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


7.1 The overall aim of this review was, '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'.

7.2 In reviewing research on teacher preparation, Cochran-Smith observes that 'most of the broad policy aspects of teacher preparation have little or no conclusive empirical evidence' (2006:118). She suggests there are two reasons for this. First, research on teacher preparation has been 'marginalized and underfunded'. Second, very little of the research undertaken 'was designed to establish empirical linkages to pupils' learning, partly because teachers' knowledge, learning and beliefs were assumed to be important outcomes of teacher preparation in and of themselves and partly because it was considered self-evident that teachers who knew more, taught better' (ibid). If this was true in the USA in 2006, it is also still the case today in Europe. The findings in relation to the review objectives are summarised in Table 9.

Table 9. Summary of findings in relation to the objectives


Summary of findings

Provide a high level overview of the current model of teacher education in Scotland, identifying current strengths and areas for improvement.

A number of very strong features were identified although the major area for improvement was in linking these aspects into a coherent and integrated whole, based on partnerships between the stakeholders.

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.

Although it is rare to find studies which establish causal links between curricular change, teacher education and improvements in educational standards, many insights into the improvement of practices in teacher education at the various stages of the continuum were identified, from a range of settings, which may be of value to consider in the Scottish context.

Explore the relationships between forms of teacher education and the enhancement of professionalism, and between enhanced professionalism and pupil outcomes.

Four models of teacher professionalism were identified and linked to particular approaches to teacher education. The evidence on linkages between enhanced professionalism and pupil outcomes was found to be limited, contradictory and somewhat inconclusive.

Provide an overview of effective practice in evaluating the impact and effectiveness of teacher education.

Three main approaches to evaluation were considered: research, inspection and self-evaluation. 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. Inspections provide a valuable basis for comparison within and review across whole systems but tend to be less flexible and can be less sensitive to particular contexts.

7.3 Most of the work covered in this review has focused on teacher learning and development, because so little has been done that links teacher education directly to pupil outcomes and pupils' wider personal development. Indeed connecting that teacher learning perspective to the 'educational experience and wider personal development of young people' is rarely an explicit part of the work reviewed here. This review has not considered what might be learned from looking at other professions, but that would appear to be another important avenue for development 17. In 2005, Christie and Menmuir proposed a common framework of Standards for initial teacher education, health and social care; and Forbes (2007) gives an account of modules shared by pre-service education students and social work and community education students. Nixon et al (2000) argued that "universities might productively position teacher education with other areas of professional learning such as health and social care and develop professional learning as both a major field of collaborative research and scholarship, and a public resource" (pp.256-7).

7.4 Throughout Sections 3- 6 of this review, a number of implications have been suggested for teacher education in Scotland. How might these be brought together to offer an overall evaluation of the challenges and opportunities that now exist, drawing on the extensive range of literature that has been covered?

7.5 Scotland does have the benefit of clear complementary policy statements about the work of teachers ( A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century) and about the new curriculum ( Curriculum for Excellence). This literature review has indicated that it is important to have a clear conception of the nature of teacher professionalism. Research suggests that provision for teacher learning and development needs to be developed across the professional lifecourse with appropriate opportunities at all stages. At present there appear to be some discontinuities in provision. Where good practice exists it may be built upon. For example, mentoring skills developed by teachers in the context of induction may be adapted for initial teacher education. An enquiry orientation to teaching is another example of practice which is still very localised 18 but could be more widely promoted and supported if the potential synergy between the twin policies is to be more fully realised.

7.6 Provision cannot be made on a 'one size fits all' basis. This review indicates that teacher learning depends on the relevance, appropriateness and quality of what is made available. While the Standards provide a set of criteria against which various levels of professional performance may be judged, ensuring a quality threshold, they do not provide for the personalised learning that becomes increasingly required as teachers move through their careers.

7.7 A difficulty with much of the research undertaken within Scotland is that it is often relatively small-scale and piecemeal. It is often of considerable value in local contexts, but is less valuable to the wider system. If there is to be a more integrated and coherent approach to teacher education provision through the career lifecourse then it would be possible to incorporate a research and evaluation strand, so that some of the questions that it has not been possible to answer - either in Scotland or elsewhere - might be addressed in the future.