The Role of Universities in Initial Teacher Training: A Call for a Dual-Phase Approach

(Last Updated On: November 22, 2023)

In recent years, England’s approach to initial teacher training has shifted towards a school-led system. However, this evolution has significantly challenged the traditional role of universities, particularly regarding their contribution to the theoretical education of new teachers. This article proposes a renewed perspective on teacher education, emphasizing the need for a dual-phase initial teacher training approach involving both schools and universities.

Teachers as Professionals, Not Technicians

The move towards a school-led system has led to a reduced conception of teachers as mere technicians and craft workers. However, teaching is a far more complex profession requiring a wide range of skills beyond technical know-how. Teachers should be understood and trained as professionals with a profound understanding of their field, an ability to engage with empirical research, and a developed capacity for ethical deliberation.

The Theory Teachers Need

In addition to subject knowledge and technical skills, teachers require a firm theoretical foundation, which includes:

  1. Conceptual Understanding: Teachers must understand key educational concepts and the major debates about aims, curriculum, and pedagogy that shape practice in schools.
  2. Knowledge of Empirical Research: Teachers should be able to engage with empirical educational research and assess its quality and relevance to their practice.
  3. Ethical Deliberation: Teachers must think through the ethics of teaching and the challenges of ethical decision-making in the classroom.

Universities, with their expertise and resources, are well-positioned to provide this theoretical grounding.

A Proposed Dual-Phase Approach

Considering the complexity and demands of the teaching profession, this article proposes a two-phase approach to initial teacher education, with universities playing a key role in both phases:

  1. Initial Licensure: New entrants to the profession should first complete a nine-month Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or a three-year Bachelor of Arts with Qualified Teacher Status (BA with QTS) programme. This phase would provide them with the initial licensure necessary to begin teaching.
  2. Higher-grade Apprenticeship: Following initial licensure, teachers should complete a two-year, higher-grade apprenticeship. This phase would involve employment in a school but also participation in a university-based programme of study, culminating in full licensure at the Masters level.

This dual-phase approach ensures that new teachers receive both the practical experience of the school-led system and the rigorous theoretical grounding provided by universities. It acknowledges teaching as a profession that requires a combination of practice, theory, and ethical understanding.

In conclusion, the role of universities in teacher education is fundamental and irreplaceable. A shift back towards their involvement can help to foster a more comprehensive and professional understanding of teaching, thereby enhancing the quality of education in our schools.

Elise is an enthusiastic and passionate Australian teacher who is on a mission to inspire and support fellow educators. With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Elise leverages her expertise and creativity to provide valuable insights and resources through her blog. Whether you're looking for innovative lesson ideas, effective teaching strategies, or just a dose of inspiration, Elise has got you covered.

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