A High-Status, Research-Informed Profession


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How long do we have to wait until our English teachers are treated as a profession?

Having worked with thousands of teachers in a large number of countries, I have also come to the conclusion that “Retention in the teaching profession is a global and critical issue” (Geiger & Pivovarova, 2018).

I’m exploring teacher autonomy for my doctoral research. This interesting book published by Routledge: Exploring Teacher Recruitment and Retention (October 2020) discusses (chapter 4) a high status, research informed profession written by Linda la Vella and Alexandra Kendall; edited by Prof Tanya Ovenden-Hope.

Teacher recruitment is in crisis!

We know there is a big problem in England. Pupil population is increasing and teacher recruitment has been down for at least eight years, with an unusual spike in applications as a result of the pandemic.

Bursaries for student teachers in England (“many of whom do not go into teaching (Vaughn, 2019)” and a National Teaching Service have been floated as solutions to the crisis.

The book highlights that the UK government have tried to raise the profile and status of the teaching profession. However, “there is little sign of much difference to the status quo.”

Prestige, esteem and status

The authors highlight a future model comprised of three aspects: prestige, esteem and status.

Despite most teachers being qualified and “granted professional status in the 2001 census”, teacher professionalism is limited by “the image that people hold of them, mainly because of the nature of their work with children” – and perhaps “their experiences at school.”

The authors remind us that teachers in Ireland, Finland and Australia are well regarded. “Recruitment is relatively unproblematic; teachers enjoy their work and are esteemed for it by society.”

In England, many readers will know this is quite the opposite.

Some interesting research-based knowledge models are offered, unpicking how teachers increase their efficacy. Shared to demonstrate how teachers, as recipients of research can increase their effectiveness.

“…if teaching is truly to become a research-informed profession, the roles of teacher educators, whether they are working in universities or in other educational settings, as both users and generators of research, is crucial.”

Initial teacher education can lead the way…

The chapter in the book also references Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in the UK, particularly in England is “undergoing a period of sustained an unprecedented change.” A report from British Educational Research Association (BERA) is cited, explaining how research can contribute to the education of teachers:

  1. The content received on teacher training courses
  2. The curriculum design of these ITT courses
  3. Teachers consuming research
  4. Teachers producing research.

How ITE is restructured across England provides an opportunity to reconsider how universities play a role in teacher education partnerships. Several organisations are listed and a large number of research references are made.

Exploring Teacher Recruitment and Retention: Contextual Challenges from International PerspectivesFrom what I have read, equipping teachers to undertake their own research and how to understand and interpret the theory is recommended. I’ve written about the barriers that hinder teachers from taking part in research.

Time and money will always feature as an issue…

Initial teacher training courses would do well to provide an evidence base of knowledge that teachers could engage with, derived from research, as well as the opportunity to teach teachers how to interpret methodology and findings.

As I move towards academia and as I read the details of the paper, I often hear academics talk increasingly about how they can engage with teachers better. For example, making complicated papers and academic language, not only easier to understand and translate, but easier to access beyond paywalls and lengthy texts.

Conclusions

  • Being offered a good research-informed platform can support career long teaching.
  • Initial teacher education providers should reflect on their curriculum design in terms of “research-informedness.”
  • School university partnerships must improve.

For teachers in England, not only is access to research and not having enough time as key reasons, but our good friends Ofsted and the Department for Education (and their policies) are also listed as a hindrance.

Amen to that!


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