Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 39, No. 3, 352–368, 2013 (Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The central purpose of this research was to ascertain the views of teachers and teacher educators in the lifelong learning sector in England about the comparative ‘value’ of different forms of initial teacher training (ITT).
Data are drawn from semi-structured interviews with teachers and teacher educators at four learning sites in the north of England.
The participants were two teacher educators and six teachers at each site, all of whom were currently undertaking or had recently completed a teacher training programme.
The article reveals that both teachers and teacher educators perceive HEI programmes as superior to other forms of teacher training, in terms of both labour-market currency and the quality of learning provided. Although the majority of respondents regarded awarding body courses as adequate, the data reveal that most believed that HEI provision offers a different learning experience to that provided by alternative awarding bodies. Whilst, in most cases, respondents believed that awarding body courses offer a foundation of practical and useful skills, the intellectual rigour and criticality of such programmes are limited.
Furthermore, both teachers and teacher educators believed that HEI-validated courses offered a challenging experience combining theory and practice. There was evidence that the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) offered ‘additional value’ over and above the experience of awarding body ITT. From the teachers’ perspective, the university-led subject specialist conference and a belief that an HEI teacher training programme prepared them effectively for higher-level study were common features. Teacher educators with experience of both forms of provision particularly valued the level of curriculum and administrative support provided by their partner university and contrasted this with that offered by awarding bodies.
In summary, it appears that the majority of the teachers and teacher educators that took part in this research believed that the PGCE offered a richer, more holistic teacher training experience in comparison with other programmes. Those who were more equivocal appeared to have limited knowledge or experience of HEI-validated programmes. Despite all this, the teacher educators seemed to recognise a changing terrain. Many believed that the forthcoming changes in funding would have a significant effect and that, in future, financial considerations would increasingly shape the decisions made by both employers and individual teachers. Whatever its merits, the future of university-led ITT for the lifelong learning sector seems uncertain, at best.