December 10, 2021

Following a Department of Education report advocating changes to teacher education, James Underwood and Elly Tai point out that given the broad topic, there are many voices to be heard when designing ‘appropriate’ training that will best suit teachers across a range of contexts and levels.


In a recent report published by the Department of Education, called ITT, or the Initial Teacher Training report, the UK government advocates for widespread and drastic changes to the current model of teacher education, specifically noting the university sector (gov.uk, 2021, para 1). This report has raised serious concerns over who is the most responsible to prepare teachers for their teaching profession. According to the Department of Education, these measures should be internalized within schools, despite the fact that many universities have been providing their own initial teacher education for decades. Many have different perspectives and suggest that the ITT report fails to fully capture the needs of teachers and that it does not address the diversity of training development opportunities. As a result, this article examines how teacher training in the UK can better prepare teachers for their teaching profession.

This article builds on three underlying assumptions which include:

    • There needs to be meaningful collaboration and engagement within the education sector in order to understand the complexities of the profession.
    • Teacher training must be evidence based and rely on recent and relevant research into the issues relating to teachers in the UK and how these can best be addressed.
    • It is imperative that there is acknowledgement of the difference in the wider socio-economic issues facing teachers across the UK.

Collaboration is a process where people, in this case teachers, work together to achieve a desired outcome. As an intentional and communicative activity, collaboration not only provides opportunities to debate, observe and share practices, but it also allows for greater engagement and a support systems for early career teachers (Bush & Grotjohnann, 2020, para 3). The call for collaboration is not a new one, but rather one that has been effectively embedded in research for decades; for example, it was suggested by Driscoll et al. (1994) that while theoretical models are necessary in the early stages of teacher development, practical connections via collaboration were preferred (p.61). The rationale behind such an approach claims that those within the profession, who work with students within a specific context, are more likely to understand the complexities of the profession in relation to the students they work with. This would allow for better engagement among teachers, but also greater connections with students in their own particular settings.

… There were suggestions made that the Department of Education was seeking to increase their own power among educators.

One of the issues identified with the most recent ITT report was that it was pushed through to publication without a long enough consultation period with the public. As a result, there were questions surrounding why certain recommendations were published. In reviewing these, there were suggestions made that the Department of Education was seeking to increase their own power among educators (i.e. a strong state within a free market (Whitty, 2014, p.471)), even though their rationale was based upon theory rather than evidence. While this shift in power is not a new strategy created by the Department of Education, it is a consistently highlighted issue. Hodgson (2014) pointed to the notion that teachers in universities require a holistic and evidence based view of teaching and that teachers needed to be trained by university trainees to fully understand approaches to effective teaching in diverse settings (p. 9). Thus, it is common to see evidence based training as a fundamental component for how specific training can help prepare teaching for the teaching profession.

Teachers in the UK not only need to recognize diversity, but to adopt teaching practices that align with students’ needs.

In highlighting the diverse needs of students, it is also important to consider students’ backgrounds and their access to education. In an article published by Tranter (2012), it is highlighted that students from certain socio-economic groups are kept out of university (p.901). It is claimed that much of this is due to a ‘curriculum hierarchy’ (p.902), where certain specific streams of education (e.g. technology) offer students of higher socio-economic status to have a considerable advantage. In order for this to be addressed, teachers in the UK not only need to recognize diversity, but to adopt teaching practices that align with students’ needs. One example of this is Universal Design for Learning (UDL), where teachers adopt strategies to create more inclusive classrooms (Lieberman, 2017, p.5). UDL could offer significant benefits to teacher training program, yet it is often overlooked, as it was in the ITT report.

Teacher training in the UK is a broad topic and there are many voices to be heard when designing ‘appropriate’ training that will best suit teachers across a range of contexts and levels. This article has looked only at three: that teacher training should be collaborative, evidence based, and designed to target the needs of all students. It is through these strategies that teacher training will advance and become more effective within the UK.

Dr James Underwood (University of Northampton) and Elly Tai (University of Cambridge)

References

Bush, A., & Grotjohann, N. (2020). Collaboration in teacher education: A cross-sectional study on future teachers’ attitudes towards collaboration, their intentions to collaborate and their performance of collaboration. Teaching and Teacher Education88, 102968.

Driscoll, A., Benson, N., & Livneh, C. (1994). University/school district collaboration in teacher education: Outcomes and insights. Teacher Education Quarterly, 59-68.

Gov.uk (2021). Initial Teacher Training (ITT) market review expert group. Gov.uk. [Online]. Accessed October 31, 2021 from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/initial-teacher-training-itt-market-review-report

Hodgson, J. (2014). Surveying the wreckage: The professional response to changes to initial teacher training in the UK. English in Education48(1), 7-25.

Lieberman, L. J. (2017). The need for universal design for learning. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance88(3), 5-7.

Tranter, D. (2012). Unequal schooling: how the school curriculum keeps students from low socio‐economic backgrounds out of university. International Journal of Inclusive Education16(9), 901-916.

Whitty, G. (2014). Recent developments in teacher training and their consequences for the ‘University Project’in education. Oxford

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About James Underwood and Elly Tai

James Underwood leads the masters’ in education at the University of Northampton as well as a range of other shorter courses at masters’ level. He also supervises doctoral students. James taught for 19 years before becoming a lecturer here at the University of Northampton. Elly Tai is studying at the University of Cambridge.

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