Goodlad on Teacher Education: Low Status, Unclear Mission

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Chicago--Initial findings from one of the most comprehensive studies of teacher education ever conducted in the United States reveal an enterprise suffering from low status, unstable leadership, and an increasingly narrow and technocratic view of teaching.

The preview of Teachers for the Nation's Schools--an in-depth look at 29 representative teacher-training institutions--was presented here last week by John I. Goodlad, the book's author.

Mr. Goodlad is outgoing president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which met here Feb. 21-24. He is most noted for his landmark 1983 study of education, A Place Called School.

During his keynote speech, the University of Washington researcher declined to discuss the recommendations in his forthcoming book, which is scheduled to be released this fall.

But he suggested that circumstances are ripe for major reforms in schooling and in the education of educators.

"This appears to be the only time in history," he asserted, "when the reform of our schools and the reform of teacher education are being joined."

Nonetheless, Mr. Goodlad described the status of teacher education on most campuses as "second-hand Rose."

"We did not find a single mission statement of any institution that put teacher education at the forefront," he said.

Moreover, the well-being of the teacher-education enterprise appeared to diminish over time, as institutions made the transition from normal schools to teachers' colleges to state universities. Major research institutions, for example, were most likely to relegate the education of teachers to "shadow" or part-time faculty members, while their more prominent scholars labored elsewhere.

The study also found a disturbingly high turnover rate among the top leaders in higher education, who would be responsible for carrying out any necessary reforms. The average tenure of university presidents in the study was eight years; the average tenure of deans of education, seven; the average tenure of deans of arts and sciences, six; and the average tenure of academic vice presidents, four.

Mr. Goodlad also sketched a "discouraging" portrait of schools of education themselves. He described most programs as lacking in coher4ence, without a clear mission or destination.

He found that most make almost no effort to recruit students into their programs or to socialize them once they get there. On many campuses, he said, prospective teachers can take as many as five teacher-education courses before officially enrolling in the program.

"There's really no clear entry point," he said, terming that situation "absolutely inexcusable."

In addition, he found, the instruction of prospective teachers is scattered among four to five different faculty members who rarely talk with one another. They include professors in the arts and sciences, foundations and methods instructors, and supervising teachers. No group of faculty is responsible for seeing prospective teachers through the entire program, according to the study.

Despite the nationwide cry for more minority teachers, Mr. Goodlad also found that only 8 percent of the students in the programs he examined were members of a minority group. If two predominantly black institutions were excluded from the study, he said, the proportion of prospective black teachers would drop to 2 percent of the total.

Even on urban campuses, he noted, the proportion of minorities en8rolled in teacher-education programs was lower than the proportion of minorities enrolled in the institution as a whole. And many schools of education--including those in urban areas--continued to place their student teachers in suburban settings.

The study's findings were seen as particularly discouraging given the social and educational context in which teacher-education reform must occur. Forty percent of the poor in the United States today are children, Mr. Goodlad noted. And more than 35 percent of the children born last year are members of a minority group.

Yet schools have never fulfilled their ideals of educating all youngsters, he said. Fewer than 4,000 black students nationwide had a combined score above 1150 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test in 1988, he said: enough to fill one large high school. In contrast, approximately 140,000 white students scored that high or higher, qualifying them to gain entrance to the most respected universities.

"And yet our universities are still pretending that out there somewhere are all these people they're going to recruit," he complained.

He suggested that to remedy such problems, both the subject-matter and pedagogical preparation of future teachers must be strengthened, so that they can help all students "participate in the human conversation."

He also urged that more attention be paid to the "moral" aspects of teaching, a central assumption on which his research was based.

"You don't require a child to go to school and then punish that child in school," the author asserted, or block off his access to knowledge. "There is a moral responsibility of teachers to that little word' 'all,"' he added. "That doesn't mean 'some left out."'

But, according to Mr. Goodlad's study, few teacher-education programs emphasize the moral aspects of teaching beyond cursory references in their introductory courses. Instead, he noted, the push is to make the teacher-education curriculum "practical."

The boring and routinized practices of teachers that Mr. Goodlad described in A Place Called School were "not an accident." Such practices, he noted, "are being prepared for in teacher-education programs," which emphasize the mechanical aspects of teaching the closer student teachers get to the classroom.

"Teaching has been reduced to a technocratic enterprise in recent years," he complained. "We feel that the moral dimensions, the values, far outweigh the technical aspects in determining whether or not teaching is a profession."

Mr. Goodlad also suggested that teacher education needs to be deregulated. And he urged participants attending the meeting to be more "proactive" in seeking improvements on their own campuses.

"We've got to join the universities and the schools in creating settings that are renewing, where cohort groups of young people come, work together, and talk, eat, sleep the business of being a teacher as a cohort group," he said.

In preparation for the release of his book this fall, he said, a number of people--including representatives from aacte and the Education Commission of the States--are meeting to devise a strategy for carrying out his recommendations.

That might include providing seed money for the development of exemplary programs and for school-university partnerships, he suggested.

Mr. Goodlad's forthcoming book is based on a five-year research study conducted by a team at the Center for Education Renewal at the University of Washington, including Kenneth A. Firotnik and Roger Soder. A related publication, The Moral Dimensions of Teaching, was released a few weeks ago.

Vol. 09, Issue 23

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