Equip teachers to be more enterprising

16th March 2007 at 00:00
By Ross Deuchar is a senior lecturer in Strathclyde University's education faculty

A small group of enthusiasts from Scottish education gathered together recently to share a common interest - how should enterprise become more firmly embedded in all aspects of initial teacher education? Last week's progress report on Determined to Succeed indicated there was some way to go in this area.

One highlight of our seminar was gaining an insight into the impact of the Scottish Teachers for a New Era initiative at Aberdeen University. Among the new innovations there is the re-structuring of the BEd degree, where students are given opportunities to unleash their personal creativity and enterprise and to spend their first year working on cross-university modules with students from other faculties.

Students from this course shared their enthusiasm for the opportunity to work collaboratively, creating lesson plans together, discussing personal observations of children's behaviour and engaging regularly in peer assessment.

One probationer teacher from West Lothian talked about the inspiration he had gained from participating in the enterprise option course run by the centre. It had given him confidence to go against the tide of "normal"

practice, piloting new enterprise initiatives in his slightly conservative secondary school mathematics department.

It was refreshing to hear about the way in which these programmes are having a major influence on the future generation of teachers, given that, in 2005, the Scottish Executive's report on the second stage review of teacher education highlighted the fact that only a few recently qualified teachers felt equipped to play their part in delivering enterprise education.

The Standard for Initial Teacher Education now states that all student teachers must acquire the knowledge and understanding to fulfil their responsibilities in respect of cross-curricular themes - including creativity and enterprise. And yet, although there are positive examples of practice in Scottish ITE institutions, enterprise education is still not seen as a core part of initial teacher education courses in most Scottish universities. Many teachers and academics are sceptical about its value.

I recently sat in on a student-led seminar in my institution, where student learning was being promoted in a creative and enterprising way. The students, who were participating in the personal effectiveness and entrepreneurship module run by the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, were considering the way enterprise provides an excellent context for personal effectiveness.

They gave presentations about qualities they felt were important, and about entrepreneurial mentors with whom they identified. What impressed me most was that they were working in cross-disciplinary groups and were at different stages in their own journey with lifelong learning.

Teachers in the 21st century cannot afford to work in isolation or to draw upon 19th century ideals about learning. Young people in our schools need to be equipped with ideas, creativity and a range of generic skills and capabilities in order to take their place in a post-modern world. To achieve this, they need teachers who understand what it means to work with diverse groups of people, who have had opportunities to take ownership of their own learning and been encouraged to be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

Initial teacher education programmes must ensure that enterprise permeates all aspects of student learning: our future generation of schoolchildren depend on it.

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