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.


Key points summary

  • Current provision for teacher education in Scotland is based around a series of Standards that define the knowledge and understanding, skills and abilities, values and personal commitments expected of teachers.
  • Recent policy developments have been strongly influenced by the agreement A Teaching Profession for the 21 st Century and by Curriculum for Excellence.
  • Scottish teacher education is considered to have many strengths and several distinctive features such as the induction scheme and the chartered teacher scheme.
  • A weakness by comparison with other systems of teacher education is the absence of a fully developed partnership approach across the continuum of teacher education.
  • Improvements might be considered in a number of areas including workforce planning, diversity in entry routes, provision in respect of integrated children's services and the development of a research agenda to inform future policy.


2.1 The current pattern of provision of Scottish teacher education is influenced both by what has gone before and by recent policy developments. The 2001 Teachers' Agreement: A Teaching Profession for the 21 st Century ( TP21) ( SEED, 2001) is particularly significant. But Curriculum for Excellence - to be implemented from August 2010 - is having an increasing influence on provision, creating new challenges for all phases of teacher education. This section of the report responds to the first objective of the review and outlines key developments that have influenced policy and practice in teacher education in Scotland, identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement in the current system.

Significant developments in teacher education

2.2 Through the late 19 th Century and the 20 th Century, teacher education in Scotland became increasingly professionalised with initial qualifications and a range of postgraduate opportunities being provided by colleges of education and universities. Local authorities and a wide range of providers of continuing professional development ( CPD) including commercial companies and consultants provided further opportunities for professional development.

2.3 In common with many other European countries, but in contrast to England, there was a distinct move of initial teacher education ( ITE) into the university sector in the 1990s (Kirk, 2003). The bulk of provision for ITE is currently managed by Education Departments or Faculties in seven universities across the country, with some provision through the Open University. Entrants to the teaching profession are all graduates and this has been the case since 1984 (Marker, 2000). Initial qualifications are through a four year degree programme (mainly for primary teachers) or through a one year postgraduate programme (primary and secondary). Some providers also offer a 'concurrent degree' that provides for the preparation of secondary teachers in particular subjects.

2.4 During the 1990s teacher supply issues led to diversification of routes of entry in England. Diversification in Scotland was restricted to the creation of part-time flexible learning routes on traditional Higher Education Institution ( HEI)-based programmes ( PGDE and B.Ed.), including online and distance learning.

2.5 In recent years, revisions in the predicted supply and demand for teachers have led to fluctuations in student numbers (Scottish Funding Council circular, 2010) with staffing implications for Teacher Education Institutions. However, whilst there has been change in the way in which provision is managed and governed, the core processes - curricular studies, professional studies and school experience - have remained remarkably constant (Hulme and Menter, 2008:322; Christie, 2008a).

2.6 Issues surrounding fluctuations in teacher numbers are not unique to Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland have recently responded to the issue of over supply. Following the Review of ITT Provision in Wales (Furlong et al, 2006) the Welsh Assembly Government authorised a reduction in overall primary ITT provision by up to 50% and secondary by up to 25% compared with the 2004-05 numbers by 2010/11; and the reconfiguration of ITT provision through three collaborative schools covering North and mid-Wales, South-West Wales and South-East Wales. The Statistical Directorate of the WAG cotinues to develop a Teacher Planning and Supply Model ( TPSM) for Wales. The review of Teacher Education in a Climate of Change in Northern Ireland has been ongoing since 2003. Widespread consultation has characterised this and subsequent review conferences (2004, 2005 and 2007), and a series of studies has been commissioned by the Department of Education ( DE) and the Department for Employment and Learning ( DEL) including a review of Aspects of ITE in Northern Ireland (Taylor & Usher, 2004). Douglas Osler, former Chief Inspector of Schools in Scotland, was commissioned to provide an overview report of these studies (Osler, 2005). The implications of demographic trends, the cost of ITE and the use of the teacher education estate have underpinned discussions concerning the rationalisation of providers from five to three university providers. A public consultation for the Review of Teacher Education in Northern Ireland is being conducted between June and early November 2010 2.

2.7 The major recent policy in Scotland that has influenced the development of all of teachers' work and their development as a profession has been the agreement reached between government, employers and unions in 2001, TP21 ( SEED, 2001a). Key elements of this that are especially pertinent to this review include:

  • the initiation of the proposal for a chartered teacher scheme (and an advanced chartered teacher scheme, which was not followed through);
  • the introduction of a 35 hours per year entitlement to CPD for all teachers;
  • an induction scheme to support teachers during their first year in the profession;
  • a two stage review of ITE (see SEED 2001b; 2005).

2.8 The underlying rationale for TP21 was the further development of teacher professionalism (Doherty and McMahon, 2007). Recent reforms have sought to enhance the professional knowledge base of teaching, to raise standards within teaching and the status of the profession. The introduction of a standards framework has been a key element of this, with Scottish education now having four sets of Standards for teachers that define the knowledge and understanding, skills and abilities, values and personal commitments expected of teachers: Standard for Initial Teacher Education ( SITE); Standard for Full Registration ( SFR); Standard for Chartered Teacher ( SCT); and, Standard for Headship (SfH) (Christie, 2008b).

2.9 The initial introduction of a list of competences into initial teacher education did attract some criticism. It was argued by some that this reduced teaching to a set of technical skills (Stronach et al, 2002 and Hartley, 2002; see also Patrick et al, 2003, for an expression of similar concerns about CPD) and was thus 'deprofessionalising' teaching. However, comparisons with standards elsewhere in the UK have been made and suggest that the Scottish standards feature certain professional elements more strongly than the listed standards elsewhere in the UK. These include greater emphases on the research element in teachers' work and a commitment to social justice and anti-discriminatory approaches (Hulme and Menter, 2008; see also Menter et al, 2006a).

2.10 Within ITE, some other important recent initiatives include the establishment in 2004 of the Scottish Teachers for a New Era ( STNE) programme at Aberdeen University (Livingston 2008; Livingston and Shiach, 2009; Gray et al, 2009), the introduction in 2009 of Masters level credit within PGDE programmes, and the growth of concurrent degrees with teaching qualifications.

2.11 Other significant developments in teacher education include:

  • The establishment of the teacher induction system from 2002 based on a structured mentoring system and providing significant non-contact time for new teachers (McNally, 2002; Draper et al, 2004; Pearson and Robson, 2005; Draper and O'Brien, 2006; O'Brien and Christie, 2005);
  • A developing approach to early professional learning that recognises continuing support needs following induction (McNally, 2006; Hulme et al, 2008);
  • The introduction and review of chartered teachers. The chartered teacher programme was introduced in August 2003 and is open to all teachers who are fully registered with the General Teaching Council Scotland and have reached the top of the main grade teachers' pay scale. Progression to chartered teacher status is by qualification i.e. progression through a self-funded Master's degree or equivalent vocational award (O'Brien and Hunt, 2005; Connolly and McMahon, 2007; Kirkwood and Christie, 2006; HMIE, 2009);
  • and a programme for headship development, the Scottish Qualification for Headship ( SQH) (Menter et al, 2005; Reeves et al, 2003) as well as the Flexible Route to Headship (Davidson et al, 2008).

The policy context

2.12 Scottish education policy has been developed separately from that of the other three jurisdictions, even before devolution at the end of the 20 th century. As has been described in a number of places (Humes, 2003; Paterson, 2003; McPherson and Raab, 1988; McIver, 2008), there has been a close working relationship between the various stakeholders in education and this has certainly influenced both the ways in which policy has developed as well as the actual policy initiatives.

2.13 The General Teaching Council for Scotland was established in 1966, more than 35 years before those of the other UK nations. Local authority officers (notably Directors of Education) members of HMIE, Principals of Colleges of Education (more recently Deans of Education working through the Scottish Teacher Education Committee ( STEC)), teacher union leaders, politicians and civil servants have worked closely together and have generally shared many of the same aspirations for education in Scotland (Menter and Hulme, 2008). This has led to a more consensual atmosphere in the policy community than exists in some parts of the UK and has been based on a relatively high level of mutual trust and respect (Humes, 2000). That is not to say that there have not been difficulties - for example the period of serious industrial unrest among teachers that led to the setting up of the McCrone Committee that eventually gave rise to TP21. But public statements by representatives of these bodies indicate considerable agreement about the importance of supporting the development of teaching as a profession as one element in ensuring that schools provide a high quality of education.

2.14 Several local authorities have supported learning communities to promote change in pedagogy and assessment practice, bringing primary and secondary teachers together and building on the achievements of Assessment is for Learning (Bryce, 2008). Learning and Teaching Scotland ( LTS), in providing support for national educational developments, offers a wide range of resources and expertise to teachers and schools (Roebuck, 2008). A national CPD team, managed under the auspices of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) plays a key role in seeking to coordinate and steer provision (see Kennedy, 2008). Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education ( HMIE) also produces many publications that support teacher development in relation to current priorities in Scottish education. This 'facilitative' role for HMIE is a development of the past decade (Weir, 2008).

2.15 School-university partnerships have been strengthened through collaborative projects such as the Schools of Ambition programme (2006-2010) (Hulme et al, 2010) and the Applied Educational Research Scheme ( AERS) Learners, Learning and Teaching Network (2004-2009) (Christie and Menter, 2009).

2.16 Collectively, these developments cohere around a conception of teaching as a learning profession and a conception of schools as learning organisations that have a commitment to self-evaluation and continuous improvement ( HMIE, 2006). This is consistent with TP21 (Scottish Executive, 2001:5) which announced 'a new framework which promotes professionalism and which places teachers at the heart of teaching'. A 'personalised' approach to professional development was envisaged through a negotiated CPD plan for every teacher addressing personal, institutional, local and national priorities.

Current strengths

2.17 Teacher educators in Scotland and elsewhere have highlighted a number of features of Scottish teacher education as strengths, for example a shared ethos within the policy community, peer review and the strong intellectual base (Menter and Hulme, 2008; Menter et al, 2004). The concept of teacher professionalism as laid out in TP21 and enacted through a number of the policies mentioned above is based on an ideal of the teacher as a skilled worker with a high degree of autonomy (Forde et al, 2006; Doherty and McMahon, 2007). The extent to which this view of teaching is actually adopted as part of teachers' professional identity does vary however, as demonstrated by the diversity of teachers' responses to the current curriculum reforms. Recent research by the University of Glasgow (2009) suggests that teachers had become accustomed to a relatively prescriptive curriculum ( Curriculum 5-14) and that some are finding the new responsibilities accompanying Curriculum for Excellence challenging.

2.18 The shared ethos within the policy community is another generally positive feature. The reliance on peer-based evaluation processes which has typified inspection of teacher education, as well as the encouragement of self-evaluation and the adoption of reflective and enquiring practices have all contributed to this (Christie and Menter, 2009).

2.19 Similar cooperation and peer review characterises the accreditation processes deployed for ITE programmes. Organised by the GTCS on behalf of the Government, these processes are now relatively non-bureaucratic and rely to a significant extent on Universities' own quality assurance procedures, as well as ensuring a match with the professional standards (Menter, 2008).

2.20 ITE has developed and maintained a strong intellectual and academic base, especially by comparison with other parts of the UK, with a continuing commitment to the study of education as a subject, its contributing disciplines and the theories and research which underpin their further development (Menter et al, 2006b).

2.21 The induction and chartered teacher schemes developed in the wake of TP21 have been much admired (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007; Ingvarsson, 2008; Egan, 2009). Both schemes have encountered some difficulties in their implementation but at their core they share the characteristics of 'extended' professionalism (Hoyle, 1974, see Section 3).

2.22 The induction scheme has made an important contribution towards the as yet incomplete creation of a genuine continuum for teacher development and learning. It has been recognised in educational research that teacher learning cannot finish at the end of ITE but should continue on throughout the career and that the first year of employment is an especially challenging time for many new teachers (Draper and O'Brien, 2006; Rippon and Martin, 2003, 2006).

2.23 The chartered teacher scheme has attracted some criticism for being too theoretically oriented and initially did not recruit very well. However recruitment and its effectiveness are improving, according to the developing research on the programme (Connelly and McMahon, 2007; Reeves, 2007; Carroll, 2009; Williamson and Robinson, 2009; McMahon et al, 2010).


2.24 Humes (2000; 2003) has suggested that the close relationships within the policy community, mentioned as a strength above, have led to some inertia in Scottish education and this criticism could be applied to teacher education. One aspect of teacher education which can appear to be a weakness by comparison with approaches elsewhere, is the relative underdevelopment of partnership approaches across the teacher education 'continuum' (see Section 4), most particularly in ITE. An integrated partnership approach is important in order to produce an experience for teachers throughout their professional development that is coherent and consistently supported by all those involved, whether they are based in schools, local authorities, government or universities. There have been several attempts to address this issue, including the STNE scheme at the University of Aberdeen which has partnership with schools and local authorities as one of its underpinning principles (Livingston and Shiach, 2009). Most notably however, there was the mentor initiative established in the early 1990s as a pilot scheme at the (then) Moray House Institute of Education (Kirk, 2000). In this scheme, teachers within placement schools played a structured role in supporting students. Although, as reported by Kirk (2000) and Cameron-Jones and O'Hara (1995), the evaluation of this scheme indicated some benefits for students (that were not statistically significant) and teachers, including enhanced school experience among the pilot group of students and allocation of resources for mentor training, it was not adopted nationally. The rejection of the scheme has been attributed to inertia and anxiety about loss of role and status by higher education based tutors (McIntyre, 2005) and also to opposition from teacher unions and others, based on the lack of resources for the scheme and the potential increased workload for teachers (Smith et al, 2006a, b).

2.25 When the second stage review of ITE was set up following TP21 it was anticipated that this might lead to a radical 'shake-up' in the relations between schools and universities and their respective staffs. When the review reported ( SEED, 2005), the need for enhanced partnership was indeed identified as a concern for teacher education in Scotland. This identified weakness has since been explored; coinciding with the publication of the report each education authority designated an officer to take responsibility for ensuring that school placements for ITE students were effectively coordinated within each authority's schools. An electronic database, 'Practicum', has also been established in order to support the efficient identification of placements across the country. Additionally, the GTCS have also commissioned a literature review of partnership within initial teacher education (Brisard et al, 2005) that was published and discussed by the Council's committees but, in spite of drawing attention to models elsewhere (the UK, in the USA and Australasia), it led to no particular policy changes.

2.26 However, despite the growing recognition within research and policy literature as to the benefits of partnership working, research literature suggests that school staff in Scotland play a relatively limited role in the tutoring, support and assessment of students in training within their schools in comparison to mentor teachers elsewhere in the UK (Smith et al, 2006). There are however, some notable exceptions to this, suggesting that this is an area that can be strengthened (see Cope and Stephen, 2001, at Stirling; Christie et al, 2004 at Edinburgh; Dewhurst and McMurtry, 2006 at Aberdeen).

Areas for improvement

2.27 The Audit Scotland Interim Report (2006) on A Teaching Profession for the 21 st Century highlighted areas requiring further review and refinement, including the need to address an initial failure to create benchmarks against which progress might be measured. The aspects identified included: impact on educational attainment; improvements in classroom practice; the quality of educational leadership; workload and skill-mix; workforce morale; and recruitment and retention within the profession.

2.28 In 2007 HMIE issued a report reviewing the impact of TP21 on schools. This concluded that there had been improvements in CPD for teachers and that the induction scheme was proving effective. It suggested that The Scottish Government's (2008) review of the chartered teacher programme would be important and needed to lead to more teachers aspiring to achieve this advanced qualification.

2.29 A key issue in ITE in recent years has been the fluctuation in the number of funded student places. The workforce planning procedures deployed by the Government have not always been accurate in making medium-term predictions about the demand for teachers, leading to significant revisions of allocated ITE places (Scottish Funding Council circular, 2010). While changes in intake numbers have been evenly distributed around the ITE providers (in contrast to some other parts of the UK), they have led to considerable resourcing difficulties for providers due to rapid rises or falls in student numbers and there has been concern expressed by some providers that this may affect the quality of provision e.g. a reduction in university staffing for teacher education and a reduction in visiting tutor support (as discussed by Kirk, 2000).

2.30 In comparison to England, Scotland may be seen to have less diverse routes of entry into teaching (Menter et al, 2006a). Potential teachers who are less mobile, living in rural or remote parts of Scotland, and those who have caring commitments or are unable to relinquish their current employment may therefore experience difficulty in taking up teaching. This issue has been addressed, in part, by the introduction of distance/online learning approaches which were initiated in order to provide for such candidates. Additionally, the teaching workforce in Scotland is relatively homogeneous in its ethnic and linguistic demography, although with a disproportionately high number of women and this may be partly attributed to these factors (Menter et al, 2006).

2.31 While the induction scheme has been important to the early professional development of teachers during their first year of employment, research indicates that there is a notable absence of continuing support thereafter (Kennedy et al, 2008; Wilson et al, 2006; Fraser et al, 2007), suggesting that this is a potential area for improvement. These studies also found that CPD could be further improved by paying more attention to the affective aspects of teacher learning. Scotland is far from being alone in this particular aspect as recent work in England (Hobson and Ashby, 2010) has shown. Additionally, research suggests that Scottish teachers themselves did not always see CPD as a positive opportunity even in the 'post-McCrone' context, although many welcomed the idea of an 'entitlement' of 35 hours per year (Draper and Sharp, 2006). Kennedy (2005) has also drawn attention to the shortcomings of some approaches to CPD in supporting transformation in Scottish schools, notably that CPD parameters are often externally imposed.

2.32 Following the recommendations of the McCrone Report, the TP21 Agreement increased the numbers of additional support staff working in classrooms ( HMIE, 2007; Audit Scotland, 2006) and it has been found that teachers have not been appropriately prepared to collaborate with such colleagues as effectively as they might (Calder and Grieve, 2004). Similarly, the integrated children's services agenda that has been adopted across the country has not necessarily been associated with significant changes to professional development (either pre- or in-service) (Allan, 2009; Menter, 2009).

2.33 It has also been suggested that CPD for serving headteachers is lacking, certainly by comparison with the structured SQH programme offered in preparation for headship (Woods et al, 2009; Menter et al, 2005).

2.34 Finally, it may be noted that there have been few systematic or sustained attempts to investigate the effectiveness or impact of teacher education in its various forms. As indicated above, some of the new initiatives ( SQH, chartered teacher, induction scheme) have been evaluated but there has been little research on linking teacher education either to pupil outcomes or to processes of curriculum reform.

2.35 Some of these policies have become 'flagships' for Scottish education. In their nine country review of teacher education, Conway et al (2009) indicate that Scottish teacher education has many innovative features, such as the induction and chartered teacher schemes, as set out above. Indeed, Conway (2010) singled Scotland out for its 'developmental' approach to teacher education as opposed to the 'regulatory' approach taken elsewhere, again reflecting the discussion above. Nevertheless it is apparent that there are some weaknesses and areas that could be improved in the provision and in looking hereafter at links between teacher education and curriculum change and between teacher education and educational outcomes it is intended, where possible, to identify lessons from elsewhere that may assist in addressing some of these issues.

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