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Copy of seminar post in schoolhistory forum seminar section

Read it in its orginal format with responses here

Since the 1980s there has been a noticeable move away teacher training being seen as an at least in part “academic” discipline towards a model akin to that of a plumber’s apprenticeship. Student teachers today “learn on the job”, are immersed in schools, and are “trained” almost exclusively by practising teachers (some of whom trained in exactly the same way). We have seen in the last few years the mushrooming of entirely School based training schemes like SCITT, the licensed teacher scheme, the Graduate Teacher scheme, with fewer and fewer students seeing the inside of a teacher training college, or University Department, let alone a University library. It is fashionable to see such trends as healthy and realistic “on the job” approaches to teacher training.

My view however is that these trends will inevitably have undesirable consequences on the quality and commitment of newly trained teachers and are part of the deskilling of the teaching profession which gathers apace day by day and actually nears completion.

Not withstanding the undoubted fact that teachers trained using the school based approach will be well equipped to deal with classroom management issues and probably armed with one or two behaviour management strategies gleaned from a few staffroom “old lags”, we are selling ourselves very short indeed if we believe that what emerges is a “qualified” teacher.

A properly trained teacher needs an understanding of the context in which they work. To achieve this it is essential that they understand the history and sociology of education and indeed understand the sociology and politics of staffrooms. A properly trained teacher also needs an acute understanding of how children learn and of comparative teaching methodology. To achieve this they must have grounding in the psychology of learning and the philosophy of education. This is not something that can be realistically achieved on what amounts to an extended teaching practice supervised by a subject mentor. It is utterly bizarre that as I type this I know that it will be a highly controversial viewpoint.

What it all boils down to is essentially the old “education versus training” discussion. Training is what I do to the clematis in my back garden. I train it to behave in a particular way in a particular set of circumstances year on year. In the case of my clematis to grow up my fence and to flower prettily in May. In the case of the “trained” teacher dare I say it might be to produce the same lesson objectives, same plans and plenaries lifted from the myriad of DFES documentation year on year, class by class.

An “educated” teacher however will have flexibility, purpose, vision, understanding and I would presume to suggest a little healthy cynicism of what is thrust before him or her. They will understand the nature of the institution, in which they work, may have a commitment to its aspirations, they will understand current debates and controversies in education and be able to question Orthodoxy, they will understand how children learn and may even have the counselling skills to deal with teenagers. Most importantly of all they will have some “inspiration” of why they have chosen to become a teacher and what they hope to achieve. A priceless asset in what could be a 35-40 year career, which will sustain them long after formulaic lesson plans from the centre are forgotten and unfashionable.

The logical final expression of the victory of training over education in teacher training can be seen in recent government proposals to allow unqualified non graduates to take classes in state schools. Surely it is here that we see the final nail in the coffin of the profession… anyone can teach it just takes a few weeks practice in a school, after all its just delivering what someone else planned for you is it not?

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Not withstanding the undoubted fact that teachers trained using the school based approach will be well equipped to deal with classroom management issues and probably armed with one or two behaviour management strategies gleaned from a few staffroom “old lags”, we are selling ourselves very short indeed if we believe that what emerges is a “qualified” teacher.

I couldn't agree more. In both higher education and the vocational education sector we are faced with problems problems of teaching quality because we have a teacher population of content experts with little background in pedagogical understanding . There is no requirement in Australia for teachers in universities or registered training organisations to have formal teacher qualifications . In the vocational education sector the only requirement is that a teacher holds a certificate three in workplace training and assessment which can be completed in as little as four days . It is little wonder that students in our colleges and institutes are sometimes disappointed in the standard of teaching and learning they experience . There's an NCVER research study entitled "the secret is in the teacher " that is most interesting to read . It can be found on the .NCVER web site.

will have flexibility, purpose, vision, understanding and I would presume to suggest a little healthy cynicism of what is thrust before him or her. They will understand the nature of the institution, in which they work, may have a commitment to its aspirations, they will understand current debates and controversies in education and be able to question Orthodoxy, they will understand how children learn and may even have the counselling skills to deal with teenagers

This applies also to adult learning. Our teachers deal predominantly with adults and the old "open your head and I will pour the knowledge in - now close it and tell me what I said " doesn't work any better now than it ever did . Unfortunately "trained " teachers often teach the way they were told , without the benefit of current theory . We are now finding that we must take an approach to professional development that begins with an understanding of teaching and learning .

After spending the last twelve months investigating in depth the professional development needs of teachers and strategies to meet them in Australia , New Zealand and the UK I have found that this is a problem common to higher and further education everywhere. I suspect that unless the regulatory bodies who control the quality of education are exceptionally vigilant we will, in the near future, find this true of teacher training from kindergarten to lifelong learning.

I am thankful that the signs in Australia are that the Australian quality training framework [A. Q. T. F. ] is determined to ensure that teaches in the vocational education sector at least are well educated . There are also signs that the quality standards bodies in higher education are about to follow the same path with regard to university teaching . I have a lot of confidence in both systems to push the quality of teaching as high as possible . That is not to say that they will not meet resistance from both management and teachers , particularly in higher education , when the emphasis is on research dollars and teaching sometimes comes a poor second . ;)

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In both higher education and the vocational education sector we are faced with problems problems of teaching quality because we have a teacher population of content experts with little background in pedagogical understanding .  There is no requirement in Australia for teachers in universities or registered training organisations to have formal teacher qualifications.

When I did my PGCE course in 1977-78 I had four PGCE tutors. Two were very poor, one was good and the final one was brilliant (Stephen Ball of Beachside Comprehensive fame). Stephen provided what Andy has so rightly pointed out is so important in a PGCE course. He helped me “understand the history and sociology of education and indeed understand the sociology and politics of staffrooms.” He was also an excellent teacher himself. To quote Andy again: “A properly educated teacher also needs an acute understanding of how children learn and of comparative teaching methodology. To achieve this they must have grounding in the psychology of learning and the philosophy of education.”

When I first left school I became an apprentice in the printing trade. Even though this was a purely practical trade, it was considered to be vitally important to spend one day a week at college. This went on for 5 years. I would argue that this one day a week at college was just as important as the four days a week spent on the shop floor. This course encouraged us to ask why experienced printers did things in the way that they did. It taught me that experienced workers do not always get it right. That being “taught on the job” can be very dangerous as it can often involve teaching bad practices that have been ingrained in the profession. This applies to teaching far more than it does to the printing trade.

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