Scholarly-informed teacher education: The University of Cambridge–schools partnership

July 24, 2014

There are a number of advantages to being part of a university–school ITE partnership.

First, university departments are ideally placed to help build social capital with and between school partners. This can take the form of improving and developing teachers’ subject knowledge. Universities can provide access to real experts in the field who can work with science educators, novices and school-based teachers to make recent ideas accessible and available in school classrooms.

Second, collaborative relationships between schools and university departments are underpinned by a shared understanding of how research knowledge and practice knowledge intersect to inform practice about, for example, helping new teachers to engage pupils in learning how to learn. Effective teachers are constantly called upon to make deliberative judgements about practice. This is learned best when experienced in both a school and a university. For example, learning in the university about the latest ideas as to how children learn and then finding out in the school how to teach specific students in particular classroom, new teachers can develop practice and research knowledge through undertaking small-scale school-based research guided by university staff.

Third, university-school partnerships are able to set up opportunities for novices to hone their practice in different schools. At Cambridge novices benefit from two major practicum experiences in at least two very different schools. Furthermore, the opportunity and time to reflect upon practice between placements may help the novice to develop thinking about practice, as there is little time to reflect and think on-the-job. Additionally, working collaboratively with groups of schools and university departments cultivates a sense of identity where novices feel secure, supported and trusted which would go a long way to helping to retain more teachers in classrooms.

Finally, teacher education institutions also serve as key change agents in transforming education and society. Not only do such institutions educate new teachers, update the knowledge and skills of existing teachers, create teacher-education curricula, provide professional development for practising teachers, contribute to textbook production and consult with local schools, they often also provide expert advice to national and international ministries of education. Because of this broad influence on curriculum design and implementation, as well as policy setting within educational institutions, faculty members of teacher education institutions are perfectly poised to promote teacher education in the longer term. Indeed it could be argued that short term policy responses based on perceived teacher shortages in urban areas might jeopardise existing good practice. By working with faculties of teacher education institutions, governments might be better placed to bring about systematic, economically effective change.

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