The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 715–734 | Cite as

What’s good enough? Teacher education and the practice challenge

  • Jo-Anne ReidEmail author


The idea of ‘good enough’ teacher education is taken from the work of Donald Winnicott, a British psychoanalyst who proposed the idea of ‘the good enough mother’ (Winnicott in The family and individual development, Tavistock, London, 1965) in response to popular views of the time that good mothers all shared certain selfless characteristics, with negative effects for all those who failed to meet this impossible ideal of perfect mothering. I will argue that education researchers and professionals are now in a position to go beyond ‘the crisis in teacher education’ (that has once again this year been beaten up into a frenzy with the ATAR whisk) and begin to claim space for a reconceptualised teacher education, based on practice theory, which can take us forward with renewed energy and passion to challenge an impossible ideal of perfect teaching. As researchers, we need to mobilise our intellectual resources to address our colleagues in the field—our discipline leaders, our university managers, Deans, Vice Chancellors and our systems-based colleagues—to produce some effective self-talk about the place, nature and role of teacher education in this country. I will argue for the idea of a ‘good enough’ teacher education, one that explicitly aims to produce what I call, perhaps provocatively, a ‘Good Enough’ teacher—someone who knows she can never be fully prepared for the schools of today; who knows she is not ‘classroom-ready’ when she starts her career; but who is well prepared for her struggle every day, in and through her practice, to know and meet the needs of her students.


Teacher education Rethinking teacher ‘readiness Teaching as impossible profession Good enough teachers 



  1. American Council on Teacher Education [ACTE] (1944). Teachers for Our Times, Washington DC: Commission on Teacher Education.Google Scholar
  2. Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL]. (2011). Australian professional standards for teachers. Australian Government. Retrieved October 20, 2018 from
  3. Berliner, D. C. (1988). The development of expertise in pedagogy. Washington: AACTE Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Berliner, D. C. (2004). Describing the behaviour and documenting the accomplishments of expert teachers. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 24(3), 200–212.Google Scholar
  5. Bessant, B., & Holbrook, A. (1995). Reflections on educational research in Australia: A history of the Australian Association for Research in Education. Coldstream, VIC: AARE.Google Scholar
  6. Bettelheim, B. (1987). A good enough parent: The guide to bringing up your child. London: Thames & Hudson.Google Scholar
  7. Biesta, G. (2013). The beautiful risk of education. London: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  8. Biesta, G. (2019). Flipping the system, but in which direction? Reclaiming education as a public concern. In D. M. Netolicky, J. Andrews, & C. Paterson (Eds.), Flip the system Australia: What matters in education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Bloomfield, D. (2006). The discursive space of professional experience: Student teachers negotiating identity. Unpublished PhD thesis, Charles Sturt University.Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, P. (2005). Habitus. In J. Hillier & E. Rooksby (Eds.), Habitus: A sense of place (pp. 43–49). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  11. Britzman, D. P., & Dippo, D. (2000). On the future of awful thoughts in teacher education. Teaching Education, 11(1), 31–37.Google Scholar
  12. Buchanan, J., Prescott, A., Schuck, S., Aubusson, P., Burke, P., & Louviere, J. (2013). Teacher retention and attrition: Views of early career teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 38(3), 8.Google Scholar
  13. Carlgren, I. (1998). OP-ED Where did blackboard writing go? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 30(6), 613–617.Google Scholar
  14. Connell, R. W. (2009a). Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism. Critical Studies in Education, 50(3), 213–229.Google Scholar
  15. Connell, R. (2009b). The work of teaching. History of Education Review, 38(2), 9–16.Google Scholar
  16. Craig, C. (2017). International teacher attrition: Multiperspective views. Teachers and Teaching, 23, 859–862. Scholar
  17. Cunningham, K. S. (1939). Introduction. In W. C. Radford (Ed.), The educational needs of a rural community: A study of the Shire of Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia, in an attempt to discover the educational needs and to decide upon the most desirable ways of satisfying these needs (pp. 5–7). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press/Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Dreyfus, H. L., & Dreyfus, S. E. (2004). The ethical implications of the five-stage skill acquisition model. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 24(3), 251–264.Google Scholar
  19. Ewing, R., & Manuel, J. (2005). Retaining early career teachers in the profession: New teacher narratives. Change: Transformations in Education, 8(1), 1–16.Google Scholar
  20. Fraser, N., & Honneth, A. (2003). Redistribution or recognition? A political-philosophical exchange. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  21. Freud, S. (1937). Analysis terminable and interminable. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18, 373–405.Google Scholar
  22. Green, B. (Ed.). (2009). Understanding and researching professional practice. Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  23. Green, B. (2010). The (im)possibility of the project. The Australian Educational Researcher, 37(3), 1–17.Google Scholar
  24. Grossman, P. (2011). Framework for teaching practice: A brief history of an idea. Teachers College Record, 113(12), 2836–2843.Google Scholar
  25. Grossman, P., Hammerness, K., & McDonald, M. (2009). Redefining teaching, re-imagining teacher education. Teachers and Teaching, 15(2), 273–289.Google Scholar
  26. Hardy, I. (2018). Is Standardisation governing teacher learning? Understanding teachers’ compliance and critique, Journal of Professional Learning.
  27. Harle, T. (2018). From great to good enough. Leadership Matters, 115, 128.Google Scholar
  28. Hattie, J. (2003). Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence? Paper presented at the Building Teacher Quality: What does the research tell us ACER Research Conference, Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved October 28, 2018 from
  29. Hattie, J. (2015). What doesn’t work in education: The politics of distraction. Open Ideas at Pearson. Retrieved November 2, 2018 from
  30. Kelchtermans, G. (2017). ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ Unpacking teacher attrition/retention as an educational issue. Teachers and Teaching, 23, 961–977. Scholar
  31. Kemmis, S., Wilkinson, J., Edwards-Groves, C., Hardy, I., Grootenboer, P., & Bristol, L. (2013). Changing practices, changing education. Heidelberg: Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
  32. Kinsella, E. A. (2010). The art of reflective practice in health and social care: Reflections on the legacy of Donald Schön. Reflective Practice, 11(4), 565–575.Google Scholar
  33. Lingard, B., & Sellar, S. (2013). ‘Catalyst data’: perverse systemic effects of audit and accountability in Australian schooling. Journal of Education Policy, 28(5), 634–656.Google Scholar
  34. Mayer, D., Allard, A., Bates, R., Dixon, M., Doecke, B., Kline, J., et al. (2015). Studying the effectiveness of teacher education: Final report. Geelong: Deakin University.Google Scholar
  35. Moore, A. (2004). The good teacher. Dominant discourses in teaching and teacher education. London: Routledge Falmer.Google Scholar
  36. Ng, S. L., Kinsella, E. A., Friesen, F., & Hodges, B. (2015). Reclaiming a theoretical orientation to reflection in medical education research: A critical narrative review. Medical Education, 49, 461–475.Google Scholar
  37. Noble, G., & Watkins, M. (2003). So … How did Bourdieu learn to play tennis? Cultural Studies, 17(3/4), 520–538.Google Scholar
  38. NSW Department of Education and Training (2003). Quality teaching in NSW public schools: Discussion paper. State of NSW Department of Education and Training Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate.Google Scholar
  39. Nussbaum, M. C. (2006). Winnicott on the surprises of the self. The Massachusetts Review, 47(2), 375–393.Google Scholar
  40. Phelan, A. M. (2011). Towards a complicated conversation: Teacher education and the curriculum turn. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 19(2), 207–220.Google Scholar
  41. Radford, W. C. (1939). The educational needs of a rural community: A study of the Shire of Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia, in an attempt to discover the educational needs and to decide upon the most desirable ways of satisfying these needs. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press/Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Ralston Saul, J. (1997). The unconscious civilization. Toronto: House of Anansi Press.Google Scholar
  43. Ratnapalan, S., & Batty, H. (2009). To be good enough. Canadian Family Physician, 55(3), 239–240.Google Scholar
  44. Reid, J. (2011a). A practice turn for teacher education? Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(3), 293–310.Google Scholar
  45. Reid, J. (2011b). Doing it by the numbers? Educational research and teacher education. Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 383–400.Google Scholar
  46. Reid, J. (2017). Learning the humility of teaching others: Preparing teachers for culturally diverse classrooms. In J. Major & C. Reid (Eds.), Global teaching: southern perspectives on teachers working with diversity (pp. 209–229). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  47. Reid, J., Green, B., Cooper, M., Hastings, W., Lock, G., & White, S. (2010). Regenerating rural social space? Teacher education for rural-regional sustainability. Australian Journal of Education, 54(3), 262–276.Google Scholar
  48. Roberts, P. (2015). Education for Rural Australia. In A. Hogan & M. Young (Eds.), Rural and regional futures (pp. 129–148). Abingdon and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Ross, M. (1978). The creative arts. London: Heinemann Educational Books.Google Scholar
  50. Schatzki, T. R., Knorr Cetina, K., & von Savigny, E. (2001). The practice turn in contemporary theory. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith.Google Scholar
  52. Smith, C., Parr, N., & Muhidin, S. (2019). Mapping schools’ NAPLAN results: A spatial inequality of school outcomes in Australia. Geographical Research, 57(2), 133–150.Google Scholar
  53. Stroud, G. (2018). Teacher. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  54. Suchman, L. (2007). Human-machine reconfigurations. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Swanwick, K. (2008). The ‘good-enough’ music teacher. British Journal of Music Education, 25(1), 9–22.Google Scholar
  56. Thomson, P. (2000). Like schools’, educational ‘disadvantage’ and ‘thisness. The Australian Educational Researcher, 27(3), 157–172.Google Scholar
  57. Towers, E., & Maguire, M. (2017). Leaving or staying in teaching: A ‘vignette’of an experienced urban teacher ‘leaver’ of a London primary school. Teachers and Teaching, 23(8), 946–960.Google Scholar
  58. Watt, H. M., & Richardson, P. W. (2008). Motivations, perceptions, and aspirations concerning teaching as a career for different types of beginning teachers. Learning and instruction, 18(5), 408–428.Google Scholar
  59. West, L., Fleming, T., & Finnegan, F. (2013). Connecting Bourdieu, Winnicott, and Honneth: Understanding the experiences of non-traditional learners through an interdisciplinary lens. Studies in the Education of Adults, 45(2), 119–134.Google Scholar
  60. Winnicott, D. W. (1953). Transitional Objects and transitional phenomena: A study of the first not-me possession. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34, 89–97.Google Scholar
  61. Winnicott, D. W. (1965). The family and individual development. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  62. Winnicott, D. W. (1971). Therapeutic consultations in child psychiatry. The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 87, 1–398.Google Scholar
  63. Zeichner, K. (2008). The United States. In T. A. O’Donohue & C. Whitehead (Eds.), Teacher education in the English-speaking world: Past, present, and future (pp. 7–21). USA: Information Age Publishers.Google Scholar
  64. Zeichner, K. (2017). Transcript of interview with Jennifer Berkshire: Private practice. Have you heard. Colorado: National Education Policy Centre. Retrieved August 27, 2018 from

Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Charles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia

Personalised recommendations