Developing Critical Dispositions in Teacher Education Programs

Developing Critical Dispositions in Teacher Education Programs

Jarrett D. Moore
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7823-9.ch006
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This chapter advocates for the (re)framing of critical thinking from a skill to a disposition and proposes a framework whereby teacher education programs can create space for pre-service teachers to develop a critical disposition. By studying the context of American education and schooling and their corporate interest, pre-service teachers along with teacher educators can start to unravel the discourse and power inherent in American education. Understanding how these concepts lead to hegemony can begin the process of creating a counterhegemonic movement among American educators that includes the reclaiming of the purpose of education, raising pertinent epistemological question, and practicing critical self-reflection. The final part of the new framework for developing critical dispositions is a reintroduction of broader theoretical concerns into teacher preparation programs.
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U.S. education seems to be in a constant state of reform and the main reason is a lack of consensus on the value and purpose of education. Whether it was the launch of Sputnik I, the publication of A Nation at Risk, or No Child Left Behind, we have lost or obfuscated the true essence of education and purpose of schooling in the United States. Rather than focusing on developing the intellect of our students, we have aligned the mission of U.S. schools with corporate and capitalist goals, specifically, career preparation and economic prospects (Westheimer, 2015). Complimenting this turn toward education as a means to a career, our educational institutions have pushed a more technical version of teaching and learning mainly because technical learning is easily measurable and quantifiable. In fact, standardizing pedagogy across schools and districts makes accountability measures possible (Westheimer, 2015). In this idea of education, if the correct adjustments are made at the correct time in the correct space, learning will occur (Pinar, 2005). The best way to frame education and the only way education will work effectively is to focus on developing a critically engaged citizenry that is capable of imagining a new and better way forward. If we are to redirect the dominant discourse of U.S. education, it has to start with our teacher education programs and the ways in which we create space for developing the intellect and a disposition for criticality. Since we are all limited by our social experience, the goal of education should move more toward expanding and enhancing our experiences to promote intellectual inquiry (Dewey, 2012).

Critical thinking is the essence of education and promotes the development of the autonomous self. Within teacher education programs, critical thinking should be (re)framed as a disposition rather than a skill. Before teachers can be critical educators and embed critical thinking into their pedagogy, there has to be room in teacher preparation programs for pre-service teachers to develop their own critical framework to inform their pedagogy. Critical thinking cannot be reduced to simply a form of cognition (Moore, 2013), so the notion of criticality should be more broadly defined and encompassing. Similar to knowledge, pedagogy is socially constructed and pre-service teachers do not need professors to transmit pedagogical practices to them; they need space for intellectual development and critical self-reflection.

Teachers will confront myriad challenging situations when they enter the profession and a framework for understanding critiquing society is necessary. For example, pedagogical practices for students in poverty and marginalized students have been a mainstay in teacher education programs for decades. Almost 40 years have passed since Anyon wrote about the hidden curriculum of work and a full half-century since Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. One day these pre-service teachers will be in a position to educate others about how to teach impoverished and oppressed children. The texts may change and the strategies may vary, but the structures that (re)produce the inequality will not have changed, unless we begin to act. It is time to start teaching our future teachers how to critically examine the structural inequities that (re)produce the impoverished and marginalized students that walk our halls and understand how the U.S. educational system fits into the reproduction.

There is ample space in teacher preparation programs for methods classes, field experiences, and craft knowledge, but there is a need for pre-service teachers to study and understand the relations that make poverty and marginalization so durable in U.S. society. Future teachers cannot simply be craftspeople and technicians if they are to be agents of change and they must be afforded the opportunity to operate in critical environments within teacher education programs. Advocacy can take many forms and the cultivation of a critical disposition in developing pedagogy is perhaps the most important way teachers can advocate for their students and the profession.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Counterhegemonic: The result of analysis and critique of power; used to push back and unravel the dominant discourse.

Discourse: All manner of text and talk than serve to create reality for society.

Critical Disposition: The ability for one to examine the underlying causes and contexts of issues and critique the structures that maintain the status quo.

Epistemology: The study of knowledge, what constitutes it, and the social conditions that lead to it.

Critical Self-Reflection: The ability for an to analyze and critique one’s own existence in the world.

Hegemony: The spontaneous consent of the subjugated to dominant rule.

Power: The productive aspect of text and talk that functions to regulate society; located primarily in discourse.

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