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What are the qualities of the accomplished teacher? Why should teachers engage with full Masters level study? What is teaching really about? Is Masters a route to teacher professionalism? Does Masters study form a significant part of HEI involvement in school partnership?

TEAN (and ESCalate ITE before it) has engaged with these debates since 2007. The folder on Masters in the Teacher Educators’ Storehouse on the TEAN website bears witness to the progression of ideas. On June 2013, delegates came together in Conference Aston in Birmingham to discuss the philosophy and practice of Masters for the teaching profession and to consider whether it does afford a route to professionalism for student teachers as well as beginning and experienced teachers. We took the opportunity to reflect, share and benefit from professional dialogue about teaching as a Masters profession.

Linda La Velle

TEAN was delighted to welcome Professor Linda La Velle to give the keynote at this event and set scene on why ‘Masterliness’ in teacher education. Linda La Velle is Professor of Biology in Education, Associate Head (Research), School of Education (Faculty of Health, Education and Society) Plymouth University. She was guest editor of ‘Masterliness in the teaching profession: global issues and local developments’, Journal of Education for Teaching Vol. 39 Issue 1 2013.

Linda addressed delegates on the theme of ‘Masterliness in the Teaching Profession: global issues, local developments and the challenge for teacher education’, asking what it really means to be a professional and suggesting that we need to value professional learning on a par with academic learning. Teaching, she reminded us, is an intellectual activity and one of the most complex activities to undertake. ‘Masterliness’ can only be acquired through the professional freedom afforded by teacher autonomy within empowering frameworks of professional development.

Professor La Velle’s PowerPoint can be accessed here.

Dr Alison Jackson

It was excellent to have representation from Scotland, England and Wales at this event. This undoubtedly enriched the dialogue. It was most interesting, although not altogether unexpected, to discover that the strands running through the whole day were the same; this is so encouraging as it highlights the growth of ‘one voice’ on this topic. The following presenters shared their ideas and generated debate, basing their thoughts on this ‘one voice’ but affording us a wealth of ideas to take away and reflect upon.

Dr Alison Jackson is Director of TEAN at the University of Cumbria. She presented the thoughts she collected at her presentation to delegates at the UCET conference in November 2012. Entitled ‘Teaching as a Master Profession’, this raised fundamental questions of the value of Masters for the profession.

Dr Jackson’s PowerPoint can be accessed here.

Dr Bob Burstow

Dr Bob Burstow is Senior Lecturer in Educational Leadership and Management at King’s College, London. Bob spoke of the frustration of CPD which only lasts a minute or two and then is forgotten; Masters work, he implied, gives far more answers to difficult questions. Drawing on his own practice, Bob gave an enthusiastic defence of the need for Masters in the teaching profession.

Dr Burstow’s PowerPoint can be accessed here.

Dr Neil Radford

Dr Neil Radford, University of Derby has contributed to the development and management of Derby University’s MA Education programme for the last 7 years and is the Assistant Programme Leader for the Doctor of Education course which provides progression from Masters for teachers and indeed educators, in the widest sense, from all sectors. Neil gave us a fascinating insight into practice at Derby and discussed teacher motivation. This, he suggested starts initially with a desire for career progression and self development, but, once one engages with Masters study, intrinsic motivation becomes more important.

Dr Radford’s PowerPoint can be accessed here.

Dr Julie Anderson

Dr Julie Anderson is Programme lead for the Masters in Education (IMP) programme at Plymouth University. She also co runs the MTL, the Masters in Teaching and Learning. Her current research is exploring perceptions around Masters dissertation work with part time students, with a focus on alternative practices over and above the usual student tutor dyad. Julie addressed delegates on the theme of ‘Masters: working with schools, colleges, academies in the South West of England'. She explained that at Plymouth, they have always offered to come into schools and work with suitably sized groups of teachers and TAs. What they find is developing is that the schools, college and academies are using this to create a more developed research culture among their staff.

Dr Anderson’s PowerPoint can be accessed here.

Professor Ken Jones

Professor Ken Jones is Dean of Humanities at the University of Wales Trinity St David, Swansea Metropolitan. Ken gave a most thought-provoking talk. He explored, amongst a range of ideas, the difference between professional development and professional learning, Masters as an academic award as distinct from professional learning at M level, and the Welsh Masters in Educational Practice. A fascinating quotation from Turner and Simon (2013:13) summed up many of the thoughts in the room perhaps: the quotation is from a teacher; ‘Sometimes at school you can get a bit … blinkered and you don’t even use your higher brain’.

Professor Jones’ PowerPoint can be accessed here.

Dr Hazel Bryan

Dr Hazel Bryan is the Head of the Department for Professional Development in the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University. Hazel completed this compelling range of presentations by addressing delegates on The Power of Community in Professional Learning and Development. Hazel spoke of the shifting concepts of Masters and discussed the perceived relevance in the school landscape. She reminded delegates from England in particular that here is a policy vacuum for us to fill and we should grasp the opportunity to enhance our relevance in the section.

Dr Bryan's PowerPoint can be accessed here.

The group sessions added further dimensions to this busy day. Some of those thoughts can be accessed here:

Why is Masters important for the teaching profession?

  • To develop teacher criticality, empowering teachers to navigate educational policy change and make sense of their work.
  • The values and principles of teachers can be lost, so M level can enable teachers to re-engage.

Is there a link between Masters and the professional status of teachers?

  • In terms of high level academic qualifications, knowledge and understanding.
  • ‘Muddly’ area. There are no direct links. No expectation in the profession that teaching is an M level profession

The English perspective

  • Is yet unknown. HEIs might co-construct ITE courses that are accredited at Masters level
  • Leeds: selling funded masters – no uptake this year – the same model - citing Ofsted. Accounts of MTL students being ignored.
  • Is England too far gone in fragmentation? Is the landscape changing too quickly to be more than react? UCET was asked by Charlie Taylor to provide framework for new teachers – their end of year 1 and year2 expectations. Started in September/October and has had a couple of meetings – still needing to report – hopefully by the end of the year.
  • Leeds City Council is interested in working with HEI.

The Scottish perspective

  • The policy is more towards all teachers having a Masters. But the first step at least is to be engaging in M level work.
  • Is Masters degree for individual or systemic change? Aim is for deep level transfer (via Chartered Teacher Scheme). In that programme single individuals didn’t affect the school – a critical mass of 3 to 4 in a small school could make for change. Leadership support led to true systemic change. Emphasising individual at the expense of collegiality will not work. New standards for teachers – new Masters. Move from reflection to critical enquiry.
  • Chartered teacher too early. Overwhelming effect of MEP in Wales – consequences. SLT being scared and threatened. HEI as challenges of the cline culture. Donaldson has allowed for the opportunity to move forward.
  • At a moment in time where policy, practice and standards are coming together. Challenge is to grasp the opportunity. The new framework is unique, the expectation for life long development is established. The need to develop systematically. Values are in the front of everything else and are the same for all teaching staff whatever the level. Encouraging teachers to examine and question their own career. Evidence that teachers learned to love learning in the chartered teacher programme – need to retain that.
  • Needs to work systemically: leaders, teachers and multiple learners in the school will have a much better chance of moving a school.

The Welsh perspective

  • Without systemic change the individual can be marginalised.

Are there benefits of Masters for the individual teachers?

  • Multiple!
  • We should be asking teachers to engage in M level learning but not necessarily all teachers.

Are there benefits for the organisation? (School)

  • Enhanced engagement of teachers in their work.
  • It depends on the culture of the organisations.

Are there benefits of Masters for the organisation? (HEI)

  • Sharing professional knowledge to inform our teaching knowledge exchange rather than transfer!
  • Prestige of the PG programmes support somehow the ITE/PGCE work?

Anything else you feel is important about Masters for the teaching profession?

  • Caution re claims of impact by practitioner researchers from small scale projects.
  • As a sector, we have a better idea of what we can/do offer. Our own identity. The UCET CPD committee is to be supported. Is the name correct? 
  • Concerns about lack of collaborative learning among Masters team. How bad we are at that. Are we falling in line with government lines without meaning to?
  • We need to go back and communicate our ideas to others who should be engaged. Issues of instrumentalism and the need for more of it.
  • Values in the new teacher generation. MTL tried to address that in the new module – to provide space to talk to engage with the story.
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