From school to faculty: stories of transition into teacher education

McCulloch, Margaret (2009) From school to faculty: stories of transition into teacher education. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Greater centralised control over teacher education across the United Kingdom over the past twenty years or so, driven by neo-liberal managerialist approaches to education in general and the ‘standards’ agenda in particular, has led to a discourse of competence-based preparation for teaching. The locus of all teacher education in Scotland has moved from ‘colleges of education’ and become firmly situated within university faculties or schools of education; achieving the Standard for Initial Teacher Education is inextricably linked with an undergraduate degree or post-graduate qualification. Thus school teachers who make the move into teacher education must enter the different world of Higher Education.

This professional doctoral thesis had the aim of identifying key issues in the transition of teachers from a school setting to working as teacher educators in a university Faculty of Education and investigates the experiences of a group of educators, including the author, who moved from teaching posts in schools or local authorities into teacher education in a single Scottish faculty of education within a year of each other. Through examining the narrations of their transition into the world of Higher Education, gathered after approximately three years in post, issues of professional identity and its construction, conceptualisations of learning and teaching in HE, and factors relating to induction and ongoing professional development for those entering the new work context are identified.

Some of the particular moral and ethical considerations in relation to ‘insider research’ are highlighted throughout the thesis, and there is reflection on the process of the research itself, with significant analysis and justification of the narrative approach used in the project.

While the experiences of the participants mirrored those of new teacher educators in England and Wales, the small-scale nature of this project allowed a closer look to be taken at some of the individual factors which impact both on transition into HE and on the development of professional identity of educators. Comparisons are drawn between political and professional factors impacting on teacher educators in Scotland and England. In addition, issues relating to the development of research cultures in relatively new faculties of education have been identified.

The stories told by the participants reveal some interesting and important issues. They suggest that the teachers were surprised by the extent to which the culture of Higher Education is different from schools; this leads to some initial, unexpected, difficulties in the new post. On the other hand, however, they demonstrate that most did not feel that their role as ‘teacher’ had significantly changed with the move into Higher Education (HE), and expressed professional identities did not tend to be located in HE. Issues relating to the structure of the faculty are identified as being relevant to this. In addition, it is suggested that the role of ‘university teacher’, taken on by most participants, is an important factor in limiting the sense of movement into a different context.

Some of the narrations revealed a strong sense of hierarchy amongst the different educational sectors. Also evident is the fragile nature of teacher confidence which, it is suggested, is due to a significant extent to the way in which teachers’ lives and work are organised, both within institutional structures and also in relation to society’s changing perspectives on the teaching profession.

Importantly, this research identifies that connection to individual disciplines seems to be fundamental to the professional identities of participants, both before and after the move to Higher Education. Most took on roles located in particular curricular areas and tended to have little engagement with issues relating to ‘education’ or to teacher education as subjects in themselves. It is argued that this is likely to sustain the gap between the theory and practice of education in the minds of both staff and students. In addition, it is suggested that, when new teacher educators enter particular ‘communities of practice’ (Wenger, 1998) linked to disciplinary ‘tribes’ (Becher & Trowler, 2001), assumptions, implicit theories and recurrent practices relating to learning and teaching within specific disciplines may not be identified or critiqued beyond each particular group.

These findings lead to the conclusion that in addition to extending their knowledge of learning and teaching into the context of HE on transition, teacher educators should have opportunities during induction and in ongoing professional development to reflect on and develop their understanding of the pedagogy, discourse and philosophy of teacher education, and the discipline of education itself.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: teacher educators, initial teacher education, teacher education in Scotland, transition, learning and teaching in Higher Education, professional identity, disciplines, disciplinary differences in teaching and learning, education, induction into Higher Education, narrative research
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Martin, Mrs Margaret
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Mrs Margaret J. McCulloch
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1273
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:36

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