.
There definitely is a need for these teacher educators to shift towards addressing this
Modelling Professional Knowledge
Teacher educators are familiar with the concept of modelling in the context of teacher
education. However, the study established that modelling professional knowledge in
practice is a complex undertaking and an idea that would require more than just being
conscious of modelling as a concept but actually living the intentions of modelling.
Modelling professional knowledge is more than inspiring student teachers to act and/or
behave in certain ways, illustrating being a professional or engaging in unique ways
peculiar to teacher education.
This study established that there are some activities that could be linked to modelling,
including teacher educators’ activities of giving feedback, actually spelling out the
intention to demonstrate good practice and encouraging student teachers to behave in
similar ways. However, expecting student teachers to share the same sentiments to the
extent of emulating their teacher educators could not be established. Very few teacher
educators who participated in this study claimed that they consciously modelled
professional knowledge in practice.
I have included implications of this study in the relevant sections of this chapter.
However there are other implications which need to be reflected separately from those
infused in the said sections. These are the implications of the study in a broader context
of education.
6.2 Challenges of this Study for Teacher Educators and their
Professional Learning and Development
The findings of this study are a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge of teacher
educator professionalism. The study has revealed the sources of and construction of
professional knowledge and how these are reflected in the teacher educator’s education
practice. It has become clear that the kinds and levels of quality of the sources (or lack
thereof) of professional knowledge have a corresponding effect on the quality of the
teacher education practice that the teacher educators engage in. The teacher educators
who participated in this study have, though informally, started their work as teacher
educators through being involved in the art of teaching teachers, albeit with some
mentorship for some and none for others.
An example of one of the teacher educators who persistently used interactive methods
of teaching has been alluded to in the discussion chapter. A positive correlation between
her postgraduate thesis and her interactive methods of teaching seems to exemplify
enacting a constructed professional knowledge. In this regard this particular individual
seems to illustrate the epitome of having acquired professional knowledge through a
formal construction of such knowledge in undertaking research required for the fulfilment
of a postgraduate degree and coming to live that research. This is a true example of how
episteme and phronesis can be made to complement each other.
It is evident that if professional knowledge has been constructed by the teacher educator
through a formal research programme that there could be a significant difference in the
quality of teacher education practice compared to a situation where such construction
has not been realised. The case being cited here implies that it is possible to break the
mould of this apparently inescapable dimension of teaching practice whereby teacher
educators tend to use one method of teaching; a transmissive mode of teaching.
However, the finding that illustrates a combination of propositional and practical
knowledge is not necessarily a logical conclusion, given that in practice the opposite has
been found to prevail for the majority of the research participants. An important
revelation though is that the practice of this individual has exhibited some level of quality
which could be her level of intuitive awareness. Secondly, and with regard to others,
what matters is the confirmation that the level and the quality of the sources of
professional knowledge of teacher educators are reflected in the quality of their teacher
educator professionalism. Based on examples such as the one discussed above, it is
apparent that the message to teacher educators as indicated in Chapter 3 is that they
should avoid pitfalls and demand professionalism. In demanding professionalism the call
is for teacher educators to strive for the provision of quality education.
The question that could be asked here is what should be regarded as constituting quality
sources of teacher educator professional knowledge and its construction that will reflect
the required high quality teacher educator professionalism. This question is not
necessarily the focus or objective of this research. But as this research progressed and
approached its end my concern was aroused by a persistent conventional perception
that teacher education is to teach teachers to teach. This particular issue has been
questioned by some educational researchers. Therefore, inadequate and outdated
deeply ingrained mental models of what education actually is need to be addressed.
6.3 Implications of the Study
Discernible from a study of this magnitude, and based on the numerous observations of
practice, is that lessons have been learned and valuable experiences obtained.
Additionally, numerous impressions are left with both the researcher and the researched
teacher educators. Most importantly, I assume that a study of this magnitude has
implications for practice and that possible research is likely to emanate from where I left
off. There are therefore implications for the core business of teacher education and
future research.
6.3.1 Rethinking the Core Business of Teacher Educators
In undertaking this study I established that, in practice, very few teacher educators
challenge student teachers to the extent of providing them opportunities to construct
knowledge. Changing the current practice so that the majority adopt a different
paradigm, the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho has to opt for
rethinking its core business. The major challenge is ensuring that student teachers who
enrol in this Faculty’s programmes are helped to move from the dependency syndrome
where they seem to learn mainly from the didactic methods of teaching to independent
learning. Thus, the observations of the teacher educators enacting their practice have
revealed that most students rely heavily on teacher educators. The observed situation
contradicts the fact that teacher educators themselves gather their professional
knowledge from being immersed in the actual teaching of student teachers as illustrated
by the cumulative model.
Therefore, teacher educators firstly have to rethink what their core business should be
and it is incumbent upon them to challenge their practice. Some researchers argue that
since teaching is a paradoxical profession it is expected to create human skills and
capacities. Thus, in the real world of the work, teacher educators have to consider the
consequences of their current practice in a world that is evolving.
Secondly, in rethinking the consequences of their practice, they could design and
operationalise powerful learning environments to ensure the highest possible quality of
learning by student teachers and, by implication, students in the school system.
Adopting this frame of thinking would require teacher educators to shift from the
paradigm that persuades them to use teaching methods that are transmissive to
facilitating learning. Furthermore, that adoption would require teacher educators to
rethink the way in which they present content knowledge in teacher education
In concluding this section of chapter 6, I want to argue that the nucleus of rethinking the
role and/or business of the faculty is considering a different learning task. The major
challenge is ensuring that student teachers engage in the highest possible quality of
learning and in so doing would be helped to produce the learning outcomes, and take
advantage of opportunities that present themselves in the teacher education arena. This
cannot be a once-off strategy but will have to be a necessary practice of all teacher
educators. The Faculty might be required to develop a philosophy that will embrace
learning as key to teaching teaching. In such a context, they would need to design and
operationalise the best possible strategy of a powerful learning environment. Adopting
such a strategy would lead to structuring the environment so as to, among other things,
ensure that the intended outcomes are achieved.
Additionally, in undertaking the study I have found that while being immersed in
teaching, some teacher educators have come up with different styles of teaching. Most
crucial is that they have managed to honour the mandate of teaching. However, while
they have themselves survived through using the professional knowledge they have
acquired in the world of work, the tendency for the majority has been to teach student
teachers in the way they themselves were taught. In the process they have followed a
paradigm that perpetuates epistemic ways of teaching and learning that fail to recognise
that student teachers should be allowed to learn in the best way possible for themselves.
Therefore, moving from this practice implies that teacher educators would be
considering adopting the proposed strategy or embracing the model of facilitating
learning as advocated for by advocates of learning. Adopting the proposed model
implies that they, and eventually their student teachers, will emulate strategies of
teaching that recognise and encourage the potential in students to learn in ways that are
meaningful to them.
6.3.2 Developments in Education
The literature chapter presents some researchers’ views that point to contemporary
research in learning and teaching. In particular, instructional psychology, instructional
design and instructional technology propose new theoretical frameworks in the design,
implementation and evaluation of powerful learning environments. This view has
prompted the realisation of what the core business of education and subsequently that of
the teacher educator entail. It is to design, operationalise or implement and maintain the
best possible learning environment in order to ensure the highest possible quality of
Developments in all the mentioned intersecting research fields are obviously
characterised by similarities and differences. Although there are differences, it seems as
though there is some consensus about what has become a matter of primary
importance. Some researchers whose work appear in Chapter 3 of this thesis argue that
it is appropriate and important at this point in time to answer the question on how to
design and develop powerful learning environments in an efficient and systematic
manner. Designing powerful learning environments should ensure the highest possible
quality of learning by the learner.
This study has revealed that one of the benefits that research participants have enjoyed
is attending short-term training or participating in conferences. However, the extent to
which this has contributed to their professional development is uncertain; this is because
it has been shown that these short intermittent events that do not completely engage the
“learner” personally, has at most only a marginal influence in a possible transformation
of the learner or in this case the professional.
The major finding of this research is that the research participants have learned to teach
teachers mainly according to existing education practices which represents only a
perpetuation of existing education practices. Merging these experiences with traditional
existing theoretical disciplinary content renders a very unsatisfactorily result regarding
learning quality and the quality of education. This is what I am suggesting is the major
outcome of this study.
Consequently, teacher educators should rather be challenged to engage in research
within the demanding and innovative contemporary discourse in education that has as its
focus to design, operationalise and maintain powerful learning environments. Thus, to
achieve the highest possible quality of learning should become a lifelong pursuit for
teacher educators. What follows may therefore be the essential components that should
be the focus of teacher educator professional learning and development. Subsequently
teacher educators should engage in their own research for purposes of the construction
of their own professional knowledge.
Essential Components of Teacher Educator Professional Development
Personal development - Maximising personal potential in all domains (PQ, IQ, EQ, SQ)
a. Cultivating moral character;
b. Exercising freedom and power of choice;
Professional development – Maximising professional potential: cultivating professional
character through:
a. Designing, maintaining and assessing the most powerful learning environments for
teachers possible in practice;
b. Continually constructing a practice theory for professional development;
c. Engaging in a dynamic reflective practice to become a reflective practitioner;
d. Engaging as much as possible in action (work-based) research of self-study research;
e. Designing real-life challenges for student teachers through which they will learn how
to design real life challenges for their learners.
6.4 Conclusions and the Thesis
I am, in bringing a closure to this study, highlighting the conclusions drawn and possible
way forward in the context of teacher educators who participated in this case study. The
literature reviewed has persuaded me to imagine that, while this study focused on the
National University of Lesotho’s Faculty of Education, other teacher educators may find
it a relevant study to use in their own context.
6.4.1 Conclusions
In collecting data, analysing and scrutinising the results, it became clear that a study of
this nature could not cover a number of issues, no matter how comprehensive. Two
issues that seem valid include documenting teacher educators’ profiles and approaching
research on teacher educators in a manner that they would be part of such an innovation
in their own context.
It has emerged that this study provided, to a large extent, an opportunity for teacher
educators to reflect deeply on their own teaching, especially at the time that they
narrated their stories. A critical issue that emerged is that none of the teacher educators
who participated in this research ever studied their own teaching practice. Yet, as they
shared their lived professional lives it was clear that the study had touched on what
could, metaphorically, be considered a ‘gold mine’ of information, which, when
documented, could be valuable to the teacher education field of study.
The study has therefore confirmed that teachers or teacher educators in this context
privately hold on to professional knowledge, or, as some researchers who study
teachers’ life histories have proved, professional knowledge remains hidden or tacit; yet
it needs to be made public. Making their sacred beliefs public could benefit more teacher
educators who enter teacher education institutions. Therefore there is a need for
research of a self-study nature to be undertaken by the teacher educators themselves.
The implication of carrying out studies themselves on their own work would be one of the
many ways through which teacher educators could better understand their teaching
practice. Following a self-study approach could provide them with an opportunity to
research their own field of study for its betterment. Researching their own practice could
help them nurture action research among their own students, and to a large extent
promote researching own professional activities. Therefore consistent reflection, which
was mentioned by some of the participants, would be undertaken systematically.
Additionally, a study that thoroughly analyses teacher educators’ profiles could highlight
their similarities and differences, while they, for their part, could tap on the strengths held
by each. A community of teacher educators committed to improving their professional
knowledge would probably emerge. That might be a community that will begin to
establish a knowledge base on teacher education in the context of Lesotho.
Although there are critiques of current efforts by teacher educators to research the
discipline, I adopt what some of the researchers referred to in the literature chapter
suggest. In practice, teacher educators should function simultaneously as both
researchers and practitioners. This would seem to be an important goal and a possible
research topic for future research. Teacher educators have to research their practice if
they are to construct professional knowledge in the context of teacher education.
6.4.2 The Impact of the Study on the Researcher
During the initial stages of engaging in this study I was emphatic about where teacher
educators draw their professional knowledge from, given that they had not undergone
any formal education on training student teachers. I close my research with new
knowledge: practitioners learn more from experience. Three researchers stand out for
me: Eraut (1996) Clandinin and Connelly (1995), and Jackson (2003) all of whom
strongly argue that practitioners accumulate experience and that experience enables
them to operate holistically in their own situations. I have come out of this research a
different person. I have, based both on the findings of this study, experience during the
process of undertaking the study and deep introspection on how I conduct my own
teaching, started changing my style of teaching.
As a researcher I have discovered a number of issues that have emanated from
engaging in this study on sources and the application of professional knowledge among
teacher educators. I have drawn some conclusion and have set directions for the future
education of student teachers as well as possible research that could be undertaken in
Lesotho teacher education institutions. The suggestions are indicative of new
developments in teacher education that call for teacher educators to rethink their
teaching. The suggestions further indicate that teacher educators should begin to
consider engaging in research that might impact on the quality of their own teaching and
consequently that of their student teachers.
The research participants on their part had an opportunity that they applauded; this was
an opportunity of thinking more deeply about their work as teacher educators. Asking for
the video-taped lessons and expressing the feelings of having to reflect on their
experience are signs of people who could, based on this study, begin to think about how
they might improve their work of teaching teaching. Most significantly, thinking deeply
about their practice has consequences for professional knowledge gained over the
I have learned that the practical experience that the teacher educators have gathered
throughout the years of educating student teachers should have afforded them an
opportunity for appropriate reflection. That reflection should have inevitably provided
them an opportunity to construct knowledge. The constructed knowledge would have
come from their experience. As alluded to in Chapter 3, there is tension between
epistemic knowledge and phronesis in that the former is based on, among other things,
scientific knowledge and therefore remains rigid. The later is knowledge acquired
through enough appropriate and authentic experiences and enriched, adapted or
changed through reflection and authentic research practice.
Additionally, I have learned that in order for teacher educators to move from what they
have learned from experience there is a need to pursue contemporary educational
development if we are to ensure the best and highest quality of education. The major
challenge for teacher educators based in my institution is to engage in the risk of
transforming their practice. They have to design and implement teacher education and
teacher educator education programmes. Such programmes should extend beyond the
current practices that do not seem to recognise the contemporary education ethos and
the potential and the ability that student teachers and teacher educators have. Both
teacher educators and student teachers have to explore various ways of learning for the
betterment of the Lesotho education system.
I refer here to contemporary education that requires the highest possible quality of
education. Contemporary education calls for a radically different education from that
which governments and states policies require and advocate. In essence the call here is
for teacher educators to engage in formal research and not so much in formal training
along the lines of essential components of the block which could be entitled “teacher
educator professional development”.
I have alluded in Chapter 3 to the fact that some researchers argue that engaging in
learning that will result in challenging the wishes of those who employ teachers may
seem a very risky business. Thus, according to some researchers, this is particularly so
in the current climate where there is an increasing gulf between the ways in which the
factory model of schooling is conducted and the needs and interests of learners in the
new millennium schools are allegedly designed for. These arguments are raised in
particular by the researchers: Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2009).
I have further learned from reviewing the literature, particularly the work of GroundwaterSmith and Mockler, (2009) that some researchers promote the perspective of courage
that teacher educators operating in the context of education need to consider and
perhaps adopt. There is a need for courage to have concern for procedural justice
directed to moral outcomes guided by societal norms and principles; engage with
teaching’s moral purpose that demands authentic change measures; be truly
professional in undertaking practice in order to challenge the status quo continually to
improve the quality of education; be progressive and take a transformative and libratory
stance; tolerate ambiguity; have hope; ask the difficult questions; and propose
challenging solutions (Groundwater-Smith and Mockler, 2009, pp 31-32).
Having studied the work of Groundwater-Smith and Mockler I realise that acquiring the
virtue of courage has to be part and parcel of teacher educator professional knowledge.
The source of courage is the ethical competence of moral authority in pursuing the
highest possible authentic quality in education through consistent inquiry. Utilising this
knowledge requires the virtue of integrity and selflessness to fulfil a higher purpose that
cannot be replaced by anything else: That of the authentic transformation of the human
being in becoming who he or she is supposed to be.
6.4.3 The Thesis
Two distinct sources of professional knowledge have come to the fore. Teacher
educators receive propositional knowledge from formal teacher education programmes.
An immersion of teacher educators in a professional landscape, a landscape in which
their mandate is to teach student teachers, provides them with ample opportunities to
learn from an array of experiences. They accumulate professional knowledge as they
learn to teach, construct, apply and model it in the context that is uniquely teacher
education. As is the case with people who learn the vocabulary of a second language in
a natural setting, so do teacher educators learn to teach teachers in natural settings.
However, failure to take advantage of the situations and interrogate lessons emanating
from practice for purposes of coming up with experienced-based professional knowledge
delimits opportunities for these professionals to develop in distinct ways. I conclude by
recognising the work of Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2009) who conclude their work
with their own call to action and
for the teaching profession itself as well as those who serve it, such as teacher
educators – to pose a challenge to the compliance agenda in education in all its
manifestations. Such a challenge is not likely to be easy, swimming as it is against
the tides of compliance, instrumentalism, fundamentalism and neo-liberalism which
categorise the contemporary age. Given what is at stake, however, we can
scarcely afford not to work vigorously and strategically to close the gap between
contemporary policy and practice and truly generative and transformative
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