For Whom, How, What For


In ancient China an emperor ordered his court magicians to come up with the shortest sentence possible, so he could use it in any kind of situation that would show his deep wisdom and erudition. After lengthy and careful consideration (for the magicians it was a matter of life or death) the wise men came up with the line: “That too will pass”. Surely multi-functional. Whatever may happen, for better or worse, the attitude expressed by the line creates sufficient distance and overview. Not commitment, that is for sure. From an emperor (being a good ruler – 1) one might have expected differently. Since that time however the sentence, certainly the attitude, has been used widely, both explicitly as well as implicitly. It signals non-commitment. But sometimes ‘things’ will not change without action, or is there no time to wait, or waste; and is a calling for direction necessary.
What to think then of a whole line of research that has been there for quite a while but actually did not add much to a fuller understanding of the phenomena under scrutiny? It would flourish under the emperor, no doubt. Being done without any direction, at least that is the impression when one reads a review study on the Teaching Practicum. The Practicum (2) is the key experiential place of professional preparation for prospective teachers. It is where they become formed as real teachers. But whether it is a sound place to learn the trade we still do not know. The review study meticulously shows the one-sidedness of the bulk of studies: focused primarily on student teachers, their perspectives and beliefs, using small case studies, showing open ended outcomes. A meager, delimited result on “for whom, how, and what for” after decades of research.

Now, we do not have emperors in research. Good ruling has to come from researchers themselves. In that respect it is a bit amazing to see the lack of it, despite the fact there are good reviews available; telling us time and time again the limitations and biases in a field of study. It is not enough to say the biasedness “will pass”. Partiality on “For whom, how, and what for” in fact must act as a wakeup call offered to us by reviews and the educational community.

Research on teaching practicum – a systematic review by Tony Lawson, Melek Çakmak, Müge Gündüz & Hugh Busher (2015). Research on teaching practicum – a systematic review, European Journal of Teacher Education, 38:3, 392-407, DOI: 10.1080/02619768.2014.994060
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