I applaud advancements to the education of our teaching graduates who, energised with the desire to innovate, are ready to enhance not only the learning experiences of our children, but will also re-kindle (perhaps) the spirits of their collegiate…
Gillian Macdonald, writing in the TESS, (7 September 2012) celebrates the changes in initial teacher education whereby “New and stronger links are being forged between theory and practice, and between schools and universities, while the students themselves are encouraged to be enquiring, lifelong learners…”
Then what? So why, upon qualification, are these essential “links” no longer available? What about the exemplifying life-long learning?
The Standard for Chartered Teacher (2009) provides teaching professionals aiming to enhance their professional careers a set of benchmarks against which their continuous professional development and classroom practice can be evaluated. It is a framework against which the practice of Chartered Teachers can be evaluated by all stakeholders; it also shapes academic provision and choice.
Academic research, according to Judyth Sachs (Sachs, 2003) is concerned with validity and positing generalisations, the result of ‘processed analysis’ of teaching practice. Sachs suggests that such skills can be demonstrated by ‘teacher researchers’ “collecting and analysing data, publicly presenting their research to broader audiences, and developing a process which could be extrapolated across other areas of school improvement” (p. 81). This suggests a symbiotic relationship between what happens in the classroom and those ‘hallowed halls’ of academia; those on the Chartered Teacher Pathway – the ‘teacher researchers’ – demonstrating educational praxis within their schools, authorities, and perhaps even nationally and internationally via the ubiquity of digital media.
Teacher researchers are ideally placed to engage in this ‘action research’, which harnesses their daily practice of teaching, allowing them to apply the pedagogical ‘lensing’ that encompasses the critical interplay of educational literature and pedagogical discourse. Such enriching discourses lead to the creation of ‘critical friends’ and ‘critical communities’ (school- and local -authority-wide) which have the opportunity of delivering “a recognized contribution to the educational effectiveness of the school and the wider professional community” (The Scottish Government, 2009, p. 1) and towards the construction of the ‘knowledge-creating school’ (Hargreaves, 1999 in Sachs 2003).
Communication. Share goals. Trust.
For such teachers, “autonomy [and] altruism” are instrumental features in forming “the platform for teacher professionalism” (Bottery, 1996, cited by Sachs, 2003, p. 13). Moreover their autonomy takes account of notions of choice, freedom, individuality and moral responsibility – all of which are pertinent to the classroom context and social interactions that shape both the identity of the young learner, and the accomplished teacher.
Surely the schism that exists between universities and the daily practice in Scottish schools – post- Initial Teacher Education phase – can be bridged only through harnessing the synergy that occurs when classroom teachers undertake a formalised academic programme of study, during which time they engage with educational literature, similarly-oriented peers, and under the guidance of accredited course providers.
What opportunities exist – outwith the higher education providers of the Chartered Teacher Scheme – for teachers to develop their research skills and have the ability to publish and make a positive contribution to the world’s academic canon?
Moreover, how does one access the vast body of academic research that exists to educate our teaching profession, but one which is ‘pay-walled’ by the various silos of journal providers? Considering the prohibitive expense of purchasing a single journal ranges, judicious choice is required when undertaking the most basic of research activities, and even then – and from personal experience over the last five years – often there is the serendipity when tangential curiosities lead to unexpected yet often rewarding pathways during the course of an investigation. This exploratory approach, accompanied by the benefits of any course of wide-reading, would be stymied.
Can local authorities replicate the provisioning of access (as well as the routes to publishing) for teachers willing to assume the identity of ‘teacher researcher’?
Or does it all end with initial teacher education?
Sachs, J. 2003. The Activist Teacher. OU Press.
The Scottish Government. (2009). The Standard for Chartered Teacher. HMSO.