What is important to you in Lifelong Learning Teacher Education?


What really excites you about Lifelong Learning Teacher Education?

What really frustrates and annoys you?

Just what is important to you as a teacher educator?

I’m trying to start a discussion and promote participation … there are good numbers of people following and viewing this blog, so why not make a post, or make a comment as well as reading those from others? This post is trying to start a conversation, and is a nice simple, personal perspective.

My own answers are:

I’ve always found the whole process of being a teacher, working to help people learn, to be one of the best experiences in the world. Not always worthwhile, often very difficult, but just brilliant when you help someone to develop and grow as a person / professional / member of the community (or even all three!). Not quite as good as seeing your own children do good or nice things, but very close to it. The feel good factor for you as you see confidence, capability and engagement build in your pupils, students, trainees and others is almost unbeatable. Top of the list then is being a teacher, and particularly a teacher of teachers!

Secondly, the fact that the work, particularly in the LL sector is complicated, ever changing and often dominated by things we wouldn’t choose to do. It’s also of course one of the most frustrating things, but I find the ongoing challenge, variety and need to problem solve offers a professional working experience which is unlikely to be boring for long, and which will keep your mind, to some degree your body and probably all of your other senses alive and engaged at all times. This does of course have down sides, including 30 hours of work to fit into every 24 hour day; exhaustion; feeling isolated … !!! but for me, if I can solve a reasonable amount of the problems, help a few people learn a few things every week, and not wake up too often at three am, I’d still choose it on balance above any other work.

Thirdly I actually like learning myself, and there are always many (probably too many) things to learn all the time. Some days you’ll come across a brilliant piece of writing (even occasionally in an academic journal!), another day a great teaching idea, and another day some technology which actually works!!

Fourthly, the community of LL Teacher Educators (yes, I do think there is one!) is a really nice, committed and passionate group of people!

So these are some of the things which are really important to me, and I’ve hinted at the frustrations.

Overall I don’t just (still) believe we can change the world, I know we can!! Maybe only a fraction, and maybe only for one person, but that still makes it worth it.

So what about you?

‘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.

Is it good to have standards?

Unsuitable shoes from the British Museum

There are very few occasions when an academic poem has appealed to me.

I am amused that Sara Delamont chose, for example, to review Hammersley’s Taking Sides in Social Research in the form of a dialogue between two fictional characters. I am prepared to be convinced about the value of the creative arts for inquiring about experiences as well as presenting and representing the themes and understandings that emerge from it. The unique and the idiosyncratic that refuse methodology as a toolbox of skills – is fine by me. If a/r/tography (Leggo and Irwin 2014 Ch 10 in  Albers, Holbrook and Flint) promote teaching and learning as transformative, creative and passionate – good.

It’s not that I disapprove or find it hard to accept the worthiness of what my artsy colleagues do. Its more that I tend not to like it. It is just a very personal aesthetic.

There is of course a ‘but’ to this.

While preparing for Stage 2 OfSTED and reading Lampland and Star (2009) ‘Standards and their stories: how quantifying, classifying and formalising practices shape everyday life’. An academic poem rather amused me.

The professional standards for FE have just been published and like every ITE provider I am working out with colleagues what we want to do with them. Lampland’s book offers a detailed exploration of the role of standards in public life.  She is not directly interested in education and makes no reference to it. But we certainly see how standards are sometimes found in the most unexpected places. Rather then offering a very well rehearsed critique of standards, Lampland is driven by a commitment to equity and social justice – but her analysis (and the work of Laurence Busch that I am also reading ‘Standards: recipes for reality’) has inspired me to accept standards as a central part of our lives.  Without them it would be impossible to function. I instead want to explore what standards make possible.

Once Stage 2 is done,  I can start thinking again.

In the meantime, when sorting through the piles of data that OfSTED seem to like, this poem on statistics – made me smile:

A word on Standards by Wislawa Szmborska

Out of every hundred people
those who always know better:

Unsure of ever step:
almost all the rest

ready to help,
if it is doesn’t take long:

Always good,
because they can not be otherwise:
four – well, maybe five.

Able to admire without envy:

Led to error
by youth  (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.

Those not to be messed with:

Living in constant fear
of someone or something:

Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure

when forced by circumstances:
it’s better not to know
not even approximately

Wise in hindsight
not many more
than wise in foresight

Getting nothing out of life except things
thirty (though I would like to be wrong)

Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eight-three, sooner or later

But it if takes effort to understand:

Worthy of empathy:

one hundred out of one hundred –
a figure that has never varied yet

pg vii – viii in Lampland & Star (2009) ‘Standards and their stories: how quantifying, classifying and formalising practices shape everyday life’.

Now, I wonder what OfSTED might do if I presented my performance data in this way? 

Professional Doctorate: ‘practice development and change’

A few notes while half way through reading:

Lee‐Ann Fenge (2010) Sense and sensibility: making sense of a Professional Doctorate, Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 11:5, 645-656, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2010.516976

In 2014 the University of Hull will be offering a professional doctorate.  They have re-written programme and in its current shape, it seems to align itself closely  – to the  University of Hull PhD. It is cohort based. My colleague (and buddy) wrote the programme. He is a mixed methodologist.  In writing the programme he has included very little substantive content about ‘education’ or ‘professionalism’. It’s all about the methodology.

The frequent way of framing the professional doctorate – in contrast to a doctorate that does not carry a qualifier – is that it is more concerned with ‘practice development and change’ than with ‘pure’ research.  The indication being that research concerned with ‘practice and change’ introduces an impurity. There is surely more than a faint echo here of the academic vs vocational divide.

What troubles me most about this is that when this is used in reference to education, it is hard to see how the distinction holds. Unlike sociology, psychology or mathematics – education is an applied field of study. It draws on various disciplines but in itself is non-disciplnary. What then in a field like education might be considered as pure research and what night be considered as practice development?

In addition, it treats ‘practice development and change’ as something that is unproblematic. The EdD assumes those who participate in it are practitioners, professionals who are working as teachers, managers or college governors; this is its defining feature. But the insistence that their intellectual output has to be restricted to ‘practice development and change’ is to so severely narrow its purpose that the qualification becomes meaningless at doctoral level. ‘Practice development and change’ places the doctoral researcher in an untenable position. It treats the practice as something that needs to be developed; it treats change as something that is in the gift of the professional. It divorces the EdD researcher from educational research. Both stances implied by ‘practice development and change’ are derivative of policy assumptions.  The perpetual insistence that practitioners are better, bigger, improved, assured and inspected. That headline figures must inexorably rise until everybody participates in ubiquitously perfect practice. To place yourself ‘against perpetual practice development and change’ is to place yourself beyond a normative framework that confers a valued professional status. Who celebrates the mediocre. Who wants to be ‘ok’. Who gets the power of definition?

The other problem I have with the professional doctorate as ‘practice development and change’ is that it assumes the researcher will know where to took in order to accomplish change. Or even that they might have an idea of what change they want,  should and can accomplish. A professional may well want to improve the quality of teaching in their department. I’d suggest a professional doctorate is most likely to undermine their earnest attempt. The professional doctorate will insist that you critically question – why does teaching need to improve? can the outcomes you ascribe to improved teaching be accomplished in other ways? is there a clear unambiguous linear connection between improved teaching and your purposes for wanting to improve it? who gets to define what ‘improvement’ means in teaching?

These are necessary questions for the doctoral researcher; they are nuisance questions for the professional seeking ‘practice development and change’.

There may be a valuable tension between possibilities of the EdD and the impossibility of ‘practice development and change’. That is, the impossibility of a task does not mean it is not also an entirely necessary one to undertake. It’s too soon to say whether the Hull programme will be successful. I completed an EdD a few years ago and have not looked back since. I have to say that I loved every single minute it. I’m just not entirely sure I would have been so inspired by ‘practice development and change’.

I am (still) talkin’ about a revolution

I was there in spirit

Biesta, G. (1998) Talking about a revolution … suggestions for the impossibility of critical pedagogy. Educational Theory, 48 (4) pgs 499 – 510

I seem to be on something of a Gert Biesta kick at the moment. I have just checked all the texts I have recently added to PaperShip and most of them are by Biesta or by Biesta and someone else or a review of something Biesta has written. He’s not yet my specialist subject for the Mr’s Mind TV quiz show, but who knows where this might lead? So many of his references ignite my imagination, setting new unexpected directions for the work I want to do.

Most recently  his paper, ‘Say you want a revolution … suggestions for the impossibility of critical pedagogy’ (Biesta 1998) has left me with that warm lovely tingly feeling. Reading, understanding, changing your mind or making it up finally about something that has been hovering on the surface of your cognition for some time is a pleasurable sensation. It’s an embodied experience of – not quite Eureka –  but at least that moment of arrival. The paper offers a detailed reading of Peter McLaren and Ilan Gur-Ze’ev.  This might also be a point of departure. It’s that moment where something vague at the back of your mind, unexpectedly articulates itself.

I have been waging a silent, sulking argument with someone whose professorial line of thought was authoritative and convincing but wholly uninspiring.  Someone whose thinking aligns closely with Hammersley who I have also been reading recently.  Hammersley introduces himself as a trouble maker – and while he is a magnificent writer: clear (mostly), impassioned and curious, he is also provocative and destabilising. That is, after reading him there are fewer and narrower possibilities for the critical pedagogue.  He rages against the contradictions of certain strands of qualitative inquiry. (He is an ethnographer, so not all qualitative inquiry) and his further rejection of partisan scholarship would seem to make research a fairly dull pointless activity. For me. Hammersley’s  definition of the academic endeavour as a relentless pursuit of truth without a consideration of the ethical considerations that surrounds that pursuance  – its purpose, its conduct and its outcome – strikes an uncomfortable chord.

Until of course I remember that there are moments when simply telling the ‘truth’ is a revolutionary act and then, along comes Biesta, Tracey Chapman and that tingly feeling.

Biesta argues that the impossibility of critical pedagogy is the impossibility of education itself. The impossibility of education defines the enterprise. This may sound like an irresponsible play on words. But there is a truth in this line of thinking that every teacher (and every student) recognises. We can not always foresee (and therefore cannot control) the outcome of our endeavours. Teaching  – like psychoanalysis – is an ‘impossible profession’.

The new professional standards, the mountains of templates defining good practice, the promise of ‘input equals predictable outcome’ implied by successive revisions of OfSTED’s inspection framework, the drafting and redrafting of teacher proof pedagogues – are all testament to a simple irritating truth about the social world: education can not be conceived as technique and its outcomes can not be predicted (with any degree of accuracy). Indeed, this is an essential character of all human interaction – including education. Human interaction is ‘boundless’ and ‘inherently unpredictable’.

The teacher then does not simply usher the student to predefined learning outcomes. Though we can play that ‘simulacrum of assessment’ game. Despite the constricted system we work within, students ‘use’ what is taught in different and distinct ways. Education requires this un-codeable difference; an un-codeability and difference that causes the system to fail. It is this same un-codeable difference and the systemic failure it implies that is the mark that something successful has happened. Input did not lead to equal output.  Something  happened in-between: something un-codeable, unpredictable and transformative. Students ‘used’ what we offered them in ways we had simply not planned or even imagined.

Biesta’s paper is beautifully structured and revolves around three broad concepts each of which derive their meaning from inversion. The commitment to education, requires an understanding of the impossibility of education. The desire to demystify (to raise consciousness about the ways in which ‘the system’ conspires against the interest of ordinary people,  is the very present (im)possibility of moving beyond and standing inside / outside a system that has generated the necessity for critique. The impassioned commitment to social justice – race, gender, class, ableism – is a commitment to that which can not be foreseen and calculated as possible. It is a desire for the otherness of the Other. And an acceptance that (in)justice will forever be present.

Justice is therefore not a principle or a criterion (as this would mean that we would know right now what justice is), nor an ideal (as this would mean that we would now be able to describe the future situation of justice), not even a regulative ideal (or what McLaren calls a provisional utopia, as this would still require a decision on what justice is, although with the implication that the ideal is not expected to be present in some future). It belongs to the very “structure” of justice that it never can be present and therefore never will be present. It is by necessity, as Derrida would say, a justice to come, which means that it is always to come. p509

I find Biesta a tricky read. I have to return to and re-read certain passages. Whole paragraphs float by without me grasping fully what he is saying. It doesn’t help that I have a stream of twitter tit-bits to delve into. But I will read this paper again (and again). I am not suggesting that he is a deliberately obscure or clumsy writer. But I confess that after all these years,  reading academia is hard work.

I might be wrong, but in a conversation with someone whose professorial line of thought is authoritative and convincing but wholly uninspiring, is it entirely impossible that a non-partisan Biesta will be on the side of critical pedagogy?


… to come

re-writing the Professional Standards for FE – in a different key

It’s hard not to like the two A4 pages that outline and define the professional standards for Further Education. FE professionalism (according to the ETF) is a triumvirate of skills, values and attributes, and knowledge and understanding.

The words ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ demand your immediate attention (on the first of the two pages, they are positioned immediately above the multi coloured professional pie). Other words written in large red letters across the page; words familiar to the FE teacher educator; words like reflective, enquiring, critically, evidence-based practice.

What then follows on the second of the standards’ two pages are twenty statements that define professionalism. The colourful, categorical coding of the introductory page is somewhat muted. Broad headings and subheadings are written in dark pink and dusky blue.

What the standards demand is less colourful.

• Reflect on what works
• Apply theoretical understanding
• Manage and promote positive behaviour
• Promote the benefits of technology

With this set of standards, common sense and the comfort of familiarity have won. I – the reader am disarmed by their coloursome brevity and all other considerations are lost. The professional standards allow me to be the sort of professional who reflects, applies, manages and promotes.

This apparent welcoming of mundanity is surely what Usher (1997) means when he refers to seductive texts. Seductive texts define what ought to be, not what it is. But the ought they define is not a utopian, aspirational ought. The ought they define almost already tangibly there. It is at the tips of your fingers. What would happen if we defined post-16 professionalism in alternative ways. In ways that admit and invite contestation. In ways that are ideal, impractical, and unrealisable? Or at least, what might happen if our conversations about professionalism teetered on the edges of the preposterous, the disruptive?

Isn’t this where professionalism and the standards that inscribe it ought to be. Teaching is an optimistic undertaking. The impossibility of certain bodies and particular selves create a Utopian performative. To teach is to insist on a world replete with hope. It is an indulgence in a pedagogy of abundance. It is a rejection of resignation. A refusal to accept the status quo as common sense (Simecka 1984).

I can’t help wondering, in one of my far too many analytical daydreams, what would happen if the professional standards for FE had been written in the key of critical utopian imagination?

According to Goodwin, the primary function of Utopia is to distance us from immediate circumstances so as to develop an alternative schema that points towards change and the promotion of human happiness (Goodwin and Taylor 1982: ch. 1 and p. 207).

Mannheim (1979) sees it as one means of helping `to shatter, either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing at the time’ (p. 173).

For Halpin (1999) utopias encourage us to ask and answer the question, `for what may I hope?’

In her review of feminist utopias, Sargisson argues that utopian texts `break and transform societal and cultural rules. In so doing they create new conceptual spaces in which radically different ways of being can be imagined’ (1996: 2) . They are future-oriented. They are about offering radical challenges to the status quo, not reinforcing or reconstructing it. But they also encourage reflection on the standing of actual and esteemed structures of feeling as Williams’ (1980, 1983) discussion of ‘heuristic utopias’ emphasizes. Heuristic utopias, he says, are ones that encourage the facility `to strengthen and confirm existing feelings and relationships which are not at home in the existing order and cannot be lived through in it’ (1983: 13).

What would happen if reflect, apply, manage and promote became critique, imagine, explore and question. Or just question?

Goodwin, B. and Taylor, (1982) The Politics of Utopia, London: Hutchinson
Halpin, D. (1999) Utopian realism and a new politics of education: developing a critical theory without guarantees, Journal of Education Policy, 14:4, 345-361
Mannheim, K. (1979) Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul
Sargisson, L. (1996) Contemporary Feminist Utopianism, London: Routledge
Simecka, M. (1984) A world with utopias or without them?, in Alexander and Gill (eds) Utopias, London: Duckworth
Usher, R (1997) Seductive texts: competence, power and knowledge in Postmodernoty, Ch 8 in Barnett and Griffin (eds), The end of knowledge in higher education. London: Cassell
Williams, R. (1980) Utopia and science fiction, in R. Williams (ed) Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: Verso)
Williams, R. (1983) Towards 2000, London: Chatto & Windus


We are looking for teacher educators (from the colleges, higher education institutions and private providers) i.e. teachers who trainee people to become teachers in the further education/lifelong learning/post compulsory sector to take part in this project.

Why you may ask?

We think that by you participating in this project, it allows time for you to:

  • articulate and reflect on your personal journey act as a springboard to explaining the complex nature of your work i.e. to teach trainee teachers how to teach their learners
  • provide a suitable platform to disseminate your personal journey       individually and collectively

In order to capture your data (anonymously and at any time during the process, you are free to opt out of this and your data will be deleted), we will use a questionnaire survey (to capture your salient details), interview (to obtain rich narrative), ‘and Talking head’ approach (for you provide a 15-minute audio recording of yourself of being and becoming a teacher educator). We hope that these innovative approaches will give you a sense of ownership and opportunities to think about your job.

Eleven current/former teacher educators in the further education sector from colleges, higher education institutions and private providers set up this FETEP project.

We are: Gordon Ade-ojo (University of Greenwich), Heather Booth-Martin (Craven College, John Bostock (Edge Hill University), Jim Crawley (Bath Spa University),  Carol Azumah Dennis (University of Hull), Baiba Eberte (Carlton Training), Sai Loo (Institute of Education, University of London), Nikki Sowe (NBS Teacher Training, Professional Development and Consultancy), Lydia Spenceley (Grantham College), and Sonia Spencer (Reading College).

We are trying to find out the following questions:

  1. What are the routes to becoming teacher educators/trainer in the sector?
  2. How do teacher educators train others to become teachers?
  3. What knowledge(s) do they draw upon and apply in their work?
  4. How do they maintain their professional development?
  5. How do they view themselves?

Finally, the start of this project is timely because of the recent developments in the ‘Teaching and Training Qualifications’ (LSIS 2013) and ‘Professional Standards (Pye Tait Consulting 2014). These developments provide a platform to think about the questions of: pathways, training of teachers, use and application of knowledge, and professional development and identity. More importantly perhaps, even though there must be research done in this area of further education, however, little has been published. Thus eleven of us like-minded teacher educators have come together to study this area but perhaps more importantly to use this project to learn to collaborate and support each other to increase our research and publication capabilities (in spite of a fast moving and competitive FE landscape!).

So, if you are interested in taking part in this project, contact me, Sai Loo on s.loo@ioe.ac.uk.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Sai, Institute of Education, University of London. http://ioe-ac.academia.edu/SaiLoo


Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), (2013b) 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)