Transforming the Teacher Educator Role: Growing research engagement in Initial Teacher Education

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Abstract

Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in Wales is undergoing a period of intensive change that aims to bring about a ‘transformational’ education system that can build teachers’ capacity as practitioners, leading to improved outcomes for pupils. In response to the Furlong report (2015), the Welsh Government required ITE providers to seek approval at national level for redesigned programmes of teacher education, against ambitious accreditation criteria. The criteria require universities and schools to co-plan and provide ITE as collaborative partners, with clearly defined roles. A key requirement of universities is that they lead on bringing expertise to bear that is heavily research-informed (BERA-RSA, 2014), based on developing the capacities of teacher educators to be research-engaged and embedding the utilisation of evidence and teacher-inquiry in programme design. University teacher education departments in Wales are thus sites of profound and ambitious change. There are implications for the professional learning and identities of teacher educators in this high-stakes context. It is arguable that the viability of programmes - and careers - depends on the ability to rapidly develop strategies to extend research literacy among teacher educators. This involves attaining enhanced qualifications to teach in ITE, doctoral engagement and increased active participation in research networks and knowledge exchange. This is essential to support inquiry-oriented learning for student teachers and provide evidence-informed ITE programmes. Many teacher educators have brought extensive practice-based expertise developed in schools, but find themselves de-skilled in relation to research agendas in universities, causing them to re- evaluate their knowledge and competences and experience expert/novice tension (Murray, 2010). Universities need to develop strategic support, professional development and feasible interventions that meet the needs of teacher educators in this environment. This paper examines the six-month initiation phase towards meeting these goals in the context of one university teacher education department in Wales, via a Theory of Change (ToC) methodological approach (Laing & Todd (2015, p. 3). ToC enables research into the planning and implementation of change at organisational level combined with a focus on individuals who are core to that change and determine its success. It rejects crude output objectives and instead requires a portfolio of data to be collected over time, that explores the causal links between inputs designed to effect change, and the immediate, intermediate and final outcomes. Immediate outcomes will be the focus of this paper, the first of a series that will examine the longer change process for ITE within this environment. Data analysis provides insights into the change process, identifies outcomes and challenges and the potential influence of key contextual factors, both positive and negative. The research approach is premised on ‘co-design’ and aims to engage participants (teacher educators) in the collaborative design of the developments they need, using this as an opportunity to build their collective research engagement. Participants co-design research questions, methods of data collection, analysis and interpretation. Active participation includes a tangible, but flexible, innovation challenge - the rapid and sustained increase in research capacity based on iterative design and review of activity - qualitative analysis of current practice from data sources (focus groups, document analysis), supported by events, strong facilitation and mentoring to elicit ideas from participants and structure workload andexpectations. Active,strategicengagementatalllevelsofleadershipisafeatureofToCresearchandisfurtherstrengthenedinthiscaseby accountability through formative evaluation and a summative report of impact. The first results make a timely contribution to understanding this stage of the change process and the progress of the ITE reform agenda. The policy context in Wales reflects UK-wide and international concerns to improve the capacity of teacher education to impact on the quality of new teachers and education systems. There is a common need to understand the complexity of transforming initial teacher education within such national agendas, and to identify factors that can support ambitious expectations of research-engaged teacher educators and diversify their expertise. There is much that this national innovation can offer the wider ITE community in terms of understanding institutional change and designing supportive strategies for those who educate teachers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2019
EventBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2019 - Manchester University, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Sep 201912 Sep 2019

Conference

ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleBERA Conference 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityManchester
Period10/09/1912/09/19

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