Bob Moon and Bernadette Robinson
A major use of open and distance learning has been for initial teacher training, especially for primary teachers and as a means of providing unqualified serving teachers with qualifications. In industrialized countries it has been used to reach new constituencies of potential teachers (such as mature entrants) who would not otherwise have become teachers, to provide university graduates with teaching licences or professional qualifications and to support school-based training. These initiatives have been prompted by teacher shortages in many countries (developing and industrialized), a new emphasis on the training of teachers for their professional roles (not just in academic subjects) and a search for more effective ways of training teachers in response to criticisms of traditional institution-based training. Most provision for initial training has, traditionally, been pre-service and residential with the emphasis on concurrent models of training (academic subjects studied alongside professional studies and pedagogy). Varying emphasis in different countries has been placed on the practical aspects of teaching in terms of time, status and assessment weighting within programmes (see Chapter 1). However, demands for large numbers of teachers within short time-scales and reappraisal of initial teacher-training needs have caused many to question the traditional roles of teacher-training institutions and to seek alternative modes. The urgent needs for large numbers of additional teachers, especially in some African countries, have focused increased attention on the potential of distance education, especially with the advent of information and communication technologies.
In this chapter we examine the use of open and distance learning for initial teacher training and address some commonly asked questions: Can distance education be effective for initial teacher training? Can teachers develop practical teaching skills through distance training? What kind of organization and management is needed? How can practical skills be assessed on distance education courses? Do distance education programmes produce adequately trained teachers? In responding to these questions we draw on the accumulating experience of such programmes around the world.