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Teacher Training: Plumber's Apprenticeship?


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#1 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 09:42 PM

Since the 1980s there has been a noticeable move away teacher training being seen as an at least in part “academic” discipline towards a model akin to that of a plumber’s apprenticeship. Student teachers today “learn on the job”, are immersed in schools, and are “trained” almost exclusively by practising teachers (some of whom trained in exactly the same way). We have seen in the last few years the mushrooming of entirely School based training schemes like SCITT, the licensed teacher scheme, the Graduate Teacher scheme, with fewer and fewer students seeing the inside of a teacher training college, or University Department, let alone a University library. It is fashionable to see such trends as healthy and realistic “on the job” approaches to teacher training.

My view however is that these trends will inevitably have undesirable consequences on the quality and commitment of newly trained teachers and are part of the deskilling of the teaching profession which gathers apace day by day and actually nears completion.
Not withstanding the undoubted fact that teachers trained using the school based approach will be well equipped to deal with classroom management issues and probably armed with one or two behaviour management strategies gleaned from a few staffroom “old lags”, we are selling ourselves very short indeed if we believe that what emerges is a “qualified” teacher.
A properly educated teacher needs an understanding of the context in which they work. To achieve this it is essential that they understand the history and sociology of education and indeed understand the sociology and politics of staffrooms. A properly educated teacher also needs an acute understanding of how children learn and of comparative teaching methodology. To achieve this they must have grounding in the psychology of learning and the philosophy of education. This is not something that can be realistically achieved on what amounts to an extended teaching practice supervised by a subject mentor. It is utterly bizarre that as I type this I know that it will be a highly controversial viewpoint.

What it all boils down to is essentially the old “education versus training” discussion. Training is what I do to the clematis in my back garden. I train it to behave in a particular way in a particular set of circumstances year on year. In the case of my clematis to grow up my fence and to flower prettily in May. In the case of the “trained” teacher dare I say it might be to produce the same lesson objectives, same plans and plenaries lifted from the myriad of DFES documentation year on year, class by class.

An “educated” teacher however will have flexibility, purpose, vision, understanding and I would presume to suggest a little healthy cynicism of what is thrust before him or here. They will understand the nature of the institution, in which they work, may have a commitment to its aspirations, they will understand current debates and controversies in education and be able to question Orthodoxy, they will understand how children learn and may even have the counselling skills to deal with teenagers. Most importantly of all they will have some “inspiration” of why they have chosen to become a teacher and what they hope to achieve. A priceless asset in what could be a 35-40 year career, which will sustain them long after formulaic lesson plans from the centre are forgotten and unfashionable.

The logical final expression of the victory of training over education in teacher training can be seen in recent government proposals to allow unqualified non graduates to take whole classes in state schools. Surely it is here that we see the final nail in the coffin of the profession… anyone can teach it just takes a few weeks practice in a school, after all it is just delivering what someone else has planned for you is it not?

#2 Helen S

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 10:39 PM

I am an NQT this year.

I do feel in many ways my training did not prepare me for full time teaching (Then again................what could?) . I do feel that we were trained to follow current standard procedures but there was little academic content (psychology, philosophy and so on). No real debate at all unlike when I did my degree. I found this a shame and not inspiring.

This is not to say that I did not get excellent support and learn from people I worked with on placements.

Hel
Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.
H. G. Wells

#3 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 22 January 2004 - 01:45 AM

I did my PGCE at Leicester in the mid-'60s and I wholeheartedly support all that Andy has said.

I'm not entirely sure that I fully understood the value of the psychology,sociology, philosophy and history of education courses at the time. In fact I can clearly remember that our (students) chief criticism of the course was that there were few 'tips for teachers' on classroom management and the like.

However looking back over my career I know that in the long run my tutors were right. What sustained me was the vision for education they helped me to develop. I doubt whether the conviction that teachers are trained rather than educated will serve the current generation of trainees so well.

#4 gav

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Posted 22 January 2004 - 12:46 PM

I found that the only useful part of my training (about 6 years ago) was the teaching practice. The rest was frankly bo***cks. The fundamental problem today is that institutions do not or are unable to attract deecnt candidates on to pgce courses. So we have a situation whereby the standards are being diluted. If someone has got the ability to be a good teacher then they need to get into a series of schools and gain experience (accompanied by good support from tutor and mentor.) I found it an utter waste of time to have someone who had been out of the classroom for donkeys of years preaching their educational philosophy to me.

Attract better quality teachers to the profession.

#5 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 22 January 2004 - 02:19 PM

I found it an utter waste of time to have someone who had been out of the classroom for donkeys of years preaching their educational philosophy to me.

Surely its appropriate and neccessary to provide new entrants to any profession with a sound understanding of the philosophical frameworks within which they are to be expected to work? education is an area in which there are umpteen different pedagogical approaches, there is a plethora of information based on quality research about learning styles and equally as much 'academic' study into the types of skills that need to be developed and the best manner by which these can be cultivated.

I'd agree that as a student it often seems that these aren't particularly relevant, indeed at times learning these is downright boring. Not understanding them though results in a teacher having a very limited breadth of understanding of the educational system in general and the different appraches to teaching and learning that can, and should, be adopted.

The classroom is very much the place that you'll learn the trade in terms of classroom management etc. but once you've got a firm grip on that one aspect of teaching, what next? Where do you take your teaching? Once the little dears will sit, listen, jump or whatever when you want them to do it , its neccessary to start applying the ideas and pedagocial theories learnt in these 'preaching sessions'.

I've worked with both PGCE students following a more traditional type of course and alongside a variety of GTP teachers (varied subject areas). Whilst the enthusiasm has been very much the same, the level of understanding of some of the elementary basics has bene vastly different. That first term of lecture after lecture on the PGCE course has clearly led to them understanding a variety of concepts that the GTP students haven't even heard of when they land in a classroom. Little things such as Why do we assess?, How can we assess?, What should we do with assessment results? These are hardly areas of irrelevance, are they?

I suspect that this aspect of your course wasn't delivered in a particularly interesting manner. taught well it should appear relevant, interesting and of great significance.

#6 John Simkin

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Posted 23 January 2004 - 07:01 AM

I found that the only useful part of my training (about 6 years ago) was the teaching practice. The rest was frankly bo***cks. The fundamental problem today is that institutions do not or are unable to attract deecnt candidates on to pgce courses. So we have a situation whereby the standards are being diluted. If someone has got the ability to be a good teacher then they need to get into a series of schools and gain experience (accompanied by good support from tutor and mentor.) I found it an utter waste of time to have someone who had been out of the classroom for donkeys of years preaching their educational philosophy to me.

When I did my PGCE course in 1977-78 I had four PGCE tutors. Two were very poor, one was good and the final one was brilliant (Stephen Ball of Beachside Comprehensive fame). Stephen provided what Andy has so rightly pointed out is so important in a PGCE course. He helped me “understand the history and sociology of education and indeed understand the sociology and politics of staffrooms.” He was also an excellent teacher himself. To quote Andy again: “A properly educated teacher also needs an acute understanding of how children learn and of comparative teaching methodology. To achieve this they must have grounding in the psychology of learning and the philosophy of education.”

When I was training at Sussex University it was the policy of the course to insist that for the first two weeks in the school, you would spend your time observing teachers in the classroom. I have to admit that a higher percentage of the tutors at the university were good teachers than at the school where I did my training.

However, I found this process extremely useful as it helped me work out the style of teaching that I wanted to adopt. For example, there was one teacher who I liked a great deal. We both came from the same background (working class, late entrants to teaching) and shared a similar political and educational philosophy. He believed passionately that he was doing the most important job in the world and cared deeply about the pupils he was teaching. He was also extremely well organised and had a reputation for getting good exam results. However, I made no attempt to adopt his style of teaching. The main problem was that he had a very authoritarian approach to teaching. This was a style that most teachers urged us to adopt. The most common phrase I heard from teachers during that first term was “don’t smile in class until Easter”. (The more liberal ones said Christmas). This view was reinforced by what we were being told at university (to obtain good discipline you need to develop a mask of authority, etc.). My personality (and political philosophy) meant that this was for me an impossible thing to do.

Luckily, I also observed a teacher who had a style that fitted in with my own philosophy of education. Discussions with him later showed that this was no coincidence as we both had the same set of values. Of course, you cannot just develop a teaching style by watching a good teacher in the classroom. What was important was that he showed me what was possible. I only watched him teach two lessons but he generously gave me a great deal of his time to discuss the process of teaching.

My advice to any PGCE student is to first develop a philosophy of education (one of the things that disturbs me is the large number of students who don’t seem to have one). Then find a successful teacher in the school who appears to share your philosophy. Then ask them if you can observe some of their lessons. If they refuse, they were not the right person to ask in the first place.

My concern is that many teachers take advantage of PGCE students. Some teachers do unfortunately see it as an opportunity to get the student to take difficult classes from them. Although it gives them short-term respite from their troubles, their original problem does not go away. In fact, it becomes worse, especially if the student successfully develops a good relationship with the class.

There are other teachers, who although competent classroom teachers themselves, have no strong desire to help others develop these skills. As I said in a discussion on the Education Forum, the most important character trait in a good teacher is generosity.

http://educationforu...p?showtopic=205

There are plenty of teachers who have a committed philosophy about teaching and are willing to use what influence they have to obtain converts to the cause. These teachers can also be a problem. Especially if they have a philosophy you do not share.

When I first left school I became an apprentice in the printing trade. Even though this was a purely practical trade, it was considered to be vitally important to spend one day a week at college. This went on for 5 years. I would argue that this one day a week at college was just as important as the four days a week spent on the shop floor. This course encouraged us to ask why experienced printers did things in the way that they did. It taught me that experienced workers do not always get it right. That being “taught on the job” can be very dangerous as it can often involve teaching bad practices that have been ingrained in the profession. This applies to teaching far more than it does to the printing trade.

Edited by John Simkin, 23 January 2004 - 07:23 AM.


#7 Andrew Field

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Posted 25 January 2004 - 12:49 AM

It is an interesting series of points that Andy makes. Trouble is, there is very little to argue with or disagree. Clearly it is extremely important to give teachers the best possible start in the profession and a start that means they will remain in the profession.

For me personally the PGCE was summed up by a teacher at the Primary school I went to observe in before starting the PGCE. This was a teacher I'd respected and enjoyed being taught by when I was at the school and he simply said that the time in the lecture theatres was useful, but you only really began learning when you were in school. You then only begin really learning when you've completed your PGCE and have your own classes, and you never really stop learning....

It's perhaps a bit pompus to suggest that teachers should have an educational 'philosophy', but your aims and understanding of the profession certainly change as you work through the PGCE. Currently the PGCE is very much an experience where you get everything thrown at you - philosophical, educational, phychological and practical - and you simply don't have time to take it all in or appreciate anything. The PGCE was very well summed up by a recent comment in the new teachers' section of this forum:

Woohoo, Christmas.:santa: I am so tired I could quite possibly sleep through it all! Its been a pretty manic term- lots of work, stresses, and a few good laughs. I was quite choked up on my last day when the department gave me a thank you card for all my efforts and a mug (indispensable for next practice!). It was a great school, the support was brilliant and I even grew to love some of the kids. My assessments all went pretty well and I only made one boy cry which can't be too bad!! Handed in my bloody assignment in time too (miracle! I really can't see the point in it but there you go)


The current PGCE is very much about survival - there's little time for anything, be it educational philosophy, practial 'on-the-job' training or anything else. You just get lumbered with an enormous amount of paperwork and demands which seemingly prepare you for what awaits you in your career.

John's got it right that teachers need to be generous....


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#8 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 25 January 2004 - 08:14 AM

It is an interesting series of points that Andy makes.  Trouble is, there is very little to argue with or disagree. 

I was wondering whether anyone would see fit to argue the case for the "school based model". It must by definition have some sort of philosophy behind it other than the obvious one that it is a very cheap way of "training" teachers. Incidentally I can only see yet cheaper techniques being used with the recent introduction top up fees. If doctors are worried about the debt they will be in, god help the teachers :(

#9 Lou Phillips

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 01:28 PM

I am a PGCE student so this seminar (which I have come a little late to) is very interesting.

I particularly liked the comment

Attract better quality teachers to the profession.


The history course here (at Swansea) always receives more applications than places so the standard is reasonably high and we are all history graduates (perhaps with the exception of one or two mature students, I'm not sure). However on the maths course I know with authority that only a handful are maths graduates, some do not even have degrees. I appreciate that good subject knowledge doesn't mean that you are a good teacher but surely children deserve someone who knows what they are talking about to a high level.

It depressed me that when applying for this course around last easter Uni friends said to me "surely you can do something better than teaching with your degree?" (for the record, a 2:1 in history and politics from York). Maybe I can do something better paid and (today) better respected. But I don't think I could do anything more rewarding and worthwhile.
"True generosity towards the future consists of giving everything to the present" Albert Camus

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#10 John Simkin

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 05:12 PM

I was wondering whether anyone would see fit to argue the case for the "school based model".

The silence is deafening. I am sure cheapness is the only argument that can be put forward. However, it is not actually cheaper because there is a bound to be a larger drop out rate. I suspect that Blair, like Thatcher, is trying to reduce the influence that tutors at university have on what goes on in the classroom. From my experience, they tend to be more progressive in their views than most classroom teachers. Thatcher used to rant on about the “educational establishment” undermining her reforms. I suspect that Blair and Clarke feel the same way.

#11 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 05:57 PM

We've had a number of student teachers following the GTP programme. The results have been quite mixed. The first student we had on this scheme really wasn't cut out for teaching at all. The weaknesses of the GTP system became extremely apparent to all within a few weeks and it put the school off the idea very very quickly. On a more positive note though, we have seen the system produce a fantastic RE teacher. However, the circumstances here dicated that she was always going to get a little more support than your average student! (The student concerned had worked in school for several terms whilst trying to get onto a PGCE course so knew all of the staff, her father is a member of staff and she is a lifelong friend of one of the Year Leaders which makes it all a little artificial).

I believe that the only reason this worked as well as it did was because of the expanding nature of the school at the time: we were always going to be overstaffed for a period of 12 months and this enabled things such as team teaching, intense monitoring and evalaution and a range of training exercises being built into her weekly and half termly programmes. This is far removed from the experiences of several other people I have worked with. Two former teaching assistants have now gone to local schools to take up GTP positions. Both have been given a 80% timetable, 1 hour a week of mentoring (in which the mentor can be taken for cover) and fortnightly training afternoons run for them by some training provider or other. They seem to receive more support from fiends they acquired as support assistants than they do from the training providers. They haven't had any in depth training with regards classroom management, the National Strategy (one teaches Maths!), effective use of ICT, educational philosophy, erm, anything really. This a crying shame as both of them had the potential to go on to become enthusiastic and effective teachers. Whilst they are still both extremely enthusiastic, they themselves recognise that they're development is lacking in several key areas and it will take them longer than desired to become truly effective classroom teachers. At least PGCE students have the opportunity to be put in the frying pan before being tossed into the fire - this lot appear to be dumped in the deep end without so much as a paddle in many schools.

What about continued training of teachers? How effective is the provision of CPD for new entrants to the profession? For those wanting to progress to Middle or Senior management roles? What training exists for people who simply want to stay in the classroom and continue to do a good or better job? In many professions you are required to have regular CPD in order to maintain your registration - the ones teachers cite when in pay round talks. Should this be a requirement within the teaching profession?

#12 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 06:58 PM

What about continued training of teachers? How effective is the provision of CPD for new entrants to the profession? For those wanting to progress to Middle or Senior management roles? What training exists for people who simply want to stay in the classroom and continue to do a good or better job? In many professions you are required to have regular CPD in order to maintain your registration - the ones teachers cite when in pay round talks. Should this be a requirement within the teaching profession?

Not sure about compulsion but one fundamental weakness of the INSET opportunities for many teachers in todays schools is that CPD becomes available only when it fits into or informs the School Development Plan rather than the professional needs/desires of the teacher. These do not always coincide.

We too have a number of GTP student teachers training with us. We offer more free time than most schools, and have also set up a programme of Education lectures and seminars at local providers. We really are however making the best job of an ill conceived scheme.

I am genuinely surprised that no one has yet has come up with an argument in favour of school based TT other than its cheapness or with reference to how "naff" their College lectures were.

Perhaps our professional associations should be more proactive in establishing some degree of control over entry to the profession?

#13 Stephen Drew

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 09:30 PM

The GTP has a lot to offer to create teachers who are more fully equipped to cope with the challenges of the modern classroom in terms of discipline and workload. By being in a school for the entire period of their training period, GTP teachers can enter their NQT year in a position of being better equipped to cope with the rigours of the job.

However the flip side of this is that they are unlikely to be as well versed in the philosophy of education. The GTP course does not build in adequate educational philosophy studies. The practical focus of the course does enable GTP students to avoid becoming well versed in educational psychology and ideology. The PGCE course delivers this.

So perhaps the argument is about short term gain for long term loss. Of course all of this is genearlised as a PGCE student may do little professional studies reading, and a GTP student may go off and do much more of their own accord. It would be interesting to interview a sample group of teachers in say their third or fourth year of teaching to complare their approaches, skills and understanding of complex issues of pedagogy and psychology.

From my personal perspective I remember thinking very negativiely about large parts of my PGCE course. I remember sitting in the lecture hall wondering why on earth I needed to know about the history of education in the UK for the last 100 years to help me teach in a classroom. I remember being totally indifferent to the psychology and philosophy lectures I felt forced to endure. I sat thinking to myself that the person giving these lectures had no idea what it was really like out there in the "real" world of the classroom.

The first couple of years of teaching seemed to simply reinforce this view in me. Teaching was about getting on with the job, getting the children through and delivering the expectations of all those who have a stake in each child's education. The relevance of the theoretical stuff did not strike me at that time, and I actually resented being forced to sit through the turgid lectures of some so called expert in educational philosophy.

However.

In the last three years I have increasingly come to recognise the value and importance of this knowledge. As I have settled into a more developed understanding of my role and how to deliver my teaching, I appreciate the philosophy and pedagogical training that I recieved. More and more of the parts of my PGCE that were not spent on teaching practice come back to me and help me to plan and develop my lessons and teaching.

Therefore I concur with others that the GTP route does not deliver the fully rounded teachers that are needed for the modern classrooms. This does not mean however that I am prepared to totally oppose the concept of "on the job" training delivered in schools away from a teacher training institution.

What is needed is some form of balance between the two. Teachers training using the GTP route need to be required to cover much more of the philosophy and pedagogy of the PGCE course, but this can still be delivered using the GTP route. What we need is to create the classroom assurance of a GTP teacher with the added wisdom of a PGCE educational philosophy education.

I see no reason why the training of teachers should be left solely in the hands of the professors in the universities, but I would also wish to see their role maintained where it is necessary. Perhaps LEAs need to be given the funds to buy in lectures from experts for all of their GTP teachers each year. A program of monthly lectures and seminars held in LEA training centres to give the bigger picture beyond the single school could deliver this.

I am not shouting the argument for the GTP in its present form, but I still do not totally accept that the PGCE is the only route that can deliver excellence in teacher training.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#14 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 10:05 PM

The problem with GTP as I've seen it, is that it is being over used by some establishments as a means of getting cheap bodies in front of classes. One of the GTP students I refer to in my previous post is (was last time I spoke to him) one of over 10 GTP students teaching a full timetable in his current school. In that scenario, he is unlikely to receive adequate support in any aspect of his development.

#15 Guest_andy_walker_*

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Posted 26 January 2004 - 10:32 PM

I am not shouting the argument for the GTP in its present form, but I still do not totally accept that the PGCE is the only route that can deliver excellence in teacher training.


My basic criticism is that all teacher trainees whether they do GTP, SCITT, PGCE or B Ed (in descending order of crapness) are under prepared for the role that awaits them given that the fashion within all teacher training is towards "on the job training" over academic discipline and reflection.

Would we accept doctors and solicitors who had trained by "having a go" themselves over an extended period? I for one would prefer someone who had undertaken some study :unsure:




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