In 1977, when teacher education inSwedenwas incorporated into the university system, the main reason was to transform it into an academic tradition. Now, nearly 30 years later, there is still tension between the academic and the vocational tradition; they show up as different and separated elements in a program that is meant to prepare students for a career as a teacher and for a possible future career as a researcher in this field. This tension gives rise to a risk of allowing parallel “tracks” to develop and of isolating the degree thesis work from other courses. On the teacher-training program in which we are involved, close co-operation with partner-schools, where the practical part of the program takes place, has been established. Here, the students´ degree theses are an important factor in making this co-operation work on a concrete level. Accordingly, the purpose of the degree thesis is both to reflect problems in schools and contribute to better teaching in the individual school, but also to offer relevant educational subject matter to the students, which may be adapted as an element in the university’s research environments.
From these points of view, the degree thesis is an important part of teacher education and rather more than just a single course. The degree thesis should be an element that gives the students an opportunity to show that they have reached central goals in the teacher education program. It should also be an integral part in the development of critical and scholarly thinking, deepening pedagogical and didactic knowledge and giving the students an opportunity to apply research methods.
We will here use two minor case studies: one that compares teacher education programs in five Swedish universities and one minor study at one of those universities, in order to elaborate on the questions:
- What purpose has a degree thesis and what role does it play in teacher education?
- What criteria are relevant to assessing a degree thesis and what qualities do the degree theses have?
- Is it possible to assess a degree thesis fairly and what happens to students who do not pass?
- How could the degree thesis be used to improve the contact between the teacher education program and its partner schools in order to contribute to the development of the individual school?
31st Annual ATEE conference 2006 - Portoroz, Slovenia.
21 October - 25 October 2006.