Forrige kapitel Forsiden  Næste kapitel
[ Undervisningsministeriets logo ]


What teaching qualifications are teachers of adults expected to possess? How can the teacher of adults acquire these qualifications? How are these teaching qualifications used in the teachers' practical teaching? These basic questions are the pivotal point of the research project Focus upon the Teacher of Adults118.

The first question is described in the second sub-report of the project: The demand for qualifying the teachers119. The other two questions will be answered in this report - to the extent it is possible to answer them from the present knowledge and against the background of the collected empirical material.

The collected empirical material consists of the following courses in qualifying teachers: The one-year education of teachers of adults (Voksenunderviseruddannelsen), a course for teachers at a day folk high school (Daghøjskoleforløb), a general basic course in teaching adults (AVG), a reorganizational project at a folk high school, and a reorganizational project at two adult education centres (VUC). The general pedagogical qualifications of the teachers have been in focus during the courses. Consequently the project does not include subject related or subject-didactic qualifications.

From each course a number of teachers have been selected for interviewing. The interviews have - ideally - been undertaken at the start of the courses, during the courses, at the end, and finally six months after the course was finished. For practical reasons this schedule has been departed from on several occasions, however, in all courses the interviews with the individual teacher have been undertaken with certain intervals to describe the development of the qualifying education and the implementation of what has been learnt. The interviews have been undertaken as open, loosely structured interviews, taped and transcribed.

The teachers' benefit from the courses has been in focus. What in the courses has contributed to change, what is used in the everyday teaching, and which barriers have existed in connection with the use of the new knowledge. The data material consists of the teachers' own opinions and statements.

On the whole all interviewed teachers were experienced teachers (except some of the participants in the education to become a teacher of adults; in return this course includes practical experience). Some of the teachers have a previous smaller or larger educational education. Thus, the courses in qualifying the teachers are first and foremost an inservice training in relation to practice.

Theses on the Teachers' Benefit from the Qualifying Education

We understand the teachers' benefit as being what they themselves emphasize they have achieved participating in the various courses. The benefit is what the teachers in the broadest sense of the word have "learnt". Learning is here understood as: "Relatively constant changes of the individual's potential of acting (competence) in relation to a task, a situation, or work. The potential of acting may include knowledge, intellectual, manual, and social skills, feelings, attitudes, and other qualities related to the personality"120.

Thesis: The teachers have derived great personal benefit from the courses, which, however, appears to be more on the attentive level than on the action level

The study shows that the teachers' most essential benefit lies on the overall personal level - at least this is the teachers' own understanding and how it is expressed in the interviews. The most important value of the various courses evidently is that the participants look upon themselves, their own teaching, and their own institution in a new and/or broader perspective. In some cases this change of perspective may be very radical - such as was the case with one participant who - during the course - found out that she did not want to be a teacher of adults, she would rather be a supervisor. The perspective may reach beyond their role as a teacher, that is to say to the social and private sphere where it is believed that the courses have contributed to giving the teachers an understanding of themselves as being more well functioning.

A common feature in the various courses is evidently an "attentional effect". In the teachers' accounts of their benefit we often find statements such as "I have become more conscious of xx" or "I have become more aware of xx" where the xx may stand for "own role as a teacher", "own conception of education", "understanding of own profession", or "understanding and conception of own institution".

Apparently, the most important outcome of the courses is that they set focus on important educational conditions. On the other hand, it seems to be a fact that the courses and the corresponding qualifying of the teachers only to a smaller degree give well-founded possibilities of action, a competence of action if you want. However, by bringing these conditions into focus, a basis has been created for changing and improving these conditions in and by the institutions.

Thesis: The emotional aspect of the qualification is just as important as the contents aspect

Many of the teachers emphasize the emotional aspect as being important, and some as being the most rewarding. They "have been confirmed in what they are doing", they "have gained more self- confidence and assurance", now "they dare take up an attitude in public", and "they are more in control of what they are doing". It is evident that this applies both to feelings concerning change and renewal, and to feelings related to confidence and joy in doing what one is accustomed to - thus, maintaining that what one has done is good enough. The most important is that the teachers in general have developed a greater confidence in themselves as teachers - and a greater selfassurance.

Thesis: First and foremost the courses qualify the teachers as individuals and his/her relation to the participants

In the second sub-report of the project we described four basic dimensions of qualifications connected with:

  1. The teacher as an individual
  2. The teacher' s relationship with the other participants
  3. The educational culture
  4. Conditions outside the educational institution

The study points out that the courses give especially the first and second category of qualifications, less of the third category and least (on the whole nothing) of the fourth i.e. the qualifications related to the interaction with the surroundings of the educational institution.

In this connection there is a difference between the different types of courses. In the courses that are individually orientated and independent of institutions (the general basic course in teaching adults (AVG) and the education of teachers of adults (Voksenunderviseruddannelsen)) this tendency is much more evident than in the courses rooted in the institutions (the course for teachers from day folk high school (Daghøjskole), the course for teachers from folk high school, and the courses for the teachers from adult education centres (VUC).

Thesis: The teachers have changed their practice, they are able to state a reason for these changes, however, the reasons do not show great pedagogical depth

In the material there are many examples that the participants have changed greater or smaller parts of their practice in the schools. For instance changes in the physical organisation of the classroom, in the teacher role, and in the teachers' ideas of the importance of the aesthetic learning processes.

Generally the participants are able to reflect - in the meaning of giving an account of the reasons - on why they act differently. In general they are able to explain the theories they have changed as reasons for the changed practice. However, these reasons are often very pragmatic and based upon the indidvidual's idea of what is good, in the sense: what is working. A pedagogical depth in these reflections is demonstrated only as an exception.

Thesis: The pedagogical theories are not used to explain or understand the pedagogical practice, but are given a "parallel function" in relation to practice

The study shows that the pedagogical theories - understood as systems of explanation - do not form part of the pedagogical practice, and that the use of the theories in this connection is not part of the benefits emphasized by the participants.

None of the participants use theoretical explanations explicitly, when describing what they do or why they act the way they do. Nor are the participants able to explain their actions theoretically during the interviews. Very often they "refer" to theoretical textbooks. However, these references are seldom used in an explanatory connection in relation to a concrete problem or action. The references are (in the interviews) more in the nature of legitimation than explanation. In this connection there is evidently no difference between experienced and non-experienced teachers. Nor is there any difference from one qualifying course to the other.

The pedagogical theories get a "parallel function" in relation to the participants' daily practice. The theoretical world is acquired in connection with the education and is here experienced as something positive and important. Thus, the functioning of the theories is not to be directly oriented towards practice. It is rather that:

  • The theories (the concepts) become part of the professional identity, acquired by virtue of education and profession
  • The theories (the theoretical expositions) represent alternative paradigms, not least in relation to one's own and to existing practice
  • The theories become knowledge of education and teaching, not in the education and the teaching

If the theories are to work in an action related teaching practice, viz. as the reason of the practice of the teacher, Apparently, they must be placed elsewhere in educational connections. It is not enough to acquire the theories, they must be used practically.

Theses on the Conditions of Learning

Conditions of learning are understood as the circumstances which for better or worse have formed the framework of qualifying the teachers. They are the circumstances and conditions which the teachers themselves consider important during and after the courses. What has initiated a learning process, what they have learnt from, what has "moved" them. Or with Jack Mezirow' s concept, "the trigger events" of the learning process.

Thesis: The teachers are learning when they are confronted with something new and unexpected. Accordingly, they learn differently because their expectations and backgrounds are different

What is it that initiates learning? In general the answer is that you learn by being confronted with the unexpected. That is that the participants learn from the situations where they do something, which is different from what they used to do.

Learning is here connected with a "reaction of surprise" - often in connection with an immediate scepticism towards the unknown. The participants express their scepticism in this way, "What is this?", "What can we use it for", or "I had not imagined that it was like this!". It is a kind of scepticism which is provoking learning, and verbally it is often followed by sentences such as, "Looking back I realize that it all made sense!".

The participants are immediately surprised, astonished, and provoked by being confronted with the unexpected. However, when (or if ) they end by realizing that there is method in the madness, that it makes sense to do it, that it is possible to learn from this way of doing things, then this method makes the learning concise. So, in these connections learning is connected with a "moderate degree of provocation" which socially is accumulated in a meaningful synthesis.

Thesis: It is difficult to point out basic differences between the various ways of organization as regards the degree of implementation

It is often emphasized that the closer the contents and form of the education are to the learner's practice the easier is it to acquire and use them later. This is supposed to imply that the processes of qualifying the teachers, including organizational changes at the educational institutions (adult education centres (VUC) and the folk high school project), contained a greater learning potential than the courses which were carried through with participants from the same institution (teachers in the day folk high school (Daghøjskoleprojektet), and these again were supposed to contain a greater learning potential than the courses where the participants dit not come from the same educational institution (the education of teachers of adults (Voksenunderviseruddannelsen) and the general basic course in teaching adults (AVG)).

However, the connection is not that simple. It is important to maintain that in all connections (mentioned) something is learnt, but often it will be something different (see also the next thesis).

Thus, a qualification as for instance co-operation will have different value whether it is co-operation with students from other educational institutions or it is a co-operation with colleagues from one's own institution. Thus, only participants from the VUC-projects attach importance to this kind of qualification pointing to the fact that "they have become better to co-operate with colleagues".

The study seems to confirm the assumption often put forward that the participants will have better possibilities to test and maintain the things they learn, when the learning processes are connected to changes of the institution. Correspondingly, it seems to be confirmed that when the teaching is about institutional relations and these are tested in practice (as for instance in the course for teachers in the day folk high schools) the effect on the development of the institution is increased.

Thesis: The more the learning processes are detached from practice the greater effect upon the personal development

This thesis is apparently a direct contradiction to what is emphasized above, viz. that the learning potential is greatest when the learning is connected with practice. However, the thesis does not point at learning in general, but at "personal development". To many of the teachers the process of qualifying themselves forms part of a personal development and clarification. Accordingly, some of the participants emphasized the important aspect that the courses were free rooms, a "pocket" in their lives, a retreat (especially in the courses in educating teachers of adults) where detached from a concrete educational practice, they had the possibility of considering themselves and their future work in possible new settings.

Consequently, there is evidence in the material to maintain that to some of the participants it is a strength in itself that the education "rises from" or "moves away from" the everyday educational practice. Not to make the individual better adapted to fill it, but to offer possibilities of re-evaluating one's own practice121.

Thesis: An important element of the qualification is to be able to assume the role of the student

No doubt, being in the role of the student or trainee is an important aspect, not least for the more experienced participants. In this connection they experience the pace of the teaching, the possibilities of asking questions, the extent of their right to participate in decision making, their motivation, learning processes, and corresponding conditions which are important in the teaching. However, they also gain experience in what really is functioning in the teaching, how the individual teacher works and functions, the importance of the teacher' s commitment, and other corresponding conditions, which might be transferred to their own role as a teacher.

Thesis: It is difficult for the participants to define what a rewarding teaching consists of

In general it is difficult for the participants to define the conditions that contribute to their learning. It is difficult for them to give an account of their own learning process in relation to the course of teacher qualifying. In general, attention is drawn to two conditions, which are considered important. One condition is the contents, "The timetable says so", and the other is the form, "We used to do it this way at the course".

When reference is made to the contents the participants may say, "We learnt something about the theory of science" (theory of science was a subject in the course). It is not pointed out what was important in the theory of science, or more precisely, what was learnt, and how it was learnt.

Correspondingly, when the participants want to point out what was good about the education they mention something they were happy about or something they considered rewarding.

Theses on Implementation

Implementation is a basic educational issue. Very often the connection is very limited between the material learnt during an education or during a course and the (following) daily practice. The two forms of practice, the practice during the education and the daily practice, have parallel courses without coming into contact with each other. A "problem of parallelism" has been mentioned when the formal knowledge is separated from the teacher' s experiences of life. Implicit there is a pedagogical challenge in overcoming this problem. In the following theses the experiences are stated which have been gathered in the project in this connection.

Thesis: The rootedness in groups contributes to the fact that the benefit reaches beyond the courses

"The team", the group, and the colleagues at the course work as a reference group for future actions. As such the course contains a "mobilizing function" as "the team" as a group emotionally and socially supports what the individual does/wants to do in his/her teaching. This functioning reaches beyond the physical being together and the actual time they spend together at the course. Thus, there is a considerable colearning in the shape of a more or less conscious feeling of having "the team behind you" in your actions. Apparently, this co-learning is quite considerable although it is a somewhat neglected function.

Thesis: Both the individual teacher and the courses work according to the functional principle of applicability of what they have been taught and have learnt

Fundamentally, the teachers are prepared to accept that what they learn at the qualifying courses has consequences for their own everyday life and practice. Accordingly, the teachers often talk about various ways they - as individuals - try to enhance the implementation. They talk of "rooms for reflection" where they make a break in their daily practice and recall what they learnt at the course in order to evaluate the concrete importance for their present work. They keep diaries where they reflect on the daily pedagogical conditions. They discuss the subjects with colleagues in connection with the planning of their teaching and in connection with pedagogical discussions in general.

At the same time it is stated in some of the interviews how there is an (expected) contrast between new educational ideas and the conditions which the subjects, the present resources, and the institution in general lay down for educational innovation.

Against the background of the follow-up interviews with the teachers it is concluded that the educational courses have left their mark upon the individual teacher's daily practice. The teachers work to implement what they have learnt, however, the implementation apparently is far from optimal, as the daily work limits the possibilities of this implementation. No doubt more systematic follow-up activities will be able to increase the quality and the quantity of this implementation.

Thesis: The development of countercultures impedes the implementation

However, in general the new and the new thinking at the educational institutions have been received favourably (it can also be stated that it is because more colleagues together attend an in-service training course or participate in innovative work). There is a general and "inborn" positive attitude. However, there are also examples in the material of a development (or presence) of two types of countercultures. One is directed against change as such, the other against the changing agent.

Several teachers describe the first type of counterculture as the opposition they meet among colleagues against "the new" which they give the institution. The teachers themselves describe it as a dislike of change, a threat against the established everyday life, which they consider difficult to overcome.

It is difficult to answer definitely what is generating such a counterculture and the factors that form part of it and determine its course. Consequently, the interviewed teachers are somewhat at a loss as to what is going on. However, the teachers point out four factors, which they consider important in this connection.

The first factor is that the new ideas break with habits and lines of actions, which the colleagues feel safe about. This break creates a corresponding uncertainty towards the new ideas. An uncertainty with "the established teachers" whether they are able to live up to the demands of the new ideas. It is also important how radical the new ideas are. The more radical changes, the greater opposition.

The second factor is the question of power. In connection with an implementation of new ideas it is often a question of "attack" on the existing hierarchy at the institution. An attack on those who until now have had the power and the right to define what is good teaching. In this connection it is often very important whether it is just one teacher who has attended a course or they have been more. The more participants, the greater probality that the new ideas are implemented.

A third factor is the conditions which rule the institution. Is it in a situation where there is energy (for changes), or is it subject to reductions in grants, threats of firings, decrease in number of students, or internal conflicts. For the teachers at the day folk high schools it was a fact that the position of these schools in general was weakened during the period in question which in itself lessened the possibilities of (greater) institutional and educational changes.

Another type of counterculture, aiming at the changing agent, is noticed very clearly in the courses at the adult education centres (VUC) where a considerable part of the explanation of the opposition - and the course on the whole - is related to the fact that the initiative to change has come from the outside. In other words "that there is no established ownership" to the project at the institution. So the culture protects itself against a control (coming from the outside) by rejecting the new initiative or being reserved about it.

However, in the material there are also examples of opposition and reservation towards the new ideas although these ideas are implemented by the institution or parts of the institution. In the folk high school project and in other institutional connections it is described where there is intern opposition against the new initiatives. Either in the shape of developing a counterculture or in the shape of two opposite cultures, e.g. "the culture of innovation as opposed to the traditional culture".

It would be wrong to consider the establishment of countercultures and the opposition against change as reactionary, as a general reluctance to change, or as something negative as such. Basically, the counterculture is a "sound" reaction, scepticism towards (cheap) proposals for change and a protection against restrictions of the institutional freedom. The problem does not arise until the counterculture stagnates or two cultures are established that do not communicate.

In some of the examples the institutional conflicts are solved, in others they are enhanced. Viewed from a perspective of both research and educational policy it is interesting to examine what the reasons are in the various courses. How can a course be established where new ideas are integrated in such a way that the values of old ideas are maintained?

118) In Denmark, until now, there has been no research dealing with an overall description of needs for qualification, the qualifying process of teachers, and its subsequent use within the field of adult education. However, there are various studies and analyses describing the extent of and the wishes for participation in in-service training courses. A number of these analyses are briefly referred to in the second sub-report of the project. See Danneskiold-Samsøe and Ingeberg (2000) p. 7 - 9. Internationally the need for research on the overall process is pointed out. See e. g. Pepper and Hare (1999)
119) Danneskiold-Samsøe and Ingeberg (2000)
120) This definition is taken from Ellström (1996), p. 147-49
121) Here it is a question of the individual reflecting upon "paradigmatic" assumptions in Brookfield' s sense or upon "premises reflections" in Mezirow' s sense


Denne side indgår i publikationen "Fokus på voksenlæreren" som summary
© Undervisningsministeriet 2002

 Forrige kapitel Forsiden  Næste kapitel
Til sidens top