Development takes what is there as a valuable starting point, not as something to be replaced, but a useful platform on which to build. To do so is to recognise not only that teachers do have valuable existing expertise but also that, if teachers are forced to choose, they will usually revert to their secure established ways of doing things. The metaphor of ‘building on what is already there’ is not, however, satisfactory because it suggests adding on something separate to what is there, something extra on top.
The concept of development, in contrast, implies that whatever is added, whatever is new, will be integrated with what is there already, and will indeed grow from what is there. ” McIntyre and Hagger (1992, p. 271) This places the teacher in a position of power and responsibility. It means that the teacher is the arbiter of change. If a proposed change does not meet with the approval of the teacher, then there is little likelihood that the change will be introduced.
What sometimes happens is that, where a proposed reform partly meets with the approval of a teacher, the proposed change is revised.
It may be scaled down, some of the less acceptable aspects removed or emphases may be changed. The proposed reform undergoes a process of customization to suit the circumstances and priorities of the individual teacher. This position of power in relation to change and reform also brings with it considerable responsibility. Teachers must be attuned to the need for change. They need to be proactive, able to take initiatives in relation to change but also to make sound judgments about the value and relevance of any change, proposed by others or initiated by themselves.
They cannot afford to reject all change outright or be dismissive of it. To do so would be to abandon a professional obligation to work in the interests of students and the future of society. Every professional teacher must be able to articulate fully the bases for his or her own practical theory. Being explicit about one’s own practical theory is essential for a number of reasons. First, it ensures that explanations of the bases for actions in the classroom can be provided and the expectation of professional accountability discharged.
Second, knowing in detail one’s practical theory facilitates the process of review and revision. Here the position of the teacher is somewhat akin to that of a medical expert or flight engineer. Only expert knowledge of how the human body or plane operates can provide a basis for the correction of malfunctions. Thirdly, it allows for a fuller and quicker assessment of proposals for change. Areas of compatibility/incompatibility and the flaws inherent in existing and proposed practical theories can be more readily identified.
Moreover, it is more likely that unsound proposals for change will be detected. Interpreting student teacher learning as learning by reflection on can be taken a step further by also applying this idea to other components of teacher education, such as group seminars on campus. The realistic approach can be used at the level of a class on campus by creating an experience in that class which is the basis for learning for a whole group. One example is the idea of organizing 10-minutes lessons given by student teachers to their fellow students.
Korthagen, F. A. J. Nevertheless, what teachers do as they design their approaches to teaching has many of the hallmarks of theory building. They address significant problems related to student learning, they design and experiment with ways of solving those problems, they inquire into the relative effectiveness of these ways by using data from observations, tests and feedback from others to assist them, they identify patterns which give rise to predictions about what is likely to happen, and they build bases for professional action.