Joining the Dots between Teacher Education and Widening Participation in Higher Education

Jul. 01, 2016

Source: Research in Post-Compulsory Education, Vol. 21, No. 3, p. 260-277. (2016)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examines the barriers to accessing teacher education for students from excluded groups both theoretically and in practice – using two examples: one in the North West of England and the second in Queensland, Australia. The UK project is focused on two community-based teacher education programmes; the Australian project, a response to WP understandings, is an equity-focused initiative, introduced in mid-2008 to take pre-service teacher education into the final two years of secondary school.

The authors used an ethnographic methodological framework.
Data were collected through interviews and participatory action research.


The findings reveal that expanding the diversity of the teaching profession is an important way in which higher education (HE) institutions can contribute to the overall goal of widening participation in HE as schools are fundamental to shaping who participates in HE.

The findings demonstrate that the social and cultural practices in the field regulate and shape hierarchies of social order. Cultural capitals in education, which include institutional literacies, when viewed through the dominant lens, privilege the middle-classes. To promote diversity and combat social injustice, educational programmes need to address issues related to widening participation to attract a workforce that reflects the communities served.
As the gap between the rich and poor widens, the authors argue that it is time for a change in the way potential student teachers access HE and the curriculum if we are to address the needs of under-represented learners.
The projects point out the importance of interventions in ‘non-traditional’ schools and communities, and of making the institutional literacy practices required to navigate through the education system to become a teacher more transparent and accessible.

The authors conclude that in order to widening participation in HE, higher education institutions (HEI’s) should explicitly widening participation in teacher education programmes. This may be achieved by:
(1) strengthening their links with schools, community groups and gate-keepers in geographical areas with low rates of participation in HE in general and teacher education in particular
(2) developing bespoke WP packages to meet the needs of under-represented groups in school and community locations
(3) exploring the institutional literacies that they present to potential students, and how they can be simplified or translated to reduce unnecessary barriers to participation.

The need to embed widening participation in teacher education in both Australia and the UK has led to emerging and creative ways of increasing the aspirations of potential students from under-represented groups.

Updated: Sep. 13, 2017