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Learning to teach: making sense of learning to teach
Learning to teach: making sense of learning to teach

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1.1 Four paradigms

Zeichner, in his research into teacher education, identifies four paradigms (Zeichner, 1983). These are useful as a starting point to discuss the considerable differences in approach to ITE. They cannot be applied without critical reflection on their relationship to particular models or experiences of ITE however. It is highly likely that an ITE course will combine aspects of the four but may have a tendency towards one paradigm.

The four paradigms, with examples from behaviour management, are:

  1. Behaviouristic

    This is about adopting particular behaviours as prescribed by the course which might be derived from statutory standards or competencies.

    For example, the student teacher will be given the set of school rules or expectations, which are likely to represent one view of classroom management.

  2. Personalisitic

    This paradigm is concerned with psychological maturity and personal growth of the student into the role of teacher. This aligns with the idea of developing a teacher identity.

    For example, developing a classroom management approach that works will be seen as developing from the growth of the student teacher into the teacher identity. Therefore it may be very gradual and discussions of behaviour management may be dominated by discussion of how the student sees themselves in the classroom and their experience of dealing with behaviour.

  3. Traditional craft

    This can best be described as the apprenticeship model where students are expected to assimilate knowledge by working with expert teachers in the classroom.

    For example, this model will involve student teachers watching and copying their mentor’s approach to managing a class.

  4. Enquiry orientation

    In this paradigm teachers act on ethical, political and pedagogical issues in a considered, skillful and reflective way to construct their own knowledge from a range of sources. The enquiry-orientation is concerned with problem solving.

    For example, each learning opportunity is used to try different approaches, to evaluate the success of different approaches and then the student can construct their own understanding of behaviour management. Different approaches might include trialling a behaviourist or traditional-craft approach, but includes the flexibility to question, critique and reject ideas in favour of their own researched and trialled solutions.

(Zeichner, 1983)

Zeichner’s ideas of different views of initial teacher education are supported by research done by Taylor (2008). Through her research into HEI and school partnerships, she found four ways of describing ITE learning:

  1. Cascading expertise

    Information and expertise is transmitted from experts to novices.

  2. Enabling students individual growth as teachers

    Where personalisation of approach and nurturing results in student’s individual growth. Intensive mentoring is associated with this type of learning as is initiation into a particular school context.

  3. Developing student teaching

    Where skills are learned through emulation of experts.

  4. Students as teachers and learners

    A more holistic, questioning approach, where students are encouraged to think critically about theory and practise in order to develop their own learning.

(Taylor, 2008)

Activity 2: Compare views of ITE

Timing: Time: 15 minutes

Compare Zeichner’s and Taylor’s models. In what ways do the categories align or differ from each other?


Zeichner’s and Taylor’s research reveals some common themes in thinking about the underpinning philosophy of ITE courses. Both make a distinction between the ‘transmission’ of knowledge and skills (Behaviouristic, Traditional Craft, Cascading expertise, Developing student teaching), and a more student-teacher centred approach (Personalistic, Enquiry Orientation, Enabling individual growth, Students as teachers and learners).