New focus on cognitive science in teacher training

Terminology such as 'metacognition' included in DfE's new content framework for initial teacher training

Prof Sam Twiselton says she expects an increased focus on curriculum in teacher training

Cognitive science is emphasised in the government's first core framework for initial teacher training, published today.

The ITT Core Content Framework sets out the core skills teachers should cover at the start of their career.

Professor Sam Twiselton, director of Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, chaired the advisory group on the framework set up in  May, and said that a key aspect was the use of specific terms from cognitive science to develop teaching practice.


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Terms such as “overload” to describe burdening pupils’ memories with too much detail at once, or “metacognitive” – which could loosely be described as getting pupils to reflect on the way they think about content – are included in the framework.

Cognitive science and ITT

“The terminology is different, but the practices may not change for most providers,” said Professor Twiselton.

She pointed out that ITT providers traditionally advised trainees to “chunk” or break down lengthy information – which is very similar to avoiding overload.

The key difference for providers could be that the cognitive science behind these techniques is now embedded in a common framework.

Professor Twiselton said the document also emphasised a focus on subject knowledge and the curriculum – in line with the new Ofsted framework – and that it aimed to improve the consistency of support given by mentors to trainees.

“In the Carter review [a review of ITT provision carried out in 2015], a lot of trainees said the level of in-school support they had from mentors was ‘make or break,’” she said.

“So we have been more explicit about the kinds of conversation trainees might have with mentors. For example, we have said trainees should question mentors about the curriculum design in each of their school placements as part of their journey in becoming a professional.”

One of the reasons for some inconsistency in ITT provision, Professor Twiselton said, was that the duration of teacher training was simply too short. With a one-year programme, it meant providers were cramming in too much content in too short a space of time.

“You had providers spending lots of time on behaviour at the beginning of the course and then not enough at the end, for example,” she said.

Initially, it was thought that the publication of the framework would be delayed until spring, but it was rushed today before general election purdah.  Professor Twiselton said feedback from providers about the limited time they would have to prepare for the new framework before courses begin in September may have also prompted the change.

“Obviously you can’t ignore that an election’s been called,” she said.

Commenting on the new framework, James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said the new framework enabled a smooth transition from teacher training to the Early Careers Framework.

“It will mean greater consistency across the providers, but it’s intended to allow flexibility across the sector,” he said.

“It’s building on a very strong base already but it does represent a significant change.”

 

 

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