Browsing PhD e-theses by Subjects
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Primary headteachers’ perceptions of training teachers fit to practise within changing landscapes of teacher trainingRecent changes to the provision for teacher training have seen a move to place greater responsibility for the training of teachers with schools rather than with Higher Education Institutes. The rationale appears to be the view that this will produce the kind of teachers schools are looking to employ. However, there appears to be little research focused on the opinions of the senior management of primary schools about whether they believe this to be the case, whether they feel schools are in a good position to undertake this training, and what impact they perceive such a move will have on primary schools. This study took a constructivist grounded theory approach to explore primary school headteachers’ perceptions of how best to train primary school teachers seen by them as fit to practise and what they perceived schools could and could not provide to support this outcome. Data were initially collected in a feasibility study exploring the views of the headteacher, the school-based mentor and the former trainee teacher in identifying their perceptions of factors which contributed to the outstanding outcome for a trainee on the Graduate Trainee Programme on the completion of his training year. Reflections on one of these factors in particular, that of the crucial role of the headteacher in enabling the successful outcome, at a time when a number of significant reforms to teacher training were being implemented, prompted a reconsideration of the focus of the main study to an exploration of headteachers’ perceptions of training teachers seen by them as fit to practise in primary schools in a changing landscape of teacher training. Twelve primary school headteachers participated in semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed utilising a constant comparison method (Strauss and Corbin, 1990; Charmaz, 2006). Conclusions from a small scale study cannot easily be generalised. However the findings from the main study suggested the headteachers believed teachers who were fit to practise demonstrated the ability to think critically about their practice and that this attribute was under-represented in standards for teachers. In terms of training to become teachers fit to practise the headteachers supported the viewpoint of the primacy of practice but believed that practice alone was not sufficient to develop the teachers they sought to employ in their schools. In order to become critical thinkers trainee teachers needed to study the theory underpinning the teaching in schools. This study should be guided by experts, who most of the headteachers identified as academic partners, in teacher training located outside of the school. There was a measure of hostility from some of the headteachers to the idea that a teaching school could fulfil this expert role. The headteachers used a number of synonyms to describe the teachers they were seeking but all appeared to mean teachers fit to practise in their schools. The headteachers believed they had the ability to recognise the potential to become a teacher fit to practise in applicants to teaching and they used this to identify trainee teachers who would fit their schools. With greater responsibility for teacher training moving to schools this highlighted issues of equality of opportunity and a potentially insular approach to the training and recruitment of teachers. According to the headteachers, schools which participated in teacher training required at least a good Ofsted grade, a climate and skilled staff to support novices and strategic leadership by the headteacher. As part of the remit of this strategic leadership the headteachers perceived it was their role to protect their schools from external pressures such as Ofsted inspections. This, they believed, gave them the autonomy to decide on their level of participation, if any, in teacher training on an annual basis. Recommendations for further research, policy and partnerships have been made.
Seeking constructive alignment of assessment in teacher education: locating the reflection in reflective writingThe aim of this thesis is to promote a dialogue about constructive alignment (Biggs, 1996) with a particular focus on the use of reflective writing as an assessed task in courses of teacher education and the influence it has, or does not have, on teacher reflection and/or in improving practice. The work is set against a national context in which time to reflect is being written out of teacher education as a consequence of policy which locates ‘training’ to teach increasingly within the busy-ness of school life. Persuaded by principles of constructive alignment and, therefore, troubled by student teachers’ perceptions of complex assignments which appear to have little relevance to their practice as teachers, I have undertaken an action research study (McAteer, 2013; Norton, 2009; and Wells, 2001), beginning with a conviction that it is possible to design assessment tasks which truly integrate professional and academic requirements and influence the learning activity of student teachers in ways which are meaningful for their development as teachers. Using an adaptation of the Ward and McCotter (2004) ‘Reflection Rubric’ to locate characteristics of reflection within the reflective writing submitted for assessment, the study evaluated the relationship between written reflection and academic and professional attainment and found little evidence that engagement in the reflective writing assignment had contributed to the participants’ development as teachers. I conclude that the assessment strategies of students and of the course had been either not aligned or destructively aligned. The thesis narrates my journey to the adoption of a socio-constructivist perspective, leading to greater insight into the relationship between established assessment practice and the learning activity of student teachers, and a questioning of my practice. Crucially, the notion of a ‘framework for assessment’ is broadened to encompass all assignment-related activity, the people involved and the timeframe, in addition to the task and criteria. I conclude by identifying a desire to know more about the national view of assessment in teacher education, seeking a network of colleagues in order to explore ways in which counterparts in other institutions are supporting student teachers to develop reflective practice and assess reflective writing.
Using language learning strategies to develop ab-initio PGCE students' skills in primary modern languagesThe announcements concerning the introduction of modern languages in Key Stage Two in England (https://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/ curriculum/national curriculum2014, [accessed 8 March 2013]), although not a new initiative, have renewed the need to train generalist primary teachers in teaching modern languages. Following an initial announcement of the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, the poor outcomes achieved by England in the European languages survey (COE, 2012) and the news that modern languages would be part of the primary curriculum (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18531751 [accessed 21 June 2012]) contributed to refreshing the agenda of languages in the country and the role of early second language learning appears to be slowly resurrecting. In order to provide trainee teachers with the skills necessary for teaching young learners modern languages, this study focuses on increasing subject knowledge and pedagogical competence in a short time by developing trainees’ reflective practice, broadly following the tradition of strategy-based instruction (Macaro, 2001; Cohen, 2007; Oxford, 2011), but within a social constructivist understanding of learning using collaboration. The research, which follows a mixed method case study approach, proposes and trials a teaching approach that incorporates language learning strategies in a collaborative manner. The design of a revised strategy-based approach has a three-fold purpose: (i) to enable primary trainee teachers to develop the linguistic skills necessary to teach another language through the use of the linguistic knowledge they already possess in their own mother tongue (Saville-Troike, 2012); (ii) to use self-regulation to build confidence and competence in the target language; and (iii) to enable trainees and pupils to develop their language learning autonomy. Results indicate that, within the case studies reported here, such an approach seemed to be an effective way of learning and teaching another language simultaneously for adults, as it provided ab-initio language learners with a basis for the development of linguistic skills thus increasing their capacity for languages. Whilst there is no claim to generalisation here, the studies indicate that using language learning strategies may create and sustain interest and engagement in the subject—a condition that has been identified as critical to the success of any teaching approach. Whilst the results were positive in terms of developing acceptable levels of linguistic competence in adult learners over a short time, the use of a strategy-based method with children did not prove satisfactory, perhaps because of the high metacognitive demands placed on them when they had not yet developed high level abstract thinking, particularly the amount of prior knowledge needed and the language required to verbalise complex cognitive processes.
What are the issues involved in using e-portfolios as a pedagogical tool?In Initial Teacher Training (ITT), one of the technologies rapidly being adopted to support the development of trainee teachers is the e-portfolio. Research into successful use of e-portfolios beyond their function as a repository has been scanty to date. The purpose of the current study was to extend the boundaries of understanding of e-portfolios beyond this function. This was undertaken through two in-depth case studies where e-portfolios were used as a pedagogical tool intended to support the development of reflective practice on a one year postgraduate ITT course, during two years of investigation in one university A mixed-methods approach was adopted to capture the richness of participants’ self reports of their experiences, statistical data regarding interactions on the e-portfolios and analysis of reflective writing. Data were collected and analysed from questionnaires, student and tutor interviews and interactions with the e-portfolio together with analysis of the content of reflective e-journals, with a special emphasis on the place and depth of reflection. What emerged was a rich contextual understanding of e-portfolio use by trainee teachers and tutors and the problematic nature of conceptualising and assessing reflective thinking, together with the extent to which the development and depth of their reflective thinking had been supported by e-portfolio use. The results confirm previous concerns related to the training requirements of users and also the time needed for students and tutors to engage in interactions. Further they imply that the prerequisites of successful use of e-portfolios, as a pedagogical tool, to support the development of reflective thinking include common agreement about what constitutes reflection and reflective thinking embedded within a strong, rigorous and well theorised conceptualisation of course structure and content. Implied also is the need for a well understood and transparent framework to assess the depth of reflective thinking that should complement the competencies that underpin Standards, and support the professional development of teachers.