|Face-to-face Initial Teacher Education Degree Programme at the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa (CIE, 2002, 57 p.)|
This study has revealed that the development of the PRESET curriculum at UDW was conceptualised within a climate of contestation of the views about the role and identities of teachers. The former apartheid government conceived of teachers serving as faithful implementers of a State-driven education system. As teacher educators within the UDW staff came to contest these notions about their own roles within the challenge to apartheid education, they introduced into the curriculum broader goals and aspirations for future teachers. These included a focus on the role of the teacher as a curriculum developer, a shaper of the school contexts within which they operated. These shifts gradually challenged the traditional conceptions of a "good teacher". Teacher Educators within the system through their own exposure to alternative conceptions of teacher professional development infused into the curriculum new conceptions of critical reflective practice: highlighting the activist nature of the future teacher. Such conceptions came to displace the former over-theoretical approach to teacher professional development in pre-service teacher education.
With the changing to a new democratic dispensation, the educational system saw the introduction of several policy regulations, which attempted to signal a departure from apartheid education. This brought more credence to the kind of curriculum efforts that the innovators had introduced. However the innovations are not without problem.
In the quest to downplay the front-loaded theoretical orientation of the programme, the new curriculum of the B.ED (undergraduate) has emphasised "Practical knowledge" or "teacher craft knowledge". The new curriculum foregrounds the need for (student) teachers to develop their own "personal working theories". The curriculum promotes the development of a "critical discursive space" within which (student) teachers can actively experiment, challenge and present alternative conceptions of teaching and learning.
This discursive space is nevertheless infused with the history of the cultural heritages that the students bring with them to the pre-service course. This heritage embeds cultural, political and historical memories about being a teacher developed as a consequence of growing up in particular communities and attending particular schools. The landscape of heritages is as varied as the diverse peoples of the country. The teacher education course needs to acknowledge consciously what these heritages are, and how they stand in relation to the dominant discourses about a professional teacher. An acknowledgement of the competing notions of the roles and identities of teachers, and the strengths and limitations of student teachers' heritages should become an important dimension of teacher professional education.
For example, a growing number of student teachers are increasingly under-prepared in the subject disciplines, which they will teach. Students have had poor quality introduction to the foundations of the subject knowledge necessary to teach. With the school curriculum policy focus directed towards a "content-less" curriculum (Vingevold and Taylor: 1999), it is likely that these graduating teachers may be heralded as competent in being able to generate the kind of generalised critical outcomes of such educational endeavour. The student teachers are likely to be able to engage in critical dialogue about the nature of the educational system, about their role in designing/critiquing an outcomes-based curriculum, but may not necessarily be able to develop amongst the learners the qualitative in-depth knowledge base in particular subjects. The challenge for teacher education providers is to design a curriculum that strikes the appropriate balance between a subject content knowledge and pedagogical methodological knowledge.
The need for academic coherence within the teacher education curriculum can be best achieved when teacher educators temporarily abandon their anxiety over the traditional boundaries that demarcated their academic territorial disciplines. The possibility for curriculum innovation within the UDW context arose out of the necessary blurring of the boundaries between and within Educational Theory, Content (Subject) Knowledge, Methodology, and Practical work. Being able to think beyond these boundaries allowed for a re-evaluation of the foci and depth of the particular engagements with student teachers.
A concern, which emerges from this study, revolves around whether the development of critical reflective practices is in itself a culturally externally embedded set of goals from outside the worldview of the majority of the student teachers. In many ways it may be argued that the teacher educators represent a teacher education discourse around reflective practice that exists outside the dominant mainstream views about the role of the teacher. A large percentage of teachers still hold onto their inherited understandings of their roles as transmitters of knowledge. This has been the success of the Apartheid State, which has led many to believe in the passive role of the teacher in relation to State incentives. This is the success of a teacher professional development model that simplifies the role of the teacher to being a modifier of learners' behaviours. Does post-apartheid policy merely signal a new orthodoxy of a new State without significant acknowledgement of what the majority of teachers actually believe about their roles and functions? For example, the student teachers even at the end of their training remain ambivalent about the need for corporal punishment as a means of ensuring discipline in the classroom. Could these teachers merely be signaling their own desire for a highly regulated and disciplined schooling system to counteract the norm of a continually disruptive working ethos? Pupils and parents in such disruptive communities proclaim the benefits of a strong management style within schools, which includes the sanctioned use of corporal punishment. Within certain rural communities the use of physical punishments could be argued to be "normal". Should schools and teachers challenge these norms, or not?
It is clear that teacher education is not simply about replacing one orthodoxy, the orthodoxy of traditional values and heritages, with another, the orthodoxy of the new State-driven policies. Teacher professional development ought to be about how to bring these different discourses, each with their own origins and intentionalities, in dialogue with each other.