Oneil Madden | Teachers’ college lecturers need to do more research
In addition to living in a technology-driven century, we also operate in an era that is heavily dependent on research. It is taught that research informs practice, and one of the positive elements about most of the four-year degree programmes in Jamaica is that undergraduate students are exposed to the fundamentals of academic research, and practical skills are thus garnered whenever they engage in the writing process.
However, I am bothered by the fact that many of the lecturers who supervise these research papers, especially at teacher-training institutions, are themselves not actively involved in research.
It is my belief that the role of teachers’ colleges should not only be limited to the preparation and training of future professionals, but they should also be actively engaged in the creation and exploitation of new knowledge.
The colleges seem to have a culture of relying heavily on publications from the local universities or international sources; some of which are not very applicable to the realities that confront the local education system on a daily basis. It is due to reasons like this why some of these same final year students struggle to develop their literature reviews, as there is either limited information published or foreign data do not situate well in the Jamaican context.
It would be unfair, however, to not highlight the volume of work that swarms these educators daily: planning lessons, correcting assignment pieces, vetting exams, balancing lectures and supervising teaching practice (which is practically done right throughout the academic year), etc. It is, therefore, clear that the question of time cannot be ignored. Notwithstanding, I believe that a better organisation of the system could allow for more lecturers to dedicate time to conducting research.
RESTRUCTURING THEIR SYSTEM
Although the number of lecturers with a doctor of philosophy (PhD) at the teachers’ college level is somewhat insignificant in comparison to those at the university level, a cohort from this set could be assigned to pilot research projects. This would therefore mean that a percentage of their work time would be dedicated to teaching and the other portion to researching. This, of course, is a common practice in higher education. There are many PhDs who have amassed a wealth of knowledge throughout their studies, and there is neither any sharing of their new knowledge nor any continuity in their area of focus.
Additionally, it would be great if the Teachers’ Colleges of Jamaica (TCJ) collaborated more in this regard. Colleagues from the different institutions with common areas of studies or from the same departments could collaborate on different research projects to experiment with different theories, and why not conceive innovative pedagogical scenarios?
Furthermore, the TCJ could partner with the country’s universities to open a research lab specific to teacher education and related topics. This could be complemented by its own research journal that would have publications that are accessible to educators and other interests of every category.
Those who are called to shape the future of the country need to be more vocal in the creation of new information. Teachers’ colleges should consider restructuring their system to foster a culture of research. It is unfortunate that after so many years of existence, even decades before universities started in Jamaica, the colleges have not produced much information, whether as a single or collective unit.