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Teacher Development 3.0: Universities and Profession-led Teacher Education

Kenny Frederick

Teacher Education Exchange, a collective of university-based teacher educators, researchers and leaders, has recently published a pamphlet, Teacher Development 3.0: How we can transform the professional education of teachers []  I was a London headteacher in a secondary school for over 17 years and have now moved into higher education as a full-time doctoral student and part-time tutor and am part of the team that produced Teacher Development 3.0 . I have never been more convinced of the importance of the universities’ contribution to teacher development – but am equally convinced of the need for this contribution to change.

Why ‘Teacher Development 3.0’?

So why is our new pamphlet called Teacher Development 3.0? In the US, traditional teacher education programmes (of the kind associated with universities) have been categorized as producing ‘Teacher Quality 1.0’, aligning these programmes with an obsolete piece of computer software. Self-styled ‘reformers’ claim that the existing teacher preparation system has failed to produce enough teachers with the right skills particularly to make a difference for poorer children. To rectify this problem they propose programmes and even new institutions that develop ‘Teacher Quality 2.0’ [] – which reject the existing system as ‘failed’ and recommend that we get rid of universities in the preparation of teachers, get rid of ‘theory’ and replace it with ‘practice’, or that we deregulate the system and allow new ‘providers’ into the market-place of professional preparation. These critiques have also been taken up in England by Coalition and Conservative government ministers and by some Multi-Academy Trusts, despite there being no evidence in the US that new private graduate schools of education, for example, are any more effective than the existing university schools of education [].

In Teacher Education Exchange, we think it’s time to rethink the professional education of teachers at a more fundamental level without aligning ourselves either with the 2.0 disruptive reformers or the defensive stance that can characterise the universities when they identify with the 1.0 position. So, for example, despite our view that an academic dimension to professional preparation is essential, we don’t think universities should be in the lead position. We suggest a genuinely profession-led education that aspires towards a different model of teacher development – Teacher Development 3.0 – based on a distinctive set of values and principles and open to radical transformation.

We are interested in exploring a new definition of teacher quality.  We want to imagine what a new and different form of professional preparation and continuing professional learning might look like.  We want to transform teacher development to achieve a new, expansive and sustainable definition of teacher quality that doesn’t revolve entirely around a narrow focus on short-term improvements in test scores. Moreover, we want to understand what new role universities might play in developing this definition of teacher quality.

The 4 design principles for Teacher Development 3.0

Our pamphlet sets out four design principles that speak to particular values and ethical positions, providing a foundation upon which the profession might rework both relationships and programmes and to which universities might contribute in innovative ways:

  1. Plan for a long-life teaching profession.

We need people who stay in the teaching profession for reasonable lengths of time in order to achieve sustainable, positive change. Rather than planning for ‘teach-for-a-while teachers’, teacher retention needs to be supported by creating new opportunities for personal and career development. Relatedly, we need to encourage humane leadership with longer-term vision and courage.  There is little point dreaming up new ways into teaching at a time of shortages (such as apprenticeships) if we don’t improve the culture of professionalism that is likely to retain more teachers for longer.

  1. Put schools, universities and teachers at the heart of their communities

Schools bind local communities together and we need to build on this potential rather than seeking to keep home and community at the school door. We need to recognise and learn from local knowledge and community expertise and build on it to make a real difference for all young people. Having a diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of society is also part of our vision for Teacher Development 3.0 as is the expectation that universities should engage with the communities in the locations where they are based rather than always seeking to compete at some abstract ‘global’ level.

  1. See education as cultural and societal development

We need to take a long, hard look at what we mean by a ‘good education’. Education is one of the ways we develop our societies and cultures not only bestowing potential (and sometimes quite fragile) individual advantage in the job market. We also need to support our incoming teachers to develop the kinds of people we need in the twenty-first century. Peter Hyman, the head of School 21, recently authored a piece in The Guardian that closely aligns with our view. These proposals are ripe for discussion and debate but it’s a discussion that needs to be had. We’re interested in how universities can contribute to the growth of innovative forms of schooling.

  1. Provide a continuum of professional learning

We reject one-shot, fast-track approaches to teacher development. Teacher preparation needs to be part of an extended continuum that is profession-led and is more democratically deliberated and accountable in terms of young peoples’, their families’ and communities’ interests. We have to be more imaginative about how universities contribute to a model of ‘long, thin’ teacher development. And this might mean letting go of some of the routines and income streams with which universities have become familiar.

These four design principles are critical contingencies for profession-led teacher development that can transform the education and lives of teachers and those they teach. Design principles are, after all, about maintaining the positive balance of a system for the progress of all involved. It is time for all of us who have a stake in teacher development to be genuinely innovative and in genuinely transformative ways. Teacher Development 3.0 is intended to provoke conversations that can lead to just this sort of radical and, perhaps for some, unsettling change.