Chris Day, 2002

SUMMARY OF KEYNOTE 2002 University of Toronto/OISE
A New Agenda for Teacher Learning and Development:
The Role of Teacher Educators

Professor Christopher Day

University of Nottingham


Summary of Keynote Address to the Canadian Society for the Study of Education Thirtieth Annual Conference, 25-28 May 2002, Toronto, Canada.

The lecture proposes a new agenda for teacher learning and development and discusses what this may mean for the work of teacher educators.  It discusses contexts of social and economic change, the ‘standards’ agenda, teachers’ work and the academic-teacher divide.  Finally, it makes a proposal for the kinds of relationships which teacher pre-service and in-service educators may develop with teachers in the future.

There are five themes:

          1      Social Change: an unresolvable dilemma

          2      The Standards Agenda

          3      Teachers’ Work and Identity:  Moral Purposes

          4      The academic-teacher divide and the quality of teacher educators’ lives

          5      A modest proposal: possibilities and problems for teacher educators

1.      Social Change
It is clear that the responsibilities of schools will be defined much more sharply in terms of teachers’ roles in promoting responsible citizenship and high academic standards. To put it a different way, teachers must teach within the constraints not only of their own expertise and with the resources and curricula provided, but also in relation to the ‘luggage’ carried by their students.  If this luggage is changing, then it follows that teachers’ work has become more rather than less complex.

2.      The Standards Agenda

The standards agenda as presented in national policy initiatives represents at best a partial view of how achievement (broad), as against attainment (narrow), may be raised.  Research over the years, however, has found consistently that teaching of the highest technical competence counts for little if classmates are unco-operative or teachers unfair or uncaring (Fraser, 1991; Walberg, 1991)

3.      Teachers’ Work and Identity

Most pre-service teacher education and in-service programmes i) do not seem yet to acknowledge the specific qualities and skills needed by teachers which are both fit for purpose and relevant to context ii) do not universally address the connection between effective and reflective teaching raised by the teacher of ‘how little slack’ there is in the system; and iii) do not take account of teachers’ career long learning needs.

4.      The Academic-Teacher Divide and the Quality of Teacher Educators’ Lives

A recent study of Australian and American pre-service and in-service teachers’ views about research (Gore and Gitlin, 2002) illustrates why teacher educators need to think outside the box of pre-service work if we are to make any lasting contribution to the quality of teachers’ lives and work.  The study confirms what we already know about teacher socialisation and the ‘conservatising’ effects of many school cultures and of the nature of the teaching contract upon teachers attitudes and practices (Lacey, 1978, Flores, 2002).  It also charts the declining influence of academic research by revealing that whereas 82% of the final cohorts of pre-service teachers in both countries said that this addressed their teaching concerns, only 8% of practising teachers stated that this was the case, many doubting not only the usefulness of research but also the credibility of the researchers.

5.      A modest proposal: possibilities and problems for teacher educators

My proposal is that we take seriously the need to ensure that teachers are equipped i) to be analytical about their practice and the contexts in which it occurs; ii) to recognise and remember that their role as educators will always be more than their role as implementers of others’ dictates, that they have broader moral purposes through researching into and engaging in public debate about professionalism and the role of the teacher; and iii) to demonstrate the relevance of our role to teachers and the broader educational community through working with teachers in different kinds of partnership relationships over a sustained period in order to enhance their knowledge creation capacities.

In suggesting that we may all be activist professionals, I am expressing a view that for teachers and teacher educators to provide the best opportunities for students’ learning and achievement, we need to be more than ‘entrepreneurial professionals’ (Menter et al, 1997) who comply with managerially driven policy imperatives.  To be the best, we need to have a view of teaching as a moral enterprise.

In speaking of teacher education as a continuing commitment to do the best, I am acknowledging that the best teachers at all levels are those who have a strong emotional commitment both to their field and to their students.  Accounts by students of all ages across the world about their most successful teachers point to their passionate involvement as a key factor.


Fraser, B J (1991) Educational Leadership, 4, 8, May 1997, p 46.

Gore, and Gitlin, (2002) (Re)Visiting the Academic-Teacher Divide:  Power and Knowledge in the Educational Community.  Unpublished paper.

Hargreaves, A and Fullan, M (1998) What’s Worth Fighting For Out There? New York:  Teachers College Press

Lacey, 1978

Flores, 2002

Menter, I, Muschamp, Y, Nicolls, P, Ozga, J and Pollard, A (1997)Work and Identity in the Primary School.  Buckingham:  Open University Press.

Walberg, H J (1991)  Educational Leadership, 54, 8, May 1997, p 46.