Delivery of a western-centric initial teacher education award in a Chinese-centric context. What constitutes good practice?

April, 2020

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, 46:2, 170-183

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper provides a discussion of what constitutes good practice relating to the delivery of a western-centric in-service teacher education programme delivered in a Chinese-centric, Confucian heritage environment.
Explored within the paper is the transformational nature of the programme within and beyond the classroom.

Research design
Just as the tenets from two theoretical frameworks (transformational learning and diffusion of innovations) suited the purpose of the study, so did the chosen research design.
A cross-sectional approach to gather data from five cohorts of students, over 5 years has been used.
This, due to time triangulation, considers the ‘effects of social change and process’ (Cohen, Manion, and Morrison 2001, 113).
Each of the five cohorts has shared similarities; each has differences.
Research questions were ‘particularising’ rather than ‘generalising’ as they sought ‘ideographic knowledge, local, case based, information’ (Punch & Oancea, 2014, 79), i.e.,
(1) How have teacher participants adapted and/or localised theory-informed teaching and learning strategies in their ongoing practice?
(2) How has information and new learning been diffused to colleagues within Department PEP and beyond to the wider University D?
(3) What, if any, are the real/or perceived changes to organisational culture, teachers’ practice and student experience?

Four data sets were gathered:

Discussion forum: teacher participants
A social media app was used make a request for teachers (those previously participant teachers registered on the PGCIE course) to contribute, via a discussion forum, to research about the impact and influence of the course.
Fourteen teachers (teacher participants) who had completed and passed the PGCIE course volunteered.
The discussion forum was held in one of the classrooms at Department PEP and lasted approximately 1 h. Questions asked were aimed at unpacking general and specific research questions and were tailored if necessary, according to the responses being proffered.

Discussion forum: manager participants
The same approach (as used with the teacher participants) was applied when sending a call out request for managers at Department PEP to volunteer to be research participants.
Five managers volunteered.

Classroom observation records
A requirement of teacher participants on the PGCIE programme was the completion of six observations; all six observations had to be deemed pass-worthy and at least two needed to be graded as good or outstanding.
The teacher educators (the researchers for this study) observed most of the teacher participants enrolled onto the programme and had observed all 14 teacher participants who volunteered to be involved in the research.
The observation records were used as a lens to see how the teacher participants had developed their classroom practice and to confirm or not the responses provided during the discussion forum.

Teacher participants’ reflective accounts
All teacher participants were required to complete a reflective account of how they thought the programme had made an impact on their teaching, learning and employability.

Emerging findings and analysis
Transformational learning
All teacher participants who contributed to the discussion forum thought that their teaching practice had changed due to discussions, in the PGCIE, of theories and beliefs about teaching being challenged and opportunities provided to discuss this, (through observations and peer observations) with others, which befits Mezirow’s (1991), views about critical thinking and relating to others.
A consistent view held by the teacher participants and by managers was that the classroom observations of teaching practice were very useful and developmental.
Teacher participants thought that the PGCIE was beneficial in enabling them to discuss and to see what the other teachers on the course were doing.
This links to Mezirow’s and Rogers’ tenets about providing opportunities to act on new perspectives, diffusion of new knowledge, persuasion and implementation.
Demonstrating aspects of both Roger’s (1961) and Mezirow’s (1991) tenets were comments of how student-led strategies could be applied and adapted to teach students who were accustomed to teacher-led strategies and an acknowledgement that students as well as their teachers need to become comfortable with these approaches.
There was evidence of progression through a demand for a progression route from the PGCIE education course.
In 2018, a Master of Arts (Education) degree began to be delivered at Department PEP with 15 previous teacher participants on the programme.
One teacher participant has sent their action research assignment to a publisher and several teacher participants are considering, or have, applied to do PhD.
Due to the symbolic nature of a PGCIE, the teacher participants viewed it as important for career enhancement.
Since completing the course three teacher participants have moved into management positions, each recognising that the completion of the PGCIE course supported their progression to this.
Three teacher participants thought it helped their employment prospects, whether this be within Department PEP, in China or in other countries.
Managers at Department PEP promoted a reflective, evidence-informed, student-led approach to teaching and learning and were involved in observing the teaching participants, using the templates provided with the PGCIE course; encouraging peer observations and staff meetings to discuss development opportunities and progress.
Managers also encouraged other staff, who have completed the PGCIE course, to become involved in observing future cohorts of teacher participant.
This commitment and involvement, by managers in the PGCIE, have been a significant contribution to its success.
Several managerial staff were amongst the first cohort of PGCIE students; and (those who do not already have an MA) were amongst the first to enrol on the MA now being delivered at Department PEP by the teacher educators and others from the UK University.

Indications of diffusion of practice
Flowing from the research questions asked and the data gathered are illustrations and indications that a culture at Department PEP that promotes the type of teacher education provided through participation in the PGCIE, which subsequently develops staff conversations about teacher education provision.
Changes to practice, can, and do, diffuse beyond the classroom (Rogers, 1961).
The language used within Department PEP has seen a step change towards more pedagogically orientated terminology; theories and theorists are regularly mentioned, which is possibly due to the recent completion and subsequent currency of teachers obtaining their PGCIE.
The wider University D heard about the teacher education and the difference it was making and requested CPD from Department PEP relating to reflective practice and student-led learning.
The provision was modelled on the PGCIE reflective practice module and was delivered by a previous student on the PGCIE, who had since become a member of the management team.
University D has requested further provision.
Managers note that student feedback about teaching and learning is improving.
While this may be due to many different factors it is arguable, and a view taken by managers, that the PGCIE has made a difference.
Managers commented that students who had completed a course at Department PEP showed an improvement in their grades, when compared with those of previous students.
Furthermore, managers also commented that data from several UK Universities showed that students from University PEP were achieving higher grades than many of their peers from different institutions.

This small-sized, situated study illustrates that delivery of a western-centric PGCIE in a Chinese-centric context contributes to transformation and diffusion of practice.
It does this through its longevity of use, managers’ buy-in, observations of practice and a willingness by all to try out and to support the use of different teaching and learning approaches.

Cohen, L., L. Manion, and K. Morrison. 2001. Research Methods in Education. 5th ed. Oxford: Routledge Falmer.
Mezirow, J. 1991. How Critical Reflection Triggers Transformative Learning. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass. Accessed January 2019's%20chapter,%20H...
Punch, K., and A. Onacea. 2014. Introduction to Research Methods in Education. 2 ed. New York, U.S: Sage.
Rogers, E. M., and D. L. Kincaid. 1981. Communication Networks; Towards a New Paradigm for Research. New York, U.S: Free Press.  

Updated: Jan. 26, 2021