School based teacher training: do we need any other kind? Part 1

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Around the world, teacher preparation or initial teacher education includes an extended placement in schools where beginning teachers spend time in the classroom ‘learning about practice in practice’ (Darling-Hammond and Bransford 2005: 401).

In  Finland, the practicum takes place in university practice schools. The first English school of this kind, the University of Birmingham School, has just opened.

Increasingly, however, England is in the process of setting out in a different direction: away from any significant university involvement and towards a school-led and school-based system, based on ‘an unquestioning belief that gaining more experience in schools with automatically and inevitably’ lead to better trained teachers, (McNamara, Jones and Murray 2014).

Why? 

An important reason is that there is research from those in the university sector arguing for ‘the potential of school-based teacher education’, (Hagger and McIntyre, 2006).

Another reason is government policy. In the introduction to the Importance of Teaching White Paper, Cameron expressed concern that ‘we are standing still while others race past.’ (DfE 2010). A review into the effectiveness of Initial Teacher Training by Sir Andrew Carter was launched, and published in January 2015.  The conclusion was the Something Must Be Done. The initial government response to the review was very clear: it would have to be schools that would Do Something.

The implication is that things are so bad that only radical change can make a difference. This is essentially the case made by Michael Gove when he was Education secretary, and here is a quick overview of what he had to say:

  1. Teaching is a craft
  2. Learning to teach is about apprenticeship
  3. Observation is the best way to learn as an apprentice
  4. Apprenticeship creates liberated professionals able to improve the system
  5. Teacher educators in universities oppose change because they are the new ‘enemies of promise

This is old news. But the consequences of these views are playing out now in changes to teacher education. It has taken me some time, some reading and some mulling, but I am now ready to write a few thoughts about each of the points summarised above.

I think it is too soon to write universities out of teacher education, but we need to share the work of explaining why.

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