In this article, we studied how well teacher education in Finland is able to answer the changing needs of the contemporary world. More precisely, we focussed on the question of how well an alternative teacher education model guides teacher students’ agency towards a transformational view of the teaching profession, making it possible for schools to enable social change. This question was studied in the framework of critical social pedagogy. The data for this article was collected ethnographically by observing meetings in the Critical Integrative Teacher Education (CITE) programme at the University of Jyväskylä in 2015–2017.
The analysis is based on a theoretical background in which we outline two different discourses on the concept of teachers’ agency. The first promotes schools’ role in conservation; teachers are expected to educate obedient and uncritical citizens to maintain steady economic growth. The second discourse is defined as critical and emancipatory, where the education pursues transformation in students’ underlying attitudes and a deeper understanding of education and society.
The results showed that the CITE model fosters teacher students’ critical self-reflection and understanding of group phenomena considering education. The students’ ability to understand schools in a social context also develops. However, CITE seems to struggle in transforming the students’ thinking and understanding into actions. According to the data, feelings of inability, cynicism and a lacklustre ability to understand concretely how teachers can have an impact on society through their profession prevent a more complete transformation in the students’ everyday modes of action. A stronger community perspective, collaboration with institutions outside teacher education, the enabling of group-oriented action and the provision of real-life experiences regarding the transformation could better help to develop future teachers’ agency towards transformational views.