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close this bookThe MUSTER Synthesis Report - Researching Teacher Education: New Perspectives on Practice, Performance and Policy (CIE, 2003, 237 p.)
View the document8.0 Summary and Overview
View the document8.1 Introduction
View the document8.2 Data Sources
View the document8.3 Characteristics of College Staff
View the document8.4 Tutors' Views and Perspectives
View the document8.5 Concluding Discussion

8.5 Concluding Discussion

8.5.1. The problem of selecting, recruiting and retaining appropriate staff.

As academic standards are raised, tutors need to be university graduates, and so increasingly they come up through secondary school teaching, but such people may have little understanding of, or sympathy for, primary classrooms. It is essential to select suitable primary teachers for professional upgrading so they can take on the role of tutor.

Beyond that, there need to be sufficient avenues of promotion and reward structures, with clear criteria, to attract and retain quality personnel. A key issue in all the countries studied concerned the pay and conditions of service for teacher educators. We found much goodwill and commitment among the tutors, and many individuals described their work as intrinsically rewarding, mentioning, for example, the intellectual challenge, their professional relationships with students, or the sense of doing a worthwhile job. However they often felt undermined by the lack of equivalent monetary rewards and status. This was strongly apparent in Trinidad and Tobago, where the college tutors were classified and compensated on a par with secondary teachers, although they were far better qualified, carried heavier workloads, and felt that they were doing a more difficult and responsible job.

8.5.2. Induction and professional development

It is obvious that all tutors should have a proper induction and orientation when they move from schools to colleges, followed by opportunities for academic upgrading. But in addition they need training in the fields of human development, such as adult learning, counselling and social psychology (Korthagen and Russell, 1995). The key problem is how to introduce new ideas that will both change the discourse and reshape the practice in ways that have an impact on the teachers' performance in schools. The research suggests several ways of doing this. Probably most useful are opportunities to see and hear about good practice in situations not too unlike one's own; thus well-focussed workshops and short courses (if necessary with external consultants), regional study tours, or part-time study with assignments related to one's own context, should be used where possible. Full-time award-bearing courses overseas may also have a part to play, especially as 'eye-openers' that can stimulate awareness of alternative ideas and practices.

8.5.3. Whole college development

As in all teacher development and INSET work, the new ideas and skills will only be put into practice if there is opportunity and support in the home environment. Just as teacher INSET is moving towards 'whole school development' approaches, so a strategy of 'whole college development' is needed. Such an approach would require a senior management team with a clear vision of change - and a brief from the authorities to carry it out - and groups of tutors prepared to commit themselves to professional improvement. This has implications for the ways in which the colleges are administered and managed, since such things as rigid timetables, heavy teaching loads, examinations system, and bureaucratic regulations constrain the ways in which professional teaching and learning can take place. College management is currently given little training or support for innovations, and the system of financing often adds yet more problems (see Chap. 9). Changes in structures, as well as in the mindset of those who work within them, are equally necessary.

8.5.4. New approaches to teacher education

There is a strong need for new and contextualised models of teacher preparation and development. The current variants of the 'technical rationality' model found in the colleges seem inadequate for preparing teachers to deal with the realities of primary and basic education classes in countries of the South. Developments in our understanding of professional knowledge and learning suggests more interactive and more flexible approaches would be more likely to produce teachers able to deal with the challenge of 21st century classrooms. However, these cannot be borrowed wholesale. One major task for teacher educators in low income countries is to adapt the new approaches to local realities and cultures. Textbook knowledge about teaching - often deriving from very different cultural origins - is often seen as sacrosanct, and local contexts become forced into ideal models of teaching. In effect these theories about learning to teach become the lenses through which teaching is viewed, rather than hypotheses to be tested out in local contexts (Akyeampong 2002).

Part of the way tutors think and act in colleges may be a legacy of the once strongly-promoted behaviourist views about learning and is often consonant with prevailing local cultural discourses about education (Tabulawa 1997). Yet there is another strand in the discourse, one that harks back to missionary days and stresses the personal and 'vocational' nature of teaching. When the tutors emphasise professional attitudes and ethics, when they describe primary teachers in terms of personal characteristics and interpersonal skills rather than knowledge, when they complain they cannot work with such large groups of students, they are implicitly critiquing the 'technical rationality' model that focuses on knowledge and skill rather than on personal development. It seems plausible that this tradition, if linked to a more open and constructivist view of knowledge, would be a good foundation for developing a more reflective and more professional view of teacher education.

The process of change is long and complex. This chapter has explored a few of the issues, focussing more on the people than the institutions, but both are equally important. Though some patterns have emerged, it is clear there can be no 'one size fits all solution', since teacher education institutions and their practices have developed out of their own unique experiences and contexts. Common themes seem to be the isolation of many colleges - both from the world of practice in the schools and the world of intellectual debates - the low status and rewards accorded to the tutors, and the lack of opportunity for professional development. Dealing with these problems should be starting points for any realistic policy.

8.5.5. Key Issues for policy and practice

· Teacher educators could be the fulcrum for raising standards among teachers and therefore in schools, but they have been neglected by policy-makers. They should be recognised as an important sub-group with particular professional needs. Among these are:

- Induction and orientation when they move from school to the college

- A career structure that offers them appropriate status, promotion opportunities and monetary rewards

- Accelerated academic development programmes for selected primary teachers to enable them to become trainers with equal status to their secondary-trained colleagues

- Continuing professional development that includes academic upgrading in their specialised area, as well as training in the theory and practice of adult development

- Opportunities to work closely with schools throughout their careers

· Many colleges have a long and respected history, but they now seem to have difficulty in keeping up with developments in other parts of the education system. Reform and renewal is urgently called for.

· The colleges themselves need to develop stronger leadership and more effective management, together with a clearer sense of their role and mission. Policies of 'whole college development' might be one strategy for change