10 SES 03 D, Learning to Teach: Identity, Inquiry, Agency
This research looks at the issues and challenges in introducing an innovative approach to initial teacher education (ITE) based on the Developing English Teaching and Internship Learning (DETAIL) project (Ellis, 2008). The participants were six school mentors (all experienced science teachers), two university tutors and six student science teachers. The student teachers were placed in a single science department in one secondary school for eight months. Although placing six students in one subject department was unusual, it was the engagement by all participants in a piece of professional inquiry that was the major innovation. The main purposes for this professional inquiry were to meet the professional development needs of the department, to further enhance the ways in which the ITE partnership used research informed approaches and to support the student teachers’ professional learning. It was also envisaged that other members of the science department would be able to participate and benefit from this initiative.
We will use two theoretical ideas in analysing and understanding our findings. Firstly, our previous research (see for example McNicholl, Childs and Burn, 2013) has focused on how teachers learn collaboratively from each other in subject departments. The trialing of this innovation builds on this research by developing a programme of ITE which facilitates collaboration more systematically through a programme of professional inquiry involving the whole department. Here we will draw on theoretical perspectives from Lave (1998) whose cultural analysis of cognition in everyday interactions and practices showed that cognition is ‘distributed – stretched over, not divided among – mind, body, activity and culturally organised settings (which include other actors) (Lave, 1988, p.1). Our first research question is
- How is expertise distributed and shared amongst student teachers, teachers and university tutors in the Internship Development Project (IDP)? What facilitates and constrains this process?
Secondly, the literature in teacher education internationally frequently focuses on the tensions between theory and practice in ITE (see for example Korthagen and Kessels, 1999; Nuthall, 2004) . Within the current Oxford Internship Scheme this is resolved by recognising the distinctive expertise that the school and university partners bring to ITE for example ‘the mentor is primarily required to discuss suggestions for practice in the context of their school’ whilst the university tutor’s role is ‘to introduce them [the student teachers] in a systematic, rigorous and rational way to theoretical arguments’ (Hayward, 1997, p. 20). The student teachers take the more decontextualised and theoretical ideas from the university with the contextualised ideas from school and these are tested against each other in a dialectical approach called practical theorizing; the role of the student teacher being ‘to understand, to theorise about, and most especially to evaluate the various suggestions for practice’ (McIntyre 1993, p. 49). There have been criticisms of the internship model (see for example Furlong and Maynard, 1995 and Ellis, 2010) and one criticism, particularly relevant for this research, is that practical theorising puts too greater demand on the individual inexperienced student teacher. As Furlong and Maynard say:
With a kind of postmodernist relativist, the Oxford scheme leaves it to the student to make up his or her own mind about what are appropriate forms of practice (p.50)
We are hoping that a more shared and collaborative approach that includes the whole department may help address this particular criticism, the intention being that this model and its more systematic sharing of the expertise distributed in the school and university will enhance the student teachers’ ability to engage in practical theorizing. This leads to our second research question:
- How does the IDP enhance and/or constrain student teachers’ ability to engage in practical theorising?
Ellis, V. (2008) Exploring the Contradictions in learning to Teach: The Potential of Developmental Work Research. Changing English, 15(1) pp. 53-63 Ellis V. (2010) Impoverishing experience: the problem of teacher education in England, Journal of Education for Teaching, 36(1) pp 105-120 Furlong J. and Maynard, T. (1995) Mentoring Student Teachers: the growth of professional knowledge. London: Routledge. Hayward, G. (1997) Principles for school focused initial teacher education: some lessons from the Oxford Internship Scheme. In T. Allsop and A. Benson (eds.) Mentoring for science teachers. Buckingham: Oxford University Press. Korthagen, F. and Kressels, J.(1999) Linking Theory and Practice: Changing the Pedagogy of Teacher Education. Educational Researcher, 28 (4) pp. 4-17 Lave, J.(1998) Cognition in practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press McIntyre, D. (1993) Theory, theorizing and reflection in initial teacher education. In J. Calderhead and P. Gates (eds) Conceptualizing Reflection in Teacher Development. London: Falmer Press McNicholl, J., Childs, A. Burn, K. (2013) School subject departments as sites for science teachers learning pedagogical content knowledge. Teacher Development, 17, 2, pp. 155–175 Nuthall, G. (2004) Relating Classroom Teaching to Student Learning: A Critical Analysis of Why Research has Failed to Bridge the Theory-Practice Gap. Harvard educational Review, 74(3) pp. 273-306
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