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The professional developmental needs of higher education-based teacher educators

Ann MacPhail

The International Forum for Teacher Educator Development (InFo-TED) ( is an international forum with representatives from Belgium, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, Australia and the USA working to promote and support professional development of teacher educators. That interest in teacher educator professional learning resulted in InFo-TED constructing and distributing a questionnaire to teacher educators in selected European countries looking to address the following questions;

(1) What professional learning activities do higher education-based teacher educators value?

(2) How best can these activities be realised?

A total of 1158 teacher educators working in higher education institutions in Belgium, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK completed and returned the survey.

The results of the data conveyed that teacher educators’ satisfaction with past opportunities for professional learning was moderately positive and that there was a high interest in undertaking future professional learning activities. Teacher educators were much more interested in professional learning activities addressing teaching and learning than in those addressing research and writing skills. Professional learning opportunities that attracted a high level of interest were personal reading, informal learning conversations with other colleagues, visits to other schools and teacher education institutions, learning about current developments in teacher education and performing practitioner-based research (e.g. action research).

‘The survey also identified the top five professional learning needs’

The survey also identified the top five professional learning needs identified by the participants and the professional learning opportunities that they recorded as being the most effective at addressing those needs.

Not surprisingly, time was consistently noted as one of the most important professional learning needs with the tasks most frequently identified as requiring more time related to engaging in scholarly activity such as reading research, conducting research, academic writing and thinking. Teacher educators suggested that the most effective way to address the time issue, was to consider how to reduce / manage time on current workload tasks to allow for more time being available for professional learning.

A significant number of teacher educators commented on their need to develop their research skills in the areas of writing, research methodology and methods, research ethics and data analysis. Research seminars, courses and workshops were commonly cited options when asked the most effective way to improve research skills.

How best to use digital technologies for enhanced teaching and learning was another professional learning need identified by teacher educators, with the need for courses and training workshops to address such a professional learning need.

Publishing research and/or writing for publication were noted as professional learning needs at two distinct levels. One group of participants conveyed the need to begin writing for publication, seeking direction on how best to develop ideas and subsequently transform ideas into a publication. Another group appeared to have some level of experience in publishing, alluding to the need to increase their publication rate, develop a higher quality of publication and consider how to write for different audiences. Coaching and mentoring were closely followed by collaborating with (experienced) colleagues as suggestions on how best to address the professional learning need of publishing research/pursuing academic writing.

Participants were explicit in their specific needs related to pedagogy and associated delivery. Needs included up-skilling in new pedagogies associated with particular subject disciplines, developing more generic teaching and learning strategies (e.g. active teaching approaches, integrating theory and practice, self-directed learning, feedback, flipping the classroom) and consideration of class management (e.g. managing large class sizes, managing different learning needs, managing different populations such as disadvantaged students). The types of responses to how best to address the professional learning need of improving teaching and learning revolved, in similar quantities, around university courses, workshops, seminars, conferences and initial teacher education colleagues.

It is clear from both the quantitative and qualitative survey data that, while teacher educators consistently appear to value professional learning, divergence exists in their priorities and needs. In order to explore this further, InFo-TED is currently undertaking interviews across the six countries with teacher educators who completed the survey.

Reference: Czerniawski, G., Guberman, A. & MacPhail, A. (2016) The professional developmental needs of higher education-based teacher educators: an international comparative needs analysis. European Journal of Teacher Education. DOI:10.1080/02619768.2016.1246528