The Voice of the Ethnographic Researcher
Faculty members in higher education are required to act as researchers and participate in academic research activities throughout their professional lives. Vanderbilt University, where the research for this book took place, is a research university and professional details of its academic faculty, together with their field of expertise, list of publications, research and grants are published meticulously. The Fulbright program offered the opportunity to carry out research about the American education system, and the participants themselves suggested a subject for research, described their targeted research population and presented the methodology they would employ. Program leaders approved each study, which was then carried out subject to ethical and academic requirements in accordance with the university’s research rules and regulations. In order to get approval, every participant signed necessary forms such as: confidentiality agreements, guarantees of participants’ rights and welfare; Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, and so on. Researchers who asked to visit schools were required to get authorization after submitting their fingerprints and only after receipt of all appropriate approvals, did actual research processes commence, monitored closely and continuously by the program leaders.
The program leaders helped us gain access to our research environment that is to the Peabody College of Education. They determined at which university the program would take place and acquired, in advance, the university’s make sure to permit our research activity. For me, entrance into an institution dealing with teacher education was, in part, easy as a teacher educator myself. However, many of the issues, in which I was interested, were new to me, in particular issues such as the academic structure of the institution, its academic conduct, the place of teacher educators and their work, and what the American education system requires of the university and more.
The program participants chose to conduct research studies relating to schools, teachers and pupils. Because I have spent years researching professional development of teacher educators, I sought to examine this matter with teacher educators at the Peabody College of Education as the research population. Initially, the university’s program leaders found it difficult to accept this and tried to convince me that it would be preferable for me to research schools. It appeared that the host institution would have preferred that I did not regard its faculty members as my research population, but in the end, my request was granted.
Commencement of the research was a complicated challenge. My university mentor promised to recruit a number of teacher educators who taught on the program she headed.
I was forced to wait weeks until a request was emailed to them, a delay that made me doubt whether I would succeed in carrying out the research I had planned or meet required deadlines. Happily, five faculty members responded positively and agreed to be interviewed and complete an online questionnaire. One asked to hold the interview in a public place and chose a cafeteria, the others preferred their own offices. Despite their other responsibilities, they were all interested and devoted a great deal of time and patience to the interviews, gave detailed answers and agreed to answer any further questions that I may ask as a result.
All the interviewees declared that they are directed to research activity and try to devote time to it. It was clear to all of them that it was important to the university that faculty members carry out research activity. They talked about the stages of their current research activity: one stated that she was looking for an appropriate research subject, three said that they were in the process of submitting proposals and seeking research funds, and one stated that she was in the midst of a research study.
In addition to using the two research tools of semi-structured interviews and online questionnaires, I carried out participant observations at which I collected information through my participation in classes and workshops, formal and informal meetings, private visits or festive events, and random conversations.
In conclusion, in order to carry out research, researchers must have tools, resources and infrastructures made available to them. As I received them all as well as having been given quite a long time to carry out this study, I was able to study conduct procedures, faculty members’ daily working ways methods, while becoming acquainted with the social, professional and academic contexts in which they worked. In addition, getting to know the research population’s activities as well as that of other lecturing staff, university administration staff and studying alongside students enabled me to get to know the breadth of activity and the professional field in which lecturers worked, and as a result, to get to know the field of study very well.
Part of the research will now be presented as an article. The research compares professional characteristics of faculty members at the College where I work and those of my host university, allowing one to see what influences an educational institution has on the professional characteristics of those dealing with teacher education.
Influences of Teacher Education Institutions on the Professional Characteristics of Faculty Members
The aim of teacher education institutions is to produce graduates who are academic, quality and professional teachers. They are different from one another in their modus operandi, professional perceptions that guide their work and their socio-national contexts. There are those that operate as universities or part of a university (for example in England), while others operate as independent academic institutions (for example in Israel and Singapore). In some countries both independent and university-based institutions operate (for example Austria and Germany). Institutional ways of working are expressed by their professional views of the world, perceptions of teacher educator status as academics (Lunenberg and Hamilton 2008), academic-research activity carried out by faculty members, scope and content of programs and so on (Murray et al. 2008).
The research presented here examines how actions and management of academic institutions influence work characteristics of teacher educators. Looking at how institutions are managed and the cultural, social and national contexts in which they operate will enable one to differentiate between different examples and examine what is similar and different between them.
In order to investigate the work of teacher educators and management of teacher education institutions faculty members from two teacher education colleges—one American and one Israeli—were examined. Variables deriving from the fact that each operated in a different social and cultural context were taken into account from the outset. In order to understand the different contexts, some background details retrieved form the formal websites are provided.
The American institution is the Peabody College of Education operates alongside other faculties and departments in Vanderbilt University. The college offers first, second and third degree programs in education. Undergraduate majors are:
The Human and Organizational Development Program offer liberal arts foundation with applied coursework in human development, organizational theory and dynamics, service learning, and decision analysis.
The Child Development Program focuses on children from infancy through adolescence and the contexts in which they live, including family, peer, school, community, and cultural influences.
The Child Studies Program is interdisciplinary major with a broader focus than child development, child studies enables you to work with children outside of formal educational settings.
The Cognitive Studies Program shed light on how people think, solve problems, and reason. The program frequently sends students on to graduate work in the social and behavioural sciences or areas such as medicine and law that place importance on inquiry and clear thinking.
The Early Childhood Education Program prepares students to work with children in nursery schools, preschool programs, or primary grades, this field-oriented program prepares students for licensure in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.
The College offers three programs in teacher education: one in Special Education Department and two in the Department of Teaching and Learning and: The Special Education Program equips future teachers to assess and design programs for individuals with disabilities.
The Elementary Education Program prepares students to teach all curricular areas from kindergarten through sixth grade. It is designed to satisfy licensure requirements for both elementary and middle schools.
The Secondary Education Program prepares students to teach students in grades seven through 12, the secondary education major provides strong grounding in one or more content areas, experience in teaching methods, and an introduction to current research in the field.
The College offers Master’s and Ed.D. Programs like: Child Studies; Clinical Psychological Assessment; Community Development and Action; Education Policy; Elementary Education; English Language Learners; Higher Education Administration; Human Development Counselling; Independent School Leadership; International Education Policy and Management; Leadership and Organizational Performance; Learning, Diversity, and Urban Studies; Learning and Design; Quantitative Methods; Reading Education; Secondary Education and Special Education.
Peabody College offers through the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations two Ed.D. Programs tracks that train scholar-practitioners whose knowledge, leadership, analytical and management skills enhance the performance of educational institutions and organizations.
The Ed.D. programs are:
The K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy program prepares for leadership in education and policy-related settings including elementary and secondary public, charter, and independent schools; district-level offices; research organizations; government agencies; professional associations; and consulting firms.
The Higher Education Leadership and Policy program prepares to lead and operate colleges and universities, government agencies, professional associations, and consulting companies (Vanderbilt University 2016).
Faculty members at the college are employed in one of two ways: tenure track, which allows them to progress on an academic-professional path as customary in universities. Others are employed on a practice track. This track is based on personal contracts and does not allow progression or transfer to permanent employment.
The Israeli institution is the Levinsky College of Education [LCE], which operates as an independent academic institution that is not part of a university. LCE focuses on teacher training with an emphasis on preservice training as well as in-service continuing education for practicing teachers. The college maintains cooperative relationships with schools and preschools across the country.
As with all other teacher educating colleges in Israel, the College offers first degrees in education and teacher education. Studies towards a Bachelor of Education degree are designed for students who wish to pursue a teaching career. The College offers many programs:
The Education and early childhood education programs are designed for candidates interested in joining a variety of educational and community frameworks. Two programs are offered: Training for pre-school teachers, and training for pre-school and for first- and second-grade teaching.
The Elementary school teaching programs are designed for training educators and teachers for pupils in first through sixth grades. Two programs are offered: Training for primary school teaching and integrated training for primary school and special education teaching.
The Special education teaching program is designed to train educators who are specialists in teaching children with special needs in all educational frameworks from age 6 to 21, including those with intellectual deficits, multiple learning impairments, communication impairments, sensory impairments, and emotional and behavioural disorders, as well as frameworks that integrate pupils with special needs in regular classes, special education classes in regular schools, and other settings.
The Music education program is designed for students with a background in music who wish to enjoy challenging work with a variety of learner groups in a variety of educational and community settings.
The main departments are: Department of Bible Studies focus on the study of the Bible and its interpretation; biblical law; biblical historiography; prophecy from ancient to classical; leadership and society; wisdom literature; liturgy; and major personalities. Department of Judaism and Jewish Heritage strives to provide graduates with an orientation to the classic Jewish bookshelf in the belief that such knowledge is an essential foundation for any educator. Department of Art Studies joins the world of art with the world of education. Department of Hebrew Language Studies trains teachers in comprehension and expression in the Hebrew language. Department of English Language Studies is designed for students who seek to teach English to diverse age groups and who seek a fascinating challenge in the linguistic, cultural, developmental and pedagogical aspects of teaching English as a foreign language. Department of General Literature Studies focuses on teaching literature to elementary and middle school pupils, including to pupils in special education streams. Department of Children’s Literature brings a multi-disciplinary approach to children’s literature. Its curriculum enables students to encounter the many and varied aspects of children’s literature. Department of Science and Nature place before the students majoring in the broad teaching arena advanced technologies that aid in science instruction. Department of Mathematics and Computers provides program for training mathematics teachers for post-elementary education.
Studies towards a Master of Education degree at Levinsky College of Education are designed for teachers holding a B.Ed. degree who have gained experience in teaching. Emphasis is placed on the importance of continuous learning over a lifetime of teaching by maintaining a close connection between practice and current educational theory. Programs for second degrees allow specialization in teaching children of different ages (early childhood, elementary and junior high school) and in different subjects.
The College offers these programs:
The Language Education in a Multicultural Society program is for teachers of language: Hebrew as a first and second language, English as a foreign language, Arabic as a first and second language and for teachers of literature.
Instruction and Learning program is intended for teachers experienced in teaching a variety of school subjects who wish to become leading teachers in the educational system.
Music Education program enables music education teachers to develop professionally and to become change agents within the field.
Early Childhood Education program engages its students in all aspects of early childhood development, and organizational and administrative training.
Special Education program address theoretical, conceptual and practical developments that have occurred in recent years in special education and regular education.
The M.Teach (Master of Teaching) program is designed for university graduates imbued with the desire and motivation to lead in-depth processes in the education field. The program aids in the development of competence, knowledge and understanding in the areas of teaching specialization, as well as developing theory- and research-based understanding in teaching and learning, using innovative learning environments.
Art in Music Therapy program is a paramedical profession that uses music to meet physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs for patients of all ages. Music therapy improves the quality of life of healthy people and meets the special needs of children and adults with disabilities or illness (Levinsky College of Education 2016).
Faculty members of Levinsky College of Education are divided into three groups of experts: discipline experts who teach their subject; experts in teaching the disciplines, and experts in education and pedagogy, who also serve as pedagogical instructors. Pedagogical instructors have rich experience in teaching in schools and they teach courses focusing on the practice of teaching such as teaching and learning doctrines, learning programs, research, teaching experience and working with parents. These courses focus on the link between learning theories and doctrine and applied teaching practice.
Regulations controlling the employment of faculty members are determined by the Ministry of Education (Ministry of Education (Israel) 2014) and Israeli employment law. According to these regulations, new member serve a probationary period without tenure or permanent contracts for a period of up to five years. If they prove to be successful in their work, they are given permanent employment— mainly part-time. A person who is not made permanent cannot continue to work at a college and successful members with professional achievements can work permanently. With regard to promotion, the Ministry of Education and Council for Higher Education determined an academic scale with four grades, from level of senior teacher to professor, with unique requirements for each grade.
In recent decades, professional characteristics of teacher educators have been studied frequently (Cochran-Smith 2003a; Korthagen et al. 2005; Lunenberg and Hamilton 2008; Shagrir 2011; Smith 2003, 2005; Swennen et al. 2010), and the aim of this study is to add a new perspective, in that it examines how a teacher education institution’s modus operandi influences these characteristics.
In literature dealing with professional characteristics of teacher educators three types of studies can be found: one is where their research populations are teacher educators and the ways in which they describe their work and world views (Berry 2009; Koster et al. 2008). Another type is critical reviews that analyse findings of published studies and deal with the professional identity of teacher educators (Avalos 2011; Beijaard et al. 2004). The third is opinions and critiques, which raise questions for discussion and present ideas, passing thoughts and indecisions (Cochran-Smith 2004; Dinkelman 2011; Zeichner 2006). Researchers regard teacher educators both as experts in professional teacher education and in higher education academics. Those who perceive teacher educators as higher education specialists demand that they operate like members in academic institutions. Research by Lunenberg and Hamilton (2008) showed that teacher education, just like the teaching profession, is held in low esteem by academics and the public in countries such as the U.S and the Nederland. They agreed with Cochran-Smith (2004) and argued that the image of teacher educators amongst academics is low when compared to that of lecturers in other faculties. In the United States, for example, teacher educators introduce themselves as such only occasionally (Zeichner 2006), and prefer to describe their work as lecturers and researchers. Zeichner (2006) examined faculty members’ motivations and motives for choosing teacher education and found that some see it as an income source, which allows them to do other things—mentor doctoral students, carry out highly important research and produce academic publications. According to Zeichner, only a small number of teacher educators stated that they acted out of a desire to improve the way teachers would work in the future.
Faculty members in higher education are required to act as experts in their field, ensure high standards of teaching, be part of a community of colleagues, to create and spread knowledge by constantly doing research (Denemark and Espinoza 1974; Murray 2008, 2010; Murray et al., 2008; Shagrir 2011; Sinkinson 1997). The role of higher education is to create and spread knowledge (Brooks 2005), instil knowledge and educate the next generation of researchers and experts. Their activities as experts will contribute on the one hand to their success at work and on the other, to deepening their expertise in an area and broaden the body of knowledge regarding teacher education. Researchers point out that teacher educators must be aware of their role characteristics from their entry in working in higher education, and besides teaching, there are expectations that they will deal with learning, research and professional development (Boyd et al. 2007).
Academic institutions have implemented strict evaluation processes for faculty members’ professional development because it is so important. Evaluation is considered to be a process that upholds high academic standards in activities and contributes to institutions’ reputation (Huber 2002; Terpstra and Honoree 2009). Lecturers evaluation includes examining the quality of their teaching and their academic contribution to the professional world (Shagrir 2012). Scholarship activities are defined as carrying out research and its publication, reviewing articles, receiving research grants, writing academic publications and the like (Becker et al. 2003; Landrum and Clump 2004). Institutions that encourage research provide their faculty members with a suitable framework and budgets (Colbeck 2002). However, it is important to point out that even universities that are defined as research institutions, which view research activities as a principal purpose of its faculty members’ endeavours, places great importance on the quality of their teaching and their students’ achievements (Meizlish and Kaplan 2008; Terpstra and Honoree 2009).
The work of teacher educators demands integration of theory and academic levels of knowledge on the one hand and practical work, including teaching methods and tools, on the other (Murray and Male 2005; Shagrir 2010a; Swennen et al. 2008a; Zeichner 2005, 2006). This uniqueness and complexity leads to teacher education being considered as a profession in itself (Berry and Scheele 2007; Cochran-Smith 2001; Gardner 1989; Grossman et al. 2009; Shagrir 2005). In this profession, teacher educators have a central role—as those who build the professional body of knowledge and the profession’s components (Berry and Scheele 2007), enrich the areas in which they teach, lead the process of building prospective teachers’ professional identities (Silberstein 2002) and influence their perceptions and professional approaches. Teacher education requires practical teaching in schools. This forces teacher educators to use unique skills and talents, to serve as a role model for good teaching, to practice reflection that examines teaching situations and to instil teaching expertise and educational behaviours as a personal example (Loughran and Berry 2005). There are those who view teacher educators as a group of professionals within the higher education sector, who are experts in the field of teacher education and have to carry out academic research activities and professional development (Murray 2010). However, despite the fact that teacher educators’ role is perceived as extremely complex and demanding unique skills, most teacher education institutions do not have a process to prepare and train them to fulfil these requirements (Grossman et al. 2009; Lunenberg and Hamilton 2008).
Teacher educators must maintain strict professional standards, act responsibly and with high levels of academic quality because of the complexity of their role and the level of responsibility they hold (Cochran-Smith 2003b). The Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) publishes standards that are cornerstones for professionals and emphasize the fact that the work of teacher educators includes professional and reflective teaching, expertise in professional knowledge, mastering technology and evaluation tools and expertise in the body of knowledge of teacher education as a profession (ATE 2013).
The aim of the research presented here is to examine the characteristics of teacher educators’ professional work and whether the way institutions, in which they work, operate and behave, influences these characteristics. In-depth research led to a view about institutional conduct, local academic culture and faculty members’ work characteristics (Karnieli 2008; Shlasky and Alpert 2007). A number of research tools were used to collect data (Karnieli 2008): interviews with faculty members, observations of how they worked, informal conversations with them and analysis of official documents distributed in the studied institutions (Bar Shalom 2011; Mutzafi-Haller 2012).
Data was collected in both studied institutions in a similar manner. This included personal semi-structured interviews with ten teacher educators, five in each institution, four women and one man in each case. At the Israeli institution, all interviewees had over three years’ permanent employment at the college. All the interviewees were lecturers as well as holding academic management roles. At the American institution, all the interviewees were lecturers employed on practice track. The male participant had only taken up the role of teacher educator in the same year in which the research was conducted, two of the women were in their third year of employment and the last two had more years of service.
As well as interviews, policy documents such as the institution’s vision and professional regulations for academic staff were analysed and informal conversations took place with interviewees and other faculty members, in which their professional views, working methods and academic activities were discussed.
The researcher, who has served as a faculty member at the Israeli institution for over two decades, was well versed in its conduct and institutional culture, through her own experience of and involvement in different bodies active in the college. In order to get to know the American institution’s conduct and modus operandi of its faculty members, and in order to carry out the research in its natural surroundings and local culture (Alpert 2006; Karnieli 2008; Shlasky and Alpert 2007), and get to know it from up close (Denzin 2006; Denzin and Lincoln 2000), the researcher spent a semester at the institution. This stay allowed for acquiring personal experiences, learning about its conduct in situ and forging professional relationships with colleagues (Bochner and Ellis 2002; Keefer 2010; Spry 2001). During the research, events were interpreted and given professional meaning by an experienced teacher educator (Clandinin et al. 2007; Holt 2003; Trahar 2009; Wall 2008).
The length of time allowed for the research enabled the researcher to make use of a number of roles and see things from many perspectives, which led to interpretations derived from her personality, insights, social and life experiences (Lawrence-Lightfoot and Hoffmann Davis 1997) and her personal political criticism (Spry 2001; Wall 2006).
These are the roles filled by the researcher for the purposes of this study:
- • Role of witness—that arose from observing events, distanced from the doing;
- • Role of interpreter—that arose from interpretations and meanings given to events, experiences and data;
- • Role of autobiographer—that arose from the role of researchers, recording sequences of events while using her life experience and perceptions as filters for given interpretations;
- • Role of listener—that arose from the role of researcher who sees and hears what is said explicitly and between the lines, as well as identifying vocal gestures and body language messages (Lawrence-Lightfoot and Hoffmann Davis (1997).
The data collected from each institution were analysed and compared to expose differences and similarities between them. From the findings, it was possible to identify a number of focus points in their conduct that influenced their staff’s professional characteristics.
Findings that emerged from the research teach that faculty members’ work characteristics are influenced by the ways in which an institution conducts itself in three areas: faculty members evaluation—that is to say the way in which processes adopted by an educational institution evaluate teacher educators; encouraging faculty members to develop professionally and in research—that is to say, frameworks and institutional channels that enable its faculty members to develop professionally and carry out academic—research activities; academia-field links— that is to say, work connections between educational institutions and fields of experience, that is schools where practical teacher education takes place.
Findings that Emerged from an Examination of Faculty Members Evaluation
Both studied universities have strict procedures for evaluating faculty members teaching and professional conduct. Evaluation focuses on testing teaching quality and its contribution to students’ achievements. In order to this, evaluation includes students’ completing anonymous feedback forms and supervisors providing feedback on their subordinates. However, there are also differences between the two institutions. The American one, which states that it is a research university, places importance on both teaching and professional undertakings such as research, study, academic writing and publications. The Guidelines for Appointment, Review and Promotion of Practice and Clinical Faculty (Vanderbilt University 2009) obligate faculty members to prove their activity in three areas: (1) teaching, which requires high-quality and up to date teaching that results in high level student achievement. This area constitutes 60 % of the total evaluation score; (2) scholarship, which includes obtaining research funds, carrying out research, writing academic publications and presenting them at conferences, etc. This area constitutes 30 % of the total evaluation score; (3) service, which demands involvement in and contribution to education by active participation in bodies, forums and committees—both internally and communal, municipal, regional and national. This area constitutes 10 % of the total evaluation score (for more details, see pages 57-59).
From the moment teacher educators join the university, their adherence to these demands are monitored. In order to encourage and motivate them to teach and continue to develop professionally, each teacher educator is allocated a professional mentor, an experienced and long-serving teacher educator. Mentors help newly appointed faculty members to learn about the institution’s modus operandi, its professional requirements, and to fulfil teaching and academic activity demands. Their role includes work meetings in which professional conversations take place, advice is given and future lessons are jointly prepared. Mentors observe at least six lessons per year and provide in-depth feedback with regard to what they saw as well as guidance for future lessons. One of the interviewees explained it as follows, “I think this enables every young lecturer to understand what is required of them and potential solutions available to them for any problem that may arise.”
The mentoring process contributes to the fact that veteran faculty members play an active role in the assimilation of new members and, they themselves are empowered by their contribution to the professionalization of teaching (Caffarella and Zinn 1999; Gaye and Cullen 1995).
In Israel, academic faculty members’ evaluation procedures conform to the requirements of the Council for Higher Education, whose role is to safeguard academic quality in institutions (The Council for Higher Education 2015). This website presents institutional requirements of lecturers and calls upon them to delve into teaching, be experts in their fields and be teaching role models for those who are training to be teachers. In addition, they are called upon to study, research and publish continually, to participate in conferences and continued professional development, to examine their work, read professional literature, be active members in their community of colleagues and continually update themselves in new knowledge with regard to teacher education. Every academic year, an evaluation process is carried out using student feedback with regard to standards of teaching, and feedback from direct supervisors with regard to adherence and success in their work, and their professional contribution to research and publications. Evaluating the work of pedagogical instructors includes their ability to mentor and instruct students, and their role in creating and building cooperation with schools in which practical teacher training takes place.
To conclude, with reference to faculty members’ evaluation in teacher education institutions, differences were identified between the two studied institutions. The American institution takes account of many more components in its evaluation processes and contribution to education is measured through institutional or external, communal or social activities. With the aim of nurturing professional and quality faculty members, long serving members closely monitor professional development and teaching abilities of newer faculty members.
Findings that Emerged from an Examination of How Faculty Members Are Encouraged to Develop Professionally and in Research
As previously stated in the theoretical background, the role of every academic member includes continued professional development through study, research, academic writing, publications and the like (Brooks 2005; Murray 2010; Shagrir 2011). The current research findings show that differences exist between the two institutions with regard to extent of and depth in academic-research activities by faculty members, and their professional development.
Both institutions provide infrastructures to encourage faculty members to carry out professional academic activities. These enable faculty members to broaden and develop their academic undertakings and strengthen their professional image. However, it was found that developmental frameworks available to faculty members in the Israeli institution were much narrower than at the American one. It is possible that these differences derive principally from the (much smaller) extent of the Israeli institution and the smaller number of programs that it offers. Nonetheless, it was found that channels were constructed at the Israeli institution that traversed tracks and programs available to faculty members for professional development. Among others, compulsory participation in regularly held study days with the purpose of enabling team learning, preserving work connections among colleagues, and creating work communities.
Interviewees identified these meetings as effective for their professional development:
These improve and nurture my activity ... especially dialogue and discourse with colleagues who have something to contribute to the subject that we all want to advance with joint thinking ... I worked with a group of colleagues, a highly unified, well connected group . From my point of view it was empowering that the team was experienced, skilled, knew the way, the doctrine and every meeting helped me develop my work abilities.
I believe that it important that every teacher belong to a group where they can raise all sorts of subjects, problems and doubts about their work, never mind technical questions and problems.
In addition, at the Israeli institution’s faculty members have access to budgets that enable research to be carried out, participation in conferences and publishing writings, as well as online information resources, research centres and professional forums. However, because the institution does not have departments or faculties teaching other academic professions, the opportunities for staff to collaborate or maintain professional links with other areas are rather limited within the institution. Most teacher educators’ time is allocated to teaching and it required activities, such as marking work, planning teaching and counselling students. Despite the requirements calling them to carry out academic activity and professional development (Levinsky College of Education 2014), only some faculty members actually fulfil this requirement. Most of those who devote time to professional development allocate most of their time to study only, as one of them explained: “I study a lot. Learning is my passion, and therefore, I study on another course every time.” Emerging from the research findings is the fact that learning, research and academic activity carried out by faculty members focus mainly on issues from the world of teacher education, and that they see learning as an aide to their teaching job and an opportunity to meet with colleagues.
At the American institution, teacher educators have to fulfil general university demands, regulations and requirements that obligate staff in every faculty to develop professionally. The research found that four of the five interviewees were active in various channels of academic-research activities with differing intensity (Shagrir 2011). Faculty members are provided with a wide range of infrastructures and channels for professional undertakings, which allow them to cooperate with colleagues from other departments, and enriching joint activities that cross boundaries of expertise and faculties. Faculty members have opportunities to submit applications for research funding from the university or other cooperating bodies, from trusts that offer wide ranging and well-funded research grants. Faculty members jointly submit applications for research funding and see this work as an opportunity to provide mutual support and improve their professionalism.
The university’s requirements for professional development, as they appear in the guidance document (Vanderbilt University 2009), were known to all the interviewees but, like their Israeli counterparts, they saw teaching as their principal professional undertaking. With regard to teaching, they included many hours they spend providing personal counselling to students.
The interviewees regard themselves as teacher educators, and as such, their obligation is to impart teaching methods and tools to their students and serve as quality teaching models, as explained by one of the interviewees:
You are a professional teacher first. You have to be thinking as a teacher, have an eye for classroom, be able to analyse teaching and then to become a teacher educator with additional theories of learning, then you do some kind of training. You need to become a teacher, be aware of the core activities you use and the key assignments you do.
Another interviewee presented her choice to focus on teaching as deriving from her world view and desire to use the wealth of experience she had accumulated as a teacher:
Although I am required to do research I am not a research faculty [...] I am on the practice line which means that my emphasis is on the teaching and that was a deliberate choice on my part because I wanted to be somewhere where the teaching that I did was going to be the main focus of my work.
Another made reference to the teaching component:
The course that I teach is geared to practice and practical implementation, to connect between research knowledge and theoretical knowledge that students have learned to turn them into practice; to take the knowledge and focus on ways of using it when I’m in the class.
In addition, interviewees in the American institution stated that in the framework of their work in higher education, they see themselves as researchers, publishing articles, presenting and conferences, members of professional organizations and members of committees and national and international bodies.
To conclude, it appears from the findings that in both institutions teacher educators regard their principal role as teaching. They invest most of their resources in teaching and being successful at perceived it as being successful in doing their job. At the American institution, teacher educators’ activities include ongoing research work, mainly in collaboration with colleagues. Teacher educators in the Israeli institution invest in their roles as teachers and expanding the practice of student teachers, and only a few of them make sure to engage in research and publications.
Findings that Emerged from Examination of the Academia-Field Link
Working relations that exist between educational institutions and training schools derive from the need for practical-clinical experience as a basic component of teacher education. How graduates are seen as teachers as well as the educating institution’s professional world-view influence the way in which these links are built. The research findings show differences between them with regard to the perception of work connections as expressed in a number of areas: the perception of the place of practical work in teacher education; the frequency and extent of hours given to teaching practice in teacher education programs; who is chosen to be responsible for field experience; how students’ teaching skills are evaluated; what constitutes instruction for good teaching. In addition, there are differences between institutions with regard to faculty members’ levels of involvement in the teaching experience component, and their perception of the responsibility they have for this component.
The Israeli institution, which is designated for teacher education, sees teaching experience as an important component, a key objective and even the core of its existence and activity. This practical component stands at the forefront of institutional vision and policy and students’ practical experience in schools is allocated a lot of time. The institution requires faculty members to serve as mentors and instructors to students in schools. Pedagogical instructors are responsible on behalf of the college for working links with schools, their teachers and management. They place students in classes, direct and mentor them throughout the year in schools and assess their teaching abilities. The instructors lead training, acquiring teaching skills, acquiring class management methods and integration into school practice. In addition, they serve as academic experts, and establish professional cooperation with teachers and school management. The courses they teach have a practical orientation, and are based on the links between learned theory and actual teaching, as explained by one of the instructors:
I really love the field. In other words, I love the children, their kindergarten teachers, the teachers ...That’s what nourishes my course teaching, even advanced second degree courses...what nourishes them is what is done in the field, the encounter with children, being able to see close-up how things happen, not just to hear from students how it was, but to see how they do it.
Faculty members at the American institution have weaker links with school in which student teachers are trained. Prior to the beginning of the academic year, they establish working relationships with schools and place students in classrooms, but during the year, they do not visit the schools, as one interviewee said:
I decide on the schools to which I send the students and I do some of the supervision.
I usually observe students who encounter problems and those who have a problem with their school [....] Sometimes there are teachers who are really struggling and then I go to help with their supervision. Besides that, I do not visit the schools
Supervisors, who are not members of academic staff, accompany students in schools and serve as a further dimension of those who participate in student teacher education, and lecturers who teach courses with a practical orientation are not part of the instruction system in schools.
Because of faculty members’ absence from students’ world of experience, they are pedantic in providing examples of applied teaching instruction, analysing parts of students’ teaching experiences that have been recorded, and demanding that students practice teaching on their colleagues.
The interviewees do not see any difficulty in the fact that they do not have continuous work relations with the education system, and do not see it as harming the educational process. They devote a lot of time to providing personal counselling to students and feel that they get a clear picture of what takes places in students’ practical teaching experiences. Counselling is meant to assist students to deal with teaching and class management difficulties, and to create healthy working relationships with the school teachers.
In conclusion, comparing the institutions revealed that in the Israeli institution pedagogical instructors are lecturing staff and they are responsible for the practical part of the teacher education programs and building intense working relations in training schools. This involvement allows the institution to implement an education policy focused on the practical component. In contrast, lecturers at the American institution do not have continuous working relationships with schools and are not partners in the practical experiences of students in the field of teaching.
The research examined professional and academic world-views and modes of conduct in teacher education institutions in order to identify factors that influence faculty members work characteristics, from which three interesting conclusions have emerged:
The first conclusion is that institutional procedures that serve to evaluate the work of teacher educators influence their work characteristics. In both studied models, evaluation procedures include student feedback and supervisors’ evaluation, and faculty members are aware that the standard of their work is inspected and measured every academic year. In the American model, there are two additional evaluation procedures: personal professional mentoring by experienced faculty members throughout the academic year, and assessment of faculty members’ contribution, as educators and experts in their field, to the community and society. These additions to evaluation procedures are a factor that clearly encourages dedication of time and efforts to professional development by faculty members at the American institution. They constantly invest in their professional development whereas Israeli faculty members focus on teaching, sometimes on learning - principally when it contributes to teaching improvement, and only rarely do they focus on research.
This conclusion shows that evaluation is a screening tool to identify those who are not suited to their role and simultaneously it is a path to empowerment, growth and professional strengthening. Evaluation procedures tend to spur faculty members into academic undertakings on the one hand, and act as a channel to spread and implement institutional policy on the other. With regard to teacher educators’ work characteristics, this conclusion is likely to raise key questions, such as: How can one measure whether teacher educators who engage in professional development produce better teachers? Do evaluation procedures that contribute to widening the extent of teacher educators’ functions, according to the findings, also contribute to their survival in the job for longer? Does evaluation contribute to teacher educators’ job satisfaction? These questions and others are likely to be the basis for future research.
Another conclusion is that the modus operandi of teacher educational institu- tions—whether independent or part of a university—influences faculty members’ work characteristics. In the institution that is part of a university, teacher educators must adhere to strict general university requirements, which lead most of them to consistently undertake professional development. In addition, faculty members have access to platforms and infrastructures that support academic-research activities, such as partnerships with other departments and multi-disciplinary research across faculties; a wide range of available research budgets; libraries, laboratories, information resources and the like. A designated institution is usually smaller and the opportunities available to its faculty members are much more limited, and they focus on subjects relating to teacher education and contributing to creation of members whose expertise is the profession of teacher education.
As a result of this conclusion, it is proposed that partnerships between institutions, whether or not they operate similarly, are established. Partnerships will enable faculty members to get to know the advantages of all instructional models and enrich one another. This proposal is likely to be significant for designated institutions, which are smaller with more limited resources, in order to create enhanced frameworks for faculty members, for example, joint applications for research funding and grants, arranging seminars, conferences and joint presentations, developing joint research projects in expanded areas of research. Faculty members at designated institutions would be able to benefit from widening their professional undertakings to areas beyond that of teacher education professionalism, including other issues in the world of higher education. Universities would benefit from possible partnerships to focus on the available knowledge about the profession of teacher education and nurturing academic activities whose main focus and purpose is teacher education.
The last conclusion is how institutional perspectives with regard to practical teaching experience and its role in training procedures influence teacher educators’ work characteristics. The Israeli institution’s perspective gives a key role to the practical component and insists that instruction, mentoring, counselling and evaluation thereof is carried out by faculty members. This situation contributes to the fact that some faculty members are experts in teaching practice, whose work is directed to professional links between academia and what takes place in the field of teaching. The American institution’s perspective does not include faculty members’ involvement in teaching practice and they are not partners to students’ practical experiences except in lessons, through students’ assignments and in personal counselling sessions. As such, American faculty members are focused on all aspects of education and their expert disciplines and on the whole do not focus on instructional procedures.
This conclusion is likely to raise key questions with regard to teacher educators’ work characteristics, such as: When teacher educators know and understand practical teaching experiences, school-based teachers, and school students—is the instructional process better for prospective teachers? What roles are needed, suitable and able to professionally accompany practical teaching experience? To what extent should teacher educators as academics be distanced from what actually happens in the field of practice? These questions and others are likely to be the basis for future research.
In summary, in order to strengthen and broaden teacher educators’ professional development, it is important to look at their work characteristics and what factors influence them. From this research’s conclusions, it is possible to learn that professional perspectives and modes of conduct of academic institutions—as expressed in their staff evaluation procedures, frameworks and resources available for professional undertakings, and relationships between institutions and practical fields of education—significantly influence the essence and methods of faculty members’ work.