Supporting Teacher Educators for Better Learning Outcomes

The European Commission on Teacher Education has done some amazing work looking at teacher educators. “The European Commission’s Thematic Working Group on ‘Teacher Professional Development’ brings together national experts from 26 countries. It is recognised that Peer Learning activities between Member States can provide opportunities to share knowledge about current policy and to exchange best practice.” In 2013 they produced the document Supporting Teacher Educators for Better Learning Outcomes. I (Clare) found the document quite systematic and informative because in considers a number of issues and provides examples from various countries. Here is a link to the entire document. European Commision on Tchr Ed

Here are some findings you might find interesting.

Member States increasingly acknowledge the need to define clearly what those who teach teachers should be expected to know, and be able to do; they acknowledge that great care needs to be taken in recruiting and selecting

teacher educators, and in facilitating their career-long professional development. By stimulating and supporting the development of explicit frameworks and policies, national and regional education authorities can assist teacher educators to be as effective as possible.

Given the influence that teacher educators have on the learning of (student)teachers, ensuring that their work is of high quality is extremely important (Snoek et al. 2011). Raising teacher educators’ quality and formal qualification requirements can lead to wider improvements in education (Buchberger et al.2000, European Commission 2012b). In European countries, however, there seems to be little explicit policy, either to define what quality means in teacher education, or to define the formal education and professional development required of teacher educators.

Professional ownership seems to be promoted also by Dutch teacher educator standards (Koster and Dengerink 2008); on the other hand, teacher educators can see standards linked with assessment systems (such as in England) mainly as external quality assurance tools, and therefore perceive them as constraints on professional autonomy (Morley 2003). Policies in European countries which show growing interest in these aspects can provide examples for reflection. In some countries, teacher educator competences are already defined by the government and specified in law (e.g. in Portugal), or they are being developed (e.g. in Austria and Germany).

In the Netherlands, a set of professional standards for teacher educators is in place, developed by the relevant professional body through dialogue with stakeholders.

In Belgium (Flanders), a developmental profile for teacher educators was devised by one regional teacher education network, in consultation with other networks; it is now disseminated on a national scale by the professional association of teacher educators. The definition of minimal levels of competence in this professional profile is considered as important; the Ministry can have a facilitating and supporting role.

The Netherlands have had a complete set of teacher educator standards for more than ten years now; it has been revised to include school-based teacher educators, and currently, competence levels. This is complemented by a specific knowledge base that describes the key elements of being a teacher educator, undertaken jointly by the professional association VELON and the VU University Amsterdam (in place since 2011).

In Luxembourg, following up recent educational policy for teaching and learning improvement in schools, a university working group has the task of defining competences for teacher educators in primary education, facilitating collaboration between university faculty and school mentors. A university research project has also been launched to develop a handbook for secondary school teacher educators, who all receive specific training.

In Estonia, guidelines about competences of teacher educators (mentors) in induction are used for their selection in schools: they underline the importance of first and second order competences, but also of professional attitudes –commitment, responsibility, willingness to support and supervise. There are also interesting initiatives in academic institutions. The categorisation of teacher educators aims to develop professional career models in teaching practice schools, where teacher educators can express multiple identities and competences – teaching, supervising and carrying out action research

In Germany, national standards for teacher education offer guidelines for teachers’ and teacher educators’ quality, defining specific knowledge requirements for teacher educators. Those working in University Colleges of teacher education (Ausbilder) are generally expected to have the competences mapped above – including intercultural, collaborative, supervision and pedagogical competences. In most Länder there are special regular offers of CPD for teacher educators, within regional partnerships and cooperation structures with teacher educators from Universities.

In Austria, legislation on the duties and responsibilities of teacher educators in University Colleges will provide a point of reference for the description of necessary competences, working in parallel with a Quality Act recommending the competence requirements of teacher educators working in schools and continuing professional development (CPD). The profile of CPD trainers, for instance, focuses on competences about counselling, process management and implementation, communication, and so on.

In some countries of the cited survey, formal qualification requirements for teacher educators have been introduced, focusing on specific groups (e.g. in Sweden, Hungary and Finland). Other countries have approached this issue in the context of the accreditation of institutional providers of teacher education, as in Ireland (Caena 2012).

In Sweden, all teacher educators working at universities are required to have a PhD, with the development of intensive support programmes for those teacher educators that need to achieve a PhD qualification.

In Hungary, formal university education programmes for school-based teacher educators (mentors) are being introduced.

In Finland, the requirements for teacher educators working in teacher education institutions include MA qualifications and advanced Education studies (at least 90 ECTS).

In Ireland, the Teaching Council has developed revised criteria for teacher education providers, which now express requirements for staff responsible for student teachers’ learning. They include:

  • a qualification at a higher level than the one being taught;
  • teaching experience in the relevant sector (primary or post-primary);
  • research activity as for supporting theory-practice integration; and
  • registration with the Teaching Council (it is recognised that all these criteria might not be met by all staff).

The Teaching Council has also begun to identify some of the competences needed by school-based teacher educators, within a pilot model of induction/probation. Such teacher educators should:

  • be fully registered and have at least five years’ experience as such;
  • be good communicators, sensitive to the viewpoints of others;
  • be committed to providing professional as well as personal support and

challenge;

  • be good role models, with a wide repertoire of teaching styles;
  • be committed to high standards of professional practice and conduct;
  • be willing to commit time and effort in the interest of developing newly

qualified teachers as well as their own practice;

  • be open to being observed in their practice by other teachers.

Consideration is being given to developing similar sets for teacher educators

involved in facilitating induction workshops.

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