The Basis of the Bases

Last week’s lesson was about teacher professionalism and how a certain set of criteria would make a teacher a professional and teaching a profession. This week’s lesson is about teasing out one certain aspect that makes a teacher a professional: the theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge needed in practice. Indeed, Koehler  and Mishra (2006) stated, “Teaching is a complicated practice that requires at interweaving of many kinds of specialized knowledge…requiring teachers to apply complex knowledge structures across different cases and contexts…[and] to shift and evolve their understanding.”

These different types of knowledge, called knowledge bases, form the foundation through which a teacher practices his or her craft. There’s the knowledge of what to teach and why (content knowledge), the knowledge of how to teach it (general pedagogical knowledge), the knowledge of what the state wants students to learn (curriculum knowledge),  the knowledge of how to blend pedagogy and content in order to adapt to learners (pedagogical content knowledge), knowledge of the learners and their characteristics, the knowledge of the educational contexts, and the knowledge of the educational ends, purposes and values. For me, this knowledge can be acquired from different sources: the academe, the school, and actual practice.

With this in mind, I echo Schulman’s (1987) reasoning that teaching is comprehension, reasoning, transformation, and reflection rolled into one. Hence, teacher education is not training teachers how to behave in prescribed ways, but to educate them on how to reason and to justify their teaching once they are in the classroom. To do this, they must be able to employ critically reflective practice and to build an adequate base of facts, principles and experiences from which they can justify using their knowledge bases and theoretical knowledge.

I remember back in college, a good friend of mine studying Bachelor in Secondary Education shared her thoughts after observing at one “Center of Excellence in Education” institution in Metro Manila (at that time, the UP College of Education was not yet recognized as one). She shared that this particular teacher education institution was well-known for producing graduates that are well-trained in producing educational materials and lesson plans for the classroom but lack the theoretical knowledge needed to justify their pedagogy and subject content in the classroom. What does this imply? Perhaps, this would translate to poor teaching practices in the classroom and poor pupil performance.

Coincidentally, recent LET results reveal that only one in ten passed at the elementary level while only one-fourth passed at the high school level. While the LET certainly has its limitations in measuring teacher capability and efficiency, it is a means of standardizing the profession. Maybe perhaps it is high time to look into the quality of education graduates in the country and see how they can build up their knowledge bases, strengthen critical reflexivity, and absorb theoretical knowledge – so that it can translate into good teaching practices and better learning for the students in the classroom.

REFERENCES:

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2006). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Schulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-21.

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