Jennifer Yamin-Ali

author and educator: Jennifer Yamin-Ali

Who teaches the teachers? The term “teacher educator” refers to both those who educate prospective teachers and those who educate practising teachers. Jennifer Yamin-Ali believes this is a critical undertaking and responsibility, and with this in mind, she has written, Teacher Educator Experiences and Professional Development—Perspectives from the Caribbean.

Yamin-Ali was motivated to write the book as she believes “the professional development of teacher educators has not been the focus of much attention until relatively recent times”.

The book highlights the work of teacher educators and how they grow professionally, and draws on global trends. Its research findings, she noted, also apply to internation­al practitioners and researchers in teacher education.

“The term “teacher educator” is not familiar to many outside of the field. Teacher educators are those who work towards the professional development of teachers at any level of a school system. Therefore, the work of teacher educators assumes great importance in an education system,” Yamin-Ali said.

Yamin-Ali is a senior lecturer and past director of the School of Education, The University of the West Indies (The UWI), St Augustine, where she has worked for the last 18 years. She holds a PhD in Education from the University of Sheffield, a masters in teacher education, a Diploma in Education and a BA Spanish and English from The UWI. She was formerly a teacher of Spanish at Naparima Girls’ High School for 23 years, during which she acted as vice-principal for a short period. This is her second publication.

“The book encourages teacher educators to use student feedback to carve their own professional growth, and provides data from an actual context to show details of what teacher educators and those in teacher education administration perhaps need to pay attention to.

“It also highlights the importance of non-teaching and non-research activities in their professional roles. It argues that too often, as indeed in the school system, professional development overlooks the non-teaching roles that may be critical to a professional’s work and development,” she said.

Unexpected challenges

The book, Yamin-Ali said, also aims to provide a view into the experiences of actual practitioners on their journey to becoming a teacher educator. “Two of the chapters, highlighting teacher educators’ voices, show how extended roles and responsibilities outside of teaching and research have given rise to unexpected challenges and growth experiences.

“One of several areas which stood out was opportunities to learn through doing as a key avenue for building personal capacity. What can draw a reader in the field to learn from the book is that apart from building on international literature on teacher educator professional development, it provides the experiences of practitioners.

“The last chapter is the one that stands out for me, in that it has a personal flavour and I believe anyone can relate to it. It is also different from the academic research norm. It is entitled, ‘Sprinkled with Serendipity: My Journey Towards Becoming and Being a Teacher Educator’. It is a self-narrative which provides a different lens through which professional growth is viewed.

“Being the researcher, I became the research. I describe serendipity as being instrumental in my professional journey. So in that chapter, I move away from “conventional academic writing to a more personalised, free-style narrative which provides examples of how culture and context open up the possibility for serendipitous events through encounters with others and one’s openness to possibilities and potential, even though the awareness of these might not consciously exist. ‘Finding what I was not looking for’ was a feature of this professional journey,” Yamin-Ali said.

Yamin-Ali said people who are considering entering the field of teacher education in the role of teacher educator, and more importantly by novices in the field who are seeking ways in which to improve their practice, can also find the book noteworthy.

“I dare say that even experienced teacher educators can learn from the findings and discussion as they often serve as mentors to novices who are preparing teachers for their many roles. Most importantly, the findings may also be useful to those whose responsibility it is to ensure quality in teacher education, whether it be at schools of education or within ministries of education, or among school leaders.

Development as a

metamorphic experience

“I am usually curious about and interested in my work context and what might seem to be peripheral. So it is my work as a teacher educator that drew me first to examine our experience of programme renewal, which I was heavily involved in when I co-ordinated the postgraduate Diploma in Education at the The UWI School of Education. In higher education, we all conduct research to varying degrees.

“Since 2012, I have looked at teacher education programme development as a metamorphic experience and presented that research at a conference in Athens. Other colleagues and I have examined client and provider issues programme development. Eventually, I began to take a closer look at the work that we actually do in my context at the School of Education. I would say that the initial motiva­ting factor in the writing of this book was a 2015 conference sponsored by the Association of Teacher Educators of Europe (ATEE) which I attended and where I presented a paper entitled ‘Teacher Educators as Emerging Professionals’.

“That experience for me was phenomenal, in that I was in the company of professionals like me, interested in the work of teacher educators. My paper won an award. I continued with this line of research and in 2017 published ‘Tensions in the Work Context of Teacher Educators in a School of Education in Trinidad and Tobago: A Case Study’ in the European Journal of Teacher Education. Consequent to that, in 2019, I published a chapter, ‘Let It Begin With Me: The Forging of a Professional Teacher Educator Self’ in the book Rethinking Teacher Education for the 21st Century: Trends, Challenges and New Directions, published by Barbara Budrich Press.

“I felt that having some new and fresh ideas for research on teacher educators and their work and development should result in placing those findings in one space —a book. It would then not require much searching to access five pie­ces of research. And so, having been granted some leave to conduct the research, this book was born.”

This is Yamin-Ali’s second book. The first is entitled, Data-Driven Decision-Making in Schools: Lessons from Trinidad, and was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014. “That one focused on five secondary schools, researched separate issues in each of the schools, and included the involvement of teachers from the schools in the selection of the research focus and data collection,” Yamin-Ali said.

Teacher Educator Experiences and Professional Development—Perspectives from the Caribbean was published in February 2021 by Springer and launched virtually on March 26. It is available online at springer.com/shop, amazon.com and locally by contacting jyaminali@gmail.com.

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