Student teachers show more independence

22nd July 2011 at 01:00
New research by Glasgow University has raised concerns about differences in the educational approaches of student teachers and their more experienced colleagues in Scottish schools.

"Are student teachers becoming more independent and self-reliant? Is this a sign of a shift in the relationship with established teachers?" asked Ian Menter, chair of teacher education.

Early findings in a project with Glasgow City Council pointed to concerns about support for student teachers. "Some students felt they could not get the same level of subject-specialist support from school staff that they could from university staff," Professor Menter said.

But the council stressed that students had a number of positive observations and a more rounded picture would emerge when feedback from school and university staff was published.

The trial programme, in two secondaries and 11 primaries, was to increase the focus on "professional learning" during student teachers' field experience in 2010-11.

Two university tutors were based in the schools for the placement period to support different teacher education approaches. These included seminars and "learning rounds" in which teams of teachers observed each others' classes to improve practice through discussion. This marked a move away from one-off "crit" lessons. The university tutors also worked with school-based mentors on formative assessment of students.

Early findings suggested that conventional approaches to teacher education were "deeply embedded" in schools and universities, Professor Menter told the International Council on Education for Teaching's world assembly in Glasgow last week.

Most students were positive about their professional development during the trial, but learning rounds received a mixed response. "Some felt it was still like a crit lesson, but others were more positive," said Professor Menter.

One interpretation of the findings, said Glasgow City Council's Winnie Mallon, was that student teachers were increasingly self-reliant, perhaps because they were bringing more skills and abilities into the classroom.

"I've found in recent years student teachers are more independent and more able," she said. "But that's not about a change in the relationship with classroom teachers - by and large they welcome student teachers, particularly with their knowledge of Curriculum for Excellence."

Schools in the trial had enjoyed learning rounds, stressed Mrs Mallon, a quality improvement officer for student and probationer support. "Although initially apprehensive, the actual experience was very positive."

The initial findings relate to 29 students. The full findings, including responses from teachers and university staff, will be published next month.


Other responses from the student group:

A high proportion said the experience allowed more opportunities for reflection and self-evaluation;

Professional discourse and self-awareness had contributed to feeling "more like a teacher";

They praised the increased link between theory and practice.

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