Aspirations for a Master’s-Level Teaching Profession in England

From Section:
Theories & Approaches
England,, Finland
May. 15, 2016

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 42, No. 2, 218–234, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This research focuses on aspirations for an M-level teaching profession within one densely populated government region – the English West Midlands – from the perspectives of key stakeholders.
In particular, teachers’ perceptions regarding aspirations for an M-level profession are generally overlooked and neglected in academic literature. This article contributes to addressing this gap in academic literature by highlighting teacher perceptions, alongside the perceptions of HEIs and a comparative example from Finland.

Most data were collected via one-to-one interviews and focus groups, but questionnaires were also used to gain responses from a large NQT associate cohort.

The participants were newly qualified teachers (NQTs) in one large secondary school, NQT ‘associates’ (those who started the Master’s in Teaching and Learning (MTL) as NQTs) from across several secondary schools and Deans of Education in two higher education institutions (HEIs).


Findings show that aspirations for an M-level teaching profession in England received an overwhelmingly positive response from these key stakeholders in this government region.

Clearly, all respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of an M-level teaching profession. They perceived that this could bring a wide range of benefits for an M-level profession: improved professional development; improved prospects of promotion; enables teachers to stretch themselves further academically; updates teachers’ knowledge; more articulate teachers; enhanced status of the profession; and provides the next step for progression.

However, there were also concerns around an M-level profession in the manner in which it was being implemented. In particular, a theme that emerged from all respondent cohorts was that NQTs were not the right cohort with which to start, largely due to workload issues alongside NQT induction statutory requirements. This suggests that M-level study is most appropriate for more experienced teachers who are professionally integrated. However, many NQTs have M-level credits from ITE with which to progress to further M-level study and are therefore a ‘practical’ cohort to move towards an M-level teaching profession.

Overall, therefore, there still appears to be an appetite for an M-level teaching profession from teachers in England, although the lesser funding now available accompanied by enforced higher undergraduate tuition fees mean that many teachers are too indebted to undertake a postgraduate education. Also, an absence of strategic policy regarding CPD, and school-led ITT are hindering and fragmenting aspirations for an M-level teaching profession.

Overall, aspirations for an M-level profession challenge the technicist view of teaching as ‘a craft’ – contrary to the current neo-conservative stance – and could be one strategy to re-professionalize teachers at a time of low morale and dissatisfaction in England, evidenced in current disputes between teaching unions and the Department for Education. The rationale for the M-level profession was to improve standards, the status of the profession, NQT induction and EPD.

To maintain and progress ‘forgotten’ aspirations of an M-level teaching profession in England, HEIs could also look to encourage more experienced teachersto undertake M-level CPD.
They could also encourage experienced teachers undertaking in-depth, sustained but non-accredited CPD programmes to align this y continuing professional development (CPD) with M-level credits via the accreditation of prior experiential learning.

Updated: Dec. 14, 2019
Beginning teachers | Masters programs | Professional development | Teaching as a profession