March 30, 2015
TECHNOS QUARTERLY Fall 1993 Vol. 2 No. 3
Interview with John I. Goodlad
Adapted by Carole Novak
John Goodlad is professor of education and director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington in Seattle. Goodlad is no stranger to education reform. For the past 25 years, he has been involved in an array of reform programs, large-scale studies of educational change, school improvement, and teacher training. The national network for educational renewal was created to further the simultaneous renewal of schooling and the education of educators. It is redefining the concept of school-university partnerships. This interview is excerpted from John I. Goodlad: New Schools, New Teachers, a two-part series of professional development videos for teachers produced by the Agency for Instructional Technology and Phi Delta Kappa.
You've devoted your career to education and its reform. What have you learned from your experience in school reform that is helpful in understanding the current movement?
One of the things you learn is that good things keep recycling. If it's a good idea that doesn't make it this time, it'll make it next time. The other thing that you learnand it's discouragingis that you're always getting newcomers on the scene for the recycling process. That means the process of educational change and improvement never ends because you're always dealing with a new clientele, a new group of parents, a new group of administrators, a new group of teachers, and so on. Third, and most important, would be that it doesn't matter how many bills you pass and how many policies you lay down from on highwhen it comes right down to it, the individual school has an incredible capacity for rejecting it passively or taking it on and doing something about it. And it doesn't matter where the ideas come from. Ultimately, they've got to be seized upon by people in the individual school unit and seen as important enough to spend time and energy on.
What have been some of your major concerns over the years in the area of school reform?
I think it is the intensive cycles of seeing the need to use our schools in some sort of instrumental way. This instrumental useto think that schools can do something other than educate people wellhas gotten us into a great deal of trouble. When we start making education in the schools instrumental to work and the right to workwhich we seem to be doing nowwe are downplaying the value of education. Because whenever you make anything instrumental to anything else, you have downplayed the thing that is the instrument. That, I think, is the misplacing of our educational values in this country. So I would say that these periodic reform movements should be replaced by a continuing process of renewal. That means we have to value education more than we do; we have to value our children more than we do.
Would you characterize our present emphasis in education as not valuing learning very much, in and of itself?
Yes. I refer to Ted Sizer's work with the notion of the child as worker, the child as learner. It's very interesting how some parents are objecting to that notion because they think it means the teacher is abrogating responsibility and turning it over to the learner. It is a much more difficult and challenging teaching task to get youngsters meaningfully involved in the work of learningand it is work, goodness knows. Japanese parents don't downplay this notion at all. When the child goes off to school, the child's going off to work, just like his father. Youngsters get meaningfully involved so that they don't know when the school period ends. They don't know when to stop; they don't want to stop. That's what we're after, and that means the student has to become an involved worker. It requires a teaching skill that we're not preparing for, because teachers teach the way they were taught, and the way they were taught was frontal teaching. Eighty-eight percent of high school teaching time in the hundreds of high school classes that my colleagues and I visited in doing our research was spent in frontal teachingtelling, questioning, lecturing, with the students passively sitting, often with their eyes glazed over and their minds somewhere else. That's what we've got to switch around. The one thing teachers have in their control doesn't get legislated, usually doesn't get mandated. It's the teaching act itself. That is the power of teaching.
How important is it that teachers become empowered, in the sense of being more involved in decision making activities in their schools?
It's absolutely critical. It's very interesting to note, however, that by the end of the 1980s, just about turning into the 1990s, there was a pretty fundamental agreement that the way to bring about change is school by school, by empowering the principals and the teachers. That idea was agreed upon by policymakers and educational reformers. How much have you heard about that rhetoric in the last two or three years? It's faded away. But it's a fundamentally very important idea.
Will the current attitude toward assessment affect the process of reform?
Well, there's some wonderful thinking going on in assessment that's quite different than in the past. That is, the idea of a portfolio kind of assessment where youngsters are competing only with themselves, gathering data that shows their improvement over timepapers they've written, things they've createdultimately resulting in some kind of exhibition for graduation. It's a wonderful idea, but we're still terribly hung up on norm-based tests. I think it is just absolutely one of the worst things that could've happened that the national assessment that was proceedingwhich was never meant to be a comparison of states or children with childrenis being converted. Good ideas have all been overwhelmed by norm reference testing, the SAT, the Graduate Record Exam, all of those geared to norm. I am uneasy about the progress we've made in this field being translated into the instruments we use to test children. Standardized, norm reference testing gives us absolutely no diagnosis of the ills of the American educational system.
Do you think this whole series of events in terms of assessment and curriculum and site-based management offers any clear statement or definition of the purpose of schooling?
When my colleagues and I set out to study teacher education, one of the things that we identified early on was that teacher education had no mission. That is, when we looked at the catalogs of universities, we looked in vain for a mission of teacher education. If we're preparing teachers for schools, the mission for teacher education should arise out of the mission of schooling. But when we looked for the mission of schooling, we found fragmented goals. We concluded that schools have two parts to their mission. One, we've got to prepare, we've got to enculturate, the young to participate actively and effectively as citizens in a democratic society. That means the worker role, the citizen role, the parent role, the personal role. The other is that we've got to give them command of those processes of knowing that come out of humankind's efforts to study the knowledge system. Those are strictly educative functions; they're not instrumental in any way. When we've talked about this with groups around the country and presented this to those who've committed themselves to our reform agenda, they see that as making sense. If we could get policymakers to focus on an educational mission rather than an economic mission or a political mission, we would then begin to see what's required to have our people educated.
What do you believe the purpose of education ought to be?
It's to cultivate the sensibilities and the sensitivities of the individual at the highest possible level. That's what it's all about. We want people to be sensitive to the world around them; we want them to have the sensibilities that make it possible for them to recognize the elements of phenomena that need to be dealt with in their lives. We need for them to be sensitive to one another, so they'll have successful relationships with others. It is developing responsible individuals whose individuality is molded in their culture. The school needs to provide that opportunity for interacting. It's entirely a personal thing. It's entirely an individual thing done in groups.
How do you see technology playing a part in education reform?
Well, I would want to redesign the education delivery system. First, there would be teams made up of people, each of whom has high talent in an important given area. For example, in the primary years, I want a teacher who really knows how to diagnose reading disability. I would want a teacher who really knows how to diagnose what youngsters are processing from a quantitative or mathematical point of view; those are team leaders. I would want career teachers aspiring to be head teachers as part of the team. I would want teacher interns and staff members in that group, and I would want part of the delivery system to be a multimedia delivery system of videotapes, computerized learning, and so on. There are thousands of young people in the United States in tiny little high schools that don't have qualified math and science teachers, yet we're expecting those kids to pass the 16-year-old test. I think the states that pass legislation like that have a moral responsibility to provide the delivery system to those youngsters. And if the stakes of schooling were made so high that my child had to pass that test to go on to academic work or to take vocational career training or to get a joband if the state did not provide the delivery system to the school where my child would goI'd sue. That's why I'm saying that the moment you raise the stakes of schooling, you raise the moral obligation to provide for it.
Could you describe your vision of how teachers ought to be trained and prepared?
At the Center, we've put this forward in a series of 19 sets of conditions, which we have embedded in what we call postulates. First, the institution has to care, has to think it's important. We found teacher education at the bottom of the totem pole in regard to institutional importance. There is this rite of passage that universities have gone through from normal school to teachers' college to state college to state universityand teacher education goes downhill as you get to the more prestigious universities. And there is no effort on the part of teacher-preparing institutions to recruitthey just take people who come wandering in. People don't go to a teacher education program because they think it's the best in the country; they don't go like they go to Yale law school. Once they get there, rarely is there any attempt to socialize future teachers because teacher education usually doesn't start in universities until at least the junior year. One of the weakest features we found was the lack of adequate laboratory facilities. Teaching schools should be like teaching hospitals.
So we recommend: (1) If the institution's going to do it, to make a commitment from the top and proudly raise the flag. (2) There would be an active recruitment program, particularly directed toward minorities because we don't have enough in teaching. (3) There would be an identifiable faculty, accountable and responsible, representing the arts and sciences, the school of education, and the schools. (4) The program would be built around a mission that is embedded in what schools are for, and everything would be lined up to be coherent with that mission. (5) Next, there'd be a lot of field experiences with seminars prior to student teaching. Programs would become five-year programs with four years of general education including preparation to teach built in, plus an intensive year of internship in two different kinds of schoolsthree or four months in each with accompanying seminars. Those schools would be renewing schools of the kind we'd like to see our children in, so the future teachers not only can experience good schools but also can work with the faculty renewing their schools and learn that it's their responsibility. That's our agenda.
Tell us about your idea of the center of pedagogy.
Well, once upon a time, schools of education prepared teachers and administrators. This was all they did. Now the most prestigious schools of education in the country either don't prepare teachers at all or prepare very few, so the function of schools of education has gone far beyond preparing teachers. Stanford University has a small program for maybe 30 people or so; Yale doesn't have a program at all; Harvard has a kind of program that doesn't offer course credit at the undergraduate level; the University of Chicago doesn't prepare teachers at the initial level. So what we have is the most prestigious universities and the most prestigious schools of education not preparing teachers. Now, what would we think if the most prestigious schools of law didn't prepare lawyers, and the most prestigious schools of medicine didn't prepare doctors? It's bizarre, isn't it?
What I'm saying is: Look, we've got a group of people over here in the arts and sciences who provide the basic content for math, history, English, and so on. We've got a group of people over here in education who teach the foundations of education and methods of teaching. There are a lot of people in the school of education who've nothing to do with teacher education. They're running their research programs, or they're doing advanced studies of one kind or another, their doctoral programs, and so on. Let's identify those people in the school of education who want to work with teachers, join them with a cluster in the arts and sciences, join all of them with the faculty and their partner schools, who together make the decisions about the programs. In effect you'd be creating a unit of people with accountability and responsibility for teacher education representing all the component parts. Why shouldn't the faculty that prepares teachers recruit the others, recruit their colleagues? Deans of education have asked exactly that question: What does the school of education do, if part of it is a center of pedagogy, with the arts and sciences as school people participating? You'd better have good answers to that question, because that'll be one a lot of legislators are going to ask. If schools and colleges of education don't prepare teachersor prepare very fewwhat are they doing?
Doing research wouldn't be a good enough answer?
It wouldn't be a good enough answer for me, if I were a congressman. I would want to know more than that. Research on what?
Research on how children learn.
I'd want answers. It should be research that bears upon a particular function. My recommendation is a unit, a center of pedagogy with arts and sciences people in it, school people in itand the rest of the people in the school of education would go about their usual business. It needn't necessarily disrupt things. In fact, it could let a lot of people off the hook who don't want to be in teacher education and don't have much to contribute to it.
What will it take to assure that greater attention is given to the preparation of teachers?
Oh, it's hard work. We have a group of senior associates, some of whom are with us at the university, most of whom are scattered about the country working on these problems. It's hard going because many state legislators don't like schools of education. That's a given. The idea of mentoring teachers solely, letting the teachers prepare other teachers, is very attractive in times of low funding because it doesn't cost much. But the question I raise of legislators who want to do this is: Given all the criticism of teachers and all the criticism of schools not doing an adequate job, why would you want to prepare future teachers solely with the people who you think aren't doing a good job now?
It doesn't make common sense. Rather, let's get schools that are going about their business of renewal, let's get the professors who are teaching the subject matter that teachers must know, let's get professors who are teaching the pedagogy, let's get the experienced, competent teachers in those schools together to design and conduct teacher education programs. Now, that's what we're trying to sell to policymakers, and interestingly enough, they're responding very well to the notion. Yes, it makes sense that the university and the school districts join for the education of teachers. The surprising thing is that we haven't done much of what seems to make sense. So that's the challenge. I'm hopeful.
What advice would you give to educatorsclassroom teachers, administratorsand others interested in expanding their efforts in the area of school reform?
The first thing I would say is, you have a moral responsibility as a steward of the school to participate in school renewal. You cannot be an observer; you have to be a participating member. As a teacher, you have responsibility for all the children in the school. If you take on the responsibility of becoming a teacher, you take on the moral stewardship of schooling. And your assumption is that every child can learn; every child will get equal access; no child will be excluded because of color, race, or creed. That's the commitment you make as a teachernot just to manage the classroom.
Project yourself 20 years into the future. What would you hope people would be saying about schools and education reform?
About public schooling, I would hope it would be the kind of thing where the wisest person in the community walked into the school, went through it, and came out and said, That's where I'd like my child to be. What a wonderful place for my child to beto be happy and at the same time to be learning.’ What a wonderful combination.
Dr. Goodlad, thank you very much for talking to us.
You're very welcome. Enjoyed it.
Photos by Dave Stocker for AIT.
Book cover photo courtesy of Jossey-Bass, 1990.
For more information about the Center for Educational Renewal and its National Network, write to:
In addition to the print version of this important TECHNOS Interview, you can now listen to the interview with Dr. Goodlad from AIT's John I Goodlad: New Schools, New Teachers. These audio excerpts are provided to you by TECHNOS and can be listened to using the Real Audio player.