The future of teacher education: Evidence, competence or wisdom?


  • Gert Biesta


Abstract. In this paper, which is based on a keynote given at the ‘2020 The Future of Teacher Education’ conference, Vienna, March 2011, I raise questions about the future of teacher education. I do this against the background of policy developments that not only frame teacher education predominantly in terms of competencies and scientific evidence, but that also do so within a language that focuses predominantly on learning. I argue that a language of learning runs the risk of forgetting what characterises education – namely the fact that education always needs to engage with questions of purpose, content and relationships. It is particularly the question of purpose, and the fact that this question has to be understood in a multidimensional way, which requires that teachers are able to make situated judgements about what is educationally desirable. I suggest that the capacity for such judgements should not be seen as a competence nor as something that can or ought to be replaced by scientific evidence. Following Aristotle I suggest that the capacity for educational judgement should be seen as a quality of the person. Hence, the key question for teacher education is not how to become competent or skilled in the application of scientific evidence. The key question is how to become educationally wise. Through a play with the notion of virtuosity I outline three parameters for the future of teacher education: a focus on the formation of the whole person towards educational wisdom; a focus on a holistic approach in which educational judgement is a central element from the very start; and a focus on learning from the virtuosity of other teachers.

Keywords: Teacher education; purpose; educational judgement; wisdom; competence; evidence