Innovation, evidence, reform: Key words in the vocabulary of change in teacher education

Some words are high frequency words in our public discourse about change in education, and change in teacher education, particularly. But the frequency of word-use alone does not necessarily tell us much about the speaker’s or writer’s position on the issues. The fact that they are used frequently is important but it is their function as ‘key words’ that is significant in the arguments. ‘Key words’ as an idea comes from the work of British cultural studies scholar Raymond Williams – he published a book of that name in 1976 – and he used the term to represent those words that bind us together in conversations and help to establish a very basic level of communication but the diverse and even contradictory meanings of which represent significant fractures in the culture. Philosophers sometimes use the term ‘essentially contested concepts’ to represent a similar phenomenon but Williams’s cultural perspective placed greater emphasis on the relationship between history, politics and meaning.

You can probably think of a bunch of words that crop up all the time in debates about change in teacher education. I would say that reform, evidence and innovation are three key words in our vocabulary of change and that concepts or values such as social justice and equity figure strongly in how the meanings of these key words are established.

Understanding key words like these not only helps us to understand the different frames of reference and values embedded in other people’s arguments about justice, equity and educational change; developing this understanding also helps us to establish our own frames of reference more clearly and more effectively design our own actions for change.

I’ll be talking about Innovation, evidence and reform as key words in our vocabulary of change in teacher education at the second in a series of seminars called ‘Educating Teachers Matters’ at the UCL Institute of Education on Wednesday 15th November from 2 – 4pm.

You can download the flyer for the seminar by clicking here; you can access the pre-reading by registering and emailing the convenor at the email address provided.