ESCalate HE/School Learning Group Mike Ollerton St.Martin's College 2004
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ESCalate HE/School Learning Group Mike Ollerton St.Martin’s College 2004
ESCalate HE/School Learning Group Introduction How student teachers’ experience the various processes involved in Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) courses is varied and complex. In helping students develop pedagogy, the quality of the corporate experience is clearly of great importance and, with this in mind, the paper considers aspects of ‘good’ practice as described by mentors and tutors in a range of institutions and from different locations within the UK. As well as seeking to disseminate ‘good’ practice, this paper also considers some of the complexities and, in particular, the interfaces between students, schools and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). To make sense of these interfaces the following Venn diagram is offered to illustrate interfaces not just between pairs of elements but also between all three elements; this is the intersection set at the centre of the diagram. Students Schools HEIs The above diagram opens up the possibility of 7 areas of experience for exploration: 1. Students (T), 2. Schools (S), 3. HEIs (H), 4. Students and Schools (T-S), 5. Students and HEIs (T-H), 6. Schools and HEIs (S-H) 7. Students, Schools and HEIs (T-S-H). How students make sense of their experiences: what they learn in schools, what they learn in higher education institutions, how they transfer knowledge between contexts and how they manage different demands placed upon them has a significant impact upon their developing pedagogy and, therefore, upon their future students’ learning opportunities. There is a need for student teachers to develop knowledge, beliefs, values and identity in ways that can be transferred from one context to another and can be communicated and developed through a range of different types of discourse to meet different demands of becoming a teacher.
The dangers of over-generalisation of a notion of what ‘good’ practice ‘looks’ like are omnipresent and over-simplification can be a hostage to fortune. However, if we can learn anything from What worked well for Bill (see appendix 1) there are some clues about schools and HEIs working together and the conditions upon which such a relationship can exist. This relationship is aimed at supporting trainees to experience for themselves what ‘good’ practice looks and feels like. This in turn requires trainees to be encouraged to plan lessons that may differ from and possibly challenge the perceived orthodoxy within a department. Such an event may be a departure from a given scheme of work and involve some measure of risk-taking. For trainees to be able to develop a generality of knowing they must, as a minimum, be provided with opportunities to recognise that a ‘good’ lesson plan is the basis of an effective lesson in any classroom, in any department. There are tensions however between how a school and how an HEI might define a ‘good’ lesson. This tension arises partly as an outcome of reductionist forces that define, quantify and measure schools’ success: narrow-focused testing and league tables. Whilst HEIs are similarly accountable, the same immediate pressure of testing does not exist and this is largely because of the way assessment and measurements of achievement remain within the domain of the sector. This tension can, at worst, create difficulties and mistrust between a school mentor and a HE tutor, manifested by: a) a mentor feeling that a tutor does not understand the pressures a school is under to teach in ways aimed at getting students to pass tests, and b) from a tutor’s perspective a ‘failure’ to understand why a mentor does not encourage a trainee to take risks and experiment with different ways of teaching. What worked for Bill, however, provides clues that the effectiveness of a partnership between a school and an HEI is built upon trainee-centred approaches where trainees’ needs, in terms of developing as effective teachers, in any department, whatever the peculiarities of schemes of work are, is uppermost. Trainees must be helped to develop skills and teaching strategies that are transferable to any classroom context. As such it is incumbent upon both sectors to provide trainees with knowledge and opportunities to develop a range of teaching strategies and the pedagogy to underpin action. Somehow a balance between risk-taking and teaching-to-the-test must be rationalised, understood and articulated, so both sectors recognise that both these ways of being are necessary aspects of trainees overall development. Challenges presented by the different subsets and areas of learning student teachers need to contact The aim of the HEI/Schools relationship is to develop student teachers who can: • teach successfully; • critically reflect on their teaching. To support these outcomes both HEI staff (tutors) and teachers (mentors) need to be clear about the features of high quality teaching and be able to recognise it and critically reflect on it. How far it is necessary/desirable for teachers to actively reflect on their practice in order that they can observe, support and enable inexperienced students to reflect critically on their emerging practice is an important question. Research by
Medwell J., Wray D., Poulson L., & Fox R. 1998 (Effective Teachers of Literacy. Commissioned by the TTA. Exeter, University of Exeter) suggests that teachers find it difficult to analyse their own practice – making their implicit knowledge, explicit. This would seem to have implications for tutors and mentors. Research by Lave and Wenger on ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’ provides the crux to partnership between HEI and schools. Schools become communities of practice where there exists a definite learning curriculum which students become a part of. By slowly taking on more responsibilities through observation, by picking up the language of the school, involving themselves in dialogue and slowly beginning to ‘talk within the practice of the school rather than about it’, students can gain productive access to the community. Some schools take this approach and see this as a vital part of students’ learning. Such schools recognise and fully understand their part in students’ learning and how they can best support, challenge and extend the experiences, learning and thinking of the students. However others do not and there are, therefore, inconsistencies between expectations, approach and assessments. Engaging with the thinking, therefore, behind Lave and Wenger’s work is crucial to the school experience for both the students and the teachers involved. Models of partnership in operation in different UK countries Trying to ascertain different models of practice and seeking to share ‘good’ practice, however this is defined, is a key aspect of this paper. To try to unearth such models and to share ‘good’ practice we have sought to provide outline information from a number of sources and below are case studies drawn from different providers in Wales and England. Each case study describes different approaches to various aspects of student teacher development. Case study 1: Connecting CPD to a SCITT programme This is a Primary school centred Initial Teacher Training course (SCITT) and is based in Cumbria. Tutors and mentors have attempted to address the issue of teachers finding it difficult to analyse their own practice and make their implicit knowledge, explicit by producing a Coherence Booklet. This draws attention to the challenge of delivering a coherent programme for students in terms of their experiences in schools and in sessions run by HEI tutors. The SCITT team found, however, that ‘drawing attention to certain strategies’ was not enough in terms of teachers fully appreciating why certain strategies e.g. talk partners, were considered important for students to experiment with. Consequently a teaching and learning project was developed and has been operational since 2000. This inservice project has formed a basis for Cumbria Primary Teacher Training (CPTT) schools to investigate the features of ‘high quality teaching and learning’ and the rationale underpinning them. Headteachers have been involved (to ensure they support the development of teaching strategies) and two teachers per school attended half day sessions each half term.
Underpinning the project (for both headteachers and teachers) has been the possibility of experiencing a range of strategies themselves as they grapple with the ‘content’ of the course, and then explicitly reflecting on these strategies as learners in terms of how they teach. The project has been supported by the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) through regional funding. Currently negotiations are underway with the TTA for funding to carry out a formal evaluation. Case study 2: Collaboration between schools to teach General Professional Studies This is taken from a group of schools in North Wales, called the Wrexham consortium, in partnership with Bangor University. The specific focus here is upon how student teachers (approximately 30) from different subject areas in the secondary age range are brought together, to work on issues relating to general professional studies, on each occasion by professional mentors from the schools. There are 11 schools involved and 13 aspects of the General Professional Studies (GPS) curriculum are worked on between the end of October and the beginning of March (see appendix 2). Each aspect of the ITE programme is constructed by and, therefore, ‘owned’ by the professional mentors within the consortium. During the planning stage professional mentors determine what elements need to be included in the programme and decisions are taken about which professional mentor will plan and teach a specific aspect of the programme to all the student teachers in the consortium. Bringing together all the student teachers into different locations on several occasions has a number of benefits and these are: a) For students to be able to share anecdotes and experiences. b) For students to meet different mentors and, therefore, gain a range of perspectives. c) To cut down the workload of professional mentors as a consequence of sharing out the curriculum. d) For students to gain knowledge of another school, even though this may be fairly cursory. This approach, therefore, of bringing together student teachers from different schools and across different subject areas has several benefits. Case study 3 (a): Students and mentors sharing perspectives The next study describes the way Secondary PGCE Mathematics students, mentors and tutors at St Martin’s work together during a specific session to discuss, in groups of five or six, What makes a ‘good’ student teacher and what makes a ‘good’ mentor? The event takes place between first school and second school placements and groups are formed according to students’ second school placement. The discussions are particularly valuable because students can explain what their first mentor had done in
order to offer support and the ‘new’ mentor can describe what qualities they are looking for when the second placement begins. Case Study 3(b) Collaborative planning between students and mentors This session takes place during the same day as Case study 3(a). The focus is for students and mentors to jointly plan a ‘module’ of work within the Key Stage 3 mathematics curriculum. Students are encouraged to take a lead in their groups and mentors are asked to act more as consultants, to offer support, advice and ideas. Each group is asked to develop several lesson ideas, taking progression and differentiation into account. Groups are requested to focus on different areas of the curriculum in order to avoid duplication. Finally groups disseminate their work to the whole group. Apart from the important issue of modelling collaborative planning, students are engaging with issues of developing a series of connected tasks, progression and differentiation. Case study 4: Mantle of the expert – Foundation degree students teaching PGCE students This is a further initiative from St Martin’s College, Lancaster and is based upon Foundation degree students providing input on to the PGCE course. The initiative focuses on issues involved and range of approaches a student teacher will need to consider to make best use of the skills and talents of Learning Support Teachers (LST). Prior to the session, the student teachers are asked to write some questions that they would want answers to with regard to making best use of a LST in planning and teaching. These questions are given to the LSTs before meeting the students and they consider their responses to them. The actual session is structured as follows: In the first part the LSTs, acting as a panel of experts, read out the most interesting questions and offer answers; they then develop any further questions from students and this continues for 30 minutes or so. In the second part each LST works with a small group of student teachers with the brief of discussing different strategies for working together in classroom, determining a range of ways a student teacher and an LST might profitably work together. Case Study 5: Metacognition and assessment Year 1 students on a three year QTS course at St Martin’s College were asked which college-based modules had most helped them in preparing for their block school placement at the end of the year. Several subject areas were chosen by different students but all students made reference to the mathematics module. The teaching in mathematics was therefore investigated and key elements of the module organisation identified as follows: a) Students are introduced to metacognition as an awareness-raising vehicle. Students are subsequently asked to work metacognitively in order to describe the approaches they become aware of using themselves when solving problems. This raises students’ knowledge of different mathematical thinking strategies they
use in their own learning and which, in turn, they can encourage their pupils to use. One outcome of this is for students to use a variety of ways of carrying out calculations; this raises students’ awareness that mathematics teaching does not have to be rooted in textbook schemes. b) Assignments to link practice and theory: During school-based work students gather and use data to explore the theoretical principles that underpin ‘good’ practice. E.g. (i) exploring the value of using a particular mathematical resource to support pupils’ learning. Here the rationale is used as the basis for the written assignment so students can try to apply theories of learning to actual classroom activities. E.g. (ii) developing pupils’ mathematical thinking. This is based upon students’ structured observations of a group of children, again with the intention of linking theory and practice in a written assignment. Case Study 6: Linking training with a school improvement project involving HEI, school-based training and Local Education Authority provision: developing purpose and diversity in training This case study refers to work carried out jointly between year 3 BEd core subjects students (2003-04) at the University of Derby, a local school in ‘challenging’ circumstances and currently in special measures, LEA advisers and Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs). Students worked with a school facing challenging circumstances and in special measures. In groups of 4-5 students developed cross-curricular activities with core subjects. Support was provided by LEA advisers and ASTs. Groups then delivered these activities in a team teaching basis to all the classes in the school. Because of the context of the school, trainees found the project challenging. However, with the support of LEA advisers and ASTs all students agreed the experience had been an extremely useful part of their training, providing opportunities to gain experience in areas that many placement schools could not provide. In a joint conference to celebrate teaching and learning in the school, trainees and staff explained their work, and how this supported the raising of standards within the school.
Appendix 1 The following are notes written after an informal interview with Bill, a former 2-year PGCE Mathematics student. These notes have been checked for accuracy by Bill. What worked well for Bill, with regard to learning in HE. Having a range of ideas, gathered from the first year of Bill’s 2-Year PGCE course meant he was able gather a range of ideas for use in his own teaching in schools. The key issue here was to engage him in problem-solving type activities through which he became aware of both what he was learning in mathematics and how he was learning it. How he subsequently adapted such ideas for use in his own teaching was a responsibility Bill took upon himself to consider. What did not work well for Bill with regard to learning in HE. The least effective type of sessions were those which expounded theories about learning (e.g. the psychology of learning) but which Bill could not directly relate to practice within his professional year. Bill recognised such issues have some impact now, in his third year of teaching, however at the time they seemed to be too far away from his existing context. What did not work well for Bill with regard to school-based learning. Bill’s first school placement was very much focused on teaching in ‘a’ way that corresponded with the departmental approach. This meant that Bill was restricted to using a specific textbook resource that he felt did not enable him to try ideas out based upon personal initiative. This led Bill to feel he was being taught to teach in a specific and narrow way. What worked well for Bill with regard to school-based learning. In his second placement Bill was encouraged to try out a range of different ways of teaching and this was due to the ability of the mentor to ‘let go’ and trust in Bill’s developing expertise to teach effectively. The outcome of this placement and the appropriate degrees of freedom offered meant that Bill was able to develop his pedagogy by putting into practice the range of strategies and ideas for the classroom that he learnt through the school and through college sessions.
Appendix 2 The Wrexham consortium GPS programme in collaboration with Bangor University Date Venue Details 23 oct Bryn Alyn Welcome 6 Nov Morgan Llwyd Teaching and learning 13 nov Yale college Child protection 20 nov Penley SEN 27 nov Bryn Alyn Form tutors 4 dec Grango PSE 11 dec Clywedog Behaviour management SPRING 29 jan Darland Key skills 2 feb Yale 16-19 5 feb St Joseph’s Health and safety 12 feb Ruabon The law 23 feb Ruabon Trips and visits 4 mar Rhosnesno Bullying
Appendix 3 A St. Martin’s College tutor’s perspective An effective way of bridging the gap between student learning in HEI and school placement lies in the role of HEI in supporting teachers within Partnership schools to become reflective practitioners. This support is partially dependant on how well HEI is able to build strong school partnerships through a programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). At St Martin’s, part of this staff development and training takes the form of mentor training in order to support ITE students in their school-based learning. The mentor-training programme involves teachers in partnership schools being inducted into the running of the teacher education programmes in terms of infrastructure, expectations of school experience, reflection, and assessment. The programme also encourages participating teachers to realise their skills as a mentor by enabling them to reflect on what constitutes good practice in teaching and learning in relation to themselves in the classroom, and in relation to trainees. One way they are encouraged to develop skills of reflection is by considering the kinds of questions they may use in discussion with a trainee in order to help the trainee evaluate the quality of their teaching and identify areas for further development. Thus the mentor training programme, in an indirect way, provides skills for teacher mentors to help students reflect on practice in relation to school based learning as well as encouraging them to make the link with what they already know (through college modules) constitutes good practice in the classroom. Further opportunities in terms of CPD are offered through the PGC/D/MA programme at St Martins. This in turn may also impact on teacher mentors’ level of reflection and consideration of a range of teaching and learning issues connected to their practice which in turn may affect their classroom practice. In order to probe how effective the mentor-training programme is in bridging the gap between student learning in HEI and school, it would be useful to carry out focus group interviews with teacher mentors Discussion would focus on: • What do they deem to be good practice in bridging the gap between school and HEI in order to encourage trainees to make the link between their learning at college and at school? • What role might the mentor-training programme play in allowing practising teachers to develop skills of reflection which then in turn can use to encourage trainees to reflect on their own practice?
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