University Role Essential to Meet Needs of Tomorrow's Teachers; with Training Still Wrapped in Old Methods, It's Time to Seek New Skills and Experience

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

University Role Essential to Meet Needs of Tomorrow's Teachers; with Training Still Wrapped in Old Methods, It's Time to Seek New Skills and Experience


Byline: Jenny Rees

DURING the major educational upheavals of the last two decades, teacher training has of course not remained untouched or unchanged.

Twenty years ago, trainee teachers spent much of their time in universities or colleges acquiring a broad background of knowledge that should have made them into inquiring professionals.

That knowledge might have included psychology, philosophy, sociology and educational theory, in addition to the curriculum areas they were planning to teach. Time spent in schools was very limited.

Then everything changed. The old kind of training was regarded as widely removed from what was needed for the practical, stressful, day-to-day life of being a teacher, and training was relocated into schools for a great majority of trainees' time, with universities and colleges only in a supportive role.

The focus is now on 'mentors' and senior managers in schools being the ones who do the training. Universities were slammed by many, including the former English Chief Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead, for teaching irrelevant and impractical 'ologies'.

There is no doubt that many of these changes were good ones and necessary ones. Everyone in education acknowledges that the present generations of teachers leaving training and going into school are the best ever, with the highest levels of competence.

Yet, paradoxically, it may be that the deficiencies in the present model of training are becoming more obvious just as its effectiveness is also widely recognised. What's wrong with the present training provision?

It is basically an apprenticeship model that is better for handing on 'old' knowledge that teachers need, rather than the 'new' knowledge they will need in future.

Take the issue of 'Learning to Learn' skills that are essential to access the modern worlds of knowledge that need to be accessed through ICT, broadband and the new digitally-based learning communities. How can those be taught to trainees by teachers who themselves have never been taught them?

Or the issue of learning disabilities. Teachers in schools know very little about the problems of dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder or pupils possessing specific learning styles that might adversely effect their academic performance, which means of course that trainees in schools obtain little about this from their school-based training. …

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