New teachers say they're ready for anything.

16th May 2014 at 01:00
.but their headteachers beg to differ, skill survey reveals

New teachers believe that they begin their careers well-prepared for whatever the job might throw at them. Their headteachers, it seems, think differently.

New research shows that trainee teachers have much greater faith in their own ability than the people who appoint them once they have qualified. According to the survey, the majority of student teachers feel competent in areas such as using effective assessment techniques and responding to learning styles, but only a minority of headteachers agree that they are.

American academics questioned more than 150 trainee and practising teachers and headteachers, asking them to rate how prepared they felt for 33 different professional tasks.

Among the trainees, 72 per cent felt adequately prepared for all but three of the tasks, showing a degree of confidence on a par with experienced teachers. But headteachers said that new teachers were sufficiently prepared in only 13 of the areas.

In particular, only 22 per cent of school leaders felt that beginner teachers could identify and plan for individual students' needs. By contrast, 84.6 per cent of teachers felt prepared to do this effectively.

And although only 33 per cent of headteachers believed that new teachers were able to use appropriate and effective assessment techniques, 82.1 per cent of trainees felt capable of doing so.

The trainees unanimously agreed that they were ready to set high expectations for learning and to use non-verbal forms of communication, such as gestures and eye contact, to let students know what was expected. But headteachers had a much lower opinion of their trainees in all these areas.

"The fact that principals indicate lower levels of preparedness in new teachers is concerning," the academics from Northern Kentucky University and the University of Louisville write in a paper delivered at last month's American Educational Research Association conference.

"The results raise the issue of the candidates'.ability to translate the theory of their college classrooms into practice in real-life educational settings," the researchers add. They also question whether "principals have realistic expectations for what skill level beginning teachers should possess".

However, all the trainee teachers questioned said that they felt ready to be a classroom role model, and that view was shared by 78 per cent of headteachers. And almost as many headteachers as trainees believed that new teachers were capable of demonstrating expertise in their subjects.

Earlier this month, England's education secretary Michael Gove announced that the quality and effectiveness of teacher training courses would be reviewed. "It is right that we look at how we can ensure all courses are providing the best possible training," he said.

Mr Gove has been open about his disdain for university-based teacher training, and has said that he would like to see half of all new teachers learning on the job.

Jonathan Allen, director for initial teacher education at the University of London's Institute of Education, pointed out that English schools played a much more active role in the training of new teachers than their US counterparts.

He added that, while new teachers' lack of experience was sometimes reflected in an overestimation of their own abilities, "a really good newly qualified teacher actually understands how much more they've got to learn, and is almost a little daunted by their first year of teaching, when they realise how much further they still have to go. So, if anything, there's an underconfidence there."

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