The Good Teacher: Dominant discourses in teaching and teacher education

Author(s) Alex Moore
Publisher RoutledgeFalmer
Published 2004
ISBN 0415335655
Reviewed by Megan Elliott
Canterbury Christ Church University College
Review published 1 December 2004

Moore critiques three dominant discourses within teaching; those of the charismatic ‘born’ teacher, the competent craftsperson and the reflective practitioner. He offers two common responses by teachers to these models; pragmatism and reflexivity and advocates the reflexive response as the way to move beyond self blame for our shortcomings as teachers towards recognition of how our own life and experiences shape the way we act.

The book is divided into three sections with the first establishing issues around the concept of ‘the good teacher’. Moore introduces the concept of transference where student teachers make the transition from pupil to teacher, bringing with them ‘baggage’ from their own school experiences that affects their attitudes to teaching.

Section two then critiques the dominant discourses that student teachers are faced with. The first two of charismatic subject and competent craftsperson cover familiar ground for anyone already established within the teaching profession and for me was the least useful part of the book. The critique of the model of reflective practitioner in contrast offers useful insights; based on the findings from a research project, into what reflection can mean at its best and worst. The idea of a reflective activity continuum from ritualistic reflection to that which is constructively critical may be helpful to students in recognising what they are gaining from their reflections and how to move on. Moore makes the crucial point that reflection can, within certain interpretations lead not to improvement but to self-blame. He emphasises the difference between ‘inking’ and ‘thinking’; a vital point when the requirement for student teachers to reflect on their practice is an integral part of their course.

Two teacher responses to the dominant discourses are considered in the third section: Pragmatism is discussed as a move which is often regarded as necessary for survival but which can lead to a culture of compliance. It is the second response of reflexivity that Moore advocates as a way to move teachers beyond self blame to an understanding of the ‘big picture’ of ourselves as teachers within the context of our whole lives. He suggests reflection that looks at our responses to situations. The connections to our personal biographies may enable key issues to be addressed. It is this final section that makes the book distinctive in offering a way to move beyond established models of the ‘good teacher’ and it is a shame it is so brief.

This book has a wide audience but may be predominantly useful to those new to teaching. Those who are entering the teaching profession by new routes such as graduate teachers who have less of a traditional college based support network may in particular find this a constructive framework for their developing ideologies. As a teacher educator I would use the sections on reflective and reflexive practice with students as a way to explore just what we mean by reflection.