Last straws and red herrings

July 12, 1996

It was unfortunate that Anthea Millett's justification of a "national curriculum" for teacher education cited only one specific role for higher education in teacher education: the consolidation of subject knowledge.

Higher education's contribution to teacher education is much wider. University departments and institutes of education (UDEs) are also characterised by their expertise in the process of teaching in ways which teachers in schools may not be: expertise which is based on close acquaintance with teaching in a variety of contexts and from the practice of research into pedagogy.

UDEs generally offer access to a resource and information base about teaching and learning far wider than that any individual school can offer. Having moved away from a simplistic divide between the "theory" (the supposed concern of higher education) and "practice" (the supposed sole concern of schools) it will be unfortunate if the TTA assumes a new divide between "subject knowledge" (higher education) and "subject application" (schools).

There is, of course a far wider issue here about the relationship between universities and the professions. Simplistic, Manichean models which impose false dichotomies between stakeholders in professional learning are ultimately both unhelpful and narrowing. If teacher educators are concerned about the centralised model of a "national curriculum" for teacher education, it is in many cases because they question the simplistic assumptions about the process of professional learning which its promoters appear to adopt.

Whilst new teachers, and teacher educators, might agree that Ms Millett's "clarity" is desirable, they will find such clarity simply unworkable if it is achieved at the expense of effective understandings of the ways in which new teachers learn.

CHRIS HUSBANDS Reader in education, Institute of Education University of Warwick

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