There is a need for 'baseline standards'

6th June 2008 at 01:00
Academics call for a radical shake-up in teacher training
Academics call for a radical shake-up in teacher training

University staff should leave the job of assessing student teachers on placement to classroom teachers, thereby avoiding unnecessary "duplication", according to Ian Smith, from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).

And, in another call for a radical shake-up in the way teachers are trained, Brian Boyd, of Strathclyde University, asked for teacher education to be removed from universities altogether. Both were speaking at the Tapestry conference in Glasgow.

Professor Smith, dean of the school of education at UWS, questioned whether it was the "best use of university time" for an academic to sit at the back of a class "confirming what professional teachers can tell us anyway".

He said: "This is not about universities off-loading responsibility to school staff. We have total confidence in teachers assessing themselves, and we can deploy these skills in assessing the performance of student teachers. A lot of university time is sunk into duplicating things that are better done by classroom teachers, such as practical preparation for placement, observation and feedback."

Professor Smith said some university involvement would be necessary, particularly with students at risk of failing: "Take the university out of some of this and provide more time for creative, collaborative engagements instead, such as joint research with teachers and CPD."

Pamela Munn, from Edinburgh University, said reports on the quality of Scottish teachers were consistently positive. "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" she asked, arguing that a research-based profession was required. Training would be focused on classroom practice and there would be a central role for classroom staff. "For true partnership, we have to engage much more with experienced teachers and their role in educating trainee teachers. Universities can contribute research about learning, childhood development and behaviour to help inform student teachers' thinking about why things are the way they are."

Some delegates said they felt the system was "broken". They had worked with probationers who should not have passed, but it was difficult for school staff to produce evidence to fail them. A clearer understanding of "baseline standards" for trainees and probationers was needed, they suggested.

Professor Boyd called for the link between training and educational research to be severed and for teacher education to be taken out of university control.

"When I arrived at Jordanhill, six school visits were made to every student being trained to be a secondary teacher; now there are three," he said. "The university wants to reduce it further. It does not want tutors spending time in schools assessing students; instead, it wants them writing articles for journals."

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