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Volume 2, Number 2: Being and Becoming: The Heart of Teacher Education

Being and Becoming: The Heart of Teacher Education

Bev Norsworthy

Teacher education is of critical concern to a nation’s well-being. Scripture clearly identifies that the predominant narratives in a nation’s education are directly linked to its citizen’s behaviour (e.g., see Psalm 78, Judges 2). Literature which claims that teacher education has little influence on beliefs that pre-service teachers bring to their initial teacher education may unnerve Christian teacher educators who seek to equip teachers to make a difference in the lives of children and parents in a nation (Berry, 2004; Fletcher, 1997; Hatton & Smith, 1995; Lowery, 2003). For example, Berry (2004, p. 1302) observes that:

There is little doubt that student teachers’ prior experiences as learners serve as powerful templates for the ways in which they practice as teachers. Their beliefs about teaching are informed by the accumulation of experience over time and, once formed, these beliefs are extremely resistant to change, even when they are shown to be inconsistent with reality.

As Christian teacher educators, it is imperative for our graduates, as well as for the children they will teach, that we indeed engage with this observation and seek ways to overcome the apparent, but well recorded resistance. This paper explores one such attempt at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute, Tauranga, New Zealand where, building on the findings from my doctoral work, a conceptual framework was developed to guide the shape of initial teacher education programs for secondary, elementary and early childhood educators. The process of ‘being and becoming’ is at the heart of this teacher education model. The visionary intention for our profession preparation programs is to develop secure, teachable and gracious teachers whose professional practice is relational, transformative and responsive educators (BTI Conceptual Framework, 2004) and has at its centre the recognition at any one time we are ‘being and becoming’ effective educators. Such an intention seeks alignment of head, heart and hands and focuses on the person who teaches.

Focusing on the person who teaches

Bethlehem Tertiary Institute describes itself as a place where “Ideas and practices from religious, social and vocational domains are examined in the light of Biblical and Christian worldviews to yield personal philosophies from which student teachers can conduct their professional lives” (BTI Charter, 2003, p. 2). Its special character also states:

…we believe our professional practice arises out of who we are. We work toward graduates who are not only professionally skilled and knowledgeable, but who are also gracious, secure and teachable, exemplifying empathy, self-discipline, sensitivity and servant-heartedness.

Herein lies an important assumption about teaching which, when taken seriously, must make a difference to the initial teacher education experiences we design. A biblical understanding of the teacher’s role as captured in Luke 6:40, indicates that teaching flows from the innermost person in such a manner that, where there is an appropriate response, other lives are shaped. Schindler and Pyle capture the understanding of this verse:

A pupil. . . after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. This principle is true not just in academic knowledge but in lifestyle. It’s how the teacher responds to his own life situations that will be transmitted to the students. It’s how the teacher handles his problems, his heartaches, his sins, his mistakes, and those people that despitefully use him – that is what is learned by the students. The students will become like the teacher in all ways. (1979, pp. 30, 31)

Paul lived this expectation when he invited those he taught to follow him, as he followed Christ. Palmer captures this understanding when he writes:

Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together (1998, p. 2).

Palmer’s well known book, The Courage to Teach, is built on the premise that: “good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher” (1998, p. 10). If this is so, then it seems a natural response to focus teacher education on development of “the identity and integrity of the teacher”. This is a very different focus to Gilbert’s (1994) acknowledgement:

teacher development programmes having their basis in technicist models of education (and positivist conceptions of knowledge) – which set out to inform teachers of the results of a particular piece of research and then to ‘train’ them in procedures designed to produce the desired learning outcomes in students – have been largely unsuccessful in terms of their goal of achieving sustained changes in the classroom practices of experienced teachers. (p. 517)

Palmer (1998, p. 4) notes that “While it is common for a teacher to ask, What shall I teach?, and How shall I teach it?, seldom do teachers ask the question, Why shall I teach it, and why teach this way? And even less often do they ask the question, “Who is the self that teaches?” The Bethlehem Tertiary Institute’s teacher education programme commitment to developing relational, transformative, responsive teachers who are gracious, secure and teachable meant that it was important to find ways to keep the development of the person who is the teacher central. Within this framework, Palmer’s (1998) questions about teaching are related to personal, pedagogical and philosophical dimensions of teaching and provide a framework for ongoing development. Previous to writing the conceptual framework, the degree structure reflected the latter two of these dimensions. The challenge was to find a way to incorporate the third dimension in a coherent and connected manner which would reflect the premise that “good teaching comes from the identityi and integrityii of the teacher’ (Palmer, 1998, p. 10).

A growing body of literature indicates that who teachers are, how they act, and what they believe are as, if not more, important, than what they teach (Cronin, 1993; Gibbs, 2003; Hansen, 1998; Luke 6 verse 40, Palmer, 1998; Parkay & Stanford, 2004). However, in the light of the literature which positions teacher education as typically a weak intervention in future teachers’ practice, we sought a transformative approach to professional learning and education; one which would re-unite ‘the knower and the known'(Biesta & Miedema, 2002; Cranton, 1996; Dirkx, 1998; Palmer, 1993; Taylor, 1998; 2001; Zepke, Nugent & Leach, 2003). What was sought was an approach which would heighten students’ awareness of their own gifts, talents, strengths, weaknesses and ways of thinking. Gibbs (2003) suggests that ‘what student teachers know and can do, and how they come to teach during student teaching, is largely mediated by what they think and believe’ (p. 7). “The more familiar we are with our inner terrain, the more surefooted our teaching – and our living – becomes” (Palmer, 1998, p. 5). Consideration of how one might proceed toward this goal necessitated careful pondering about how the student teacher was supported in the process of coming to understand themselves, their beliefs about life, teaching and learning and consequentially how these beliefs affected the way they then taught.

Clarifying the focus

Our visionary statement indicates that a DEVELOPMENTAL, rather than a DEFICIT model informs the Bethlehem Tertiary Institute’s teacher education program. The etymology of the verb ‘develop’ indicates that it means to ‘release from that which envelops’. Often that which ‘envelops’ us and from which we need to be released are incorrect assumptions and patterns of thinking. For example, a student teacher may, based on their own experience of the teaching and learning process, believe that teaching is telling. This student would therefore approach their teacher education with an expectation that they will be told how, what and when to teach certain concepts. When faced with an approach to learning which seeks deep rather than surface learning, they exhibit behaviours which can initially be interpreted as resistance to learning. Romans 12 verses 1- 3 indicate that any transformation begins with renewing our mind. It is our thinking which needs to be identified, engaged, evaluated, critiqued and, if necessary, changed. Consequently, the use of the word developing indicates that a student is not viewed as entering the programme with a blank slate upon which to write, nor with the need to remove what they know and replace it with different knowledge. The design of this programme begins with a belief that student teachers bring with them knowledge, understandings and beliefs about teaching, skill, and personal characteristics which attract them to the very responsible role of teacher. Consequently, teacher educators seeks to work with what each student teacher brings to the programme (Ingram, 1998), equipping them to identify underlying assumptions and critique these in the light of a developing, personally owned, biblically informed, educational philosophy (Norsworthy, 2002).

Such an approach necessitates that both teacher educators and student teachers know who they are. As Palmer (1998, p. 2) notes; “. . . knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject”. Similarly,

If our reflectivity is to get at the root of ourselves as teachers, it must first get at the root of ourselves as ourselves – as contingent beings who are attempting to use our awesome and sometimes terrible freedom to enter into authentic relationship with others and, by some accounts, even with God (Mayes, 2001, p. 478).

In seeking to challenge student teachers to be committed to providing quality learning experiences that holistically and genuinely support and nurture their own students’ growth and development, we face the obligation to do the same for them. Knowing what to do, and being able to do it, is necessary but not sufficient to ensure that teachers are intentional in their actions (Gibbs, 2003). For this reason, it is important that student teachers engage with a range of courses which will not only support them in developing a sound philosophical rationale to guide their teaching but also enable them to practice a certain ‘way of being’. Several authors capture this commitment. For example, Palmer writes:

If you want to understand our controlling conception of knowledge, do not ask for our best epistemological theories. Instead observe the way we teach, and look for the theory of knowledge implicit in those practices… I teach more than a body of knowledge or a set of skills. I teach a mode of relationship between the knower and the known, A WAY OF BEING in the world. (1993, pp. 29, 30)

After many years involvement in Christian Education, Wolterstorff also notes:

I had already come to the conclusion that the comprehensive goal of Christian education was not just a certain way of thinking but a certain way of being in the world, that its goal was not just to induct the student into a Christian understanding of the world but to lead the student in a Christian way of being in the world (in Stronks & Joldersma, 2002, p. 115).

Such a task requires a focus on the total person. As Hollinger (2005) suggests – each of head, heart and hands (or thought, passion and action) need to be nurtured but they also need to be viewed as integral to the expression of the other. Consequently, we added a new strand of studies to the existing pedagogical and philosophical strands. We called this strand Personal Integration and Professional Inquiry: its name indicating its purpose.

Being and becoming: Seeking connectedness

As indicated, the Professional Inquiry and Personal Integration (PIPI) strand is a direct consequence of our commitment to the goal of providing a holistic initial teacher education program for student teachers. Each year one sixth of a student’s study is in this strand. In an attempt to reflect the ideas as outlined in the preceding section of this paper, the phrase Being and Becoming is used as a stem. For example, in Year One where the emphasis for the year is becoming a learner – the paper is called: Being and Becoming: Teacher as Learner. The stem ‘being and becoming’ reflects intentional developmental assumptions together with the recognition that Christian teachers, committed to lifelong learning, are simultaneously in a state of ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ more aligned with the example provided by Jesusiii. It is clear, within Scripture (Luke 6:40; 1 Corinthians 4:16,17; 2 Timothy 2:2) and the teacher education literature ( Dewey 1916/1997; Hansen, 2002; Palmer, 1993,1998; Wilson, 1990; Wolterstorff, 1980iv) that our ‘way of being’ (Palmer, 1983, p. 30) is most influential (Dewey, 1904; Hansen, 1993). ‘Being and becoming’ also stands in contrast to an ‘integration of faith and learning’ approach. A claim that courses ‘integrate faith and learning’ indicates to students that these are two separate dimensions of life and living. This is not so. Our learning and professional practice are certainly faith informed. The idea of ‘being and becoming’ appears to encapsulate the biblical notion of ‘the word became flesh’ (John 1:14) or as described by Greene (1998, p. 275), the incarnation of a biblical world view.

The predominant model of teaching and learning within this (PIPI) strand finds student teachers in small groups where trusting relationships may grow in order to undertake the type of dialogue, discussion and discovery to which Palmer refers when he writes:

If identity and integrity are more fundamental to good teaching than technique – and if we want to grow as teachers – we must do something alien to academic culture: we must talk to each other about our inner lives – risky stuff in a profession that fears the personal and seeks safety in the technical, the distant, the abstract (1998, p. 12).

A comprehensive sense of connectedness develops when the self -aware teacher brings together their “clear educational vision with “a general approach (or strategy) for making their vision a reality” and their selection of “specific teaching techniques” (MacNaughton & Williams, 2004, p. 358). “A person who really knows and believes something understands it and lives by it. It becomes part of them and the way they view the world” (Hansen, 2002, p. 56). This shifts the focus from a dichotomistic view of theory and practice to who the teacher is. These ideas reverberate in Eisner’s 2002 article where he addresses the need to move the initial teacher education focus from episteme (formal theory) or phronesis (practical knowledge) on into artistry because it is within artistry that the notion of knowledge viewed as embedded and resident within self appears to be understood. He writes:

Teachers, for example, are not regarded now as those who implement the prescriptions of others but as those most intimate with life in classrooms….. Teachers are collaborators in knowledge construction and bring to the table of deliberation a kind of insider knowledge. . . Teachers have what some call lived experience (Connolly & Clandinin, 1998). The body is now considered a source of knowledge; at least a species of knowledge has become embodied. It is intimate. To know has taken on a biblical meaning. (2002, p. 381)

Eisner does not elaborate what he means by his last sentence. However, viewed from a Biblical epistemological perspective, theory and practice can never be separated. Theory must be done, that is, practiced to be known. The known and the knower are inextricably intertwined and related. The knowledge and actions within teaching are both expressions of self (Bullough, Clark & Patterson, 2003).

The specifically designed Personal Integration and Professional Inquiry (PIPI) strand seeks to provide a relational and dialogical learning space, together with related knowledge and skills to facilitate meaningful, integrated professional learning and development across the initial teacher education years. Such a space is sometimes referred to as a learning community where “educators create an environment that fosters mutual cooperation, emotional support, and personal growth as they work together to achieve what they cannot accomplish alone” (DuFour & Eaker, 1998, p. xii). The Biblical metaphor of the interdependent parts of the human body all working together in their unique fashion is helpful to understand this type of learning community (1 Corinthians 12).

The next question to be addressed relates to the characteristics of the teacher who experiences such learning. In other words, what do we want them to be and become? Bethlehem Tertiary Institute upholds the vision of a teacher who is gracious, secure and teachable. As already noted our charter states that :

…we believe our professional practice arises out of who we are. We work toward graduates who are not only professionally skilled and knowledgeable, but who are also gracious, secure and teachable, exemplifying empathy, self-discipline, sensitivity and servant-heartedness. (p.2)

The development of a conceptual framework and our visionary statement necessitated that, as a staff, we knew what we meant when we used these particular words. The last three words of the goal statement (gracious, secure, teachable) relate to the characteristics of the teacher and the first three words (relational, transformative, responsive) relate to the characteristics of the teaching which would emanate from the teacher.

The teacher: Gracious, secure and teachable

Being and becoming a relational, transformative and responsive educator require, and lead to, the development of a teacher who is secure, teachable and gracious.


It is acknowledged that while investigating a wide range of perspectives can initially be threatening to the values, beliefs, assumptions and practices held by student teachers, it will in the long run enable them to:

  1. better understand their own values, beliefs, assumptions and practices
  2. understand the values, beliefs, assumptions and practices of others
  3. understand how these values, beliefs, assumptions and practices influence the teaching/learning relationship, and
  4. effectively teach their own students by engaging their perceived values, beliefs, assumptions and practices albeit that they may differ from their own.

Such perspectival awareness, knowledge and communicative skill contribute to the development of a beginning teacher who is gracious. By gracious we mean a person who is ‘other’ centred, being able to genuinely engage empathetically with multiple perspectives without compromising a commitment to their own beliefs. In the same way that the Great Commandment (Matthew 13:34,35) asks us to love ourselves in order to love others, so, too – to be other centred requires that students are secure.


Effective teachers are aware of themselves and sensitive to the needs of their students. Awareness of one’s own beliefs, attitudes, conceptions, strengths and weaknesses together with a developing knowledge base and educational vision contributes to a beginning teacher who is secure. By secure we mean a person who has a strong sense of belonging, design and purpose. They are ‘self aware’: know their strengths and weaknesses and understand how these influence or shape their teaching. A secure person is well grounded in professional knowledge and has a vision of how their contribution as teacher makes a difference in the lives of individual students. While the emphasis is on graduating teachers who are secure, this is not to be equated with an individualistic model of teacher education. The likelihood of such an outcome is improved significantly through working in a trusting learning community where all are committed to being teachable and in fact, according to some it is “not possible to articulate assumptions without the help of others” (Cranton, 1996, p. 83).


Findings from research indicate that it is not wise to assume that student teachers are teachable. Often their focus is on notions of completion, or acquisition rather than on being reflective, engaged learners. The content together with the teaching and learning approaches within this programme contribute to students developing an awareness of the factors which affect their learning, and the influence of these on guiding wise decision making within the teaching and learning process. It is not a matter of content alone, but students need to be ‘ready, willing and able to engage profitably with learning’ (Claxton & Carr, 2004, p. 87). Skills and knowledge are necessary, but insufficient to ensure that teachers will act congruently with those skills and/or knowledge. It is important that student teachers view themselves as confident teachers. Such confidence is a critical component of a teacher’s self-efficacy which in itself is a strong predictor of what the teacher will actually do (Gibbs, 2003). It is this self belief as teacher which motivates them to seek out more strategies, skills and knowledge. Together with a sense of personal security, self-awareness, humility, and call to teaching, strong self-efficacy contributes to the development of a beginning teacher committed to ongoing learning. We describe this person as teachable. A teachable person has both the disposition and skill to seek and receive both internal and external feedback through critical reflection, revelation, professional inquiry, dialogue and reading. They are not set in ‘a’ way, but are committed to continual and ongoing personal and professional growth for the purpose of growing in wisdom.

The character quality of teachability is highly valued for many reasons. The first reason relates to the fact that teachers are models. If we want childrenv to be teachable, inquirers, active learners, co-constructors of knowledge and learning paths, then those who teach them also need to be these things. Such an approach necessitates the disposition of an inquirer, a scholar, a researcher and investigator. The second reason relates to the place a teachable disposition has in discerning “the right course of action” (Proverbs 2:9, NIV).

Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and understanding. Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Then you will understand what is right, just and fair and you will know how to find the right course of action. (Proverbs 2:9, NIV)

Solomon makes this link clear to his son. The desirable consequences noted at the end of this Scripture come as a direct result from ‘leaning toward learning’. We cannot assume that our students do have the disposition of a learner. Therefore, as with characteristics of being gracious and secure, Christian teacher educators need to intentionally focus on its development within components throughout a teacher education program.

The development of these characteristics, gracious, secure, teachable, are seen to be foundational to, and necessary for, the development of teaching which is relational, transformative and responsive.

The Teaching: Relational, Transformative, Responsive

Relational (heart)

The word relational reminds us of the fact that no teaching or learning experience occurs in isolation, but rather occurs in multi-faceted contexts. Such contexts are places where socio-cultural settings, pedagogical theory, familial backgrounds and religious orientations, to name a few, meet in a complex web of interactions. Literature exists which indicates that the quality of the relationships within a teaching learning experience dictate the quality of the learning which occurs (Bishop, Berryman, Tiakiwai, & Richardson, 2002; Gallego, 2001; Hoban, 1997; Monk, 2004). By seeking teachers whose teaching is relational we mean “a person who seeks relationships where love for God, neighbour, and self is nurtured, where integrity, respect, teachability, reconciled relationships and servant-leadership is the norm” (BTI Conceptual Framework, 2004). A relational model of teaching and learning is held as a priority for the staff at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute and consequently, even in the face of financial constraints, shapes the pedagogies encouraged within the program. This teacher education program seeks to develop teachers who position themselves relationally with the children they teach, knowing that tasks of interest work best within “responsive and reciprocal relationships” (Carr, 2000, p. 77). This is not just true for children, but also for adults.

We believe that wisdom – the wise application of knowledge to life – begins with God and God’s revelation through the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. We work to identify this wisdom and have it inform and empower students on their lifelong journey of learning across the head, heart and hands dimensions, as identified within our charter:

  • Heart: Students’ awareness of the life-giving spirit, their own spiritual heart, or wairuavi, and nurturing expression of that in ethical, values-based, relational activity
  • Head: Advancing the knowledge and understandings of the mind (hinengaro) that inform our practice
  • Hands: Developing the skills of our vocations (tinana);


  • Fostering and involving the relational communities and whanau that construct and support our personal and professional identities”.vii

A relational model of teaching and learning is not restricted to relationships or connectedness between people. Within the Bethlehem Tertiary Institute learning community one often hears reference to education which encompasses ‘heart, head and hands’. This phrase is drawn from the work of Sergiovanni (1992, pp. 7, 8) where;

head refers to one’s ‘mindscape’, view of the world or meaning-making,

heart refers to one’s ‘mindfulness’, or values and beliefs; and as a result

hands refer to the actions or results of the decision making which flows from one’s mindscape and mindfulness. What is meant by reference to heart, head and hands on the Bethlehem Tertiary Institute campus is captured clearly by Monk (2004) when she writes:

The model of head, heart and hands speaks to me of connectedness and relationship, the connections within the individual as a whole person and then the relationships that occur between people, places and things. I see the interconnections between what the teacher and/or learner value and believe, their understanding of how the world works and then the decisions, actions and behaviours that result because of this. These connections or relationships become central within teaching and learning (p. 18).

Transformative (head)

The developmental approach which underpins the programme design is referred in the literature, particularly with reference to adult learning, as transformative or ‘autobiographical’ learning (Biesta & Miedema, 2002; Cranton, 1996; Dirkx, 1998; Grahame, 2000; Mezirow, 1991). By transformative we mean a person who is committed to a view of learning from a whole person perspective noting the influence of affective, relational, cognitive, behavioural and spiritual factors in that process (Gallego, Hollingsworth & Whitenack, 2001; Nugent, 2003; Palmer, 1993, 1998; Taylor, 1998). According to Cranton (1996) transformative learning occurs when, as a result of the reflective process, the beliefs which shape one’s actions are revised or changed. The process of reflection leads to “awareness of an invalid, undeveloped, or distorted meaning scheme or perspective” (p. 113) which is then revised and future action is based on that revised belief. Transformative learning occurs when the reflective process leads to relatively enduring change in the beliefs which shape one’s actions. Several variables have been highlighted in recent years as being significant in increasing the likelihood of transformative learning. According to Edlin (2002) three of these factors are:

  • Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development which illustrates a constructivist transition from the known to the unknown
  • the importance of relationships, and,
  • working through the possibility of change in relationship to and consistent with one’s core beliefs or foundational worldview.

As already mentioned, transformation requires engagement with our thinking and the need to be critical is key to this process. Critical does not mean to merely criticise, disagree with everything or reject any position just because it is possible to point out its weaknesses. Rather we use the word in its adjectival form as in the phrase – critical reflection. Here the focus is on assumptions and presuppositions -particularly about oneself and one’s own beliefs as well as recognising dominant ideologies – from multiple perspectives (Brockbank & McGill, 1998; Brookfield, 1995b; Mezirow, 1991). Some of these perspectives are: Christian, developmental, psychological, philosophical, historical, cultural (including bi-cultural and multi-cultural), and link to relevant leadership theory and sociology. Such questions as, “From where do my ideas originate?”, “How did I come to believe what I do?”, “Can I sustain and defend those beliefs?”, “Do they hinder or impede my understanding of myself as teacher?”viii act as springboards for reflection. According to Cox (1980) (cited in Shacklock & Smyth, 1993, p. 2) being critical is to “stand apart from the prevailing order of the world and ask how that order came about”. Where one seeks to be transformative one must first identify and seek to understand assumptions which sustain practice, and then seek to question and evaluate or consider these assumptions and practices in the light of one’s developing educational philosophy. To critically identify, challenge and transform practices, policies or structures which are inadequate or unjustix requires a beginning teacher who is secure, teachable and gracious. As Han (1995) writes: “Teachers must examine their beliefs, assumptions and biases regarding teaching and learning, and determine how those beliefs influence classroom practice”. There is a reciprocal relationship between being transformative and responsive. A person who engages in a connected, critical and considerate manner with the multiple sets of beliefs, values assumptions and structures which influence the teaching and learning moment without acquiescence to the status quo, is in a position to be transformative. It is intended that this engagement will lead towards deepened faith, creative skilful responses, and principled critique, integrity of character, and faithful imaginative experimentation and considerate innovation and therefore responsive.

Responsive (hands)

By responsive, we mean a person whose professional practice arises out of their engagement with what is commonly referred to in teacher education as reflection, or critical reflection (Norsworthy, 2002). A teacher who is responsive engages in critical consideration with the multiple sets of beliefs, values, assumptions and structures which influence the learning moment without acquiescence to the status quo. Such a process enables us to look at everyday teaching activity and “apply our heart to what we observed and learn a lesson” from that process (Proverbs 24:30-32, NIV). The responsive teacher is equipped with sound knowledge and skill, motivated by a strong sense of responsibility for all students and their families seeking to demonstrate commitment to the well being and ‘unwrapping’ of each student’s gifts (capabilities) and talents.

The challenges of such an approach in a tertiary environment

The ideas above may appeal but they present major challenges to those within a tertiary environment. The teacher educator who dares to embody such an approach as is within this article will face challenges related to student teachers’ expectations of tertiary study, institutional practices within a market driven sector, and critically their own sense of role, acceptance and fit within the academe.

Teacher educator

The model of teacher education espoused at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute acknowledges that, for the neophyte teacher, there is still much to be learned. The commitment to ongoing learning, inquiry and research is critical both for the sake of beginning teachers, and for those whom they will teach. What is in mind is more the model of the disciple, who studies the ways of a more experienced and wise teacher in order to develop ways of being which are true to their own person; who learns how to ‘be’ rather than a restricted technicist model of the apprentice who learns only what to ‘do’. While a discipleship model would suggest that student teachers are the disciples, earlier documentation makes clear that the model of discipleship affirmed at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute is that which views “both students and staff alike, while they may perform different roles and have different responsibilities, are fellow disciples of Christ” (Giles, 1995, p. 1). It is critical that in the teacher a student meets a person who is also travelling ‘the way of learning’ and in this case, learning to be Christ-like; where knowledge and skills are placed within the framework of gaining wisdom and learning responsibility (Blokhuis, 2002) as character or disposition. Consequently, the call to develop beginning teachers, who are secure, teachable and gracious, is also a call for teacher educators to be and become the same.

It is often out of the time spent together, a developing trust and the openness of a relationship that we can be provoked to consider or appraise aspects of our lives (Giles, 1995, p. 4).

The importance of authentic modelling is increasingly recognised by teacher educators, as “a powerful teacher as students learn much more from what a teacher does than what a teacher says. Therefore teaching student-teachers using the methods and approaches that they themselves are encouraged to use in their own teaching matters…” (Loughran, 2004, p. 11). While this is true, and valued, it is not without recognition that “sometimes the modelling of the adult influences in unintended ways” (Dockett & Fleer, 1999, p. 10) – hence our emphasis on the process of critical reflection for all involved.

Just as Jesus modeled, lived and taught these priorities, so the Christian teacher educator seeks to do the same. As Palmer notes:

The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning and living require. Teaching cannot be reduced to technique…(1998, p. 11)

If we are working within a teaching paradigm which prevents students ‘seeing us do’, or if we place ourselves in a position where all we do is talk – we deny the students the most powerful of teaching and learning possibilities. As Wolterstorff (1980) wrote:

Do not in the presence of students, act as if you were a teaching machine. Instead, reveal that you too are on the journey of Christian existence – sometimes successful, sometimes not, sometimes confident, sometimes doubting, sometimes joyful, sometimes discouraged. Do not try to transubstantiate yourself into something other than what you are nor conceal the fact that you have not been transubstantiated. Authentic Christian teaching is autobiographical teaching.

As teacher educators, the willingness to be gracious, secure and teachable requires that we journey with and alongside students, rather than being ‘other’ and ‘over’ them as we display our accumulated knowledge and expertise. It also challenges our security in a very personal and vulnerable way. Often, when student teachers meet an expectation that they be learners and inquirers rather than consumers and accumulators, their initial reactions do not make for positive course feedback. Dealing with this reality is challenging for all involved.


Teacher education experienced as professional learning or development can include times of uncertainty when students may be confronted with unfamiliar learning and teaching processes or when their confidence in the known and familiar is challenged. “Student teachers teach as they were taught or as they experienced teaching unless this process is interrupted in some major way” (Norsworthy, 2003, p. 62). Salomon writes, “[w]hen push comes to shove, teachers will teach the way they have been taught in the past, as students in school. Thus if we want teachers to change, they will have to experience as students themselves the novel learning environment” (1998, p. 9).

There is no greater opportunity to accept, challenge, construct, internalise, debate or practice them than if they are experienced rather than taught. …Then, the relationship between what student teachers learn and what they ultimately carry out in their education practice is enhanced through a direct association between their own learning and learning for children (Keesing-Styles, 2004, p. 239)

Students will be encouraged to continually be engaged in the process of presenting their own learning experiences, values and beliefs for challenge, examination and, as appropriate, transformation. When such experiences, whether inspirational or otherwise, are combined with critical reflection, there is hope for active and deep learning for both student teachers and the children who will ultimately be in their centres, classrooms, and educational enterprises.

However, the reality presents challenges at an institutional level. How, for example, in a market driven world, does the institution deal with student feedback which criticises teacher educators and courses – when that very criticism may be part of the transformative process? Also, a commitment to model the key characteristics and dimensions outlined in this paper necessitates a model of teaching which allows these to be inherent – such as within Personal Integration and Professional Inquiry strand. Having one staff member working in a relational and dialogical manner with 12 -15 students is very expensive, tying up teaching spaces and time.


In the words of Palmer (1998):

Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. The methods used by these weavers vary widely: lectures, Socratic dialogues, laboratory experiments, collaborative problem solving, creative chaos. The connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self (p. 11).

We know that life change does not happen unless the whole person is influenced in each domain. – cognitive (head), affective (heart) and behavioural (hands). We are looking for a change that is to be so thorough and contagious that it is reproducible in the lives of others (2 Timothy 2:2). As Dewey (1916, p. 178) wrote:

‘It would be much better to have fewer facts and truths in instruction – that is fewer things supposedly accepted – if a small number of situations could be intellectually worked out to the point where conviction meant something real – some identification of the self with the type of conduct demanded by facts and foresight of results.

A commitment to teacher education which seeks alignment of Heart, Head and Hands requires innovative thinking, strong commitment, gracious, secure and teachable character qualities to enable the vision to become reality. We continue to seek such a reality.


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Bev Norsworthy is a teacher educator at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute in Tauranga, New Zealand. She was also the inaugural presenter in the ICCTE Journal webcast series.

i Identity is used to reflect the ‘moving intersection of the inner and outer forces that make me who I am, converging in the irreducible mystery of being human’ (Palmer, 1998, p.13).

ii Integrity is that which is integral to one’s person – being able to discern that which fits and that which does not and then choosing life-giving ways (as compared with ways which fragment) of relating to the forces that converge within, becoming more whole, more real, as one acknowledges the whole of ‘who I am’. See Palmer, 1998 p. 13

iii For example, among many other attributes Jesus was servant-hearted, humble, mission focused, relational, empowered by the Holy Spirit, infused with scripture, motivated by love, prayerful, discerning ).

iv Cited in Stronks, G. G., & Joldersma, C. W. (Eds.). (2002). Educating for Life: Wolterstorff’s Reflections on Christian Teaching and Learning. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

v The word children is used to encompass those being taught in the range of age groups covered by a range of educational settings. (In New Zealand Early Childhood (0-5yrs) Primary (6-10yrs), Intermediate (11-12yrs), Secondary (12-17yrs)

vi New Zealand has two official languages: English and Maori. Wairua, hinengaro, tinana, and wh?nau are the equivalent Maori words and are included here as they are an integral part of the full quote from the BTI Charter

vii Bethlehem Tertiary Institute Charter (2003, p. 2).

viii from Groundwater-Smith et al., (2003, p. 19)

ix Micah 6 verse 8, The Holy Bible (New International Version) , Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers

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