Wednesday, February 08, 2012

7 good reasons for slashing University PGCE teacher training courses

I don’t often agree with current Government policy on education but on this one they’re heading in the right direction. I’d go a lot further. There’s many reasons for closing down hundreds of these PGCE courses.
1. Too small and costly
Some courses have as few as 10 students. To be precise there are currently 330 courses with 10 or fewer students. This makes them madly expensive to staff and resource. Even worse, these courses are often in close proximity to each other.
2. Supply outstripping demand
Demographically we need less teachers as pupil numbers are falling. There’s simply not enough jobs to go round.
3. Irrelevance
The drift towards ‘University-led’ courses had loaded these courses up with irrelevant theory that has no real bearing on the practice of teaching. A good example is Abraham Maslow, a staple in teacher training, yet of no use to anyone in terms of what they’re actually asked to do in schools.
4. Delivered via lectures!
To deliver teacher training through lectures is pedagogically pathetic. Good practice is not taught through bad practice. It’s like teaching medicine using blood letting.
5. Third rate research
The only defense UCET (Universities Council for the Education of Teachers) and other trade associations like NATE (National Association for the Teaching of English) have come up with is the loss of expertise and research. For me this loss is a plus. There’s far too much third rate research in education.
6.  Outdated
Teacher training almost completely ignores the radical shifts in technology and pedagogy, producing teachers who are ill-equipped to deal with technology in learning. These courses lock young teachers into fossilised theory and practice.
7. Performance-based assessment
There’s no better place to assess teachers than in real schools where they really are judged on performance. Far too many teachers have gone through training in the past only to find themselves unsuited to teaching in practice. The drop-out rates are unacceptably high.
The Graduate Teaching Programme and other fastrack programmes have clearly proven their worth. It’s time to recognise that this is a vocational qualification that could do with a lot less theory and more practice.


Jim Hamlyn said...

Very good. Here's some more fuel to that fire Donald:

Bob Harrison said...

There you go again Donald...trying to curry favour with ALT members:)

I recently was invited to present to the "standing committee on teacher education" conference on "teacher education past present and future"

I left them with this challenge;

"My grandchildren will leave school in 2028/30. The schools will have no pens,paper,desks,whiteboards,textbooks,or printers. They will have voice recognition,text to voice and voice to text,learning analytics,screen based assessment,immediate feedback and guidance on progression as well as face to face contact with their teachers.

They sent for security!!!!

The Teaching Schools are an interesting development and should ensure our trainee teachers are better equipped to prepare my grandchildren for life in the 3rd millenium.

Jonathan Savage said...

When was the last time you visited a university that is involved in delivering high quality ITE?

I agree with you about the first point; there are too many small courses and some rationalisation is needed here. But having worked in this sector for 10 years, I do not recognise any of the other points. And in relation to point (2), my understanding is that primary school numbers are rising rapidly.

Donald Clark said...

Jonathan - I'm in different universities all the time, so am not unfamiliar with their inner workings.

1. We agree
2. You're right about rising primary populations but secondary school pupil numbers to fall by 5% from 2010-2014 and it's secondary teachers they're focusing on.
3. OK - is Maslow still taught - YES or NO?
4. Are lectures still delivered - YES or NO?
5. On this one I'm absolutely sure. We can do with far less less research.
6. This one I do know about as it's my area of expertise. There has been no real effort to introduce the necessary level of training in the use of technology in schools and the classroom. It is woeful.
7. Testing students on the abstract theory is not the point. They need to be assessed on performance. I know that it's a mix but still not balanced enough towards real performance.

Welcome your post but it's not enough to simply say - "you don't know" and "we're great" - we need to address the points one by one.

Alison said...

Good post here. Taking a pop at one sort of provision leaves the alternatives exposed to similar arguments.
1. I agree with you here.
2. Here too I agree, however the supply side relies on a longer lead time in terms of investment than the demand side in terms of consumption.
3. My own sector (Lifelong learning ITT) left Maslow behind several years ago. Come and see how we engage with theory.
4. No lectures on my course.
5. It depends whether you are criticising EBP, or critically informed educational research. The first is limited, the first raises deeper questions about many of the taken for granted assumptions that inform policy and practice.
6. Come and see my course - outdated it isn't! We use, examine, explore, model and critique technology. We also do futures gazing, which is fun.
7. It depends what you are assessing. Competence based assessment leads to narrow, routinised practice.
I'm not familiar with school teacher training, but feel sure you must be well informed. However I offer an antidote to the polarised discussion so far.
Still, I enjoyed the post.

Alison said...

sorry, point 5 should have said first then second. Blame the lateness of the hour!

Unknown said...

Donald:not sure it this got through:

I did my teacher training at the (then) North East London Polytechnic in 1980. It was a very different course to the type my friends got at University.

We didn't have six weeks teaching blocks at school alternating with blocks on campus. We were attached to one school for the entire course. Great learning preparation for real teaching: you couldn’t stick out a difficult class for a few weeks safe in the knowledge that soon you could and then shove off back to campus and leave your worries behind. You had to sort your problems out because you were with them for the entire year.

There was no final examination. We were assessed on our ability to prepare a teaching programme, teach it (we didn't say 'deliver' in those days) and then assess how it had gone and what we could do to improve next time.

We had one day a week on campus. We were given some basic educational theory and the advice was: teach for about seven years and then do a Masters. You’ll be able to pitch any theory you’re given against your experience in the classroom.

I think the course was way ahead of its time.

Donald Clark said...

Francis - concise reflection and bang on the money for me. My niece is going through a long-winded, academic, teacher training course in the University of Edinburgh - delivered by lectures, which is truly astounding in terms of useless and outdated theory.

Steve Smith said...

Always interested in your posts. It led to me to blog myself on this. I worry that MFL trainees get too little theory.

Kshitij KK Khurana said...

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