Michael Gove has argued that moving ‘trainee teachers out of college and into the classroom’ would create liberated professionals. Are schools full of teachers overwhelmed with a sense of freedom? Under pressure from Ofsted, and performance related pay linked to league tables of examination results, much of the evidence seems to point the other way.
And the new enemies of promise ?
There are socially and economically disadvantaged children in England who are not doing well in school. Some gaps in achievement between children from different socio-economic groups are not necessarily closed by even the most effective schools, (Strand 2014). The political strategy may be as follows. If educationalists argue that child poverty is the bigger issue, they can be attacked as ideologues with low expectations. This tactic diverts attention from economic and social policies, and positions the education system, and teacher training, as the problem. We are a soft target, and not natural rebels.
We do have a great deal to offer, though, and here are some ideas.
- University-based teacher educators maintain a focus on beginning teachers as learners (not workers) and this is vital for their resilience
- University-based sessions can provide the time and space need to reflect on and analyse learning opportunities provided by schools, and we have specific pedagogical skills and knowledge to support adult learning
- Like the best teachers, university-based teacher educators have a ‘research-informed knowledge of schooling and pedagogical content knowledge for subject teaching, two vital areas for improving the quality of both pupil and teacher learning’, (Murray et al, 2014: 302).
- We write stuff for teachers (and not just academics, though some of us can do this kind of writing too). It is this ‘published, practitioner-voiced theorizing’, that forms a bridge between school-based ‘situated craft knowledge and… systemized, abstract knowledge’, in universities (Counsell, 2013: 134-135). The school-based teacher educators Counsell works with use such texts as ‘framework, exemplar, foil or critical target’, (Counsell, 2013: 1670) to enable their beginning teachers to think through their plans like a teacher. Who will have the time and expertise to produce this literature if the role of the university-based teacher educator disappears?
The problem with schools as a place for adult learning is that they first have to work as a place where children learn. It is not possible to reduce the ‘fundamental variability’ of experiences in the school (Burn and Mutton, 2013).
Shulman argued that the signature pedagogy of a profession should focus on enabling novices ‘ to think, to perform, and to act with integrity’, (Shulman, 2005:52).
If we want to enable new teachers to become thinking, decision-making professionals the road we should be going down will keep universities in. This will make a difference.
In August 2016 I wrote the following, published in the BERA blog series: https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/initial-teacher-education-is-about-sojourning-the-role-of-universities-in-developing-know-that-to-inform-know-how