“If you listed everything that all the experts we spoke to as part of the Carter review said was essential for the basic understanding a new teacher needed, it adds up to five years [of training],” states Professor Samantha Twiselton, director of the Sheffield Institute of Education, on this week’s Tes Podagogy podcast. “There would be nothing on that list you would disagree with, but it is completely unrealistic [in the time frame we have].”
Initial teacher training (ITT) is regularly criticised on social media and by some in the Department for Education, with accusations about ideological bias and "missing" elements. On the latter, Professor Twiselton is clear that – as her quote above demonstrates – too much is expected of ITT in the time they have, and she adds that often people misunderstand the timeline of a developing teacher.
“We need a better understanding of the stages of development a trainee teacher will go through,” she says. “Early on they do need lots of practical things, until they have got the behaviour and routines sorted, and know it is not going to go completely wrong for them. We have to recognise that the bigger picture has to come a little later in the course.”
Teacher training bias?
As for the ideological criticism, she explains that the nature of ITT means such a one-sided approach would be impossible.
“The vast majority of the postgraduate courses have moved to master's level, so have to be significantly at a level above where you would finish a degree,” she explains. “A massive part of that is you have to be a critically reflective person who can compare, contrast and critique different approaches. A large part of what we try and do is facilitate that kind of thinking. You can’t think like that if you are only experiencing one way of doing things, so we actively encourage experiences of and observations of a variety of different approaches.”
In a wide-ranging discussion, Professor Twiselton also talks about the role of research in ITT, how schools can best support trainees and the importance of behaviour-management quick wins.
“Sometimes initial teacher education providers shoot themselves in the foot a bit – and we found this on the Carter review – you can fall in a trap of recognising that behaviour is complex and almost using that as an excuse not to do something more straightforward about it,” she says. “There are fairly standard things that we know will work in most situations. I am not referring to a complex child who has diverse needs and there will not be a straightforward answer, but for many behaviour situations there are some straightforward answers, and much of that is to do with developing relationships, routines, boundaries.”
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