Tom Russell, 2005

KEYNOTE 2005 – University Western Ontario
Is Teacher Education Reform Possible?

Tom Russell

Queen’s University


Three decades of work in preservice and inservice teacher education leave me pessimistic about the prospects for teacher education reform, particularly if reform is not linked to the school reforms that teacher educators so often advocate to new teachers. I have always been drawn to the insights offered by Sarason (1971, 1996, 2002), who seems to have abandoned hope for reform because schools (and universities) lack the “self-correcting” features required to create contexts for productive learning.

Two decades of research on reflective practice and how it might be fostered among new teachers have inspired more and more listening to and discussion of the complex and diverse learning experiences within a preservice teacher education program. Research is a high priority for most Canadian teacher educators, yet little of that research explores teacher education itself and the events within our own classrooms (Segall, 2002).

Attention to personal practice is an essential starting point for reform, but only when many individuals within a teacher education program accept this starting point and come together to support each other and innovate in coherent ways will we start to see progress. Teacher education often speaks of partnership and collaboration with schools, yet that typically amounts only to schools providing classrooms for the essential preservice practicum that is always the most valuable element of a program. Teacher education reform may be possible when faculties of education and the schools with which they collaborate can come together on common issues associated with the complex but essential challenge of creating contexts of productive learning for children, for teacher candidates, for teachers and for teacher educators.