Review by Rachael Hare

24 Apr 2016, 19:00

Initial Teacher Education in Schools: A Guide for Practitioners

This slim text seeks to provide an “accessible” guide for busy teachers in a climate in which many schools are taking a more active role in initial teacher education than ever before.

It’s intended as a concise handbook, focusing on those aspects of initial teacher education previously managed by universities.

Aimed specifically at staff setting up and developing school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT), School Direct and Teach First courses, it covers what the editors have decided are the “essential practical issues”.

The learning objective structure – “by the end of this chapter, you should be able to . . . ” – can feel somewhat patronising, but each essay does contain some succinct, practical advice.

Useful links between research and theory, practical implications and current cross-phase case studies, could be of real value. For instance, it is a sensible idea to provide a common language and starting point for liaising with potential academic partners when setting up new provision.

It is also positive to see a range of contributors from both school and university backgrounds. But it is a shame that the book propagates the misconception that all school-based staff are less experienced and qualified than their higher education colleagues. We are working in a time where there is welcome crossover, and current school-based teaching experience does not preclude higher academic study or connection with the academic community. However, this is presented as a single brief generalisation, rather than the overriding theme of the book.

This is a decent look at a cross-section of practical issues

In her chapter on initial teacher education and professional development, Alison Chapman writes passionately about this work being “not just another demand” for schools. It provides, she says, an opportunity for initial teacher education to play a central role in school development and wider staff development.

This is an important point and useful message for a busy sector that is going through unprecedented change, as this is perhaps the most exciting opportunity as schools take up a greater role in course construction, training and recruitment in initial teacher education.

Her point that work with trainees can reinvigorate teachers’ work in school is certainly something that holds true in my experience. It is tremendously satisfying to contribute to the next generation of talented and skilled beginner teachers; best practice in their support, research and development can certainly have a profound impact on other elements of school life.

Chapters on selection processes, effective assessment, the academic component of courses and wider professional development seem to meet the stated aim and audience rather better than a piece on the differences between coaching and mentoring.

There is also a definite gap across the text in terms of considering opportunity cost, the art of curriculum design and role of subject andage-phase specificity, all of which strike me as particularly significant factors in developing high quality initial teacher education in school.

If you’re taking on a professional mentor or SCITT role, then Initial Teacher Education in Schools: a Guide for Practitioners undoubtedly provides useful food for thought, as well as case studies, references and further reading that could promote some helpful debate as a starting point.

But essential reading? Not quite, but a decent look at a cross-section of practical issues for providers in school-based settings.

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