The Association of Catholic Institutes of Education (ACISE), a sectorial group of Education of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), celebrates its XXX Annual Colloquium on the topic The initial formation of the future teachers. Encounters and misencounters, during the days 24 to April 27, 2019, at the headquarters of the Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Madrid, Spain).
The training of future teachers is a challenge faced by a large majority of Catholic universities offering education studies. Although their professional practice will require a permanent updating and improvement by teachers, the basic equipment with which they can leave the university will shape in a good way their manner of conceiving and facing education in its various levels and modalities. It is not easy to see what these teachers in training will need and, therefore, the students with whom they work in a horizon that can extend almost four decades after the completion of their university studies; hence the importance of the effort.
The Colloquium aims to analyse the issue from four complementary areas: the tradition-innovation binomial; the interpellation of the multiple realities in which students are educated and will be educated in the future; the relevance of the educational community and, finally, the relationship with the transcendence, with otherness. In each of these areas, there can occur encounters and mis-encounters of a productive and destructive nature. The antinomy introduced in the title opens the perspective to a more divergent conception of education (of the training of future teachers), allowing space for what is positive and negative in both “encounters” and “to mis-encounters”.
The four sub-topics are described in more detail below.
Let us consider the educational process from a double triangular perspective: on the one hand, educational purposes, scientific contents and learning contexts must be considered; on the other, more specific, the didactic objectives, the teaching-learning activities and the evaluation processes. Educational effectiveness has a lot to do with the alignment that exists between each of the three vertices of each triangle separately, as well as between the two.
The educational process can be implemented in many different ways, but mostly it has to solve the dilemma between what should remain and what should be changed in order to fulfill the essential mission of education, that is, the whole development of the person who is educated.
How to combine the recognised value of the (Catholic) educational tradition with the valuable contribution of new methodological and technological approaches? What role should the cultural heritage generated by previous humanity play in the new digital and professionalizing educational context?
Future teachers are trained with the goal of being able to practice as teachers as soon as possible in an educational institution. In the period of their training, they carry out their teaching internships in schools where they encounter certain types of contexts, relatively similar to the ones they will find in their teaching careers. What educational experiences do trainees face in their in-service training? To what extent do these insertions in professional reality allow them to break, maintain or strengthen their previous personal convictions about education? Do these teaching practices open up new horizons for them or, on the contrary, perpetuate the educational bubble in which they have lived since childhood?
On the other hand, a future educator must be perceived as an agent of change, as someone who is contributing to social and personal development (ethical commitment) and for that, must be sensitive to all kinds of realities, assume them and carry the “load” they imply. Are Catholic universities offering opportunities for future teachers to meet “other” realities, including different contexts where the trainees could develop their future professional activity? To what extent do our students experience marginalized contexts, either at university or because they are involved in them? How can we offer them training that goes beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge and teaching skills?
Education cannot be conceived from a solitary, even solipsistic perspective. Educational effectiveness also depends on the impact achieved by the group, the team, the institution, the educational community. The pre-university educational methodology, especially in the first levels of education, has cultivated with some frequency the coordination among teachers, group work and the realization of joint projects. However, in the university context, the teacher / subject / class group seems to predominate, considered as a privileged intervention unit from which to guide the educating action.
It is not easy to combine this individualist perspective of university education with another that takes into consideration the strength and impact of the group, the teaching team, the institution seen through the people with whom students meet in their daily training. It is possible to maintain that “the messenger is the message”, but it could also be said that the teaching community and the educational institution are also the message. How to reconcile the individual teaching action with the collective impact? How to conceive and develop an educational project for future teachers´ training in Catholic universities that emerges from a consensus between the educational team? How can cooperative work be promoted among teachers? Would it be possible to implement a teaching structure that went beyond the classical design, hour / teacher / class / hall / learning group?
All the universities and centres of Higher Education integrated in the ACISE and in the IFCU enjoy considerable prestige, sometimes very high, in the societies in which they operate. As mentioned in the report, “The cultures of young people in Catholic universities” (FIUC, 2014, pp. 70 and 71), there are three groups of factors that motivate the choice of our universities: first, academics (good reputation and academic preparation of excellent professionals), which explains 49.5% of the total variance; secondly,” environmental” factors related to personal attention, a healthy learning environment, possibilities of extra-curricular activities and good facilities, which explains 12.9% of the total variance; finally, in the third factor we find what they call “indirect incidences”, which includes, among others, the fact of “being a Catholic university”.
Religious, spiritual and pastoral dimensions are undoubtedly present in the training of future teachers, both explicitly (“religion” courses, liturgical activities, meetings, gatherings, retreats …) and implicitly through the multiple actions that take place in our universities, either in the classes or in the area of service-learning, for example. However, it is necessary to reflect on the intensity, quality, variety and impact that this type of formative proposal has on our students. Could we rethink the role that Christian religious education plays in the training of future teachers? How to balance the assertive conviction of faith and the inclusive respect of unbelief? To what extent does this religious education provide future teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills in this particular area? How to contribute from initial teacher training to the dialogue between religions?