The Masters in Teaching and Learning: A Revolution in Teacher Education or a Bright Light Quickly Extinguished?

Feb. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 37, No. 1. (February 2011). p. 51-61.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In summer 2009, the Labour government in England introduced of the Masters in Teaching and Learning (MTL), which was fully funded by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).  The proposed aim of the MTL is ‘to improve teacher quality to raise standards in education, narrow gaps in attainment and give children better life chances’ (TDA 2008).

The MTL is largely a classroom‐based qualification. Participants will be supported by an in‐school coach as well as a tutor at a higher education institute (HEI).
The intention is to facilitate teachers’ understanding of factors that might impact on each pupil’s potential for academic achievement.
The authors discuss what the MTL might mean both for in‐service teacher education and initial teacher training.
The authors also explore issues relating to the structure and delivery of MTL.
Furthermore, the authors question the extent to which newly qualified teachers are ready to benefit from undertaking the MTL.

Delivering MTL

In terms of delivery, the MTL emphasises the importance of shared expertise with a focus on increasing links and communications between local authorities, national agencies, national specialist organisations and other MTL providers.
The MTL is expected to take three years to complete (although it can take up to five).

Two issues arise with the timing of MTL.
First, the TDA proposes enrolling New Qualified Teachers (NQTs) on the MTL as soon as they begin to teach. An alternative perspective here is that expecting NQTs to begin the MTL as soon as they start to teach may actually be too early for them to benefit from what it has to offer.
Second, the availability of trained coaches to support NQTs’ progress with the MTL is unlikely to meet demand.
A further issue here is that the coaches employed, and identified by schools, will not necessarily hold an equivalent qualification.

The introduction of the MTL has been further complicated by uncertainties over student numbers, funding levels and mechanics and general resource implications for schools and HEIs.
For serving teachers the MTL raises an important equity issue. At present, MTL funding is only being offered to newly qualified teachers as they start their first teaching post and not to existing teachers, many of whom will not possess a masters level qualification. They may also miss out on the opportunity to acquire one if they do not achieve it in the remaining years of funded PPD provision.

Raising the status of the teaching profession
A key objective of the MTL is to improve standards in schools by raising the status of teaching which, in turn, will increase the appeal of a career in teaching to high quality candidates. The aspiration then is to recruit a new, high quality teaching workforce.
Hence, the MTL must be perceived by potential teachers as a credible course, comparable to other masters qualifications.
However, the MTL aims to provide high quality, practice‐based learning opportunities tailored to the individual needs of teachers in the context of their school.


This article discussed a myriad of practical issues associated with the MTL including whether the NQT year is the best time for teachers to start the course, whether there are enough trained staff to act as coaches for the NQTs and whether these coaches should hold an equivalent qualification to the one they will be coaching on.
Additionally there are issues with time.

Aside from such practicalities, there are also concerns about the achievability of ‘personalisation’ which is so central to the MTL in the context of vastly diverse pupil needs.
However, the real key to the MTL's future success will be whether it is supported by the newly elected, Tory‐led coalition government.
With the government focused on cutting public spending and traditional masters courses being less than a fifth of the MTL cost, the diversion of MTL funds is a real possibility.

TDA. 2008. Masters in teaching and learning.

Updated: Jul. 24, 2012