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TEAN – ‘Let’s talk about …’ discussions

Let’s talk about innovation in Initial Teacher Education

TEAN, Teacher, Education, Advancement and Network LogoIn late autumn of 2016, we talked about innovation in ITE; delegates met in two venues – King’s College London on November 23rd 2016 and the University of Manchester on December 2nd 2016 - to consider new ideas and innovative designs for preparing new teachers for – and with - the profession, from early years through primary to secondary. 

Questions asked included:

  • What future would you design for ITE and early career professional development within your own HEI, in partnership with current and new stakeholders?
  • What new designs for ITE, at postgraduate level, for example, might have a mutually beneficial relationship with the teaching profession as well as to the field of ITE and to the growth of REF-compliant research in teaching and teacher education?
  • At system-level, how can we create ITE and early career professional learning programmes that contribute to school improvement?
  • What possibilities are there for innovative undergraduate/integrated Master’s programmes, in STEM and other subjects?

Participants in each workshop received a draft pamphlet written by a writing team led by Professor Viv Ellis from King’s College London. TEAN is most grateful to Viv for his inspiration for these events.

Viv Ellis

In King’s College, London we were pleased to welcome Viv Ellis to guide us through the ideas presented in the pamphlet. Viv is Professor of Educational Leadership and Teacher Development at King's College, London and a Professor II at Bergen University College in Norway.

His research focuses on teacher education as academic work; the possibilities for reconfiguring initial teacher education in relation to school leadership; professional creativity; and forms of practice-developing, intervention research. His most recent book (with Jane McNicholl) is 'Transforming Teacher Education' (Bloomsbury, 2015) and in 2014 he was invited to be a Sachs lecturer at Teachers College, Columbia University in their lecture series 'The Landscape for Educating Teacher Educators'.

Viv reminded us that the purpose behind this initiative is not to reform or defend but to transform. The pressure to go down a central corridor towards some kind of promised land is immense and innovation finds itself constrained by this, but Viv encouraged us to go for blue-skies thinking, to seek inspiration and to work together to help innovation to flourish. Cultures, he advised, can be changed and universities can help to sustain a more open culture; be assertive about the role and strength of universities in teacher education.

Dr David Spendlove and Dr Lisa Murtagh

Dr David Spendlove and Dr Lisa Murtagh from the University of Manchester were our guides in Manchester. David is Head of Initial Teacher Education at The University of Manchester and executive ITE director of Teach First in the North West. Lisa is Director of Partnerships and Teacher Enquiry at the University of Manchester.

Since moving into Higher Education in 2000, David's work has involved policy, practice and publications in a variety of areas including Teacher Education, Emotion, STEM and Creative and Critical Design Education. He chairs the North West ITT network and is a member of the DfE National Advisory Group for ITT. He has an extensive list of national and international invited research keynotes and publications and is currently a member of two international editorial boards. In 2013 David received an 'Outstanding Contribution award' from the D&TA for his work related to Teacher Education.

Lisa has been involved in ITT since 2000. She joined the University of Manchester in 2014, having previously been Head of School Direct and BA Hons Part Time Programme Leader at Edge Hill University, and Director of Primary PGCE at Newcastle University. Her research interests lie in enhancing practice in Initial Teacher Training, with a particular focus on trainees with parental responsibilities and also in challenging the janus-faced dichotomy often associated with Initial Teacher Training. Her approach to research is rooted in the qualitative paradigm.

David suggested to us that we look to find not just challenges, but significantly, opportunities in the current climate of ITE, again urging us to transform teacher preparation. What legacy should we leave behind? This is a global challenge as the number of teachers needed by 2020 is colossal and teacher educators are in a highly privileged position. We need to engage in risk as, without risk, innovation is not possible. Again we must reach for the sky, but David asked where the sky actually was …

Lisa was joined by her colleagues Andy Howe and Liz Birchinall to present some case studies of innovative practice. As we know from many TEAN events, the conference and the journals, there is no lack of innovation and exciting initiative out there amongst you all.


So what did the groups on the day present to us? The following is a summary of the main ideas presented by groups from the 2 venues. This is offered simply as a flavour of the presentations on the day.

Group discussions


In London, Group A looked for a New space for collaborative problem-solving. Problems, they felt, could be handed over to a group of student teachers who are asked to work collaboratively in real time to develop a relevant response. They wanted to see student teachers enabled to work with teachers, teacher educators, community groups etc. and use our local connections to support project – e.g. alumni, local businesses etc.

Group B suggested Teach like a Professional. There are many barriers: money and limited funds; systems and processes - university (Quality), school systems, resistance to / fear of change; misunderstanding: How ‘stakeholders’ value each other or otherwise – fragility of relationships. But there are also opportunities (and inevitably, further question it would seem):

  • the value of HEI: What is the value – know it and flaunt it; supportive mechanisms; broad perspectives – international / regional / local; space to challenge and question; Why? Why? But why?
  • Revisiting ‘professionalism’: What does this mean? What might this look like?
  • What are the duties and expectations of the profession?
  • How do we keep teachers idealistic?
  • What is our role with NQTs and further development? – are universities an appropriate body for NQTs?
  • Developing learning and development hubs (community)
  • Making research accessible to the teaching profession? How? NQTs and RQTs access to Curriculum Journal (BERA) / development of networks
  • Developing partnerships and secondments – 2 way learning and development (small)

Group C saw the University as a Life-Long learning community and divided their response as follows:

  • Barriers: the nature of inspection regime and expectations; university finance models
  • Enablers / opportunities; models of hub schools; removal of QTS; standards for mentoring; models of interagency working
  • How to begin: large cultural shift – focus on community; communities to develop learning communities: learners – students / pupils; mentors / schools; industry / 3rd sector; LAs; parents / local community; university as a whole involved (research informed)
  • Success: community pride in Learning and Teaching; resilient teachers (life-long teachers); positive pupil experience; life-long attitude to learning

Group D wanted us to reclaim professionalism – renegotiate role / structure, introduce ‘soft’ accountables. Billions of pounds are spent on Ofsted inspections – to what end? – allow teacher educators space and trust to be professional to set ‘tone’ and standards – perhaps in regional hubs working with partner schools.

The barrier is how to persuade policy makers, so some ways forward are:

  • To use the argument ‘save money’ – redefine the role of inspectors (peer relationship)
  • Peer review – QA with University hubs – link to National College
  • Vire some funding to pay Curriculum journal

Group E suggested Community Curriculum Making: with an example – from Geography

  • Develop a group to work in collaboration within Geography across the West Midlands
  • Geography teachers, relevant community members
  • Identify curriculum needs based on local priorities e.g. Physical Geography – flooding / Human Geography – cultural diversity
  • Initially tap into my network of trainees’ school Geography subject mentors to initiate a ground swell at a bottom up and grass roots level
  • Funding – is there a mentor training / development pot somewhere attached to the university?
  • Ultimate aim – to create a Geography teacher residency in the West Midlands

They also worked on: Developing a Critical Mind in novice teachers?

  • Asking why they teach
  • Asking what is the purpose of education
  • Introducing and debating the ethical dilemma

And redefining partnership:

  • Engage Headteachers and their ITE teams in an honest and open discussion about their role / our role / our partnership in teacher education – in order to build a stronger, sustainable partnership
  • Enable students to question the structure of schools, the control via Ofsted and compliance of Headteachers and teacher unions etc.
  • This will also enable novice teachers and their teachers to question the systems and the constraints they place on whole child and individual development – the value of SEAL and ECM could be discussed here, or would certainly come out of such a development / dialogue.
  • Headteachers to face the reality that good ITE requires them to give staff time and to share good practice across the partnership by enabling staff to engage in genuine shared learning.

Group F presented Innovation for building collaborative pedagogies in placement schools by means of:

  • Co- teaching / team teaching and away from judgementoring
  • Career mentoring /coaching – capacity building
  • Collaborative pedagogies in schools allows for universities to play a different role – what would it release universities to do in terms of their unique contribution
  • Universities as a conduit for curating research on mentoring / teacher development / co-teaching etc. available to schools


In Manchester, Group A noted the importance of Strengthening Agency (student autonomy) by way of Choices – route, modules, no set time to complete, credits; Development - define own professionalism (standards); specialisms, subjects, SEND etc.

Group B wanted A framework for professional service in the following manner:

  • Counter cultural’ (?) shift from professional development of the self to pathways to support development of professional service
  • Experts instead of leaders
  • Drawing together but maintaining the diversity of training as a strength
  • Connection with research / research collaboration

Enablers are:

  • Social responsibility agenda – academy mission of service
  • Why would universities not be involved in teacher education?
  • Teachers need to have an identity as learners. Bottom up from existing values of training providers

Barriers are:

  • Does ‘better’ cost more?
  • Innovation becomes art of the market: cynicism of motives behind change
  • Recovery of trust in a market system
  • Cultural barriers – between participants in teacher education and in recruitment

Group C looked at Preparing for a nomadic and (for some) lifelong profession

It is important to meet diverse needs:

  • 18-21 year olds will leave
  • coming in and out
  • crossing phases – increasing with multi-academy trusts?
  • ‘mature; entrants
  • ‘career changes’
  • crossing subjects
  • ‘stayers’

This implies teachers need to be flexible … they need variety and choice in ITE … being your own project.  The consequence is that partnerships need to support flexibility …remove restrictions to release flexibility that is there naturally …remove self-imposing limits

Group D asked questions under the heading of Sustained, not just retained

  • Embarking on profession – where do my expectations come from? Are they realistic?
  • How do the barriers get broken down? Becoming a self-sustained professional

Group E planned Immediate impact and long-term vision in their chart:


                  NOW                                     IMPACT / THE IDEAL

Language use – ‘profession-led – can we call this something else? Mentors also referred to as teacher educators Empowering all members of the partnership to work together to achieve a common goal.
Research (by trainees) that impacts upon and is valued by everyone in the partnership. Strengthening school partners input into teacher research. Trainees’ sense of contributing to school priorities.
All schools required to be ‘teacher educators’. Shared responsibility and accountability for teacher education. All schools are ‘training schools’.
2 year training programmes (inclusive of NQT year). Distant support – use of technology Universities have greater input when supporting NQTs. HEI teacher educators have the capacity to support.

                                      The not too distant future …

Group F were inspired by their idea of a National ITE Community of Practice – harnessing hearts and minds – and how to achieve it?

  • Common language that reflects representatives
  • Buy in: What’s in it for me?
  • Investment in ITE is for everyone not just themselves – moral purpose
  • Shift from ‘Grow your own’ to ‘Plants for all!!
  • Recruitment – those that help educate future generations should benefit
  • Get rid of ITT compliance
  • Get rid of Ofsted

Thanks to all delegates who contributed to these days. There are positive ways forward and Innovation in ITE is not a thing of the moment but something with which you and TEAN will want to continue to work as we go forward. Keep an eye out for further developments on this theme …

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