School of Education
October 1, 2011
“Connecting practice and theory is central to my work.”
Dr. Niels Brouwer (1950) is a translator, teacher, and educational psychologist. He has worked as a teacher of English, Dutch, and social studies in various types of secondary schools and in adult education. In 1989, he achieved his Ph.D. degree with a longitudinal study of the organization, curriculum-in-use, and learning effects of pre-service teacher education programs in Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Since then, he has worked as a teacher educator, project coordinator, and researcher in a variety of work settings in The Netherlands. As he explains, “Connecting practice and theory is central to my work.”
Both locally and nationally, Dr. Brouwer has been active in projects for quality assurance, innovation, and research in teacher education. In 2002, he published a Dutch handbook for prospective and experienced teachers with an associated web page. In 2006, he was the recipient of the AERA Division K Exemplary Research Award for the article based on his dissertation “Can Teacher Education Make a Difference?” in the Spring 2005 issue of the American Educational Research Journal, co-authored with Fred Korthagen. In 2009, he received the ATE award for distinguished research in teacher education for the article “Promoting Versatility in Mentor Teachers’ Use of Supervisory Skills” in Teaching and Teacher Education about research by Frank Crasborn and Paul Hennissen, two of his doctoral students.
Currently, Dr. Brouwer’s main research theme is the use of digital video in pre-service teacher education and professional development. In 2009, he organized several symposia and a conference about this topic within AERA (see http://academic.csuohio.edu/yuskob/aera2009.htm) and the European Association for Research Learning and Instruction (Earli).
Speaking about his research, Dr. Brouwer comments:
Teacher education has a multiplier function: it influences generations of teachers, who then influence generations of learners, who ultimately shape society and their own lives within it. This is why I believe that teacher education has an essential contribution to make to a nation’s culture and economy. The extent to which people can unfold their potential depends a great deal on the quality of their education. This in turn depends on the quality of teachers’ work and this again is shaped by their work conditions on the one hand and the effectiveness of their own initial and continuing education on the other.
This argument about the social role of teacher learning is a chained and therefore complex one to make, but it does point to the enormous relevance of what we are doing as teacher educators. Worldwide, in promoting and supporting teacher learning we face several persistent challenges: how to design and organize coherent programs which provide teachers with learning experiences enabling them to master the demands of teaching; how to make teachers aware — on a sound scientific basis — of what constitutes effective teaching in their specific subject domains; and last, but not least, how to support teachers in integrating the necessary skills and knowledge as parts of a lasting personal motivation to work as a teacher.
Individual teacher learning has always been the focus of my work. My dissertation and subsequent work on innovation and quality assurance are devoted to achieving the best possible environments for meaningful learning as a teacher. My current work on using video for teacher learning is meant to support teachers in sharing their practical wisdom and enriching it with research-based knowledge about effective teaching.
On Monday, the 3rd of October Dr. Brouwer will present a brownbag talk at the UCI Department of Education, in which he will discuss trends and issues as he encounters them in his current research and development work. This includes studies of what teachers actually discover and interpret when viewing video records of teaching, pilot projects in which pre-service and experienced teachers use video in reciprocal peer coaching settings and a review of the recent wave of research into the use of digital video in teacher education and professional development.