Developing Into Similarity: Global Teacher Education in the 21st Century

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This article explains the process that is causing systems of teacher education in the EU, the USA and elsewhere to converge into a form of fewer qualitative distinctions. We argue that expansion brought about by processes familiar to globalisation is
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  Developing into similarity: global teacher education in the twenty-firstcentury Steven Loomis a *, Jacob Rodriguez b and Rachel Tillman c a Wheaton College, USA;  b Regent University, USA;  c University of Denver, USA This article explains the process that is causing systems of teacher education in theEU, the USA and elsewhere to converge into a form of fewer qualitativedistinctions. We argue that expansion brought about by processes familiar toglobalisation is creating wide differences in the cost of information thatincentivises use of standardised patterns for producing teachers. The logic of institutional expansion, like the logic of globalisation, operates as a uniting forceacross previously regarded nation-state boundaries and cultural distinctions. Thisbrief study identifies institutional scale and the division of information as keyfactors that link the interaction of institutions across markets and adds insightinto the critically important issues surrounding the production of quality teachers. Keywords:  institutions; higher education; teacher education; globalisation Introduction: globalisation and the economy of information Our starting point is the proposition that the information systems of markets – economic, political, and social – are converging under the pressure of the rule-making function of institutions. A market occurs whenever or wherever peoplevoluntarily enter into a relation of exchange for goods or services. The public– private convergence of markets is brought about by expanding institutions and isboth a cause and an effect of globalisation. If this is true, it means two things thatconcern teacher education. Firstly, it means there is a likely shift underwayconcerning the nature and vision of the education good, including how both themeans and ends of teacher production follow the information direction of that shift.Secondly, it means that the looming controversy over which international domain – the private sphere of multi-lateral firms or the public sphere of governments – isgoing to have supreme jurisdiction over the regulation of education, includingformal teacher preparation, is ultimately irrelevant. Both points are of paramountimportance to countries whose leaders regard teacher preparation as a public good inqualitative terms, that is, as an investment and key determinant in the productivebase of human, social, and moral capital across a population. Institutional thoughtgives us a method by which to uncover these issues. We might mention that thetheoretic and empirical study of institutions has received important recent attentionfrom economists (e.g., North 1990; Hodgson 2006), social theorists (e.g., Rodriguez,Loomis and Weeres 2007), anthropologists (e.g., D’Andrade 2006), and analyticphilosophers (e.g., Searle 2005). As rules of the game, institutions are the humanlyconstructed constraints that govern collective behavior; they are hidden persuaders(Hodgson 2006), the formal and informal rules and conventions that shape theprocess of collective action, human exchange and rational choice (North 1990). *Corresponding author. Email: European Journal of Teacher Education Vol. 31, No. 3, August 2008, 233–245 ISSN 0261-9768 print/ISSN 1469-5928 online # 2008 Association for Teacher Education in EuropeDOI: 10.1080/02619760802208288  Our basic argument is this: in the environment of globalisation, socialinstitutions attempt to support the growth of markets and evolve with a generaltendency to prefer a specific kind of information. That is to say, institutions directthe distribution of resources away from higher cost (particular) information, whichnourishes qualitative dimensions of teacher development, toward lower cost sets of universal information, which tends to deplete it. In practice, this appears as thepursuit of standardisation in the creation of procedural rules and technical methodsof teacher preparation, those that conform to broader interests and are conducive tolarge-scale output and trade of a uniform product: the interchangeable, technicallyproficient teacher. The main result of this distortion in the information base is that itproves to be the basis for the convergence of public and private ends and means of production; it also yields a higher degree of interference by government power,which unknowingly does harm by preventing the free expression of more variable,vital, and arguably valuable forms of teacher education. Diversity of aims andprovision, each situated in culture-bound notions of education, assemble and alter inproportion to the information forces of scale and central control. Many in the EUview this development as a good thing; integration is a core cosmopolitan belief, aconfidence that information costs tend to zero (few if any trade-offs). Yet the cautionflag must be raised in order to signal that the efficiency-quality and order-freedomtrade-offs negatively affect the complex good inherent to quality teacher preparation(Callahan 1962; Welch 1998). It does so because an information condition essentialfor minimising the tradeoff is not present. In this article, we show how theinstitutional setting of teacher education reiterates the trade-offs of public–privateconvergence occurring in markets all over the world.Our theoretical work here links facts to a mechanism operating within theexpanding institution of education, which we call the division of information. Thisspecific mechanism is an active catalyst inside scale-influenced institutions and tendsto promote institutional convergence. Put simply, the division of information is thecost-reducing acts of trading off   particular  information for  universal   information.Particular information finds expression in independence, improvisation, value judgments, variable thinking, moral principles rooted within local cultures, customsand mores; all the essential aspects and distinct local preferences that influencehuman personality and the intricacies of human interaction and development. In therealm of universal information we find an information economy that corresponds tostandardisation, consolidation, and integration; it is information fundamentallycompatible with a capacity for generating order and stability, increased trade andprediction, fixed patterns of logical structures, and precise planning and control(Scott 1998). Hence, the dividing of these two types of information – particular fromuniversal – consists in the trading-off of local/individual concerns, say the concernsborn by an individual nation-state or locality, such as a university and its faculty, forstandardised and legible information under central authority, e.g., a multi-state orglobal authority. The process is an aggregative consequence of individual choiceorderings under institutional expansion and a mechanism by which institutionalexpansion gets priced below its true social cost (Rodriguez, Loomis, and Weeres2007). The preparation of teachers by colleges and universities operates within thisinformation network and is not immune from these institutional forces. Ultimately,this state of affairs leans away from education as intellectual and moral work, andtoward education as mere  techne .234  S. Loomis  et al.  We should briefly note that the information convergence taking place betweenmarkets and the state appears to undercut certain tenets of public choice theory (e.g.,privatisation of public education; see Buchanan and Tullock 1962). Ironically, muchof the standardisation joining the two sectors has its srcin in the private sector(standardised tests, accreditation regimes, private college and university admission’srequirements, and assessment schemes). This is to be expected because the distinctionbetween markets and government becomes attenuated through the interaction of scale and standardised information (rules, etc.). All of this is motivated by marketintegration under expansion. Both firm and state have ample incentive not to impedethe integration of economic, political and social markets.Integration is commonly viewed as a cost-reducing situation, particularly for lesscomplex goods and services. Consider, for example, Thomas Friedman’s (2005)widely-cited argument in  The world is flat . Friedman proposes that the purpose andeffects of uniform metrics (rules) is to flatten information for purposes of marketintegration. The homogenising effects and costs of globalisation appear to confirmthat universal information is advancing against particular information across diversecultures and social systems. Flat or uniform metrics standardise an institutionalenvironment making human communication and the production and trade of certaingoods easier and more efficient. On the global platform for collaboration, a largepopulation of worldwide ‘players’ has emerged who were formerly excluded from theglobal network. In combination with a rapid reconfiguration of economic operations,these players are converging to create a truly  flat  world. Not only have these changesnearlynegated theimpactofgeographyontrade andcommunication, butthroughthisconvergence new political, social, and economic models are being created. In thissense, top-down, hierarchical systems, organisations, and firms are rapidly flatteninginto horizontal, collaborative networks. They are doing so because the rules are beinglodged in transnational organisations (GATS) and extended outward to greatergeographic ranges, which help to socialise risk to all institutional participants thusallowing these (more local) systems, organisations and firms to ‘flatten’ information.Inanothersense,thebroadergeographicreach ofinstitutionalrulesarebecomingevenmore hierarchical and secure in trans-national frameworks than they were under thenation-state (e.g., the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations– ASEAN, and economic agreements in the North-Central Americas). Once seen as acentralising power the nation-state today often represents the domain of particularinformation(Habermas2003).Ineitherevent,informationisnowequallyaccessibletoanyone with minimal technological requirements, regardless of rank or education.Without a familiar (or local) top-down chain for connection and communication,collaboration based on widely available and constantly increasing information isbecoming a highly horizontal and indiscriminate reality across geographical, political,social, and educational boundaries. Institutional expansion allows for the reduction inbureaucratic apparati without a loss in central control (we develop this point in aforthcoming project). The question emerging for globalisation is whether it canpreserve the development of complex goods like education. Trade in teacher education Today, in the global economy, education rules are also being extended acrossborders through political membership and through associative bodies of trade. In European Journal of Teacher Education  235  virtually all market sectors of education, including teacher education, these rules arefacilitating immense international, cross-border trade in higher education and givestrong indication that the distribution of information can be found increasinglytoward standardisation and the promotion of institutional expansion. As the scale of trade increases, the extension of cross-border rules lowers barriers, when attenuatingthe costs of information, making trade more efficient and increasing the capacity toproduce more of it. It is an alluring environment for many educational ministries andleaders of higher education who aspire to expand the scope of their country’s oruniversity’s influence and trade to a global position.Under expansion a seamless transition emerges from the lower ends of theeducational hierarchy (government and independent schools, local school districts,local universities) to the upper ends (state ministries, federal departments, andregional and global international organisations) where the principles of centralcontrol are universalising property rights (e.g., rights of access), flatteningcommunication platforms, creating greater efficiencies in trade, and maximisingproduction activities through regulation by central authorities (e.g., EUROPA2007). Expanding jurisdiction by education authorities likewise facilitates theunification of accrediting measures and broadens the incentive structures such thatnation-states in the EU and elsewhere have powerful incentives to trade on these newterms. What this implies is that state and private universities in the EU, the USA andother regions will come to look similar over time as they respond to the same centralrules, procedural information and trading incentives. This is not a good thingbecause it does not account for key sources of variation and complexity in theconstruction of the good. These include, for example, specific cultural conceptions of the social welfare, faculty innovations, a people’s history, the individual humanbeing as an input, local understandings and notions of the education good, which isto say, all the valuable local information lost to education production.The sheer scale of the technical model of education has interrupted qualitativeand local emphases. The technical model of education is a rationalisation of processes and structures of education in the EU, the USA and globally. On the onehand, it induces greater cooperation and efficiency by standardising rules andunifying measures of production. In the USA, this looks like the National Councilfor Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) standards. In 2007, 39 of 50 USstates adopted or adapted NCATE unit standards and applied them for purposes of state approval (NCATE 2007). Traditionally, the US educational system hasembodied principles of federalism where individual states and their local schooldistricts were responsible for identifying production inputs and outputs, and whereindependent higher education had wide latitude in researching and developing socialconditions, including those related to education. Part of this variability was centeredon teacher quality in an era when educational attainment and teacher certificationwere reliable proxies for the kind of knowledge and skills necessary for complexwork in schools. (As we will see below, the division of information puts in doubt therelationship between attainment or certification and the acquisition or possession of knowledge and skills). Today, the wide acceptance of NCATE standards as theprimary national accrediting body raises new and interesting questions aboutfederalism, centralisation, and the impact of uniformity of means and ends to teacherproduction. In the EU, the Common European Principles for Teacher Competencesand Qualifications (EUROPA 2005) resolved to correct perceived deficiencies in the236  S. Loomis  et al.  ‘systematic coordination between different elements of teacher education [that lead]to a lack of coherence and continuity’ (EUROPA 2007). Coherence and continuityreduce friction and enhance trade. They sustain the drive to direct from the centreand to align systems of creation with material gain. On the other hand, collectiverationality in this area disregards vital information, the loss of which places at riskcertain principles, freedoms, preferences and convictions that individual colleges anduniversities and their faculties may find important. In light of the technicalframework, let us briefly discuss the central implications for independent teachereducation programmes.The technical model gains saliency across the institution of education bypromoting central rules that help to lower costs in producing an education. Learningbecomes education, education becomes schooling, acquisition of knowledge andskills become mere accumulations of schooling (attainment), performance assess-ment becomes a test score, teachers become technicians, school leaders becomemanagers, etc. What the technical model means for faculty members is that teachereducation is progressively shifting away from higher cost production preferences andtoward lower cost and more standardised forms. The highly regimented informationdirection of the technical model of education puts many independent preparationprogrammes at risk of becoming isolated and seen as an inefficient way to prepareteachers. In the USA, liberal arts colleges, which operate outside of direct statecontrol and which set a premium on developing liberally educated high qualityteachers, are increasingly constrained by procedural rules to produce teachers in thesame manner as large-scale state universities. If this convergence movementcontinues, independent programmes that deviate from the technical model may beseen as irrational and increasingly in jeopardy of becoming marginalised.On the opposite pole, isomorphic information forces (Dimaggio and Powell1983) may lure independent programmes to move closer to the dominant technicalmodel and away from the founding philosophies and academic traditions of theirhost college or university. On basic principles of collective rationality, independence,uniqueness and distinctives will be unconsciously substituted for the ability to ‘trade’in the wider market of teacher education (basically to have programmes). Leaders of independent colleges and universities will want to continue to prepare teachers (theysee it as participating in a public good), but for how long is unknown; it dependsupon the organisational costs to those trade-offs and how their teacher educationprogrammes negotiate the environment of uniformity. Indeed, many universitypresidents and chancellors may not identify the problem because they do not seeincongruence between growth and freedom.What is the education good? Let us first discuss its context. Many independentpreparation programmes believe that the good occurs in a highly complex, particularand situated exchange between teacher and student. This looks a bit different fordifferent cultures and societies (e.g., Hilberg and Tharp 2002). What is common tohigher quality programmes is that liberally educated teachers successfully negotiatethe rough terrain of teaching by developing a set of skills beyond the  techne (technique) of planning. Planning involves terms of specification, efficiency,universal parameters, measurement, certainty, standardisation, and so forth. TheBehavioral Objectives Model is one example of planning (Tyler 1949; Bloom 1956;Krathwohl et al. 1956; Popham 1965). The influential ‘backward planning’ work of Wiggins and McTighe (2005) is a more recent expression of planning. Planning, in European Journal of Teacher Education  237
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