Presentation on theme: "Learning to teach An examination of beginning teacher learning during ITE and induction Linda Haggarty and Keith Postlethwaite with Jean Ellins and Kim."— Presentation transcript:
1 Learning to teachAn examination of beginning teacher learning during ITE and inductionLinda Haggarty and Keith PostlethwaitewithJean Ellins and Kim DimentUCET 20091
2 Further details of the project are available at We are grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for their financial support of this research (Grant number: F/00 144/AX).Further details of the project are available at
3 What is teacher education for? “Does Britain need a cadre of skilled technicians to deliver the school National Curriculum programmes of study in an effective and efficient way? … Or does Britain need a profession of imaginative, creative teachers whose informed professional judgement leads to intelligent action?” (Richards, Harding, and Webb 1997 p6)“Does Britain need a cadre of skilled technicians to deliver the school National Curriculum programmes of study in an effective and efficient way? … Or does Britain need a profession of imaginative, creative teachers whose informed professional judgement leads to intelligent action?” (Richards, Harding, and Webb 1997 p6)I’ll leave you to guess what our position s on this. Well – perhaps I won’t – we are in the second camp.Our interest in researching teacher learning is to explore how far it achieves this profession of creative teachers, what processes support and hinder that, and what might be good ways forward.Tackled this by looking at ITE and induction
4 What we do is pretty good… “I knew little about the cycle of planning, monitoring, assessment (all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff). Doing the course has given me a huge respect for the profession and the individuals that practise it. Thus, it has also given me a sense of pride in what I do, especially given the many challenges. I find the education literature (e.g. journal literature) fascinating and I have started to link theoretical ideas into what happens in my classroom.”We have every reason to be proud of what ITE partnerships achieve. The quality show where it really matters – in the impact of the work on our new colleagues in the teaching profession.However, just as excellent schools are usually schools that are always seeking to improve, so are we, and what I want to talk about are two issues revealed by our research where perhaps we could do things differently to take us a couple of steps further in our provision.
5 Synthesis of literature: factors that affect teacher learning The subject: the identity, actual and designated of the learner;The context: resource, policies, expectations;The purpose: the motive of the enterprise;Support for learning: the people, the processes, the tools available;Learning across contexts: restricted and expansive learning environments, contestation;Our theoretical stance is essentially that of cultural theories of learning. Just some brief comments on this to help you to see where we come from.We drew on the work of Bourdieu (Bourdieu 1977; Bourdieu and Passeron 1990), on aspects of Vygotskyan social constructivism (Richardson 1997), on Hodkinson and Hodkinson’s (2005) discussion of the idea of dispositions, on broader cultural models of learning (Hodkinson, Biesta, and James 2004; James and Biesta 2007) – two of our team had been part of the TLRP project which was being reported here. We also made use of the notion of identity (Sfard and Prusak 2005) In a paper on the ITE part of the project (in prep) we draw these together to identify the following factors that could be expected to affect teacher learning:“The subject: the identity, actual and designated of the learner; AND ALSO their dispositions; personal expectations; previous history as a learner; broader life historyThe context: resources and policies institutional expectations; the expectations of other people involved (eg pupils, parents, governors);; the external policy agenda; what learning is possible and what is difficult; there’s a particular focus on the power relationships in the university and in the school – who can do what, who is responsible for initiating things; institutional history in relation to ITE;The purpose: the motive of the enterprise; what learning is being sought; what will count as ‘good learning’Support for learning: the role of more knowledgeable others; their provision of scaffolding; the conceptual and physical tools available to the student (or that the student can strive to acquire)Learning across contexts: restricted and expansive learning environments; contestation”There is perhaps nothing very surprising about such a set of factors. What the cultural perspective adds is an understanding of the interconnectedness of these issues – aspects of identity being redefined by context, purpose being subtly shaped personal characteristics and history, structural factors influencing and being influenced by individual factors.
6 Possible role for Activity Theory ‘Activity’ is at the centre of the analysisAspects of the system (eg what the subject brings to bear, what tools are available or created, how the motive is developed) are all malleable in light of the activities undertakenThe importance of systemic changeThe issue of boundary crossingThere are similarities here with Activity Theory – though those may be at a rather superficial level. However if we look closer AT adds interesting possibilities.Certainly Activity Theory stresses the interconnectedness of a similar set of factors. Activity Theory places ‘activity’ at the centre of the analysis. Engaged in appropriate activity, people (subjects) change; the tools available to them develop; motives (objects) can be reconceptualised. It is therefore interesting ask what kinds of activities would enable students teachers or NQTs to engage with their history so as to re-shape their identity and ‘tell a different story’ about themselves – a story that might be more supportive of their new role as a teacher; what kinds of activity would enable them to develop or deploy a wider range of effective tools?Furthermore,, Engeström’s version of Activity Theory places particular importance on the notion of systemic change: it “aims at changing systems through provoking a collective reinterpretation of the object. As a result of these reinterpretations a system is reconfigured as participants reposition themselves in relation to the object and to each other”. There may therefore be greater opportunities for change on the part of an individual if this is in effect internalisation of change that is being created in the system.As Edwards (2005) says AT “allows us to see any activity system, whether a workplace, classroom or informal drop-in centre, as an open-ended learning zone. In these sites interpretations of the object (i.e. problem space) are contestable, different voices can be heard and existing rules, expectations and power relations can be questioned. The framework therefore allows an expansion of the object so that new meanings can be revealed which in turn call for new responses and the development of refined conceptual tools in those responses” (Edwards, op cit)It may therefore be important to consider how beginning teachers engage in activities related to change in the school as well as change in their own classroom if we are to understand how they can bring their understanding to professional debate in school, and thus change subjects, develop or deploy new tools and rethink motives.A further insight that is reinforced and deepened by Engeström’s third generation Activity Theory is that when activity systems interact (eg when a teacher moves from teaching a class to discussing that class with a colleague) ideas, understandings, motives do not necessarily pass smoothly from one to another. Engeström et al (1995) refer to this issue as 'boundary crossing'. The expectation is that the crossing of boundaries between systems will be problematic: some notions accepted in one will be contested in another. However, this contestation is not necessarily a sign that one or other activity system is dealing in ideas that are irrelevant to the task in hand. It can be the seed bed for new notions that could not be generated in either activity system alone. It can generate powerful learning because knowledge grows more complex, and becomes more ‘useful’ through a learner’s participation in different contexts. (Borko and Putnam 1996). However, there is also the possibility that that learners will be uncomfortable when their ideas are contested, that contested ideas will therefore be put aside, and that opportunities for new learning will be lost. We need to be thoughtful about the kinds of activity that liberate the constructive power of contested ideas.
7 The two phases of the project Initial teacher educationInductionWe will discuss these in turn.
8 Methodology ITE Interpretive Research questions Sample Questionnaire what is the nature of student teachers’ thinking at the end of their training programme?how did the student teachers learn to think about teaching in these ways?SampleQuestionnaireData for the paper were collected by questionnaire from a volunteer sample of student teachers of science and mathematics close to the end of their ITE course. The original intention was to explore the thinking of students who had followed different initial training routes – a flexible PGCE, a ‘standard’ PGCE and a GTP route. In the event it proved very difficult to recruit students (especially GTP students) so no substantive findings can be reported about differences amongst these training routes. However, the general indication from the (limited) data available was that any such differences were small. The results are therefore reported across the sample as a whole. Because we wanted to be able to link student teachers’ answers to an understanding of the course content and structure, we chose to limit the population to students on courses with which the researchers were familiar. The students were assured that we would work within the BERA (2004) ethical guidelines and informed of the specific implications of this for the study. All respondents signed and returned a consent form.Because we wanted detailed information about student teachers’ views our questionnaire consisted mainly of free response questions. This may have limited the response rate as it was not possible to ‘quickly tick a few boxes’ and send it in. In total, 27 responses were returned (8 mathematics and 19 science). This small sample cannot be considered representative of courses involved: still less is it representative of the national population of mathematics and science students. Had we been seeking to test hypotheses about teacher education, this would have been a serious shortcoming. However our goal was to build a tentative theory, which could be tested in our own later work and (hopefully) by others. With this goal in mind, a small sample of students willing to invest time in providing substantial comments about their experiences of learning to teach was acceptable.
9 Factors affecting student teachers’ learning about teaching Relevant factor – and kind of statement most often madeTotal no. ofresponsesSubject – the impact of their personal characteristics31Context – school policy1PurposeSupport for learning – support from teachers in school43Learning across contexts – learning in the university and school32SUBJECT Who I am affects how I learn to teachSchool context is hugely important to students’ decision making in class but only one recognised that sensitivity to his school context affected his own learning – though 4 more saw that they should be more aware of context (eg in learning about BM)When discussing their classroom decision-making student teachers wrote about purpose in terms of setting and revising objectives for their lessons. However no-one wrote about purpose as a factor affecting how they learnt to teach. Perhaps we need to encourage students and mentors to talk about this and recognise that their purposes may be somewhat different (eg student: learning to assess by trying different things; mentor maintaining the department’s record system by following its guidelines) .In contrast, support for learning and learning across contexts were much more evident when student teachers discussed their own learning than when they reflected on their decision making in their classroom.Support for their own learning was almost always in terms of learning from experienced colleagues, though some student teachers also mentioned other sources of support such as practising themselves; “acquiring resources”; reading books, websites and university materials.In relation to learning across contexts, student teachers’ comments explicitly described situations where strengths were developed through synergy between ideas from school and university.I’ll take just a couple of these things to talk about in more detail.
10 Student characteristics Student teachers’ strengths were often related to characteristics that they brought with them to their ITE programme:“I am positive, enthusiastic, organized and creative: I was born like this! My family is like this!”CLICK FOR QUOTE
11 The power of synergy“Planning: (I’ve) always been quite organized, but (have been) shown by my PST that planning is the key”Establishing and developing positive relationships with pupils “is a skill I brought into teaching, but it has been extended and developed by observation of experienced teachers in classrooms and form rooms.”These positive personal characteristics are particularly powerful where they match what the students experience in school.Perhaps this is a reflection of a comfortable situation where the new activities that are required of them as part of learning to teach, fit in with their current sense of themselves.
12 The problem of contrasts… No one mentioned the importance of confronting aspects of self that might have ‘worked’ in the past but which are not helpful as a teacherWhat can we do to help when what a student brings to the course is not helpful to them in their role as teacher?However, as we all know, these pre-existing identities are not always helpful in teaching. Sometimes (eg for a disorganised person) learning to teach calls for extension or revision of the student’s existing characteristics.It was interesting that no student mentioned the process of working to change their sense of self as part of their process of learning to teach. Perhaps they didn’t find much help in doing this.Theories of identity tend to be optimistic that new characteristics can be created, or existing ones revised. The key to this is through engagement in appropriate activity.CLICKCertainly students may not be able to respond if they are simply told to ‘get organised’, but if activities are designed to promote the development of this characteristic, the nature of the dialectic between characteristic and activity is such that change could be expected.So there is no sense that a disorganized student is a lost cause. We may however be more successful in creating new dispositions towards organisation (a new ‘story’ of self as organized) if we acknowledge the kind of change that is being required – if, for example, we allow some discussion of why dispositions towards being organized have not been created through the previous activities in which the student has engaged in the past, and why such a disposition is important in the activity of teaching, and if we then provide activities that support the development of a disposition towards a more organized approach (modelling what we do, setting small scale ‘get organised’ tasks. Gradually extending the expectations etc)
13 At the end of ITEStudent teachers were aware of theoretical ideas as a basis for things they did well and for improving education generally……but not for making decisions in class or helping to develop areas in which they felt weakStudent teachers were aware of theoretical ideas as a basis for things they did well and for improving education generally…CLICK…but did not refer to them as a for making decisions in the course of their classroom practice, or helping to develop areas in which they felt weakPerhaps again we are reluctant to get them to think carefully about areas of weakness and to search for ideas that would change their current mind set. (As some of our findings about induction show, perhaps we are giving emotional support at the expense of challenging their thinking.)
14 Relevant tools? Framework for dialogue about teaching Agendas It’s not that we are short of tools to help us with this. For example, in Exeter we have the Framework for Dialogue about Teaching which includes questions about links to theoryCLICK DIAGRAM TO LINK TO WEB PAGE: Professional Knowledge and EnquiryThis addresses the ongoing pursuit of improving professional practice and might include consideration of:Research - accounts of research studies and how these can inform practice. Theory - understanding theories of teaching and learning, for example, theories of motivation or identity. and Aspirational practice - best practice, including striving towards ideal practice.CLICK … and we have Agendas…. Which address the trainee’s professional development in relation a specific focus. An agenda develops understanding of specific skills involved in teaching. In preparing an Agenda, trainees should consider how they will teach, rather than what they will teach or what activities pupils will undertake in the lesson (this is planned for in the episode or lesson plan). It may help to think of an Agenda as a magnifying glass that can be used to examine one aspect of classroom practice in detail. A part of what that magnifying glass reveals should be theory as an influence on practice.How could we help students to make more explicit use of Agendas to explore the links between the theory that they know and the practice that they are planning and reviewing?
15 Also…It seemed that ideas from university were being filtered by the current discourse of the school – only ideas that fitted were usedFiltering as a process seems to match ‘fitting in’ as a goalIt seemed to us as we analysed our data that students were using ideas from the university that fitted the school discourse and practice but that ideas that challenged that discourse or practice were filtered out – the current situation in school is the sort of ‘truth test’ for the university ideas.This could limit the range of ideas that the student could bring to bear on an area of weakness in their teaching.If this kind of filtering is the process, then ‘fitting in’ to the school is likely to be goal – and the outcome
16 Some examples of filtering … “The (course) helped me develop a structure for lesson planning that was then enhanced by my mentor in my first school placement”At uni I was introduced to the idea of AFL. … used some of the plenary and starter ideas suggested by various teachers tailored to the learning objectives in each class.”No statement described learning emerging from a juxtaposition of differing ideas from two or more contexts.Ideas were used that fitted – sometimes supported by the school, sometime exemplified in practice in the schoolNo ideas were mentioned where there was a mismatch between theory and current practice.
17 Reflections Perhaps inevitable – perhaps even desirable Synergy It’s a continuum with induction and CPD so things such as theory can be addressed later.Exploring alternatives to understand current practiceAnd there should be openness to alternatives – especially if roles or context changeSo change of school (and move to first post) may be key points where the PST (induction mentor) can keep open the basis for students’ future professional developmentPerhaps this is inevitable – it’s asking a lot to expect a not yet trained teacher to introduce contradictory theoretical ideas into a system which is designed to help them to acquire the skills of a teacher – to help them (and only them) to change. (We’ll come back to the ‘only them bit’)CLICK Perhaps this kind of filtering is even desirable. In some previous research done here, we came up with ‘principles of procedure’ for improving learning cultures. One of these principles was that, in recognition of the complex ever changing context of the classroom, teachers should look for and exploit helpful synergies that will be identifiable at any one moment. Using ideas that fit the school discourse would be one such synergy.CLICK – Maybe we don’t need to worry as we can return to a discussion of theory later – but …CLICK…, students can only really understand what the school does and why it does it if there have been opportunities to explore alternatives – so perhaps it would be useful to encourage a conversation about things that are not part of current practice.CLICK Also, because the classroom is indeed complex and ever changing there should be to reconsider accepted practice – especially if roles or context change (as of course they both do when a student teacher changes school or leaves their final placement school to become an NQT in another place). This is a point when practices have to be re-assessed and different ideas might prove to be important.CLICK So may be discussion about the range of possible practice in the literature, as well as the actual practice learnt in School 1 is a really important part of opening up possibilities for practice in School 2Perhaps this change of school is a really critical part of the process – and we need to have the skills to manage the practical changes for the student teacher, the emotional sense of loss (grieving almost) AND this critical intellectual challenge
18 Next steps?Perhaps beginning teachers need to be fitting in to a learning school.This issue of fitting in to school does then seem to be important. It’s a way of understanding what the students are doing as they learn to teach.One situation in which the student (as NQT) did feel able to contribute a wide range of ideas to discussion was where the school itself was on a mission to improve and was actively engaging its staff as a whole in exploring new ways of working. Perhaps that’s an interesting idea. Perhaps the next step change in teacher education will come about when we think in terms of incorporating PGCE students into school based activities that are designed to bring about change in the school – so that it is not just the student teacher who is learning – not just the student who is expected (and expecting) to change.CLICK One way of saying that is to support the student in fitting in to a school which is itself a learning school.We will return to this point after looking at the second phase of the project - induction
21 Methodology - Induction InterpretiveResearch questionsHow does induction affect teachers’ thinking, and how does this developing thinking relate to teachers’ practice?SampleMethods:Questionnaire, NQT interview, mentor interview, stimulated recall related to an observed lesson, documents related to schoolThere were other RQs tooHow do students’ experiences of different ITT routes influence the development of their thinking and practice as they engage in the subsequent phase of induction?In light of their ITT and induction experiences, how and what do teachers intend to learn in the early years of their career subsequent to induction?Are there differences in the nature and development of teachers’ thinking and practice between teachers of these two subjects?40 NQTs returned 1st induction questionnaire (23 from ITE sample and 17 new recruits)Of these 15 agreed to be interviewed
22 Findings from the study: Behaviour management concernsThe influence of behaviour management concerns on pedagogical decisions made about teachingA belief that the induction year would be tough and behaviour management difficulties inevitableLittle classroom support once ‘problems’ had been resolvedLimited quality of the supportThe need to fit in, and the limitations of fitting inSummarising a large set of qualitative data in this kind of presentation is always a struggle so I’ll just give some brief examples to exemplify thisWe’ll then look in depth at a few issues that arise from these results. I think we can then get a clearer picture of what’s going on.
23 Findings from the study: Behaviour management concernsWhat was “hardest” was “getting them to be doing what I want them to be doing in the classroom” independent school (Beth)“I worry about the behaviour management thing, where people say: well if you go to another inner city school, you can’t just go in (doing this), because they’ll just shout back, but here, if they shout back then they’re out of school for a day...” Academy with very strong BM system (James)Behaviour management was high on the agenda of almost all of the NQTsOne, for example, was based in an independent school (Beth) and finding that what was “hardest” was “getting them to be doing what I want them to be doing in the classroom”. It almost seemed that the one who ‘escaped’ felt cheated because he hadn’t suffered. James, in a city Academy, felt that the school had such a strong disciplinary structure that he was not sure if he had learnt enough to cope in any other school:“I worry about the behaviour management thing, where people say: well if you go to another inner city school, you can’t just go in there all guns blazing, and deadly serious and just shout kids down, because they’ll just walk out or shout back, and nothing will come of it, but here, if they shout back then they’re out of school for a day...”James
24 Findings from the study: The influence of behaviour management concerns on pedagogical decisions made about teaching“If their behaviour is good, or ... they’re listening then I will more generally let them take a more active part”. (Lesley)I am “disinclined to spend time on more adventurous lessons that might not work” with lower sets (Frank)Again an NQT said “Unfortunately, the behaviour of the children tends to influence the classes and the strategies I adopt whilst teaching. Having to spend entire lessons cajoling, threatening, persuading and reminding, sometimes stops me from utilizing my full repertoire of learning experiences for the sake of the overall classroom aura.”This is a view also taken by some mentors…“it sounds silly but I think the actual teaching aspect doesn’t actually come first initially. I’ve always felt that you need to make sure your systems are in place. Even if the lessons are a bit “naff” to begin with “make sure the structures, the behaviour, the seating plans, the marking, the collecting books i in and giving them out, and making sure that the kids know what they’re expected to do, is set in stone.While this might be a useful starting point it seems to persist. It distance behaviour management from other aspects of pedagogy. It ignores the possibility that naff teaching might be (in part) the cause of the behaviour management problem.
25 Findings from the study: A belief that the induction year would be tough and behaviour management difficulties inevitable“…it’s an incredibly stressful year, the workload is a big jolt from last year, …it is a culture shock, so I think that’s important to manage.” (Wendy’s induction mentor)“…it’s incredibly daunting…” (Paul’s induction mentor)it’s an incredibly stressful year, the workload is a big jolt from last year, and whether it’s somebody in their early 20’s its their first job, or somebody is coming into the job from elsewhere they I find it a culture shock, so I think that’s important to manage.” (Mentor Interview)it’s incredibly daunting. It’s daunting to start at a new school full stop, but to start at a new school when you’re incredibly inexperienced and you don’t know where any of the resources are and you don’t actually remember where the staffroom is and you’re really not sure what you push to make it work, it’s terrifying.”There is nothing surprising here – but there is a risk that it will limit what people do in order to protect NQTs I this stressful environment. Perhaps we should change the focus and ask how can we manage the stress so that NQTs can do the things they need do to develop as a teacher. A small reduction in timetable load doesn’t seem to be thought of as enough.
26 Findings from the study: Little classroom support once ‘problems’ had been resolved“So the idea is I try to step away as the year goes on, so to start with your support and then as you go on I want my NQT’s to feel that they’re coping on their own, but the support’s there if it’s needed.” (Wendy’s induction mentor)A consistent feature of the data was that mentors provided high levels of support in the initial period of induction but withdrew that support as the year went on, leaving the NQT to ask for help when needed.There is a sense that this is motivated by the goal of helping Wendy to be a ‘real teacher’ butDoes it help her in the later stages of her first yearandDo real teachers have to cope without support?
27 Findings from the study: Limited quality of the support“I think if you’re the right personality you’ll be a great teacher. And if you’re the wrong personality you’re always going to struggle ... tragically that’s one of those things that just comes with experience, it’s not something you can teach an NQT in the first year.” (Colin’s induction mentor)“I think if you’re the right personality you’ll be a great teacher. And if you’re the wrong personality you’re always going to struggle ... tragically that’s one of those things that just comes with experience, it’s not something you can teach an NQT in the first year.”Colin’s induction mentorThe emphasis on personality and experience attribute learning to things which are hard to alter (personality) or can only be achieved with eth passage of time (experience). Little indication here that there is any recognition of the difference between 5 years experience and one year’s (unreflected) experience repeated five times.Also not all induction mentors felt the need to provide specific support targeted at their NQT and presumably, therefore, did not identify specific learning needs for their NQTs:“I don’t think it’s right that just because one’s at a certain stage in one’s training you should have a special induction programme ... adults, graduates, they’re trained, they’re qualified, it would be incredibly patronising if we were any different. No, if you need help you must ask for it”.Beth’s mentor
28 Findings from the study: The need to fit in, and the limitations of fitting inInduction is about welcoming a new member of staff into the school and explaining how it works. It is also about making them feel comfortable as a teacher because it is a very stressful year (Wendy’s mentor)The purpose is to make your NQT feel welcome, you know, it’s incredibly daunting (Paul’s mentor)A recurrent theme is therefore that mentoring should provide affective support (because it is tough) and enable the NQT to understand and use the school systems – to fit in.There is no explicit reference, either by the NQTs or their mentors, to the idea that rigorous enquiry into the development of effective pedagogy is a key purpose of induction (though this may of course have been included in notions such as realizing their potential as a teacher).
29 Issues to investigate further Is the emphasis on behaviour management as widespread and are its effects as limiting as they seem;what is the detailed nature of the NQT/mentor dialogue and does the support of induction mentors extend to pedagogical support as well as emotional support;does the goal of ‘fitting in’ with the practices of the school play a large part in NQTs’ learning and as part of this do NQTs filter their thinking so that ideas that contrast with current practice in their school are lost;does involvement in a ‘learning school’ change the way in which an NQT develops during the induction year?Looked at these by looking in further detail at three cases: two NQTs in schools where behaviour was described as exemplary or outstanding by OfSTED – did NQTs in these contexts still put Behaviour management at the top of their agenda – and if so, with what effect on their teaching?These two outstanding schools were training schools – in that context, with an explicit concern for teacher development as part of the school’s core activity, what was the nature of the NQT/mentor dialogue?In these two schools and one other, did ‘filtering’ feature as a process and was ‘fitting in’ a goal? How did this work?As we argued at the end of the ITE work, there may be a way forward if beginning teachers are involved in a school which has a general concern for pedagogical development – a learning school.The ‘other’ school just mentioned was a rapidly improving school of this kind with a clear concern for innovation based on teacher activity. It was a school where the NQT was invited in to this whole school ‘learning school’ ethos and made part of a whole school project. What happens then?
30 Behaviour management Rachel “I feel that behaviour has a big impact and dominates a lot of my decisions at the moment. I feel it is preventing me from developing my teaching (Rachel)WendyTeachers working with Wendy did not seem to identify behaviour management as a major issue in her teaching. However, despite the settled environment in which she worked, Wendy herself expected to have problems “Behaviour management tactics is always a biggy isn’t it?”She focused on trying to look happy in the classroom (because the children were picking up on her looking stressed), emphasising ‘hands up’ rather than calling out, using the merits and stickers, and trying to get everyone involved in the lesson. As she pointed out this deflected attention from “trying lots of more complicated things such as peer assessment”Even in the atmosphere of an ‘excellent’ school with ‘exemplary’ behaviour Wendy felt that BM was a ‘biggy’ for her.Furthermoe, her response was to go back to basics and to limit her pedagogy.This was a school which set stretching targets for teachers and sought always to move forward. Even so the consequence was a pretty limited view of appropriate teaching.
31 Induction programmes and mentoring The impressive induction programme provided a “very clear plan: everybody knew what was going to happen and when, when the deadlines were and what needed to be done and it’s incredibly well organised.” (mentor)Having this “clear structure” and thereby “knowing what you have to do and when makes it very easy as both a mentor or a new teacher to know that, if I can just keep this moving, then everything’s going to be fine.” (mentor)There is no doubt that many schools provided extensive induction porogrammes for NQTs.In Paul’s school (a training school) the Assistant Head in charge of induction across the school had put in place a “very clear plan: everybody knew what was going to happen and when, when the deadlines were and what needed to be done and it’s incredibly well organised.” Paul’s mentor said that having this “clear structure” and thereby “knowing what you have to do and when makes it very easy as both a mentor or a new teacher to know that, if I can just keep this moving, then everything’s going to be fine.” He felt that the induction programme was structured very carefully so that, for example, a session on how to write reports and how the systems functioned would be covered “beforehand… a couple of weeks later you’d actually use them.” He describes this as “very joined up thinking, to use an unpleasant buzzword.” He felt, then, that the formal aspects of induction: the transition points, core standards, use of the Career Entry Development Profile (CEDP) were secure within the school.In both Wendy and Paul’s cases (though perhaps particularly in Paul’s) there is a hint that the goals of induction are seen as pre-defined and limited. This contrasts with a model in which induction might be seen to serve two purposes – to familiarize the NQT with the school and to begin a career long enquiry into the improvement of teaching and learning. Therefore, while such structures are impressive, and undoubtedly serves the first purpose, there is a possibility that the complexity of the tasks that needs to go on within them (especially to serve the second purpose) is being under-estimated.The mentor plays a vital part in addressing this second purpose. So let’s look at the mentoring relationship in detail.
32 The NQT/mentor dialogue Its valueIts purposeBuilding on PGCE and using the CEDPWithdrawing support as the year progressesModels of teacher learningStress, culture shock, limited aspirations, personalityExperience, gate keepingPassing and learningMentoring for behaviour managementMentoring is seen as the keystone of inductionIts valueRachel pointed out that her mentor’s “support has been invaluable.” and Paul believed, as an NQT, that it was “absolutely vital” to have that level of support.The schools responded with extensive structures to induct NQTs In Paul’s school (a training school) the Assistant Head in charge of induction across the school had put in place a “very clear plan: everybody knew what was going to happen and when, when the deadlines were and what needed to be done and it’s incredibly well organised.” Paul’s mentor said that having this “clear structure” and thereby “knowing what you have to do and when makes it very easy as both a mentor or a new teacher to know that, if I can just keep this moving, then everything’s going to be fine.” In both Wendy and Paul’s cases (though perhaps particularly in Paul’s) there is a hint that the goals of induction are seen as pre-defined and limited. This contrasts with a model in which induction might be seen to serve two purposes – to familiarize the NQT with the school and to begin a career long enquiry into the improvement of teaching and learning. Therefore, while such structures are impressive, there is a possibility that the complexity of the task that needs to go on within them is being under-estimated. .Its purposeRachel felt that the aims of induction are “kind of easing you into it and providing support when it gets too much” (NQT interview Wendy’s mentor considers that induction is about welcoming a new member of staff into the school and explaining how it works. It is also about making them feel comfortable as a teacher because it is a very stressful year and the workload is so much more than last year ) task was “to make your NQT feel welcome, you know, it’s incredibly dauntingBuilding on PGCEWendy’s mentor argues that induction is about building on their PGCE and convincing them that this is a process rather than a short term task The CEP does appear to have been considered and worked on in the beginning at least. However, after the first half term the focus moved more to the core standards, most of which Wendy had already met. Action plans were considered less useful. “Wendy came from Bristol schools to here, and I think we have different issues, so to a certain extent the action plan became less useful for us. CEDPs and other more formalised support mechanisms, Rachel’s mentor felt that in her case they were largely unnecessary because she would “pass with flying colours” Paul argued that “thinking back to my PGCE I have all these books that I was told to go and read and there are lots of interesting ideas in them and I think as part of the job you don’t have the time to explore them as much as you could, and I don’t know really how that is avoidable, unless you carry on having lectures, PGCE style throughout the next year or two of teaching.” He therefore seemed to want there to be a link between his PGCE and his induction, but to find difficulty in seeing how this might be realized in practice.Withdrawal of mentor support after a timeA consistent feature of the data, even in the two training schools, was that mentors provided high levels of support in the initial period of induction but withdrew that support as the year went on, leaving the NQT to ask for help when needed. While the withdrawal of scaffolding for learning has an obvious theoretical justification, there does seem to be a loss of opportunity here to use the period of the NQT’S increasing confidence and competence to push the pedagogical boundaries so that some of the more advanced aspects of pedagogy can be addressed in a critical and creative fashion.One response to the line of argument that we have established is that concern for challenging current practice, for developing sophisticated pedagogy, for relating theory to practice is better addressed later in the NQT’s career. This withdrawal of support once the basics are mastered reduces the probability that such development will happen. This is particularly so as in another part of our project we have found that NQT’s own intention for further learning after the end of their induction period are rather limited and technical – not at all to do with pushing the boundaries of pedagogy.Models of learning during inductionWendy’s mentor puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of general support for what she sees as a very stressful year in which the workload is so much more than during an ITE course.“it’s an incredibly stressful year, the workload is a big jolt from last year, and whether it’s somebody in their early 20’s its their first job, or somebody is coming into the job from elsewhere they I find it a culture shock, so I think that’s important to manage.” (Mentor Interview) Perhaps as a consequence she seemed to have quite limited (or possibly quite realistic!) aspirations for the induction year. personality is such a big thing for a teacher that’s one of those things that just comes with experience, it’s not something you can teach an NQT in the first year. Paul’s mentor sees reflective practice as a solution to this problem You’re going to make horrendous errors, but that’s ok. You’re allowed to. You’re allowed to walk out of a lesson and go, that was a car crash. As long as you understand why it was a car crash, what went wrong and what you’re going to do to improve it, then it’s a learning experience.”In some ways this can be seen as good advice for initial encounters with a new class but it could be that, in the ways outlined above, mentors were colluding with their NQTs’ exclusive BM agenda.Another consequence of the emphasis on the ‘stressful year’ is that mentors tended to act as gatekeeper – restricting access to learning opportunities in the school and elsewhere. Though this appears to be well motivated – protecting the NQT during a stressful period – it does remove opportunities for expansive learning.Passing and learning CEDPs and other more formalised support mechanisms, in her case they were largely unnecessary because she would “pass with flying colours”. (IM interview). He felt that they were largely aimed at “the other end of the scale, for an NQT that isn’t able to cope.”This suggests that tools that could support the goal of ongoing professional development were being seen, by mentors and NQTs as simply tools to help weaker teacher to achieve the required core standardsReminded of Dymoke and Harrison (2006), Tickle (2000) and Furlong (2005) who have argued that the standards approach may well have the effect of stultifying professional development by linking NQT induction too closely to school performance management, and by requiring teachers to demonstrate competence at complex tasks rather than recognizing complexity and the need for continuing development in the face of uncertainty about those tasksMentoring in relation to behaviour management“It sounds silly but I think the actual teaching aspect doesn’t actually come first initially. I’ve always felt that you need to make sure your systems are in place. Even if the lessons are a bit “naff” to begin with. In some ways this can be seen as good advice for initial encounters with a new class but it could be that, in the ways outlined above, mentors were colluding with their NQTs’ limited view of prioiriities in the development of their teaching.In terms of activity theory, what kinds of activity would alter the ‘problem space’ and enable new understandings to be constructed and new tools developed or deployed – activities that might, for example, stress the importance of pedagogy in influencing behaviour and therefore change the ‘get them to behave first then teach them’ model.More generally we would argue that the system is not serving mentors well. Mentoring is a complex task comprising emotional support, and help in fitting in to school practices. These aspects of the role are recognised and enacted. However, we would argue that it also involves challenging aspects of the NQT’s personality where necessary, sharing personal craft knowledge, getting behind the notion that teaching is all about (unreflected) experience, challenging NQTs’ assumptions about teaching and learning, supporting the exploration of pedagogy, helping NQTs to develop an understanding of the ways in which the different cultural factors (subject, purpose etc) and their interactions are shaping (both for good and ill) their current practice and how creative engagement with these factors could change that practice. The system is not currently well placed to provide mentors with opportunities to develop such understandings and to develop the skills to work with them. In the context of school based support for beginning teachers in the government’s proposed MTL programme, this is particularly worrying.
33 Filtering as a process and ‘fitting in’ as an object in NQT learning One of his own main aims for the following year is “just to work out some really organised system for recording stuff about pupils, who’s handed in homework”. He says not only is this useful for writing reports, but also “because you can use discipline more effectively, as I can’t punish pupils for not doing things if I don’t really know.” – a useful but fairly limited objective for a successful NQT in an ambitious school.Does the goal of ‘fitting in’ with the practices of the school play a large part in NQTs’ learning and as part of this do NQTs filter their thinking so that ideas that contrast with current practice in their school are lost?The answer would seem to be ‘yes’. There was little discussion of how to engage with ideas that did not fit in with school practice, and little discussion of how to help NQTs to change aspects of their personal identity that was not supportive of their work as a teacher. “Fitting in” may be a necessary part of attaining a professional identity as a ‘real teacher’; it may be a way of protecting NQTs from the pressure of their first year as a teacher; it may be essential as a means of ensuring that the school can function smoothly. If these are the reasons to emphasise ‘fitting in’ in the first months of teaching, one would expect other priorities to take over as the NQT begins to achieve the ‘fit’ – which given that they may be appointed because the are seen to ‘fit the ethos of the school’, should not be too prolonged a process. However, any such change of focus is limited by the fact that mentor support tends to be withdrawn once the fitting in is achieved. As the end point, rather than the starting point, for induction a focus on ‘fitting in’ would seem to be rather limiting.
34 The impact of involvement in a ‘learning school’ on an NQT Rachel worked with the AST to develop ways in which pupils could be helped to learn better using the principles of Building Learning Power. This was “something that I started to read about and became interested in during my PGCE year but have only felt able to start to develop this year.”She would value “continued links” to the University or “outside assistance” in order “to discuss theory or ideas” more during her NQT year (Rachel)“This is exactly the kind of thing that I’ve been interested in and that’s developing the learning and the thinking skills and developing them (pupils) as learners so that they can think for themselves.” (Rachel)Does involvement in a ‘learning school’ change the way in which an NQT develops during the induction year?Again the answer would seem to be ‘yes’. Rachel’s experience of being drawn in to the activities of experienced colleagues in advancing pedagogy in the schools, and of sharing this experience with colleagues through feedback to staff meetings was associated with a different kind of dialogue about induction where access to and use of theory was valued. Of course Rachel’s own characteristics will have contributed to this, but Paul also showed interest in ideas. In his case however there was no discussion of how these ideas might relate to his teaching or be shared with colleagues. The interviews with Rachel and Paul (conducted by the same researcher) were very different, with none of the excitement about ideas that characterised Rachel’s interview being evident in Paul’s.She had become one of six Learning Champions to promote the initiative, “bringing BLP as a whole-school strategy.”.She would value “continued links” to the University or “outside assistance” in order “to discuss theory or ideas” more during her NQT year “This is exactly the kind of thing that I’ve been interested in and that’s developing the learning and the thinking skills and developing them (pupils) as learners so that they can think for themselves.”
36 Learning to Teach A Learning School What should we fit in to?A Learning SchoolIs this realistic?The School as a Centre of Enquiry/Streams for the Future?Lawrence StenhouseAction Research partnershipsIT-INSETI think we should reconceptualise the ITE and induction enterprise. Rather than think of them as ways of enabling beginning teachers to learn how to be teachers, think of them as ways of drawing beginning teachers into a culture in which the school is striving to improve. Perhaps Activity Theory is useful here: that mentors and beginning teachers should collaborate together in activity whose motive is to improve teaching and learning – to support systemic change.IN such an activity the beginning teachers will internalise new ways of working that will make her teaching better – but will also be empowered to bring new ideas to the table to explore how these might shape what she does and how they might shape what others do.Is such a model realistic for a school? I would say emphatically Yes. Lots of our schools were learning schools (though in most the mentor was gatekeeping so the NQT did not get involved.) But also, there are lots of previous initiatives that underpin that confidence.Individual schools have been doing this for at least the length of my career.It was at the heart of Lawrence Stenhouse’s thinking when he talked of “an educational science in which each classroom is a lab and each teacher a member of the scientific community.” He looked for a commitment to systematic questioning of one’s own teaching, to the development of the skills to study one’s own teaching and to a concern to question and test theory.It is fundamental to action research – to the kinds of partnership between universities and schools that Linda and I established and researched in the 80s and 90sAnd it resonates with the IT-INSET idea of the 1980s where student teachers and experienced teachers worked together to investigate an issue of interest to the school.Perhaps induction into such a school (and completing a training placement in such a school during a PGCE) would move things on – especially if this were to be combined with the more sophsticated approach to mentor training that we have just outlined.