Research News

Zeichner looks at misuse of research by those hoping to privatize teacher education

September 08, 2015

UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Kenneth Zeichner recently co-authored an article for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog that’s headlined, “The misuse of research to support deregulation and privatization of teacher education.”

The lead-in to the post notes: “For years now we’ve been hearing from school reformers that traditional teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities are awful and that what we need is deregulation and market competition. In the following post, two academics evaluate the argument that these programs have failed as well as the value of the programs that school reformers embrace to replace them.”

Ken Zeichner
In addition to being a professor emeritus with the UW-Madison School of Education’s No. 1-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Zeichner is a professor of teacher education at the University of Washington, Seattle. He also is a member of the National Academy of Education who has done extensive research on teaching and teacher education. The blog post is co-authored by Hilary G. Conklin, a program leader and associate professor of secondary social studies at DePaul University.

The two begin their blog post by responding to claims that those who are recruited, trained and supported by Teach For America help students learn as much, or more, than children taught by a more experienced teacher in the same school.

Write Zeichner and Conklin: “Critics of college and university-based teacher preparation have made many damaging claims about the programs that prepare most U.S. teachers -– branding these programs as an ‘industry of mediocrity’ -- while touting the new privately-financed and-run entrepreneurial programs that are designed to replace them. These critics have constructed a narrative of failure about college and university ed schools and a narrative of success about the entrepreneurial programs, in many cases using research evidence to support their claims.”

They continue: “Yet in a recent independently peer-reviewed study that will be published in Teachers College Record, we show how research has been misused in debates about the future of teacher education in the United States. Critics have labeled university teacher education programs failures and decreed their replacements successes by selectively citing research to support a particular point of view (knowledge ventriloquism), and by repeating claims based on non-existent or unvetted research, or repeatedly citing a small or unrepresentative sample of research (echo chambers).”

This blog post is an introduction to a paper on the subject by Zeichner and Conklin that is being published by Teachers College Record, titled “Beyond Knowledge Ventriloquism and Echo Chambers: Raising the Quality of the Debate on Teacher Education.”

To learn much more about this interesting and hot-button topic, make sure and check out the entire Answer Sheet blog post on the Washington Post website for free.