Catching the conversation:themes from the Brighton seminar

Keith Turvey writes: “Storm Doris didn’t put off any of the intrepid and, highly reflective participants at the TeacherEdExchange Brighton seminar about Teacher Development 3.0, with one participant coming from as far as Birmingham to contribute to the debate.

Viv Ellis opened by setting the scene, with an analysis of what a profession-led professional education might look like. Surely with the newly established College of Teaching and a renewed interest in harnessing the rich knowledge and insights that can come from teacher and practice-focused research, it’s time to move on from a ‘reform or defend’ agenda and false binary choices?  Viv argued that it is time to resist the framing of the debate about professional preparation that so often seems based more on political or commercial interests and ego than on credible pathways to improvement.

Next up was Soo Sturrock, principal lecturer in education (UoB) and head of the highly successful primary PGCE. Soo gave a supportive but critical response to the pamphlet. She endorsed the idea of a long and thin journey into the profession but posed some critical questions for us:

How do Schools and Universities create credible, authentic and equal partnerships that respect teachers’ and beginning teachers’ work-life balance? Too often teachers and mentors just do not have the time to support student teachers; a situation that is not fair to anyone, least of all the children. Could a long and thin induction into the profession help to address this?

Soo also challenged some of the assumptions at the heart of the Teacher Development 3.0‘s call for a ‘long-life teaching profession’. Can this call also be seen to ramp up the pressure on teachers, she asked? A long-life teaching profession needs also to be inclusive of career changers and mature students who bring valuable experience to the profession.

William Aristide-Deighan is the headteacher of Varndean, a Brighton secondary comprehensive school. Due to a governors’ meeting, William couldn’t be present at the seminar so instead recorded his response to Teacher Development 3.0 in a short video. Williams raised a core dimension of teachers’ work, often neglected in the current arguments for ‘traditional’ or ‘knowledge-rich’, ‘no excuses’ teaching: care and the professional ethic of caring. Drawing on the work of Nell Noddings. Williams suggested how a professional preparation in caring for students was the essential foundation for everything else, a relational dynamic that made sense of all other activities from the students’ perspectives as well as families’ and communities’.

The final speaker, Jonathan Cooper, head teacher at St Luke’s Primary School in Brighton, gave another thoughtful response to the pamphlet and some challenges for us all. Jonathan described the pamphlet as a ‘quiet revolution’. I suspect we, the authors, may well settle for that! Jonathan was particularly taken by the potential of a profession-led system and related this to his own optimistic vision of how we navigate the often professionally paralysing impact of constant change in policy and accountability. He called for a new model of bottom up CPD. The message was quite clear; we don’t need more edu gurus or consultants selling us tips or solutions. He highlighted the risks of teachers as frozen technicians; the antidote he suggested was for schools and universities to challenge each other more. As he pointed out, we need teachers who can effectively deconstruct learning based on improved research literacy and the critical take up or even rejection of research. There is, after all good and bad research.

Jonathan ended the presentation with a long list of transferable knowledge, skills and understanding fundamental to the role of effective teachers. It was a sobering reminder of why the ‘just-tell-us-what-works’ refrain, so often uttered by self-styled 2.0 reformers, is severely limited and constraining and why a profession-led model based on authentic collaboration is urgently needed in teacher education. Jonathan also challenged us to justify our critique of the ‘leadership fetish’ we, as authors, think is currently affecting schools. We know that leadership makes a difference, argued Jonathan; even by its absence.

What we are realising after two of these seminars now is that there is a tremendous appetite for the kind of discussion the pamphlet stimulates. There are always points of disagreement – whether that is concerned with the discourse of school leadership or the limits of a long-life teaching profession.But what we are noticing is that these ideas are provoking the kinds of discussion we rarely have about teacher education and development. And we think that is a good thing.”

Teacher Development 3.0 at Teachers College, Columbia University: TONIGHT!

Viv Ellis will be leading a  seminar for doctoral students at Teachers College in New York this evening – Zankel 304 from 7 – 8.30pm. Free refreshments!

Drawing on Teacher Education Exchange’s first pamphlet, Teacher Development 3.0: How we can transform the professional education of teachers, Viv will be situating the concept of Teacher Development 3.0 in the context of the ‘global education reform movement’ and in traditions of ‘policy-borrowing’ (without, apparently, policy learning) between conservatives across the north Atlantic.

In suggesting Teacher Development 3.0 as a way forward – and one that cuts through the increasingly turbulent political noise and the destructive and fragmenting instincts of self-styled ‘reformers’ – Viv will ask participants to consider how a doctoral-level education (and specifically one specialising in Teacher Education) relates to the ideals of the concept. If we wish to support a strong teaching profession and profession-led teacher development, what is the contribution of a PhD in teacher education?

Teacher Development 3.0 Brighton seminar: Thursday 23 Feb at 5.30pm

We’ll be hosting a Teacher Development 3.0 seminar at the Friends Meeting House in Ship Street, Brighton on Thursday 23rd February from 5.30 – 7pm. Soo Sturrock, Principal Lecturer at the University of Brighton’s School of Education; William Aristide-Deighan, head teacher of Varndean School; and Jonathan Cooper, head teacher of St Luke’s Primary will be our respondents (to whom we are really grateful) along with representatives of Teacher Education Exchange, including Kenny Frederick, Keith Turvey and Viv Ellis.

You can sign up at the Eventbrite by clicking here.