What is important to you in Lifelong Learning Teacher Education?

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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?

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FURTHER EDUCATION TEACHER EDUCATORS PROJECT (#FETEP): WHO IS IT FOR, WHAT IS IT, AND WHY NOW?

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)

Research informs, transforms, overlaps and ….. unravels practice.

imageThe Institute of Education, my old University – achieved in 2014 first position in the QS World University subject rankings. The IoE – according QS – is better at education, than Harvard, Stanford and Melbourne. Is there a more secure base from which to sponsor a new free school? It’s hard to imagine what better qualification could be demanded, if being the world’s leading University – for education – is not sufficient.

Research Informs Practice

But perhaps this is a common-sense belief that doesn’t hold. The assumption that the IoE is best placed to run a free school implies a particular relationship between research and practice. Namely – those in the University develop ‘knowledge’ which those working in sites of practice implement. This is most neatly framed in the strap line of a research centre devoted to adult literacy and numeracy: ‘generating knowledge and transforming it into practice’. The relationship between knowledge and practice is assumed to be uni-directional and unproblematic. Even when researchers and practitioners occupy quite different spaces, they are assumed to have common values, beliefs and practices as well as shared conceptions of quality, knowledge, policy, pedagogy and curriculum. Framed in tis way, research may well inform practice.

Research Transforms Practice

It is also possible that research might transform practice. To cultivate their recently found professional status, post 16 teachers will need an ongoing and continuing familiarity with a highly-codified and esoteric body of knowledge. Research encloses our epistemic boundaries, mapping the territory upon which our professionalism is premised. While evidence-based-practice would at first glance seem like an obvious aspiration, it has some troubling implications. If practice is evidence based, practitioners are required to adopt practices proven by research as liable to bring about improved outcomes. Failure to improve is willful. It is a failure to properly implement practices that have been devised and proven elsewhere. Teachers are here understood as ‘knowledge surrogates, practitioners of others’ (Taylor-Webb 2005) design. Teaching becomes a teacher-proof activity, as teachers are required to become conduits, implementers of a scripted, standardized pedagogy that has been tried, tested and proven to be effective. When knowledge about teaching transcends the pedagogic encounter between teacher and student, the intellectual authority of practitioners is negated. The grammar of professional practice – improvised, spontaneous and internalized – is subordinated by the insistence that it should be something other than what it is. In this conceit only knowledge generated by research – decontextualized, transferable and theoretical – is True Knowledge.

Research Overlaps Practice

But if the rage for accountability requires evidence-based-practice to the belittlement of teachers’ knowledge, it also belittles research. The pragmatists ‘what works’ mantra offers what research in the social sciences is unable to deliver. Truths about the social world unfold unexpectedly. They are partial, tentative and suggestive rather than equivocal. To understand what works may require diverse and seemingly irrelevant questions. What may or may not influence practice is open to contestation. An approach which stimulates one group of learners may confuse another. What works here might not work there. What worked then, might not work now. There is no future-proof knowledge. The invitation for research to inform education practice is an attempt to erase the ‘privilege and precariousness of human sciences, caught as they are in the interstices of the mathematizable and the philosophical’ (Lather 2006: 784). It also threatens to usher in a purpose, procedure, reporting and dissemination standardisation future for research in the social sciences (Ball 2001). There is, in the move towards evidence-based practice, an uncomfortable coupling that casts researchers in the role of purveyors of snake-oil – promising what they cannot deliver for a community that would pay a high price if it were to accept the gift.

Research Unravels Practice

My own experience of the research, policy and practice nexus is of an unraveling. Research informs, transforms, overlaps but also uncomfortably unravels practice.

Research yields incommensurable truths that make coherence between policy, practice and research almost impossible. My ongoing explorations into conceptions of quality contrasts professional aspiration with policy embodiment, but offers no neat resolution. Instead research promises practice a Goliathian struggle, a series of intricate and shifting compromises. Adhering exclusively to professional judgement is not possible and would place practitioners in a perpetual state of conflict. Yet ignoring professional judgement extracts high transaction costs. It causes stress and discomfort and limits professional possibilities.

The quality regime – OfSTED – with its decontextualised strictures, exhausting array of mimetic templates and managerial tactics contributes towards, rather than illuminates, what policy-makers most fear: poor practice. Inspections may weed out the unacceptable, but it is also possible that they simply encounter conceptions of quality that are other than that which has been written into the Common Inspection Framework.

This  view is consistent with QS regarding as world leading in education an organisation which the Department for Education considers unable to surmount the ’high bar’ required to sponsor a school. Were such a school to exist is it possible that something might unravel as state sponsored practice comes into contact with research.

References

Ball, S. J. (2001). ‘You’ve been NERFed!’Dumbing down the academy: National Educational Research Forum:’a national strategy? consultation paper’: a brief and bilious response. Journal of Education Policy, 16(3), 265-268.

Lather, P. (2006). Paradigm proliferation as a good thing to think with: Teaching research in education as a wild profusion. International journal of qualitative studies in education, 19(1), 35-57.

Taylor-Webb*, P. (2005). The anatomy of accountability. Journal of Education Policy,20(2), 189-208.