teacher behaviours and decisions in the classroom, they are rarely consciouslyaccessible. In other words, the beliefs and theories which guide and determine ouractions and reactions in the classroom are not necessarily rational, nor open todiscussion or critical scrutiny, because we ourselves do not realise they are there.The significance of the
that teachers bring to the classroom and to teachereducation programmes has been pointed out repeatedly (e.g. Freeman 1996, Roberts1998, Roberts 1999, Woods 1996). In simple terms, it appears that teachers, likelearners in other situations, do not respond to the input provided as part of a teachereducation programme as is, but rather construct a meaning of the input which iscompatible with their own schemata, and assimilate or accommodate it depending onwhere it stands in relation to their personal (often unconscious and unarticulated)beliefs and their social and educational context. Thus, to be effective, a teachereducational programme has to be based on the teachers’ own experience and socialcontext (cf. Bax 1997) and take explicit account of their
Teacher education, training and development
I have argued elsewhere (Vassilakis 1998) that the difference between teacher trainingand teacher education is a very sharp one, which we should always remember indiscussing the issue of becoming a better teacher. According to Widdowson (1983:16-20) education refers to the acquisition of competence, which involves a deeperunderstanding of principles as well as the element of conscious choice from arepertoire of techniques and activities available; training, however, refers to thedevelopment of a partial competence, which endows one with a limited number of ready-to-use techniques without ensuring that an understanding of the underlyingprinciples has been achieved nor that choice can be made with reference to a set of criteria. Thus, a teacher education course necessarily aims at bringing teachers’
beliefs and theories out into the open, so that choice can be conscious andinformed. A teacher training course, on the other hand, does not encourage the teacherto challenge her (or his, occasionally!) underlying beliefs – at best, it adds
‘activitiesthat (seem to) work’
to the repertoire of the teacher in question, therefore adding tothe body of unchallenged, unthought-about beliefs and theories.As for teacher development, this is clearly a desideratum in education, but the termhas, unfortunately, often been misused as an alibi for what is essentially lack of development! Teacher development presupposes teacher education, and the way todevelop as a teacher is by making sure you are constantly educating yourself in thesense described above. It is very difficult to see how, for example, development canresult from two teachers talking to each other in the staff room of a school, tellingeach other what they did in the classroom, but not why they did it, why it worked ordid not work, or how they might do it differently. And the kind of awareness thatwould enable them to discuss the latter, more salient, questions is the awarenessresulting from a teacher educational process.
Components of Teacher Education Programmes
Given the definition of teacher education as primarily a process of change, perhapswe should look next at the elements of a teacher education course that serve thisobjective.