10 SES 02 F, Special Call: Mapping Teacher Education across Europe and Beyond
In Ireland, two models of initial teacher education (ITE) prepare post-primary teachers, concurrent (undergraduate), and consecutive (postgraduate). Studies such as the Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE) research project (Heinz 2008, Heinz 2013), present extensively on the profile, and diversity of entrants to consecutive (post-primary) ITE. Less is known about the profile and diversity of entrants to concurrent (post-primary) ITE. Concurrent (post-primary) ITE is delivered at undergraduate level, and as such, students do not incur the same expenses as those following consecutive (post-primary) ITE, which involves postgraduate fees. This potentially results in a more diverse entrant profile to concurrent (post-primary) ITE (Darmody and Smyth 2016). Historically, concurrent (post-primary) ITE in Ireland had a narrow focus on the preparation of teachers of the sciences and practical school subjects (Gleeson 2004), and graduated smaller number of students, relative to consecutive ITE (Hyland 2012). In the last decade, however, the concurrent (post-primary) sector has expanded beyond its traditional base, evidenced by an increased number of courses, and student enrollments. Analysis of the courses on offer in 2018, shows there were 29 concurrent (post-primary) ITE courses offered across ten institutions, with graduates qualified to teach 64 percent of junior cycle, and 68 percent of senior cycle subjects.
Investigations on the diversity and profile of post-primary teachers in Ireland indicate a diversity gap between the profile of pupils, and that of teachers in post-primary schools; whereby a homogenous population of teachers, teaches a heterogeneous population of students (Heinz 2008, Heinz 2013, Darmody and Smyth 2016). This is echoed in many education jurisdictions in Europe (Musset 2010, Darling-Hammond & Liebermann 2013). Entrants to ITE have many common characteristics. They tend to be high academic achievers, female, aged 18-22 and from middle class backgrounds (Darmody and Smyth 2016, Drudy et al. 2005, Clarke 2009, Keane and Heinz 2015). Calls to attract under-represented groups, especially those from low socio-economic groups have been made by the OECD (2005) and the Teaching Council of Ireland (2010).
This paper presents an investigation of the socio-economic profile of entrants to concurrent (post-primary) ITE in Ireland. As schools in Ireland face the challenge of social cohesion (Crotty and Schmitt 2014), an understanding of the socio-economic profile of entrants to concurrent (post-primary) ITE, and their impact on the overall diversity profile of the teaching profession is required. Consequently this research seeks to address the question, what is the socio-economic profile of entrants to concurrent (post-primary) ITE in Ireland?
A mixed methods study was adopted, following an explanatory sequential design, using phased quantitative and qualitative approaches. The first phase of data collection involves the quantitative analysis of statistical data from the Higher Education Authority (HEA). This data was collected and collated by the HEA in conjunction with higher education institutions in Ireland and comes from two sources, ‘Student Record System (SRS)’ data, which is based on new entrant registration data, and the ‘Equal Access Survey’. Each of the variables analysed, is described below: School Type: Classification of post-primary schools attended prior to entry. School Type was pre-coded, into four categories (DEIS, Fee Paying, Neither, Unknown). Grant Status: Grant Status, was pre-coded, as a dichotomous variable, SUSI indicating that the number of students in receipt of a grant, and N/A, indicating those student not in receipt of a grant. Father Socio-Economic Group: Based on the Central Statistics Office (CSO) classification of ten specific socio-economic groups, including two further groups: ‘own account workers’ and N/A. Mother Socio-Economic Group: Based on the Central Statistics Office (CSO) classification of ten specific socio-economic groups, including two further groups: ‘own account workers’ and N/A. The second phase of data collection is qualitative in nature. It consists of eighteen qualitative interviews conducted with entrants to concurrent (post-primary) ITE, with a view to further exploring the quantitative findings. The qualitative questions address the student teachers’ background, experiences and attitudes. Qualitative responses are coded thematically, and examples will be reported where appropriate. Results from the qualitative and quantitative analysis will be integrated so as to inform a more complete utilisation of the data.
The results of this study provide a first examination of the socio-economic profile of entrants to concurrent (post-primary) ITE in Ireland. This research is timely given the challenges of social cohesion evidenced in schools in Ireland and across Europe (Boyer 2002, Green et al. 2003, Crotty and Schmitt 2014, Faas et al. 2014). This study shows the popularity of concurrent (post-primary) ITE among prospective teachers, and highlights the considerable contribution this sector makes to Irish post-primary teacher supply. An initial review of the data indicates that concurrent (post-primary) ITE contributes to the overall socio-economic diversity of the teaching profession in Ireland. It is expected that the data will reveal the appeal of concurrent (post-primary) ITE to entrants from lower socio-economic groups, and low to middle income households. In addition, it appears that entrants from schools in marginalised communities, and those in receipt of higher education financial assistance, are also represented on these courses. While the qualitative responses have yet to be analysed, it is expected that they will provide a deeper understanding of the background, experience and attitude of entrants to concurrent (post-primary) ITE programmes. Initial findings suggest this research will contribute to a more complete picture of the socio-economic profile of the teaching profession in Ireland.
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