MENON: Journal Of Educational Research
3rd Thematic Issue
DOUBLE ASSIGNMENT IN TEACHER EDUCATION: A NECESSITY TO ADDRESS THE GLOBAL CHALLENGES
Our contemporary world is confronted with huge challenges, for example, issues related to climate change, food and health care for all, shortages of clean water, polluted agricultural land, or risks related to biofuels, modern genetics and gene technology. There are obviously no simple solutions to these complicated problems. “The key questions are: How can we confront such gigantic global challenges? What about global justice, equity, equality, and social righteousness? Where can we find solutions to these issues? Are there any possible solutions to be found? How could we approach, and understand the complexity of these questions? Where are the feasible potentials to be found?” (Fritzen & Tapola, 2009, p. 17)
It is considered that some ways out of the challenges may be found within education. We need to cultivate teachers who, in turn, can coach a future generation that will feel responsible for nature and other human beings (Narvaez, 2006). However, since contemporary global challenges most likely also need to be addressed in political arenas, and not least through human behaviour and human action, it is not sufficient to merely rely on various types of subject matter education. The potentials of understanding the global challenges are to be found in the fact that moral and/or democratic dimensions may be linked to subject matters. If we are to find sustainable solutions to these challenges, these solutions probably require subject matter knowledge, a moral compass, and political will. Integration of subject matter and moral aspects in education is sometimes referred to as ‘the double assignment’ (Tapola & Fritzen, 2010), which is supposedly a central task for all teachers (Oser, 1994). “It can be understood as the assignment to communicate knowledge about subject matter and to contribute to the moral upbringing of the learners. Since all professional teachers become qualified via formal teacher education, we have reason to assume that teacher education include training in how to perform this double assignment.” (Fritzen & Tapola, 2009, p. 18)
The Linnaeus Project, an international project organised by the Linnaeus University in Sweden, focused on research issues related to the preconditions within teacher education concerning the double assignment. Researchers from seven European countries (Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland) participated in this project. This special issue of Menon originated from the Linnaeus Project. It will present several research studies which were conducted within the Linnaeus Project.
The authors explore the preconditions for the double assignment in teacher education from different perspectives. All chapters have undergone internal peer review, and some were also presented at international educational conferences. This special issue is useful for researchers, methodologists, students, and practitioners from different disciplines with an interest in the integration of moral and epistemological aims, the moral dimension of teaching, and socio-scientific learning.
Alfred Weinberger reports about a study which aims to explore the significance of the moral dimension as a precondition for the double assignment in school and teacher education. Based on a literature review the results reveal that the moral dimension is neglected or rarely implemented. Thus, the double assignment is not put into practice mainly due to the crowded curricula which focus on knowledge. Given the curricular conditions, the author concludes that one possibility to foster the moral dimension is to combine moral education and knowledge acquisition in teacher education using appropriate didactical approaches. He suggests the constructivist approach VaKE (Values and Knowledge Education) for the double assignment in teacher education.
Toft et al. explore the field of genetics and gene technology as an example of a key challenge to humanity. Based on an extensive literature search about the advantages and risks of this field they argue that questions related to genetics and gene technology only can be solved by taking into account necessary knowledge and the ability to identify and reveal the underpinning values. Toft et al. show by using the example of genetics and gene technology that a precondition for the double assignment in teacher education is the awareness of the complexity inherent to the key challenges to humanity which involve moral and epistemological issues.
Saether et al. reports about a theoretical study on didactical strategies used when dealing with genetics and gene technology in biology. The authors claim that a precondition for the double assignment is collaboration and interchange between different fields or disciplines of knowledge. They introduce four theoretical-didactic strategies derived from their analysis for dealing with the “double assignment”. They claim that the student who is equipping himself or herself to be a teacher should be familiar with the principles of this model to understand more of what the “double assignment” is about in theory and practice. This understanding is seen as a precondition for relevant teacher education in this context.
The second article by Saether et al. reports about a qualitative and interpretatively-oriented meta-analysis of textbook analyses on genetics. The authors aimed to bring to light the underlying discourses of these analyses, which they have described as more or less hidden educational strategies or curricula. The focus was not on the intentions of the researchers who performed the textbook analysis. Saether’s et al. meta-analysis is based on their model of didactical strategies they described in the third article in this special issue. By demonstrating that each of the research reports can be analysed from the perspective of this model, they want to give those who are preparing to become teachers a vocabulary to grasp some of the challenges of what is called the “double assignment”. They see this vocabulary and its corresponding concepts as prerequisites for pre-service teachers.
Dimitriadou et al. report about a qualitatively oriented study which aimed to examine the ways and the degree to which Greek teachers would be willing to integrate issues of food security in their teaching practices, especially regarding bio-fuels. This presumptive willingness of teachers can be considered as a precondition that highlights the teachers’ eagerness to respond – at least regarding the specific issue – to the double assignment of school. Based on the results of a content analysis and a discourse analysis of responses to focus group interviews the authors conclude that the teachers acknowledge the need to introduce the subject of food security and the bio-fuel issue in teaching. However, the results also reveal that they do not feel prepared adequately to teach it, and they do not assume responsibility for its integration into the instruction. The authors suggest a process of critical reflection which could allow the teachers to implement their values of high-quality instruction to students and start seeking ways to bring about change. They further suggest integrative approaches which could break the traditional boundaries between the subject matters and moral and democratic education.
Nussbaumer et al. present in their theoretical paper the constructivist approach VaKE (Values and Knowledge Education) as one possible means to achieve the double assignment in teacher education. The paper aims at analysing the preconditions for performing VaKE. Based on theoretical reflections and experiences in teacher training, the authors discuss the different roles of the teacher in VaKE and possible problems and their solutions when implementing VaKE. They conclude that if these preconditions are met, it is possible to integrate the requirements of the double assignment through VaKE in teacher education successfully.
The paper of Latzko et. al. aims at contributing to food security by investigating and educating teacher’s professional ethos which includes food security as a domain of teachers’ professional ethos. By investigating new domains of teachers’ professional ethos with respect to successfully addressing issues of food security, this contribution emphasises the need to integrate moral and democratic aspects into subject matters as conceptualized by the double assignment, and as well as the need to revisit and adapt the concept of teachers’ professional ethos to current challenges.
Fritzén, L. & Tapola, A. M. (2009). The Linnaeus international project on integrative approaches within teacher education. SIG 13 Newsletter, 4, 16–25. Available at: www.earli.org/special_interest_groups/moral_education
Tapola, A. & Fritzèn, L. (2010). On the integration of moral and democratic education and subject matter instruction. In C. Klaassen & N. Maslovaty (Eds.), Moral courage and the normative professionalism of teachers (pp. 149-174). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
Narvaez, D. (2006). Integrative ethical education. In M. Killen & J. Smetana (Eds.), Handbook of moral development (pp.703–732). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Oser, F. K. (1994). Moral perspectives on teaching. Review of Research in Education, 20, 57–127.
The Editors of the 3rd Thematic Issue
Prof., University of Leipzig, Department of Education
Prof., Private University of Education of the Diocese of Linz, Austria