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Publication - Research and analysis

Literature Review on Teacher Education in the 21st Century

Published: 1 Oct 2010

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.

104 page PDF

943.7 kB

104 page PDF

943.7 kB

Literature Review on Teacher Education in the 21st Century

104 page PDF

943.7 kB


Key points summary

  • Four models of teaching and teacher professionalism can be delineated in current literature: the effective teacher, the reflective teacher, the enquiring teacher and the transformative teacher. All of these have significance for teacher education in Scotland.
  • Diverse routes of entry into teaching, including employment-based and fast track routes, tend to develop where there have been significant problems of teacher supply and quality, for example in the USA and England. Alternative routes can widen access to the profession and address specific needs.
  • A number of evaluations of different types of programme indicate mixed results in terms of teacher quality. The evidence base on the effectiveness of different routes is inconclusive and high quality longitudinal research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies over time.


3.1 This section responds to the third research objective and reviews some of the major factors that influence approaches taken towards teacher education and their delivery internationally. Four models of teaching and teacher professionalism are identified, each of which has particular emphases. In exploring teacher professionalism there is an orientation towards entry into the profession and initial teacher education, because this is the phase at which the foundations of professionalism are laid. Subsequent phases of teacher education build upon these foundations. Induction and continuing professional development are discussed in greater detail in section 4.

Approaches to teacher education

3.2 It is not only in Scotland that teacher education has been the subject of much reform over the past twenty years. A longer review of the history of teacher education shows that teacher education has consistently been a significant site of social and political debate in many countries. The inter-related themes of this contestation include the following:

  • struggles for 'positioning' and the 'ownership' of teacher education;
  • attempts to define teaching as a profession - and to establish whether teaching has a distinctive intellectual knowledge base;
  • debate over teachers' terms and conditions, as well as pay, and the role of teachers' unions;
  • the emergence of professional bodies to uphold professional standards and to control entry into the profession;
  • the economics of teacher supply and demand.

3.3 These themes have created a range of responses and have led to considerable diversity in provision of teacher education. These differing approaches to teacher education may be informed by different notions of professionalism and may have repercussions in terms of teacher quality, recruitment and retention.

3.4 The struggles for 'positioning' during the past ten years have been particularly visible in England and in the USA. In part this has been a continuing debate about the content and process of teacher education. This has included arguments about the relationship between theory and practice, between pedagogical skills and subject knowledge and between values and technical competence 3.


3.5 Since 1998 ( DfEE, 1998a) routes of entry into the English teacher workforce became even more varied in nature, with continuing expansion of employment-based routes (qualifying teachers are still required to pass skills based tests) - the recent Select Committee Report on the training of teachers suggests 15% of new teachers now take this path (House of Commons, 2010). However, an Ofsted (2005) evaluation of employment-based training noted 'wide variations between schools' and 'significant weaknesses in subject-specific training for secondary trainees' among a third of the 47 providers inspected. The Select Committee Report (House of Commons, 2010:3) cautioned against rapid further expansion.

3.6 The Becoming a Teacher (BaT) project (2003-2009) examined experiences of initial teacher training, induction and early professional development of entrants to the profession via university-based, employment-based and school-based routes in England. This multi-method, large-scale longitudinal study makes an important contribution to research design in teacher education comparing experiences of different training routes. The study focused on choice of route and motivation to undertake initial teacher training ( ITT), rather than effectiveness of training route. The Final Report (Hobson et al, 2009:iv) notes that 'trainees who had followed employment-based and school-centred programmes tended to give higher ratings of the support they received and their relationships with mentors and other school-based colleagues than those who had followed other ITT routes'. The authors caution against making generalisations about different routes, noting 'statistically significant differences between the reported experiences of student teachers following the same ITT route with different providers' (ibid) and that variations attributed to training route were 'washed out' by subsequent experience of teaching (p. xii).

3.7 More recently Master's level work has been introduced into initial teacher education programmes in England. Teachers qualifying with a PGCE may now achieve a number of credits at M Level, which can then be recognised as part of a subsequent programme of study towards a Master's award, such as an MEd. During 2010 the Training and Development Agency for Schools has been introducing a pilot scheme for the Master's in Teaching and Learning ( MTL), a new qualification that it intends to make available to all newly qualified teachers ( TDA, 2010).

3.8 As well as increasing the numbers of ancillary staff, governments across the UK and elsewhere have all been developing - each in their own way - attempts to improve inter-professional collaboration around education. In England this can be seen in the concept of 'wraparound schooling', similar concepts elsewhere are 'learning communities' in Scottish cities and 'full service' schools in the USA and Australia (Forbes and Watson, 2009). Such schemes share an interest in bringing together professionals from education, health, social services and sometimes, police and voluntary agencies, for the better integration of services, especially for those deemed to be most needy.

3.9 The other significant development over recent years has been around leadership in education. The launch of a National College for School Leadership 4 ( NCSL) in England signalled an increased concern with the management of schools. Initially the focus was on current and aspirant headteachers, but increasingly leadership has been seen as an expectation for all teachers, a theme picked up by Elmore (2007) in his comparison of Victoria (Australia) and the USA and in the evaluation of the Welsh chartered teacher scheme (Egan, 2009).

The USA and elsewhere

3.10 Issues around teacher supply and quality have resulted in a proliferation of alternative routes into teaching internationally ( i.e. not traditional university programmes). These are most developed in the deregulated system of US teacher education, where most States operate an alternative programme 5.

3.11 Teach for America ( TFA) provides an alternative route for entrants to the profession who may not have considered teaching as a career. TFA was established in 1989 to encourage graduates with strong academic credentials to teach for a minimum of two years in high needs schools. Candidates participate in an intensive five-week summer institute as preparation for school experience. Two evaluations comparing TFA corps members with control teachers, report that Teach for America graduates achieve pupil outcomes above those achieved by comparable teachers who qualified through other entry routes (Decker et al, 2004; Raymond et al, 2001). These findings are however challenged by Darling Hammond et al (2005) who note that these studies did not control for certification status or students' prior achievement. Based on analysis of a longitudinal dataset (1996-2002) linking the achievement records of 35,000 students with school and teacher data, Darling Hammond et al (2005: 20) conclude, 'teachers' abilities to support student achievement appear to depend, both for TFA teachers and others, substantially on the level of preparation these teachers have had, as reflected in their certification status'.

3.12 From 2003 an English version of TFA, Teach First, operated in London and subsequently expanded to include provision in the North West, Yorkshire, and the East and West Midlands. Teach First is associated with a PGCE award. Trainees commit to teaching for two years and obtain Qualified Teacher Status at the end of their first year. An evaluation of innovative practice in the Teach First programme noted positive outcomes in terms of: impact on schools and participants; retention through the programme; and destinations after two years, with 42 per cent continuing to teach in UK schools on completion of the programme (Hutchings et al, 2006; see also Leaton Gray and Whitty, 2010).

3.13 In the USA, other alternative certification routes include the Boston Teacher Residency, Chicago Teaching Fellows and the New York Teaching Fellows programmes (Solomon, 2009; Boyd et al, 2007). These initiatives involve guaranteed teaching posts on selection and pay a salary during initial teacher education.

3.14 Alternative routes to becoming a teacher are associated with diversification of the school workforce in relation to specific needs e.g. geographic areas, student populations, priority subject areas, and under-represented groups e.g. people with disabilities, people from black and minority ethnic ( BME) groups and male primary teachers. US reviews report mixed findings on the effectiveness of schemes to widen access. Wilson et al (2001) report that whilst alternative certification programmes have some success in widening access in terms of age and ethnicity, they have a mixed record in terms of teacher quality. In a literature review of alternative teacher education, Brannan and Reichardt (2002) recommend a move away from a focus on the provision of diverse routes to critical scrutiny of the methods and assumptions of traditional teacher education programmes.

3.15 The Carnegie Corporation's Teachers for a New Era ( TNE) initiative (on which Scottish Teachers for a New Era ( STNE) was modelled) was launched in 2001 and explicitly sought to raise student attainment by improving teacher quality. Kirby et al (2006: 25) note that the distinctive contribution of TNE lies in its commitment to, 'insist on formal evidence that a training program is effective in producing teachers who can improve student learning relative to teachers who have not participated in the program'. A resource of $5 million per institution over five years was invested in eleven programs organised around three design principles: the need for evidence-based decision making; close collaboration between education and arts and sciences faculty; and the promotion of teaching as an academically taught clinical-practice profession. The use of value-added modelling ( VAM) is promoted as a means of measuring impact that takes account of school and community factors and other intake variables (Kirby et al, 2006; McCaffrey et al, 2004; Harris and McCaffrey, 2009). However, most TNE sites experienced difficulty measuring the impact of the changes on pupil gains.

3.16 A synthesis of findings from six evaluation studies of alternative (secondary) provision in the Netherlands (2000-05) suggests that school-based teacher education by itself does not guarantee valuable and accelerated training outcomes (Brouwer, 2007). The quality of mentoring arrangements was questioned across the evaluations. It was noted that supervising teachers need opportunities for professional development in mentoring to facilitate reflective learning and to reduce the 'practice shock' associated with school-based routes. Brouwer (2007) identifies a role for teacher educators in modeling action research as a practice-embedded approach to professional inquiry.

3.17 A study of teacher education curricula in the European Union carried out by the Finnish Institute for Educational Research (2007) looked at ITE, induction and in-service teacher education. It found great variation between countries in the skills and key competences required for preparation for the teaching profession. Perhaps most significantly, only five of the twenty seven countries (treating the UK as one) set out in detail the competences for entering teaching at a national level. These included the UK. In eighteen countries, national competences were adapted or further defined at a lower level, such as a Teacher Education Institution. In the remaining four countries, competence requirements are entirely set at a lower level. The report indicates that pedagogic competences tended to be seen as more important in primary teacher education than in secondary. The detail of the teacher education curricula are always, at least in part, defined at institutional level.

3.18 That report concludes by synthesising its findings with those outlined in Improving the Quality of Teacher Education (European Commission 2007). Both reports commend the development of the continuum of teacher professional development and the development of 'research based education in teacher education', as well as calling for further Europe-wide research on a number of aspects of teacher education, particularly supporting teaching in 'heterogeneous classrooms'.

Enhancement of professionalism

3.19 What emerges from this review of the approaches to teacher education is that there are differing conceptions of teacher professionalism underlying policy and research literature. Indeed this literature review, together with a recent review of literature on teacher identity (Menter, forthcoming) leads the authors to suggest that there are four influential 'paradigms' of teacher professionalism: the effective teacher, the reflective teacher, the enquiring teacher and the transformative teacher. Each of these leads to different emphases within teacher education across the full continuum. All of them may be identified in Scottish teacher education and have a contribution to make in the contemporary context of A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century ( TP21) and Curriculum for Excellence.

The effective teacher: standards and competences

3.20 This model has emerged as the dominant one in much official government discourse across the developed world over the last thirty years. It is closely associated with the economically led view of education that stresses the need for teachers to prepare pupils to take their part in making their respective nations' economies a success ( e.g.DfEE 1998b). The emphases are on technical accomplishment and on measurement. It is the model for an age of accountability and performativity (Mahony and Hextall, 2000). From a political perspective it is difficult to reject this model because it prioritises value for money for taxpayers and emphasises the opportunity for all pupils to achieve to their best potential and subsequently to contribute to the economy and society.

3.21 Such an approach may be well aligned with a nationally prescribed curriculum and a national assessment system, which extends down to the earliest stages of schooling. Indeed this particular aspect of education in the UK has seen considerable recent variation in policy across the four nations and has been the topic of considerable discussion following the publication of the Cambridge Primary Review (Alexander, 2009). In Scotland, although there was a clear set of guidance under Curriculum 5-14, introduced from 1989 onwards, there has not been a national curriculum as such and, with Curriculum for Excellence currently being introduced, there is even more scope for professional autonomy. In Wales and Northern Ireland there has been much relaxation of the National Curriculum since devolution, especially in the earlier years of schooling. Likewise, national assessment in the form of Standard Assessment Tasks ( SATs) (and accompanying school league tables) was not developed in the same way in Scotland and has now been removed from the Welsh system.

3.22 So, it is perhaps not surprising that the ways in which the dominant standards-based approach to teaching has been defined in each country has shown some interesting variations. In a small-scale study undertaken as part of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme, some significant differences were identified between the statements defining what was required of new teachers in the four jurisdictions (Menter and Hulme, 2008). In particular the most explicit statements about underlying values of teaching linked to the purposes of education were found in the Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish documents, but these were far less visible in the equivalent English document 6. Furthermore there were much more explicit references to educational research and enquiry and to anti-discriminatory practice in the documents from the smaller nations. While it must be acknowledged that such differences in official policy statements do not necessarily reflect significant differences in practice, nevertheless the differences do suggest a differentiation in how teaching is understood in each country. Hextall and Mahony (2000) provide an account of how the standards were developed and implemented in the English context under the auspices of the Teacher Training Agency. It is quite clear from this literature that teachers and teacher educators played a very small part in contributing to these developments.

3.23 In contrast to the more politically driven effective teacher model, a common factor in respect of the other three paradigms is that they are models that have emerged much more from within the teaching profession and from within sites of teacher education.

The reflective teacher

3.24 The notion of teaching as a reflective activity emerged strongly in the UK, partly in response to the growing influence of the effective teacher model, which was seen by some as restricting teacher professionalism, rather than enhancing it (Stronach et al, 2002; Hartley, 2002). The philosophical roots of the reflective teaching model lie in the work of the American educator John Dewey. Early in the twentieth century he developed an approach to teaching based on teachers becoming active decision-makers. Similar ideas were later developed by Donald Schön who wrote about The Reflective Practitioner (1983), stressing the significance of values and of theory informing decision-making.

3.25 In the UK, such ideas were picked up and developed in a very practical way by Andrew Pollard and his collaborators who from the late 1980s onwards, produced a series of books, including handbooks, on 'reflective teaching' (from Pollard and Tann, 1987 to Pollard, 2008) 7. At the centre of this model was a cyclical approach to planning, making provision, acting, collecting data, analysing the data, evaluating and reflecting and then planning the next step.

3.26 Built into such a model is a commitment to personal professional development through practice. It was a model that took a firm hold in teacher education institutions across the UK during the latter parts of the twentieth century. The largest scale studies of initial teacher education undertaken in England by Furlong et al (2000) found that about 70 per cent of teacher education programmes led from universities and colleges were informed by some version of 'reflective teaching' (see also Griffiths, 2000).

3.27 The reflective teaching approach also has significance beyond ITE, for experienced teachers. In their Teaching and Learning Research Programme study 'Learning to Learn' Pedder et al (2005) found that there were opportunities for considerable teacher learning to take place in the classroom context, through, for example applying research, collaborating with colleagues, or consulting with pupils. They viewed such learning as being of high potential value. However it is also viewed as relatively high risk, and some teachers appear to be less comfortable with such approaches 8.

The enquiring teacher

3.28 Reflective teaching does not in itself imply a research orientation on the part of the teacher, although the model may be strongly influenced by a set of ideas that do promote just that conception (Forde et al, 2006). In the UK the origins of the notion of 'teacher as researcher' is usually associated with the groundbreaking work of Lawrence Stenhouse (1975), who argued that teachers should indeed take a research approach to their work. He described this as a form of curriculum development. This would make such an approach very apposite in the context of the development of Curriculum for Excellence.

3.29 In this model teachers are encouraged to undertake systematic enquiry in their own classrooms, develop their practice and share their insights with other professionals. Such ideas have been taken up, developed and enhanced through a range of subsequent initiatives, often associated with university staff working in partnership with teachers and lecturers in schools and colleges.

3.30 It is also to be noted that, at various times, such approaches have received 'official' endorsement through funded schemes in England and Scotland (see McNamara, 2002; Furlong and Salisbury, 2005; Hulme et al, 2010). Indeed a range of recent initiatives concerning accomplished teachers (such as the chartered teacher) and indeed ITE have introduced a strong enquiry element into the frame, as in STNE (Livingston and Shiach, 2009). Teacher enquiry frequently figures within contemporary approaches to professional development (Campbell et al, 2004; Campbell and Groundwater Smith, 2009) and has been found to 're-energise' teachers (Burns and Haydn, 2002). So, it seems possible for the enquiring teacher model to be compatible with the effective teacher.

3.31 Ponte et al (2004) conducted descriptive case studies in three countries - the USA, Australia and the UK - of programmes that aimed to introduce action research in initial teacher education. They conclude that there is a need to introduce student teachers to inquiry-oriented approaches to teaching during ITE in order to provide a firm foundation for similarly modelled career-long professional learning i.e. to develop a disposition towards thoughtful and critical self-study.

3.32 Some of the most developed approaches to teacher as researcher/the enquiring teacher have been developed in Europe (Altrichter et al, 2006; Ronnerman et al, 2008), North America (Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1993; 2009) and Australia (Groundwater-Smith, 2006; Diezmann, 2005; Deppeler, 2006).

The transformative teacher

3.33 The final model to be put forward incorporates and builds upon elements of the previous two. However its key defining feature is that it brings an 'activist' dimension into the approach to teaching. If the prevalent view of the teacher is someone whose contribution to society is to transmit knowledge and prepare pupils for the existing world, the view here is that teachers' responsibilities go beyond that; they should be contributing to social change and be preparing their pupils to contribute to change in society.

3.34 The most recent and cogent articulation of this model is that set out by the Australian teacher educator, Judyth Sachs (2003), who talks of 'teaching as an activist profession'. Those who advocate teaching as a transformative activity will suggest that some challenge to the status quo is not only to be expected but is a necessary part of bringing about a more just education system, where inequalities in society begin to be addressed and where progressive social change can be stimulated (Zeichner, 2009; Cochran-Smith, 2004). In aspiring to achieve greater social justice through education however, those such as Clarke and Drudy (2006) have argued that it is important to consider the influence of teachers' own beliefs and values, which they bring to their work at whatever stage of their career they are at.

The future of teacher professionalism

3.35 In the 1970s Eric Hoyle wrote an influential paper that suggested that models of teaching existed at some point on a spectrum between 'restricted' and 'extended' versions of teacher professionalism (Hoyle, 1974). Crudely speaking the first model depicted above, the effective teacher, rests at the 'restricted' end of the spectrum, where teaching is largely defined in terms of a range of technical skills, with the other three models being at various points towards the 'extended' end of the spectrum, where teachers are seen as more autonomous and their own judgement is called upon to a much greater extent (Adams, 2008).

3.36 In one of the few studies that considers the future of teacher education in the UK (especially England) Edwards et al (2002) argue on the basis of an analysis of the consequences of recent reform for teacher education, that teachers should be seen as 'users and producers of knowledge about teaching, in communities of practice which are constantly refreshed through processes of professional enquiry, in partnerships between practitioners and researchers' (p.125). That is, teachers should be given increased control over the professional knowledge base of teaching.

Implications for Scottish teacher education

  • The research literature discussed in this section suggests that employment-based teacher education routes can in some circumstances add value where there are issues surrounding teaching supply or quality of teachers. Such routes may also offer greater opportunities to those who may currently be unable to participate in the more traditional routes available within Scotland.
  • There is scope for the development of a much more integrated model of the teacher education continuum that more fully promotes partnerships between the full range of stakeholders at all stages of teachers' careers.
  • While all four models of teacher professionalism have importance in the Scottish context, the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence would appear to highlight the importance of the enquiry and reflective models; while the commitment within Scottish education to social justice and inclusion would highlight the relevance of elements of the transformative approach. Nevertheless the effective teacher model also remains very important in the pursuit of educational standards.