The BERA Blog post ‘Dropping off a cliff’ makes a strong case that the current trainee teacher recruitment crisis in England has been exacerbated by several Department for Education (DfE) policy initiatives, top of the list being the early career framework. At a time when global bodies like UNESCO are warning of a worldwide teacher shortage, it is surprising that England, which is experiencing record levels of teacher shortages, should be singled out by the international community for its approach to the ‘crisis’ and that the DfE’s content frameworks are used as examples for others to follow.
The DfE has also acknowledged the need to update its frameworks for early career and new teachers. Despite evidence received from 92 stakeholders, however, the DfE has indicated that any changes will likely be minimal. Will the revised versions address sector concerns about gaps in both frameworks, the repetition that early career teachers report experiencing, and the reliance on a partial and incomplete evidence base (Hordern & Brooks, 2023a; 2023b)?
A framework that we need?
It seems unlikely, and the danger is that we end up with the worst of both worlds: an early career framework for teachers that remains unfit for purpose, propped up by government claims that they have listened and addressed problems which continue to blight the sector. So, what should a content framework for teacher education look like? If the sector took ownership of their own content framework, how might it change?
Sector-wide ownership is key. Teacher education is too important to be left to policymakers influenced by a few select individuals; it requires the consensus of multiple voices and actors: teachers, mentors, school leaders, teacher educators and researchers all have valuable insights into what early career and new teachers need. Research already illustrates the shortcomings of the current attempts (see Hordern & Brooks, 2023a; 2023b).
‘Sector-wide ownership is key. Teacher education is too important to be left to policymakers influenced by a few select individuals.’
Ten years ago, BERA published the BERA–RSA Inquiry into Research and the Teaching Profession, making the case for research and inquiry in teacher education. Neither quality graces the current frameworks. Bearing that in mind, we want to start a national conversation about how teacher education frameworks might look in the future.
To start, we offer five principles that we believe are foundational to high-quality teacher education. Our list is not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive, but an initial point of principle.
- Drawing on Gert Biesta’s work (2019), we believe that new teachers should be inducted into a conversation about the purpose of education and return to it throughout their first and subsequent years as an early career teacher. This would strengthen their grasp of the complex range of differing views about what education is for and enable them to consider what sort of education they wish to strive for and what sort of teacher they want to be.
- Teacher education should be developed around a sound understanding of how professionals learn and what professional practice looks like (after Orchard & Winch, 2015): it should be built on a conception of education as transformation, mindful of how people develop their own teacher identity. This is a vision that goes far beyond the shopping lists of discrete, isolated behaviours or performances in the current frameworks. It also has resonance with how teachers can expect to interact with school curriculums, how they can use their professional knowledge to be curriculum makers, adjusting teaching for the specific needs of their subjects, phases and classes.
- Teacher education provision should be mindful of the principles of UCET’s intellectual basis for teacher education, which should inform and guide the development of programmes at both initial and early career phases. Teaching is complex, intellectual work. Teachers should know there are rarely simple fixes.
- All teacher education provision should articulate how it interprets what Shulman (2005, p. 52) described as a signature pedagogy for teacher education: how it prepares teachers ‘to think, perform and act with integrity’, and how this is replicated in the surface, deep and implicit structures of the programme (Brooks et al., 2023). This is challenging, because some teacher educators have become used to following (or second-guessing) government guidelines; yet in our view it is pivotal to achieving the highest possible standards across the sector. To fulfil this ambition teacher educators will need to consider how they themselves will think, perform and act with integrity.
- Finally, content frameworks should be clear about how they support the development of teachers’ understanding, and how their component parts represent this coherently. Such a consideration may warrant the abandonment of a content framework completely, in favour of considering principles that should underpin professional learning for teachers (and teacher educators).
This is just a start. You may disagree with our principles and have your own. The time has come for a proper, sector-led conversation about what teacher education should look like. We invite you to share your thoughts with us by responding to this blog post, so that together we can generate a profession-led vision.
Biesta, G. (2019). Reclaiming teaching for teacher education: Towards a spiral curriculum. Beijing International Review of Education, 1(2–3), 259–272. https://doi.org/10.1163/25902539-00102015
Brooks, C., McIntyre, J., & Mutton, T. (2023). Learning to think, perform and act with integrity: Does teacher education have a signature pedagogy, and why does this matter? London Review of Education, 21(1).
Hordern, J., & Brooks, C. (2023a). The core content framework and the ‘new science’ of educational research. Oxford Review of Education, 49(6), 800–818. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2023.2182768
Hordern, J., & Brooks, C. (2023b). Towards instrumental trainability in England? The ‘official pedagogy’ of the core content framework. British Journal of Educational Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2023.2255894
Orchard, J., & Winch, C. (2015). What training do teachers need? Why theory is necessary to good teaching. Impact, 22. https://doi.org/10.1111/2048-416X.2015.12002.x
Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 52–59.