Literature Review on Teacher Education in the 21st Century

The overall aim of this literature review is to understand the contribution that teacher education can make to the quality and effectiveness of the educational experience and wider personal development of young people, drawing on effective practice in Scotland and elsewhere.


The study

1. This literature review was commissioned by the Education Analytical Services Division ( EASD) of the Scottish Government and undertaken between April and July 2010. The review of literature forms part of a larger programme of work contributing to the Review of Teacher Education in Scotland ( RTES). The RTES is examining how the current system of educating teachers equips teachers throughout their professional career to respond to curriculum change and meet the needs of pupils in the 21st century.

2. The overall aim of this literature review is 'to understand the contribution that teacher education can make to the quality and effectiveness of the educational experience and wider personal development of young people, drawing on effective practice in Scotland and elsewhere'.

3. The four objectives of this review are to:

  • Provide a high level overview of the current model of teacher education in Scotland, identifying current strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Identify other education systems (which are broadly comparable to Scotland) that have undergone a significant curricula change, have seen a recent rise in educational standards or are already high performing, and explore the contribution of teacher education to their overall strategy, drawing out learning appropriate to Scotland.
  • Explore the relationships between forms of teacher education and the enhancement of professionalism, and between enhanced professionalism and pupil outcomes.
  • Provide an overview of effective practice in evaluating the impact and effectiveness of teacher education.

4. The review focuses on literature from, and about, a number of education systems which were identified in consultation with The Scottish Government. Education systems included are the four nations of the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, Canada, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

5. Literature from a range of sources, including research papers, policy papers and 'grey literature' (papers and reports that are not easily available through conventional publication channels) was selected for review, informed by a 'best evidence' approach. This requires the reviewer to identify criteria for determining good quality research and high quality evidence and place more emphasis on those studies that match the criteria than on those that have identifiable shortcomings.

The review

6. Section 2 reviews current provision of teacher education in Scotland. There are found to be many strengths in the system, including a number of distinctive features such as the schemes for induction and for chartered teachers. Initial teacher education in Scotland has developed and maintained a strong intellectual and academic base. However, partnerships between the various contributors to teacher education are found to be underdeveloped, at least on a nationwide basis. School staff currently play a relatively limited role in the tutoring, support and assessment of student teachers. A number of other aspects are identified as providing scope for improvement, including continuing professional development ( CPD) immediately beyond the induction year; CPD for serving headteachers; planning of teacher workforce requirements; and training for provision of integrated children's services.

7. Section 3 considers the links between teacher education and teacher professionalism. Four models of teacher professionalism emerge from policy and research literature, all of which have some strengths. These are: the effective teacher; the reflective teacher; the enquiring teacher; and the transformative teacher. The dominant model of the effective teacher emphasises technical accomplishment. The reflective teacher model has been influential in UK teacher education from the 1980s and emphasises the need for continuing and collaborative professional learning. The enquiring teacher model promotes an explicit research orientation within teachers' work. The final model seeks to revitalise debates on teacher professionalism by positioning teaching as a transformative activity. All four models are pertinent in the Scottish context of A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century and Curriculum for Excellence. There is found to be little work that relates specific forms of teacher education directly to teacher quality. Evaluations of alternative routes to becoming a teacher in the USA, Netherlands and England report mixed findings and suggest that variations attributed to training route are reduced by subsequent experience of teaching.

8. Section 4 reports on international studies on the association between teacher education, curriculum change and educational standards. Some studies do identify positive associations between teacher quality and educational outcomes. Teacher learning and development, leading to quality improvements, are found to be dependent on a range of factors including making provision relevant to context and the provision of appropriate time and resource. Provision for professional learning across the career span is an important component in most systems where educational outcomes have been improving. The research literature highlights a lack of attention to the professional development needs of teacher educators and the contribution they can make to curriculum change, whether they are school-based or university-based.

9. Section 5 focuses explicitly on pupil outcomes and teacher professionalism. The methodological challenges for research on this topic are considerable and the pattern of evidence that emerges from the work that has been done (mainly in the USA which has a deregulated system of teacher education that is very different to the Scottish system) is far from clear. What work there is tends to focus on a narrow range of pupil outcomes that does not include 'wider personal development'. The achievement and development of the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence - to enable each child and young person to be a successful learner, confident individual, responsible citizen and effective contributor - will not be fully revealed in attainment measures from national assessments and examinations. Some of the research undertaken in relation to accomplished teachers who have advanced certification does suggest significant teacher learning, especially in terms of formative assessment, and some benefits in terms of improved student attainment. However, overall, the research base on the effects of advanced certification on pupil outcomes is inconclusive.

10. Section 6 outlines that the research literature on effective approaches to evaluating the impact and effectiveness of teacher education is limited. However, a framework of three possible approaches is considered: research-based evaluations of teacher education, inspection of teacher education provision and teacher/school-level self-evaluation. The strengths and limitations of each approach are discussed. Although research can investigate precise questions it is rarely cumulative, long-term or large-scale. Self-evaluation can provide a strong basis for professional development for those concerned but is usually limited in its wider significance. Inspection provides a valuable basis for comparison within, and review across, whole systems but tends to be less flexible and can be less sensitive to particular contexts.

The implications

11. Throughout the report, implications for teacher education in Scotland are suggested as they arise. The literature reviewed suggests that there is scope for a much more integrated approach to teacher education across the career course of teachers. This would incorporate more developed partnerships between the stakeholders, including schools and universities.

12. The Scottish policy context, currently influenced strongly by A Teaching Profession for the 21 st Century and Curriculum for Excellence, is one in which all four models of teacher professionalism (effective, reflective, enquiring, transformative) are important.

13. The literature indicates that all aspects of mentoring, partnership and curriculum design skills may be considered in relation to all phases of teacher learning and development and in relation to the professional development of teacher educators (wherever they are based). It may be important to consider developments at three levels, those of the individual practitioner, the institution and the national system.

14. The conclusion to the report summarises the findings, the implications for Scotland and highlights omissions in the literature reviewed. For example, few longitudinal, large-scale studies or studies that involve repeated measures are reported in the international literature on teacher education. Consequently the research base on teacher education is fragmented and non-cumulative. Much of the research on teacher education in Scotland has similarly tended to be relatively small-scale and piecemeal. Whilst valuable in local contexts, this is less valuable in support of systemic change.

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