My previous post came in for a certain amount of criticism from those involved in teacher training, as well as some support from those who agree with me that the model needs to be disrupted. I thought I would take the opportunity to address the main criticisms.
It has been suggested that my first post in this series proves nothing because it simply refers to the work of one researcher. It is not really meant to prove anything. The series is mainly an opinion piece. However, I think that the idea of educationalists researching post-structuralism in numeracy education is significant. It is hard to imagine the equivalent research coming out of a medical school and this tells us something about our profession. It is baffling to the general public and it illustrates something key; the very thing that should be the subject of the research – the effectiveness of inquiry learning – is assumed at the outset, the only question remaining is how to get teachers doing more of it.
Initially, I was accused of citing no evidence for my position. When I pointed out that I had quoted two national reports then the accusation shifted to that of ‘cherry picking’. Unless you reproduce an entire source verbatim then you will always have to miss something out. I was highlighting the evidence from the Carter review that there are ‘significant gaps’ in what current training delivers (and I linked to the original source). I did not mention that the review also offers some praise for higher education institutions. So what?
This is a very weak form of argument. If I have missed out something crucial then say so. If it leads me into error then explain why. Specifics are of far more interest.
I suggested that the Australian teacher education system has been used by universities as a cash cow. This is true. Here is an article from 2013 by Professor Stephen Dinham which explains the issue. I did not make this claim about the UK where there are training quotas.
Some critics have suggested that teacher trainers in the UK are accountable for the performance of the teachers that they train. I am happy enough to accept that there is some bureaucratic process that involves Ofsted that is intended to do this. But it certainly is not holding teacher educators accountable in the way that people think because it would not be possible to do so. It is hard enough to judge teacher quality directly: lesson observations are flawed, valued-added systems are highly volatile. Using these measures to derive some kind of secondary effect for teacher education is implausible. Employability is a reasonable thing to measure but let us not fool ourselves that this is a measure of teacher effectiveness.
Many of those who train teachers don’t do research
I understand the point that many teacher educators are not involved in research. However, my concern was about how a person might advance their career within this field. I might be wrong – and I’m happy to be corrected – but I think that most of those who climb the hierarchy of education schools are involved in research. And I suspect that much of it is of the kind that I highlighted in Part I, certainly if the output of the likes of BERA and the AARE are anything to go on.
Ignobles for education
The comments on Part I have made me think. I wonder if it would be worth producing a catalogue of some of the silliest, most abstruse and most nakedly political education research? I could curate it here. And once we have a sufficient sample we could make some awards; like the ignoble prize for education research.
What do you think?