Network Will Test Ideas Before Studies Recommend Them
The National Network for Educational Renewal is only one part of a three-pronged effort directed by John I. Goodlad to find ways to improve schooling and the education of educators.
But having the network of school-university partnerships in place, Mr. Goodlad said, will provide his University of Washington research team with a rare advantage in completing the project's two companion studies: Many of their recommendations will have already been tested.
"I don't know any report that's ever been written,'' he said, "where people have been trying for several years to do some of the things coming out of the study itself.''
In addition to the National Network, Mr. Goodlad's undertaking includes a study of teacher training at a representative sample of approximately 36 colleges and departments of education.
A second study will examine attempts to reform about 12 other professions--including law and medicine--to draw lessons for reconstructing the teaching force.
Mr. Goodlad said the two studies should be completed at the end of three years. Researchers are field-testing the study design this academic year, and will gather data in 1987-88.
According to Mr. Goodlad, interested partnerships within the National Network will probably spend part of that time experimenting with various reforms in teacher training that the studies are likely to recommend.
"The unique thing about our report,'' he said, "is that, when we make recommendations, we will be making them on the basis of some things that are already being attempted.''
'Centers of Inquiry'
Based on analyses of written documents, interviews, observations, and surveys, the study of teacher education will examine, among other things, the ethical side of teaching; the curricular balance between liberal-arts, clinical, and technical courses; practices surrounding recruitment and admission; socialization into the profession; and the evaluation and accreditation of programs.
Kenneth A. Sirotnik, the research professor at the University of Washington who is directing the study of teacher education, elaborated.
"We intend to collect information on the status of teacher education in the college or university at large,'' he said, "on the perceptions and beliefs held by faculty members regarding their work--teaching, research, service, and the rewards thereof--their students, and one another; and on the extent to which schools, colleges, and departments of education are in cooperative, working relationships with the local schools.''
The researchers currently plan to examine three dozen schools, colleges, and departments of education representing all nine U.S. Census regions.
Within that group, the study will try to include both public and private universities and the various subgroups within them, such as regional state colleges, large research universities, schools with religious affiliations, and small liberal-arts programs. It will also look closely at some historically black colleges.
Mr. Sirotnik said the design was not meant to produce a statistically representative sample, but a mirror of the variety of teacher-education programs that exist.
Researchers will spend several days to a week at each site, sitting in on classes, interviewing students and faculty members within teacher-education programs and the university at large, and talking to people in the surrounding community who have hired program graduates.
"We're really trying to think about teaching as a moral profession that has a value base to it,'' Mr. Sirotnik said, "and what the implications of that are for education.''
The study will be based, in part, on a belief that schools should become "centers of inquiry'' for both students and teachers, he noted, and "obviously, that has some implications for teacher training.''
Roger Soder, a senior researcher at the University of Washington who is directing the study of other professions, said that as researchers visit schools and departments of teacher education, they will also interview people at the university regarding preparation programs for nonteaching careers.
So far, he noted, he has reviewed nearly 1,400 books and journal articles on reforming professions other than teaching.
"You can see the same critical examination, the same questions--'Who are we, and what should we be doing?'--whether in agriculture, architecture, engineering, nursing, pharmacology, law, business, medicine, social work, or forestry,'' he said.
Mr. Goodlad said he did not expect any one profession to yield a model for reforming schools and teaching, but that "there may be models in a number of professions we can use.''
Unlike Mr. Goodlad's A Place Called School, which was published early in the current period of school reform, the study of teacher training will appear several years after the beginning of serious efforts to reform teacher education.
Because of that, Mr. Sirotnik said, he is concerned about how to factor in the flurry of changes that are now occurring in teacher-training programs. "In some ways, I wish we could wait another three years, until people have gone through their knee-jerk reactions,'' he said. Now, he noted, a university might describe itself as having a five-year teacher-education program, "but three months ago, it was a four-year program.''
Given the limited success of previous efforts to reform teaching, he added, he is "not sanguine'' about the long-term viability of many of the current reforms.
"We are not convinced that invoking the benefits of graduate education, emulating the certification patterns of the medical profession, reifying the scientific basis of pedagogy, and so forth, are necessarily the paths toward better teaching, teachers, and places in which to learn,'' he said.
According to Mr. Goodlad, his final recommendations probably will not address the length of teacher-education programs, or whether they should occur at the graduate or undergraduate level--a debate now being waged within the teacher-education community.
"We think that's a premature decision,'' he said. "One ought to make that decision after it is determined what is required to prepare a teacher or a principal or a school administrator.''
He noted that the major difference between the current study and the one that produced A Place Called School "was that, in the study of schooling, we set out to get a great mass of data, and then make sense out of it.''
"This time,'' Mr. Goodlad said, "we feel that, given reports spreading over a 100 years in this field, right back to 1890 or thereabouts, some of the problems with teacher preparation are absolutely glaring.''--L.O.