This standalone literature review includes sources which address some conceptual issues related to conducting a comparison of teacher education in Australia and the UK with the intention of investigating a potential link between initial teacher education and teacher attrition.
The use of an international comparison is justified because such studies can show how similar ideas work differently in practice at the system level (Darling-Hammond, 2017). The relationship between teacher training and educational outcomes may not be linear, as indicated by Ingvarson et al. (2014) which compared Australia’s teacher education system with other countries whose students scored highly in international tests. It was found that, whilst the country’s teacher education programs were equal to the best in the world, Australia lacked those systems which ensure that all education programs can meet high outcome standards. It was found that high-performing countries have policies which build the status of teaching and provide professional conditions which enable teachers to develop (Ingvarson et al., 2014). In the UK, continual reforms aimed at developing the profession have resulted in a diverse teacher training landscape which, as Youens et al., (2018) suggest, presents prospective teachers with a bewildering choice of routes into teaching, in what is now a highly competitive marketplace.
Reform of teacher education and public policy
Mayer et al. (2017) applied discourse analysis to the policy of teacher education in Australia and carried out a systematic review of literature on effectiveness of teacher education. They found that there are competing accountability discourses which are bound up with the ideological influences to be found in public policy. The existence of these discourses frustrates the assessments of the efficacy of teacher education because it depends on what is being assessed, and the concept of what is deemed to be valuable when judging the quality of teachers (Jasman, 2009). The link between dominant ideologies and educational reform is also highlighted by Rowe and Skourdoumbis (2017) who argue that it is the role of scholars to disrupt sets of expectations. Fitzgerald and Knipe (2016) argue further that there is a lack of coherent and robust evidence that evaluates why regulation of teacher education is required.
An effective teacher education system will include complementary components associated with recruiting, developing and retaining effective teachers (Darling-Hammond, 2017). The components must work together coherently to ensure the recruitment of qualified individuals, their preparation and induction, their professional and career development, and their retention in the profession (Darling-Hammond, 2017). Yet, such a national system is critiqued by Mayer (2014) on the basis that this approach naively assumes a linear relationship between policy and educational outcomes without accounting for other variables.
Some scholars argue that teacher education is now politically situated within a web of policies covering interconnected concerns which are themselves being driven by wider neoliberal demands (Fitzgerald and Knipe, 2016; Furlong, 2013). Fitzgerald and Knipe (2016) argue that there is an agenda in Australia to professionalise teaching. There appears to be a lack of counter-discourse to this dominant model which has been prevalent for four decades (Little, 2015). The professionalisation of the teaching profession in England has also resulted in new teacher education programmes which focus on measurable outcomes, such as the teacher’s practical skills (Page, 2015). Following the emphasis on practical skills, Yeigh and Lynch (2017) recommend an evidence-based partnership model between schools and teacher training institutions. Such partnerships may not always produce the intended outcomes, however, as Gilroy (2014) found that the pedagogical models endorsed by training providers are more affected by central policy than by research-based collaborations.
The Carter Review in 2015 recommended eighteen improvements to initial teacher training in the UK, with a strong emphasis on facilitating the professional development of teachers, underlining the initial aspect to the programmes (Carter, 2015). Mutton et al. (2017) conducted a systematic analysis of the Carter Review and found that the document reveals the tensions and challenges associated with viewing teacher education as a policy problem. They assert that when teacher education is reduced to mandating national standards, such challenges will never be able to be addressed, because the processes involved with teachers’ professional development are neglected (Mutton et al., 2017).
The move to clinical practice
The movement of initial teacher education from universities to schools is a trend that started in the UK in the early 1990s and is beginning to gather pace in Australia (Dinham, 2015). Dinham (2015) points out that the drivers behind the move away from universities are based on widely accepted yet contested beliefs. These beliefs include the myth that teacher education in universities is out of touch and that academic programmes are locked in ‘the ivory tower’ (Dinham, 2015, p.9). Dinham (2015) argues that because of Australia’s close links with England, and its historic influence, the fact that the myths which underpin the developments are accepted without question is not surprising. However, an alternative reason for the move from university to classroom is offered by Morrison et al. (2018) who argue that professional experience school placements are important for pre-service teachers as these experiences facilitate the collection of evidence which the trainee teacher needs for a reflective portfolio.
Assessment of trainee teachers and ITT programs
There is an increasing demand for the gathering of evidence of the impact of teacher training programs, and this is being facilitated in both Australia and the UK via a tightened system of national accreditation of teachers (Gore, 2016). Such an approach places the individual as teacher at the heart of the assessment, which may be to the detriment of the individual’s personal development. For instance, Bahr and Ferreira (2018) argue that the competencies issued by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) whilst necessary, are insufficient because they lack the interpersonal dimension of teaching. Rowe and Skourdoumbis (2017) advocate changing the discourse further, from one of teacher quality to one of teaching quality, which would avert the current decontextualization of the role of the teacher.
Increasingly, there is tension between viewing teaching as a craft and viewing teaching as a research-based profession (Page, 2015) There is the requirement for trainee teachers in both Australia and the UK to develop evidence-based portfolios which demonstrate how they have met teaching standards. Although widely-held to be effective, implementation in Australia is currently patchy (Morrison et al., 2018) which suggests the existence of other variables frustrating the use of this evidence-based approach.
Theory and practice
Research indicates the positive correlation between effective initial teacher education and teacher effectiveness (Bahr, 2016) which suggests a suitable balance of theory and practice during the training period is crucial to the teacher’s professional development. The theory-practice divide is a contentious issue in teacher education (Kitchen and Petrarca, 2016) and the current focus on preparing quality teachers has indeed placed the divide under the spotlight (Varadharajan and Schuck, 2017). Some scholars suggest the balance is being shifted in favour of more practice-based routes such as the alternative routes into teaching Teach for Australia and Teach First in England which, it is argued, are set within the deregulation agenda (Fitzgerald and Knipe, 2016). The theory-practice divide appears not only within teacher education, but between academics and policy-makers, with some scholars highlighting the pressing need for a closer dialogue regarding the improvement of teacher education (White, 2016).
A comparative analysis of the history of professional teaching standards by Call (2018) reveals that, although both Australia and the UK have their own sets of national standards for teachers, there is a greater need in Australia for a more robust embedding of the standards in university programs in initial teacher training. Regulations have been intensified through national teaching standards which serve the accountability process but may lose sight of the integrity of experience (McGraw, 2018). The standards essentially function as an assessment of the student-teacher as a learner (Buchanan, 2017), rather than as a teacher.
Darling-Hammond (2017) asserts that the teachers’ standards in Australia provide the architecture within which expectations are articulated and that the use of professional standards is a promising strategy. In contrast, Bahr and Mellor (2016) argue that while professional standards are necessary, they are not enough to ensure quality teachers, because they do not address the key attributes which ensure quality in teaching. Bahr and Mellor (2016) argue that the professional standards do not address the more personal attributes a good teacher should possess, such as the ability to motivate learners, build confidence and aspirations, show care and compassion, and develop mutually trusting relationships. Other researchers have expressed concerns about the functional view of classroom teaching upon which the standards focus (Mockler, 2013; Larsen, 2017). Looking at the wider picture, Dinham (2015) presents the development of the framework of professional standards for teachers as a reflection of the compliance-based model which is inherent to global educational reform movements across the globe.
How ITT may influence teacher attrition
A study by Ingersoll et al. (2014) researched the effects of initial teacher education on early-career teacher attrition and found large differences in the types of teacher training and preparation that candidates receive, and that it was where trainees had received more pedagogical preparation that they were less likely to leave the profession. The research focused mainly on mathematics and science and the study found that candidates in these subjects were more likely to hold subject-specific degrees and so had adequate subject knowledge, yet were still more likely to leave when they had not received adequate content-based pedagogy (Ingersoll et al., 2014). The need for content-based pedagogy was also found by McNamara et al. (2017) in their research on teacher training for primary class teachers. Mason and Poyatos Matas (2015) found that the nature and quality of pre-service education is fundamental to the development of a teacher’s human capital, which in turn provides the skills and knowledge essential to effective teaching, yet the ability of the provision in Australia to meet this goal was mixed.
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