Bridging the gap between theory and practice in teacher education.Coherence for whom?

Lars Emmerik Damgaard Knudsen, Per Fibæk Laursen

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‘Bridging the gap between theory and practice in professional education programs’ is a 4-year (2009-12) project financed by Danish Council for Strategic Research. The central research question of the project is: Which strategies result in the most fruitful relationship between theory and practice in professional education programs? The project focuses on four professions: teachers, nurses, preschool teachers, and engineers.

Several authors (e.g. Grossman et al 2009) have suggested that the gap between theory and practice is a bigger challenge to teacher education than to other kinds of professional education. The reason might be that teacher education is more complex than most other programs because it consists of three main elements (subject matter, pedagogic, and practice) whereas most other programs contain only two main elements. Another reason might be that it is difficult to prepare for the central aspect of the teachers’ job, to inspire and manage the learning of a large group of lively children, before being in the actual situation.

Overcoming the perceived gap between theory and practice in pre-service professional education has been attempted by many (Westbury et al. 2005). Today, the dominating view is that theory and practice should be integrated. A continuing cycle of interplay between theory, practice and reflection is viewed as the way to engender changes in students’ attitudes and practices (Hill 2000). Coherence in educational programs has been proposed as the solution to the problem of the perceived gap between theory and practice (Grossman et al 2008).

The preliminary results of the ‘Bridging the gap’ project show that it is probably more complicated. Students do not necessarily accept the theory-practice concept of an educational program, even if the program is coherent. Students seem to arrive at college with preconceptions about theory and practice. The students’ preconceptions are not necessarily identical with the conceptions behind the teacher education program. And students do not necessarily adopt the college’s conception on theory and practice. Colleges want students to learn to reflect on teaching. But most students want to learn how to teach – not how to reflect on teaching. Most students expect teacher education to equip them with a “toolbox” and to cultivate their personal qualities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateJun 2011
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes
EventBack to the Future:: Legacies, Continuities and Changes in Educational Policy, Practice and Research - University of Minho, Braga, Portugal
Duration: 5 Jul 20118 Jul 2011
Conference number: 15


ConferenceBack to the Future:
LocationUniversity of Minho


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