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Title: Teacher professional development and the argument of incompetence : the case of in-service elementary teacher education in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Author: De Souza, Denise Trento Rebello
ISNI:       0000 0004 2704 1590
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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This work proposes that since the early eighties a specific strategy has gained increasing importance within official Education Programmes in Sao Paulo (Brazil) addressed to deal with the high rates of pupil repetition and dropout: the concentration on teachers professional development. We argue that this strategy is based on the idea of teacher's incompetence as the main explanation for educational problems. This idea pervades both the conceptions of the programmes and their proposed actions and practices. We discuss the idea of teacher's incompetence tracing its recent origins in the literature, and investigating its repercussions for the formulation and implementation of official Education Programmes, namely Basic Cycle, Basic Cycle in a Single Shift and Quality School undertaken by the Sao Paulo State Secretariat for Education. In order to develop our argument a programme for Teacher Professional Development (1PD) carried out in the early 90's was chosen as the empirical context. A systematic fieldwork based on a qualitative research method was carried out in which the perceptions, expectations, and interrelations of the involved teachers, course monitors and policy makers were extracted from a number of interviews and observations. Our analysis demonstrates the presence of what we identify as the "argument of incompetence". Having provided evidence of its presence in the educational literature and in the education policies we explore and demonstrate its presence and its significance in the perceptions of the three groups of professionals involved in teachers' professional development programmes we analyse. We show that the "argument of incompetence" takes on different forms according to the context. It tends to be more refined at the level of the educational literature and rather simplistic in the education policies. However, the core of the "argument of incompetence" follows a linear logic: "we do not have a good quality school only because we lack teachers of professional competence". We proceed to demonstrate that it not only undermines the relations among the main participating agents in teacher professional development, namely, policy makers, course monitors and teachers, but it also promotes a mistaken way of thinking about teacher professional development. Mistaken and simplistic as it promotes a conception of TPD that overestimates its possibilities of dealing with chronic and broader issues of low quality of Brazilian Basic Education without taking the necessary action regarding other vital elements such as suitable conditions of work in schools and teacher's career development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available