The future of Alexander Technique teacher education : principles, practices and professionalism

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The practices of Alexander Technique (AT) teacher education throughout the world are still largely based on those initiated by F. Matthias Alexander in the 1930s and modified slightly by his successors. Through the lens of contemporary educational theory and Alexander’s own holistic principles, this study examines whether these practices should continue in an era when the contingencies of professional education are very different from Alexander’s time. No academically viable research has ever been conducted into the value of these practices, despite debates about them becoming increasingly contentious. Over 75 years ago, John Dewey praised Alexander for being in the forefront of what scholars are now calling the emerging paradigm of learning. In line with this paradigmatic perspective, I argue for a research methodology that is consistent with both Dewey’s pragmatism and Alexander’s principles of body-mind continuity and practical reasoning. This conceptual work also posits exemplary US school teacher education as a cognate model for AT teacher education. Using critical pragmatism as a subsidiary methodology, I analyse the mandatory time-specific, practices of AT teacher education and conclude that these practices are not only anachronistic, they are also flawed to the extent they are devoid of qualitative assessment standards. As well, I critique one of Alexander’s most respected texts and produce alternative readings that more clearly locate it in the emerging paradigm. The empirical work then focusses on interview data gained by email from twenty AT stakeholders world-wide who were asked about their desires for the The future of Alexander Technique teacher education: Principles, practices and professionalism future of the field. I conclude that most of the research participants would like the following practices introduced into AT teacher education world-wide: (1) flexibility of attendance, (2) qualitative standards for beginning teachers, and (3) qualitative standards for teacher educators. While uncertainty still remains about whether participants would completely give up the existing time-specific regulations, I suggest an attendance structure which incorporates the first of these findings. Following a review of exemplary US scholarship in the field of school teacher education and an analysis of three sets of AT teaching standards currently in circulation, I propose a provisional set of beginning AT teaching standards modelled on the holistic wording of the California Standards for school teachers. These proposed standards incorporate the conclusions drawn from the critical and empirical work done earlier. Subject to usage and further research, they should meet expectations of stakeholders for teacher education practices that honour Alexander’s principles and meet public demands for professional accountability.
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