10 SES 07 B, Programmes and Approaches: Implementation and evaluation
Quality teaching is essential in addressing social inequality and educational underachievement. Equally, adequate teacher supply combined with good quality training (and continuing professional development) are key education policy directives. Increasingly the skills deemed necessary in respect of economic advancement are mathematical and scientific. However, many European countries (e.g. UK, Switzerland, Denmark, and Poland) regularly report shortages of mathematics and science teachers. In many countries the political response to teacher shortage and to teacher quality has been experimental reform of teacher education and notably the introduction of alternative pathways to certification such as employment-based and school-led teacher training. The best known of these alternative/employment-based routes are those adopted in the USA such as ‘Teach For America’ whereby highly qualified graduates are employed by state schools in low income, hard to recruit areas after following an intensive six-week induction programme. This model has been adopted by European countries, notably England and Germany. Other employment-based routes are typically of short duration and targeted at specific types of teachers, for example language teachers in Poland and pre-primary teachers in Norway.
In England as well as “Teach First” (a scheme based on the “Teach For America” model) employment-based teacher training programmes have been widely endorsed and available since their reintroduction in 1998 – the largest being the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) and these account for around 20 percent of provision. Recent moves by the UK Government (2013 on) have seen a concerted effort to accelerate growth in this provision. Yet there has been little evidence on which to base this policy.
Teacher educators responsible for traditional routes as well as many schools and teachers’ organisations have been sceptical about the perceived return to “apprenticeship models” of training and considerable criticism has focused particularly on the effectiveness/adequacy of these employment-based routes to deliver effective preparation especially in respect of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK).
This paper arises from recent empirical Doctoral research (completed 2016) into this issue in respect of the English Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) (1998-2013). An interpretive, constructivist, research approach was adopted to the question: How do mathematics and science pre-service teachers acquire pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) within employment-based teacher training and what factors influence this?
There were three underlying sub-questions:
- What was the rationale for PCK provision?
- What was the relationship between pre-service teachers’ (PSTs) beliefs/prior experience and PCK development?
- Are there inherent deficiencies in PCK provision in employment-based routes?
This research approach was adopted in line with the belief that learning and professional development are formed through past experiences and interaction with the learning environment. Working with the GTP had shown how pre-service teachers had come into teaching with pre-formed knowledge and beliefs which shaped their approach to teaching. These personal and professional experiences seemed to accord with the epistemology of social constructivism which became the lens through with PCK development was viewed within this research. .
There has been very limited research on the development of PCK within employment-based provision and this dearth of knowledge has often been referred to. Therefore this research set out to address these concerns by thoroughly exploring the elements of training provided within this route to develop PCK. Data was collected during 2011-12, in the GTP’s penultimate year of operation before it was replaced, largely for financial reasons, by a revised national programme in England (School-Direct). The work involved a systematic evaluation of how PSTs acquired and developed their PCK and which elements of the training curriculum were most effective and which required further development.
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