Teacher education for the changing demographics of schooling: policy, practice and research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Moray House School of Education


Throughout the UK there are many good schools that produce very high academic attainment for many pupils, but concerns remain about the long tail of under-achievement for the lowest performing 20% of students. Too many schools still struggle to deliver on the promise of a good quality education and good academic and social results for everybody. A key concern is that many classroom teachers report feeling unprepared for the challenges of today's schools and their increasing cultural, linguistic and developmental diversity.

Teacher education (TE) has an important role to play in how well prepared new teachers feel for the challenges of today's classrooms, yet in the short time that student teachers are in initial training, it is impossible to anticipate every type of challenge or difficulty they might meet in their professional lives. Moreover, the two widely used but contrasting approaches to preparing student teachers for diversity - specialized courses that are added on to existing programmes or content knowledge on diversity and additional needs that is 'infused' into them, have met with limited success and typically occur alongside other diversity projects related to race, class, culture and language.

The proposed seminar series will create a professional space to engage in a broad dialogue with multiple stakeholders to examine the assumptions and values that underlie current TE practices and programmes and consider emerging innovations aimed at synthesising and integrating new thinking about the role of TE in preparing teachers for the changing demographic of schooling. It creates an opportunity for teacher educators and other stakeholders who wish to work collaboratively with colleagues in university schools of education to set out a vision for the future as part of a broad agenda to support reform in teacher education as a strategy to reduce educational inequality by better preparing primary and secondary class teachers to respond to diverse student groups.

A new vision is high on the policy agenda in many countries as the pressure to perform well on international comparisons and compete in a global economy drives education policy and as policy makers increasingly look to TE as a site for reform. There is a need to engage key stakeholders in thoughtful discussions on how to prepare primary and secondary classroom teachers to hold high expectations for all students, including students with special educational needs, English language learners and those who might be otherwise disadvantaged or marginalized. Such discussions need to be informed by the evidence about inclusive practices that the research has provided to date, as well as to identify the need for further research in the area.

A series of six one day seminars and a mini conference are proposed over 25 months to address the themes of: TE and teachers' practices for diversity (seminars 1 & 2); teachers' knowledge, skills and values (seminar 3); how these can be developed (seminar 4) and incorporated in TE curricula, culture and policies (seminars 5 & 6). Three papers will be presented in each seminar ensuring ample time for discussion. The final mini-conference will disseminate the seminar outcomes.

The core seminar group will consist of teacher educators, researchers, teachers and other school staff, policy makers and representatives of professional associations. Other UK participants will be invited to engage in a broad dialogue on relevant themes. In recognition of the value of practitioners' insights on the topics at least half of the participants in each seminar will be teachers and other practitioners. Considering the international relevance of the area, one presenter at each seminar will be an international researcher to provide insights from other contexts and encourage critical reflection. A series of policy briefs and an edited book will be produced.

Planned Impact

There are many constituencies committed to reducing educational inequality, but few opportunities to consider the implications of their work for teacher education. By engaging teacher educators and researchers, policy makers and practitioners in schools, this seminar series is intended to strengthen and inform the work of each group. In addition to the academic beneficiaries, local education authority staff, school staff and senior policy makers, as well as members of professional bodies such as the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS), Department for Education Teaching Agency (England) and the Universities Council for Education of Teachers (UCET).

The proposed seminar series will be of particular benefit to education policy makers as the reform of teacher education is high on the policy agenda in many countries. Teaching Scotland's Future, a review of teacher education undertaken in 2011for the Scottish Government by Graham Donaldson, former Senior Chief Inspector with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) called for teacher preparation to reflect a re-conceptualized model of teacher professionalism. Following Donaldson's recommendations, The University of Edinburgh's Moray House School of Education is revising its Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree and the one year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) degrees for primary and secondary teachers. The aim of these revisions is to support student teachers' development as reflective, enquiring professionals capable of engaging fully with the complexities of education as key actors in shaping and leading educational change for improving learning of all students. The proposed seminar series could not be more timely in offering Moray House and other Schools of Education an up-to-date and scholarly review of the evidence on teacher education for inclusion and diversity as well as setting out some policy options for future reforms in teacher education.

Additionally, there is a clear role for teacher education policy makers in promoting an agenda for teacher education that embraces diversity in its broadest sense. Governments and schools have initiated many different programmes aimed at addressing the needs of English language learners, those with special educational needs, and those from different cultural backgrounds, but these have been criticised for perpetuating rather than redressing stereotypes of difference. Compounding this problem, TE has been organized upon an assumption that there should be different TE programmes for different types of learners. This assumption is also reflected in the idea that 'specialist knowledge' is required for working with certain students identified as 'different' in schools. But separate programmes of teacher education have been found to reinforce teachers' identities in terms of whom they perceived they are qualified to teach, the very problem that leads to complaints from practicing teachers that they have not been prepared for increasingly diverse student groups. The involvement of policy makers in the seminar series is intended to open up dialogue between researchers and policy makers and prompt a consideration of new alternative policy options and their implications for teacher preparation.

Given the international evidence of the difference teachers can make in improving students' outcomes, and contributing to educational equality and school inclusiveness students in schools will ultimately benefit from improvements in teacher education.
Description Significant achievements are described in relation to four project objectives:

• To promote a broad dialogue that considers the links between teachers' inclusive practices and TE effects on their development

Over the course of the seminar series, a total of 137 colleagues participated in one or more of six seminars and a final mini-conference. This included 29 speakers from the UK, Europe, the US, and Australia. A core group of academic and non-academic users (teachers, representatives of local authorities, Scottish government, the General Teaching Council Scotland and the University Council for Education of Teachers regularly attended the seminars. Other participants included academics from across the UK and Europe as well as twenty PhD and EdD students from the University of Edinburgh. The seminars stimulated dialogue across a range of diversity constituencies (e.g. multicultural education, bilingual education, special educational needs).

• To consider the insights provided by the existing international research in the field and identify missing evidence that requires further collaborative research

The seminars addressed issues of inclusive pedagogical practice and teacher agency, as well as teacher education content and policy contexts. Drawing on research in various areas of diversity, as well as teacher education more generally, the series positioned a broad concept of diversity within the larger frame of research and policy on teacher education. The main gaps in evidence identified for further research included: the impact of teacher education on students' practices and beliefs; intersectional studies of diverse groups of students' learning together; evidence of how schools can become more equitable; ways of working collaboratively with others; and change in teacher identity over time.

• To propose policy options supporting reform in teacher education for diversity

Engaging in dialogue across research, policy and practice communities enabled participants to consider how teacher education can be strengthened by reframing the issue of diversity as one of multiple overlapping identities relevant to each and every student rather than as unitary markers of identity (e.g. bilingual or disabled) for some. Discussions and key questions were summarised in the briefing papers produced after each seminar. These were shared with participants as well as with the broader professional and general public via publication on the seminar series website.

• To articulate a framework and set an agenda for future research of the effects of TE on teachers' practices for diversity

The briefing papers summarised the implications for further research and the final mini conference synthesised issues raised and outlined an agenda for future research. The need to synthesis and extend evidence produced in different 'silos' of research in teacher education in order to further knowledge of diversity as one of overlapping identities; and the necessity of linking well-established research on teachers' relationships, along with emerging research in the area of teacher agency to issues of social justice and inclusion were identified as key areas for research utilising a variety of methods and longitudinal designs. Finally, the need to design and conduct studies with, rather than on teachers, since praxis can only change from within was considered essential.
Exploitation Route The fifth project objective was:

• To disseminate innovative ideas and new approaches to preparing teachers for the increasing diversity of schooling with key stakeholder groups.
The findings of the seminar series have been disseminated directly to teacher educators and teachers, representatives of Local Education Authorities, and professional bodies. Invited keynote addresses include the 2015 UCET conference;2017 South African Colloquium on Standards for Inclusive Teaching; and 2017 Conference for the Irish Association of Teachers in Special Education.

Participants from the School of Education are currently developing collaborative research and development projects to inform teacher education programmes. The PI and/or CoI have made presentations to the: Schools' Research-led Teacher Education Network; City of Edinburgh professional development programmes (2016); Netherlands 'Leerlingen met special onderwijsbehoeften' project (2016/7); 'Learning within and across diverse contexts' University of Stavanger, Norway (2107). The CoI is working on a film with accompanying professional development material to illustrate teacher agency for inclusion.

Participation of researchers from abroad has led to several international collaborations: a Memorandum of Understanding for future research and development work between Teachers College (Columbia University) and The University Edinburgh; an international project on inclusive pedagogy in teacher education (led by Monash University) that is informed in part by her participation in the seminar series. A seminar funded by the European Educational Research Association, 'Enhancing teacher education for inclusion in Europe: current challenges and future directions', was followed by a special issue of the European Journal of Teacher Education, published in 2020.

An edited volume of seminar papers was published in 2017.
Sectors Education

URL http://www.ed.ac.uk/education/rke/centres-groups/rten/esrc-te-seminars
Description PI has served on two Scottish Government working groups addressing issues of teacher education for inclusion (Dyslexia Working Group 2014-2019; Autism Short Life Working Group, 2019) and member of the Expert Consultation Group, UNESCO policy guidelines on inclusion and equity in education (2016), consultant to the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education project, Teacher Professional Learning for Inclusion (2020)
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services