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Theoretical Underpinnings

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Theoretical Underpinnings of Teacher Education

Educational theory provides the foundational scaffolding for teacher education programming including field experiences. Current theory suggests using an ecological lens to depict the complex interconnected, evolving and dynamic state of teacher education today and the relationships, connectedness and interdependency of its participants. Topics within this section provide a more in-depth view of key principles, global trends and the intersection of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta Education and postsecondary institutions offering teacher preparation programs.

Association of Canadian Deans of Education Accord on Teacher Education

Accord on Teacher Education (2017) based on a vision for teacher education in Canada “that fosters skilled professional educators who cultivate knowledge, critical thinking, and responsible action among learners, in order to foster inclusive and equitable society.”

The Accord is based on three key principles:

  1. effectively and skillfully foster learning,
  2. support collaborative approaches to teaching and learning, and
  3. foster social responsibility.
Teacher Education Programs Meeting the Needs of Our Time

The shift is from a focus on teaching, teaching strategies and classroom management to a focus on learning that includes

  • creating the conditions under which learning occurs;
  • making important concepts and content learnable;
  • designing the disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary engagements in learning;
  • examining whether and to what extent learning occurs;
  • adapting teaching approaches to meet the learning requirements in response to diverse learning needs of students—linguistic, cultural, social and cognitive; and
  • continuing to invest in strengthening and improving the practice of teaching.
An Ecological Perspective

The following excerpts have been reprinted from Kutsyuruba and Walker 2017 with permission. Minor amendments to the text have been made in accordance with ATA style.

“The recent rise of ideas of ecological interdependence, sustainability, living systems, learning systems, knowledge as dynamic and the like provide an analogy for how to reimagine the enterprise of teacher education for a contemporary society. These ideas require those involved to redesign efforts to be attentive to the obligations towards dynamically evolving social, cultural and ecological circumstances. Ecology offers a way of thinking about things and systems that does not begin with isolated bits and pieces, but with webs of relationships. These relationships are not simply contextual of individual things but constitutive of them. So a particular life form, for example is not simply “surrounded” by other things in an environment but is constituted, formed and shaped by those surroundings.”

The intersection of the profession, teacher preparation programs, school boards and the Alberta government is positioned within a conceptual ecological perspective on organizations. Kutsyuruba and Walker (2017) refer to “schools and other educational organizations as living and breathing systems or ecosystems.” (p.5)

Gear illustration with four sections: The Profession, Teacher Preparation Programs, Department of Education (Alberta Education), and Alberta School Boards Association.

Alberta Teachers' Association, 2021. Download image.

This ecological perspective results in seeing schools as living systems—inherently unstable, interdependent networks that cannot be understood through mechanical analytical processes. Instead we envision a holistic interpretation of how a school’s social systems are created by the people within: interconnected, developing and progressing. (Clarke 2000; Mitchell and Sackney 2011; Wheatley 1999) in Kutsyuruba and Walker (2017), 6.

Within this ecological view of the school system “no one aspect of a system is thought of as a separate entity from other parts; instead there is an emphasis on connectedness, relationships, and contextual interdependency.” Kutsyuruba and Walker (2017), 6.

“Furthermore such an ecological perspective regards relationships amongst the members who comprise the school organization as essential to creating the sustainability of the learning community and its members.” Kutsyuruba and Walker (2017), 6.

The profession embodied within the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Government of Alberta and the postsecondary institutions offering teacher preparation programs are positioned within a similar educational ecosystem where the success of the field experience programs and individuals within it depend on the strength of the relationships, connectedness and interdependency among them.