Coping, Confidence and Alienation: The Early Experience of Trainee Teachers in English Further Education

Feb. 03, 2012

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 38, No. 1, February 2012, 51–65
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current article examines what both in-service and pre-service trainee teachers learn from their early experience of teaching in further education (FE) colleges in England.

This article draws on data gathered between 2005 and 2009 from two separate projects.

One project was ‘The College Experience', which focused on pre-service trainee teachers on placement.
From within The College Experience project, this paper draws on a case study of one of the participant colleges to consider both the diversity and similarity of experience within one organisation, a large institution with a very broad curriculum in a major conurbation.
In total, nine pre-service trainees and eight serving teachers were observed and interviewed at City College between 2005 and 2008.

The other project was ‘Dual Identities', which focused on the in-service trainees’ experience and gathered data from trainee teachers, teacher educators and senior college managers.
The Dual Identities project was based on case studies of in-service teacher education at two FE colleges in the north of England, chosen for their contrasting settings.
Altogether, 20 in-service trainees, four college-based teacher educators and two personnel managers were each interviewed once between 2008 and 2009.


The studies on which this article is based, indicate that many trainee teachers in FE colleges, pre-service or in-service, encounter isolation, poor support and little guidance, however well they manage these conditions.
What trainees learn from this early experience of teaching in FE is limited, because their experience, even at best, is limited.

However, the understanding of alienation employed in this article helps to highlight the importance of control and agency in teachers’ development.

An emphasis in initial teacher education for FE on identifying and increasing teachers’ independent agency may serve to address the circumstances of alienation and encourage trainee teachers to see beyond simply coping.

Teacher educators should direct trainee teachers more purposefully to what can be influenced and controlled in their teaching, rather than what alienates them, such as the administrative element of the course (‘the paperwork'), which many of the participants in the case studies perceived as paramount.
Similarly, while confidence is a valid and important element in the development of teachers, it needs to be associated with an evaluation of their practice.

Updated: Nov. 18, 2013