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Title: Towards improving teaching and learning in primary teacher education and meeting the needs of all children
Author: Montgomery, Diane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 7128
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2005
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The title of this paper summarises the main areas discussed in the research and publications over three decades. It touches upon a number of complex and controversial areas such as good teaching, effective learning, primary education, education for teaching, and special educational needs. Using the word 'towards' in the title was intended to indicate that some tentative progress had been made rather than that a complex goal had been achieved. However it is recognised that the notion of 'progress' is itself relative and equally as controversial as the claim might be to have 'improved' teacher training or some aspect of it. Even the words 'teacher training' carry a set of assumptions which might need to be questioned such as the issues which currently surround the role of the teacher, and 'training' as opposed to 'education'. Inserting the term 'primary' in the title is also problematic as it reflects a fundamental controversy in the field and it will be argued that the methods of teaching described have been observed to cross subject and age boundaries. The final part of the title 'meeting the needs of all children' is also a code for having regard to the needs of all children. It will be used to include those with special educational needs, the disadvantaged and controversially in some quarters, the more able. Including the more able forces us to reconsider whether specialist segregated provision in special schools or within classrooms as in ability grouping and differentiation by inputs can be supported or whether the main focus of training to meet their needs should be, as for other children, inclusive forms of learning and teaching. Indeed we may need to reconceptualise special educational needs in terms of 'barriers to achievement' (DfES, 2004). In the first draft of this proposal the context elaborated was that which may be described in the dictionary definition, "the parts of a discourse or treatise which precede and follow a special passage and may fix its true meaning"; "the structure or fabric" (Chambers Dictionary, 1948; Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1978), con 'with', textum 'to weave'. The paper provided a fabric against which the special passages or illustrative texts were contextualised and linked to the other publications. The process of the evolution of a personal theory and practice of teaching in teacher education was traced and critical learning experiences were reported. This used in part narrative in constructing knowledge and reflection on practice as research methods and this too is controversial. However here it usefully raises the whole question of what constitutes research, what can be regarded as evidence and also the nature of 'good' research. A concern both in the social sciences and education has been and still is whether 'real' research is only that which is quantitative in the logical positivist mode. In some quarters, qualitative research, Action Research, and Ethnomethodology do not constitute such 'real' research. This issue has arisen again in the Teacher Training Agency (TTA, 2003) project to identify evidence based research and practice on effective teaching. Of concern here too is the fact that the ITA has been specifying the curriculum, objectives and learning outcomes for the training of prospective teachers for more than a decade and now it is revealed that they had not identified the nature of effective teaching or its evidence base. Even the procedures for identifying the evidence base may be seen as problematic and are relevant to this paper. Finally the word 'context' in 'context paper' is not without its problems in that it has different meanings and perspectives for readers from writers. There are perhaps ten or more perspectives which it might be relevant for this context paper to address, some aspects of which have already been mentioned: * the register in which one writes - for teachers, researchers, or the general public. The register of the publications presented is research undertaken and reported for a teacher audience. The books and papers essentially seek to communicate theory, research and practice to teachers and students in ITT. * the research methodology or methodologies which one uses. A range of research methods have been used in these studies from theory developing ethnomethodologies through to theory testing designs. However ethnomethodology, theory developing research, biography, narrative and the case study are not always regarded as 'real' research in some scientific communities. * the academic community's view of what constitutes 'good' research. Currently a demand for randomised subjects assigned to treatment groups, rigourous statistical analysis and significance levels are built into searches for evidence based research on effective teaching, but these tactics will be questioned. Action Research for example has been a major vehicle in recent years for evaluating teaching, can this evidence be ignored? * the prevailing paradigms in the period of the writing, These constitute the 'Zeitgeist' the spirit of the age, which guide our ways of thinking and believing about what we do, how we think, what we research and how we do it, even determining what we will not accept even though it may be correct or true. * the Government initiatives at the time which can form opinion. In the teaching profession there have been many of these as central control has been assumed over all aspects of education at all levels from specifying a National Curriculum to detailing the content and methods by which it will be taught, this all supported by a system of OFSTED inspections. * the historical lack of relevant theory and research to guide education practice until the late 1980s so that creative induction was sometimes needed. Innovations which were originally ignored, twenty years later can become a new initiative as in Teaching and Learning in the Foundation Subjects (DfES, 2002) * the problems of engaging in field research and field trials in real educational settings. This can mean that data is missing, results are not neat and union action may intervene. * the ethical considerations in producing public verifiable evidence. In some areas especially in appraisal research where it touches upon personal and professional practice or poor teaching, strong emotions can be engendered. In special needs withholding potentially beneficial educational experiences from control groups is difficult to justify. * the changing and fast developing nature of knowledge, theory, research and practice. This is especially the case in fields of educational concern such as SEN, SpLD, EBD and Gifted Education, which are the subject of many of the publications. * the notions of effective teaching and learning and what constitutes improvement in teaching and in teacher education. Teaching teachers to be effective may not reside in teaching them how to teach their subject discipline, there may be overarching skills and abilities which cross curricular boundaries and this too has been a significant area of controversy in each of the decades. There are of course many links between these different contexts and the main one which will be discussed in chapter one is the teacher education and training context. The main researches reported in the publications cover the period from 1981 to the present. During this period we have seen a revolution in the education and training of teachers and in education in schools. This has mainly been led by central government and as such has radically affected the progress of my work on seeking to improve teacher education. Suffice to say that on entry into teacher education after a typical course of training in college and a 9 year career in teaching there was much that seemed to be impoverishing the education and training of teachers. As I observed it there was a general lack of research into teaching and learning, a lack of relevance in the theory, research and practice courses, a dominance of subject studies without much relevance to teaching in schools, some good professional experience shared but without sufficient backing from theoretical principles and research. A curate's egg indeed but a system in which there was absolute freedom to innovate and change if a tutor so desired. Goodlad's (1991) survey in the USA found similar fragmentation. My reason for entering teacher education had been the aim to improve the lot of pupils in schools who were seen on the whole to get a very poor deal especially if they had come from the disadvantaging circumstances into which I had been born and brought up. This is still my aim. The main claims in this context paper are closely related to this purpose. These are that: 1). some methods of transformational learning have been developed for teachers and college students in contact and distance education programmes. 2) a coaching system using formative feedback has been evolved which has helped teachers and students improve their general teaching performance; 3). a method of 'developmental differentiation' has been evolved which promotes inclusion in mixed ability classrooms; These three themes are not unrelated for the coaching system involves transformation and the teachers and students are of mixed ability and experience and need inclusive but differentiated provision. The education programmes share the ideas on the coaching system and developmental differentiation whilst using the methods directly in the courses. The overall purpose being to try to improve teaching and learning in schools. Chapter one discusses the changes to which teacher education has been subject from without and which have altered the course of the research and the impact of its outcomes. Chapter two presents an analysis of research methods appropriate to the education field and provide the context in which the main findings may be evaluated. Chapter three discusses the specifics of the claims related to the contexts and the evidence on which they are based. The final section sums up the main points and indicates possible future directions in this research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available