‘It’s time to reassess teacher education and training in the further education sector in England’

by Sai Loo at the Institute of Education

The May 2015 general election is fast approaching. The current Coalition government offers conflicting approaches: the emphasis on the importance of quality teaching in its White Paper, ‘The Importance of Teaching’ (DfE, 2010) on the one hand and the indication that teaching qualifications are no longer mandatory for FE teachers (BIS, 2012) on the other. Teaching, for the government, is viewed as a craft and that teaching knowhow may be acquired whilst on the job (DfE, 2010). From an international perspective, two trends relating to teacher training are emerging: the growing importance of teaching knowledge in teacher training and its application in pedagogic practices, and the complexity of teaching in relation to disciplinary knowledge, theories of teaching and learning and practical knowledge (Tatto, 2013). These trends should also be viewed with this neo-liberal Coalition government and to some extent also the previous New Labour government that education and training are linked to the country’s economic competitiveness in the globalized world, which is further driven by international assessments such as TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA (Tatto, 2013). From an FE perspective, the revised teaching and training qualifications (LSIS, 2013) and professional standards (Pye Tait Consulting, 2014) together with the above national and international contexts suggest this is an opportune time to rethink teacher training in this sector.

The assertion of this blog is that the placing of disciplinary and pedagogic knowledge in the training of teachers in the FE sector in England is at present under developed and inconsistent in its teacher education system. In order to reverse these disparities, this blog offers an approach to integrating disciplinary and pedagogic knowledge from a combination of collaboration with relevant stakeholders and engagement by teachers, researchers and policy makers with research activities. These research engagements also add to the professional development of FE teachers.

Using theoretical frameworks, which are based on a sociology of educational knowledge by writers such as Young (2013) and typologies of ‘pedagogical content knowledge’ by writers such as Bernstein (2000), Shulman (1987) and Clandinin (1985), the suggested collaborative and evidence based approach is supported by empirical data from two projects. The approach builds on the themes of collaboration, research and professional development of teachers that are included in the two recent teaching qualifications documents (FENTO, 1999; LSIS, 2013).

What this approach to FE teacher education and training offers are the following:

  • Ÿ the importance of knowledge in the curriculum without which trainee teachers will not know what it is and how to use it in their teaching
  • Ÿ a ‘360 degree’ training where trainee teachers can link disciplinary and pedagogic knowledge in their pedagogic activities
  • Ÿ a curriculum approach which uses technology to record teaching sessions in order to facilitate trainee teachers’ understanding of teaching
  • two forms of ongoing recontextualisation to understand how knowledge may be applied to teaching

The relevance of the above points will impact teachers, teaching institutions and policy makers. For teachers, a ‘360 degree’ training where relevant forms of knowledge may be used to improving teaching quality, For teaching institutions, with an expansive and supportive structure, a more professional workforce may be created that can inform their professional development and become ‘producers’ and not mere consumers of pedagogical knowledge. For policy makers, the emphasis of knowledge content in the teacher education programmes and the support given to research activities would professionalize and upskill the teaching workforce with the eventual hope of contributing to the objectives of the government of increasing the ability of the workforce (formerly students) to compete on a global stage.

This blog is based on the forthcoming article, which is due to appear at the end of October 2014: Loo, S. Y. (2014) Placing ‘knowledge’ in teacher education in the English Further Education sector: an alternative approach based on collaboration and evidence based research, British Journal of Educational Studies. DOI: 10.1080/00071005.2014.959465 and to be included in the Special Issue on Teacher Education.


Bernstein, B. (2000) Pedagogy, symbolic control, and identity (New York, Rowman and Littlefield).

Clandinin, J. (1985) Personal Practical Knowledge: A Study of Teachers’ Classroom Images, Curriculum Inquiry, 15(4), 361-385.

Department for Business, Innovation, Skills and Education (BIS). (2012) The Richard Review of Apprenticeships (London, BIS).

Department for Education (DfE). (2010) The Importance of Teaching. Cm 7980 (London, The Stationery Office).

Further Education National Training Organisation (FENTO). (1999). Standards for teaching and supporting learning in further education in England and Wales. London: FENTO.

Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), (2013) Teaching and Training Qualifications for the Further Education and Skills Sector in England (2013): Guidance for initial teacher education providers (Coventry, LSIS).

Pye Tait Consulting, (2014) Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers in England (London, The Education and Training Foundation).

Shulman, L. S. (1987) Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform, Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.

Tatto, M. T. (2013) Changing Trends in Teacher Education Policy and Practice: International perspectives and future challenges for educational research, Research Intelligence, 121, 16-17.

Young, M. (2013) Overcoming the crisis in curriculum theory: a knowledge-based approach, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45(2), 101-118.


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