Reexamining Coherence in Teacher Education

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From: Journal of Teacher Education(Vol. 70, Issue 3)
Publisher: Corwin Press, Inc.
Document Type: Editorial
Length: 3,065 words
Lexile Measure: 1660L

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Teacher education, particularly as represented by the myriad institutions which provide programs to prepare individuals for the classroom, is positioned amid many forces, both internal and external. Historically, university-based programs have been undervalued by the institutions within which they sit, and they also have generally been ignored. More recently, increased scrutiny and demands for greater accountability have resulted in a shift in expectations focused on the provision of evidence that such programs provide value-added experiences for participants. The pressure to demonstrate that program graduates develop more consequential teaching knowledge and practice than they would have if they had not had such programmatic experiences, has led to design--and in some cases evaluation--efforts targeting what most would call "program coherence." In this editorial, we reexamine coherence as a process shaped by principled reasoning and which situates expertise beyond teacher preparation institutions. We do this in an effort to advance the preparation of empowered and resilient educators who are responsive to the contexts in which they will teach.

Like all components of teacher preparation, conceptualizations of "program coherence" are situated within political and historical contexts. Current narratives "bashing" teacher preparation and questioning its effectiveness in turn rally cries advocating, for example, for program coherence with a focus on "core practices" touted to bridge theory and practice to effective ends (Philip et al., 2018 and this issue; Richmond, Bartell, Floden, & Petchauer, 2017). Resultant efforts may include a conceptualization of coherence as an objective outcome where theory and practice (or standards and curricula and activities) are aligned. Such views may result in prospective teachers being treated as objects to be molded in one specific way, holding particular views toward teaching and learning (Buchmann & Floden, 1991). Although these conceptions of program coherence recognize that teacher educators and teacher education programs should have informed, organized, and integrated ideas, they may also foster program design, which lacks flexibility to support prospective teachers in being challenged and encouraged to explore and make sense of a range of ideas and realities. These conceptions generally minimize the particularities of local contexts, the myriad of needs and varied expertise of multiple agents and run the danger of serving as proxy for maintaining the status quo and undermining efforts toward equity and justice. They position coherence as an achievable end state--a box to check, and if that box was checked for all teacher education programs then the long-standing "issues and problems" faced in schools, as evidenced by achievement scores on standardized tests, would be fixed. Such notions, however, ignore systemic oppressive processes and run the risk of repeating historically rooted injustices.

Instead, we see coherence as a process (Honig & Hatch, 2004). In this process, various stakeholders, including prospective teachers, mentor teachers, school districts, families, and communities, craft and negotiate coherence together. Program coherence includes a commitment to a shared mission--e.g., one that centers justice and continuously negotiates whether and how current notions of and efforts toward program coherence privilege the values and practices of dominant groups. The multiple demands and...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A586115629