Professional learning resources to contribute towards a more collaborative professional community of teacher educators
In England there are two distinct communities of teacher educators: institute-based teacher educators (IBTEs) employed by higher education institutions (HEIs), and school-based teacher educators (SBTEs) employed by schools. The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers(UCET) represents the interests of IBTEs, whereas the National Association of School-based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) represents those of SBTEs. There is some crossover in membership of these organisations, and a healthy relationship on policy issues.
The current policy context has led to an increase in school-based teacher education (DfE, 2011). Competition for funding and applicants has resulted in challenges for collaborative working at institutional level between schools, HEIs and school-centred initial teacher training providers (SCITTs), yet high-quality partnership between teacher educators is essential for practice.
Research has highlighted a lack of structured professional development for IBTEs (Livingston, 2014) and a perceived need for professional learning and development resources for SBTEs who are taking greater responsibility for initial teacher education in school-HEI partnerships (White, Dickerson, & Weston, 2015). There is growing recognition of the importance of professional development for teacher educators by both academics (Van der Klink, Kools, Avissar, White, & Sakata, 2017; Kelchtermans, Smith, & Vanderlinde, 2018) and policymakers. The Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy (DfE, 2019) recognises the need for teacher-educator professional development to ensure the quality of provision for early career teachers.
Building a professional community of teacher educators that embraces IBTEs and SBTEs working in collaborative partnership is still aspirational for many countries, including England. Without such a community, some doing the work of teacher education may not have access to a nurturing environment in which they can develop a secure teacher educator identity. This is especially challenging for SBTEs who are dual-role professionals (teacher and teacher educator), and whose teacher educator position and identity may be eclipsed by a strong identity as a teacher.
In the Netherlands, the involvement of schools in initial teacher education has increased since 2002 through the development of new partnerships. This school-based teacher education, known as Opleiden in de school, involves several schools and HEIs working together. In England and the Netherlands, the structures and procedures of these partnerships are established. Now the focus needs to turn to increasing the quality of interactions taking place within the partnerships and workplaces.
Recognition of the need to focus on what is happening ‘on the ground’, an awareness of the need for professional learning and development resources, and a desire to facilitate high-quality partnership between IBTEs and SBTEs, led Dr Miranda Timmermans (Avans University and chair of VELON, the Dutch Association of Teacher Educators) and I to collaboratively research the experiences of teacher educators working in partnership settings (White & Timmermans, in press). Using a narrative approach, we collected stories about challenges in practice from SBTEs and IBTEs in the Netherlands and England. These stories were developed into ‘tools’ for use in professional learning, and evaluated with Dutch, English and international groups of teacher educators. Our desire was to cultivate reflection on practice, prompt discussion and enrich inter- and intra-partnership collaboration.
Early observations reveal that teacher educators find the tools especially helpful when used in mixed groups of SBTEs and IBTEs. This research-based initiative may help in the move towards a less fragmented professional community of teacher educators in England. Web-based resources in English are freely available on the For Learning in Teacher Education (FLiTE) platform, with Dutch versions due to follow shortly.
Department for Education [DfE] (2011, November). Training our next generation of outstanding teachers: Implementation plan. London. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/training-our-next-generation-of-outstanding-teachers-implementation-plan
Department for Education [DfE] (2019). Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. London. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/773930/Teacher_Retention_Strategy_Report.PDF.pdf
Livingston, K. (2014). Teacher Educators: hidden professionals? European Journal of Education, 49(2): 218–232. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/ejed.12074
Kelchtermans, G., Smith, K., & Vanderlinde, R. (2018). Towards an ‘international forum for teacher educator development’: An agenda for research and action. European Journal of Teacher Education, 41(1), 120–134. Retrieved from https://doi:10.1080/02619768.2017.1372743
Van der Klink, M., Kools, Q., Avissar, G., White, S., & Sakata, T. (2017). Professional development of teacher educators: What do they do? Findings from an explorative international study. Professional Development in Education, 43(2), 163–178. Retrieved from https://doi:10.1080/19415257.2015.1114506
White, E., Dickerson, C., & Weston, K. (2015). Developing an appreciation of what it means to be a school-based teacher educator. European Journal of Teacher Education, 38(4), 445–459. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/02619768.2015.1077514
White, E. & Timmermans, M. (in press). Learning from stories about the practice of teacher educators in partnerships between schools and higher education institutions. In Swennen, J. M. H. & White, E. (eds.), Being a Teacher Educator: Improving Teacher Education from Within, Abingdon: Routledge.