10 SES 04 D, Learning to Teach: Classrooms and Differentiation
There is a European and international, focus on developing the quality of teaching and the teaching workforce (Schleicher, 2012), aiming to improve educational opportunity and achievement for the diverse children within the modern classroom, so that teachers may respond effectively to developmental, social, cultural and linguistic factors that impact, often adversely, on child attainment and wellbeing (Florian & Pantić 2013), and act towards closing the achievement gap. Research reviewing high-quality school systems internationally identifies teacher professionalism as a key factor. Professionalism includes personal qualities leading to ethical and responsible action, and access to an evidence base that allows potentially effective educational practices to develop. This has led to proposals that teachers become ‘discerning consumers’ of research (BERA 2014 p5), able to interpret and use it in their work.
Within the UK, the Higher Education Academy (HEA), an independent body funded partly by the four UK higher education (HE) funding bodies, champions learning and teaching within HE. The HEA is exploring the distinctive contribution of HE to teacher education, and is currently funding strategic social science research projects in this area. This paper reports on a commissioned project on the role that research-informed teaching plays in enabling student teachers to respond effectively to issues of diversity and inclusion. It is concerned with student teacher response to and potential use of evidence on diversity and effective teaching practices. It is therefore in line with ECER themes of the relevance of research to education, of diversity and inclusion, and of the pre-service education of teachers.
The overall aim of the project reported here is to prepare workshop materials that provide information on current understandings of the influences exerted by the afore mentioned factors (developmental, social, cultural and linguistic) on child attainment and wellbeing, and of their inter-relationships. Such understandings have been informed by recent research and analyses of population data-sets and series of intervention studies. These provide a powerful body of evidence that both stimulates educational thinking and challenges some classroom practice.
Two forms of research evidence are collated for the workshops: recent large-scale critical policy analyses related to diversity, and ‘what works’ evidence related directly to classroom practice. Critical policy analyses are not written primarily for student teacher use, but provide evidence that may support or oppose existing ideas, reveal barriers and facilitators to undertaking learning activities, and highlight perspectives not yet incorporated into student teachers’ theoretical positions. The increasing body of ‘what works’ evidence rates the quality of evidence available for particular approaches and interventions for identified school and pupil populations, and the size of any effects found. It aims directly to inform teaching approaches and so to enhance child experiences and learning.
This evidence on policy and interventions is relatively new, and provides a corpus of research relevant to initial teacher education students and likely to impact on their thinking and practices. However, previous research on teachers’ acceptance and use of evidence (Helmsley-Brown & Sharpe, 2003) showed it was not unproblematic, with considerable resistance to its value. The views of student teachers emerging into the current educational turn towards evidence require detailed consideration. The project, by investigating the views of student teachers on their understandings and likely use of the evidence presented in workshops, will offer insights into factors that affect both initial teacher education and the implementation of classroom research. The project is therefore developing workshop materials and piloting them with a volunteer group of initial teacher education students within HE.
BERA (2014). The Role of Research in Teacher Education: Reviewing the Evidence. London: British Educational research Association. Education Endowment Foundation (no date). http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/ Accessed 30 January 2014. Florian, L. and Pantić, N. (2013), Eds. Learning to teach. Part 2: Exploring the Distinctive Contribution of Higher Education to Teacher Education. York: The Higher Education Academy. Helmsley-Brown, J. & Sharp, C. (2003). The use of research to improve professional practice: a systematic review of the literature. Oxford Review of Education, 29 (4) 449 – 470. Institute of Education Sciences (IES) (no date). ‘What Works’ Clearing House. U.S. Department of Education. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/ Accessed 30 January 2014. Schleicher, A. (2012), Ed. Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders for the 21st Century: Lessons from around the World. OECD Publishing.
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