Is Teacher Training Broken?

If the evaluative lecturer that came into our school today is a sign of teacher training at the moment, then Teacher Training is broken in our country.

Old School Teacher inked for me by Tom Morgan-Jones

Old School Teacher inked for me by Tom Morgan-Jones


Clearly confused by Google Docs he was asking questions like:

How will you know what they have completed? Who prepares the software resources and saves them to Google Docs? How can they refer to previous work? Are all the devices relying on batteries?

Good to know that he liked the carpeted floors and nice open/light teaching space though…

It raises again for me thoughts that I have had on teacher training. Why are we not creating secondments for teachers into these positions? A 3 year secondment would allow current teachers who are up-to-date with the demands and nature of current classrooms to assist the next generation of teachers. It would also provide professional development for them in time out from the classroom, reflecting on their practice and visiting multiple schools as they observe the student teachers.

A win – win. Better training for new teachers and professional development for experienced, current teachers.

Maybe it just makes too much sense to be implemented?


17 thoughts on “Is Teacher Training Broken?

  1. My Mum In the UK is doing this. Sort of. She is a recently retired primary school headteacher, and has a reputation in her Local Education Authority as someone who builds strong teachers. Teachers moving on from her schools have been highly regarded. She is now a mentor at Sheffield Hallam University, looking after trainee teachers as they are on practicuum. The real hands on the job stuff, without having to worry about lecturing Piaget’s theory or any of the boring stuff. However, the money she is paid barely even covers the travel around the place she needs to do to visit all her students in their schools. So doubt Universities would be prepared to pay teachers on their full salary to do this mentoring role, when they can get lecturers who are already on the payroll to squeeze it in between all the other things the Uni had them doing.
    But if it ever happened I know some people I’d be pushing like hell into this sort of position as they’d be awesome (not me though, my skills are in other areas unfortunately!)

  2. Agree. It amazes me that that the institutions send someone to evaluate who the trainee has never met before and has no relationship with. How would you take feedback from someone you don’t know, and are not likely to see again? I’d ignore it!

  3. Ahhh so true Steve. I have often had conversations with a couple of colleagues here about how we would dearly love to start up our own training for future teachers, based very similarly to what you describe. Maybe our schools should work together and set one up?!!

  4. I agree! Had the same experience myself recently.A 20min ob on someone they had never met and have no knowledge of, and then being amazed at the programmes and structures I have implemented and ST is just following on with. But the ST are coming through with the same ideas etc of the lecturers because that’s what they know and are being taught. Not modern classroom knowledge.

  5. Broken, I think we are in crisis. The schools of education are struggling to keep up. When was the last time a practicing teacher was asked what they believe teachers in training needed. Yes current teachers should be at the universities – at our local one practicing teachers are the part time teaching fellows for content – it’s a good start. Thanks

  6. One poor trainee teacher we had got told off by their visiting lecturer for not doing enough teaching (chalk and talk). The associate teacher told the lecturer off!

  7. LOL – had an evaluating teacher in myself today who was at first also confused by Google Docs and why it was the computer was typing things when the students clearly weren’t!!!! However, her/his reaction was at least impressed that the students could see each other’s work and reflect on it – BUT – how did he/she not know that these tools existed? They have been around for years and here he/she is training our future teachers????

  8. There are also still teachers around who would say the same thing as this lecturer Steve. When you interact with teachers of like mind you can lose sight of the range that is out there. I am still in favour of changing the model of teacher training though. Once we have the new campus up and running in Aranui this will be even more important.

  9. Steve i agree- i think it is a huge, growing and monstrous problem and I propose we ditch all the Teacher Training Colleges (TTC) and go to secondments for 2 years max of both teachers and students ie teachers to TTC if they still exist and 2 years of placemnet with schools – also slash number of Teacher Trainees (TT) to the number leavig the profession – pay TTC on results – does the TT meet modern learning environment and practice requirements. Make the TTC teachers full time on assisting new and beginning and training teachers and ditch all research as I think it is in a parlous, patchwork and pathetic place. eserach contracts to NZCER or somewhere (NOT MOE) independant, seperate sound ie not universities – maybe a dedicated 100% resaerch insitute – have all TTC audited by OS Auditors (hattie et al.) and all who do not make the grade for relevant recent competent work – just leave and never come back – ever ever ever – hell they could try tecahing but i dont fancy their chances. Yes TTC are broke, broken and bereft of talent, time and training – an islet of torpor in a sea of sargassa, becalmed, besmirched and best ignored. A coral reef around a long sunken vent with just the aimless ebb and flow of the todes of timeto remind us of once, cloud piercing eruptions. Spent

  10. Also PD is broke, MOE is broke, teachers are broke, schools, assessmnet, teaching etc all broke – see Bali haques most excellent summary of whats unbroken in nz education SFA

  11. The question “Is teacher training broken” is a good one (and the question “are schools broken” is probably equally as valid). It was also an open one, so I’m surprised it was interpreted by so many as a simple yes, absolutely. As a teacher I work closely with a number of teacher trainers who were and still are great teachers, dedicated to student learning, academia and supporting teachers to think deeply about education. Personally I couldn’t do without them. So the idea that we “ditch all the training colleges” is one I would completely disagree with, just as I would not propose ditching all schools. There are of course weak teacher evaluators/trainers, just as there are weak teachers. I think it would be more constructive to work out how we, teachers and teacher trainers, could work together more successfully and constructively. Steve’s idea of secondments is a great one. As is the Victoria University Masters of Teaching programme which has associate teachers, trainees and academics working very closely together to develop good teachers.

  12. I know you are looking at this question as a secondary teacher Steve, but I’m going to look at it from a primary teacher’s view. My verdict is “can do bettter”. We have too many grads coming out that don’t know how to set up their reading, writing and maths programmes, how to use modelling books, how to find resources…. I personally think they don’t get enough time practising the art of teaching while training. If I had someone on their last section, I’d have them running the class (starting small) from the first day and building quickly to full control. The three year degree for primary teachers is too short. I struggled after a four year degree! And I think it is important that the student has had a meeting with their evaluator before starting their practicum. The training institutions need to pull up their socks. They should be required to do their own practicums every couple of years too, to remind themselves what being in the classroom is all about.

  13. I am trained as a primary teacher but took the first job i was offered at secondary – tho within hours i was offered two more at primary but anyway i took the secondary one – but i had no prep, experience or knowledge on how to teach secondary – though i found it was a lot like primary but narrower – same issues, problems peoples potentials etc., I had the 30 week course as postgrad and it was way way way too short to learn o=how to teach and it didn’t really teach the basics essentials or methods – just woolly philosophy, heaps of self-discovery and outdated models of practice. Teachers of teachers need to be full time and be part time teachers themselves so they know how to teach in the present environment. I think all teachers need at least a postgrad diploma and prefer a masters in teaching and the pay needs to be $30K more to reflect workload and expertise. I think teacher trainees need lots lots lots more time in the classroom and a very short time in teh teacher training institution as it’s near to useless IMHO also ditch all TT Research as its of little value, less rigour and no utility – its rubbish research IMHO
    TT institutes need to teach teacher trainees that’s it – lot less TT and lot less TT institutes
    cheers t

    • But Tony that massively underplays the role of theory and research in teaching. Schools are good places to generate teacher research but not particularly good for becoming familiar with academic literature. I despair at the number of student teachers who disregard it completely in favor of management techniques and teaching strategies. All of which are theory bound, and which teachers are often poorly positioned to evaluate. I agree that the theory I got at teachers college was often not well taught. But to throw student teachers into schools as their primary form of training is exactly what Texas is doing and the message is “anyone can teach”. Also, the problem with paying teachers more to reflect higher qualifications doesn’t deal wiyh the problem the higher quals isn’t what makes the difference. What counts is the complexity of the teachers purpose of education and the extent to which their daily practice reflects their educational philosophy. All the quals in the world won’t shift teachers away from content coverage and behaviour management if they don’t have a deep, theoretically rich, research-informed philosophy of education. This needs to be developed over an entire career, but initially in schools and teacher training institutes.

  14. I think its the relationships they form with their students – the quality of their interactions and the closeness of fit between their aspirations, their students and their communities. I think the educational models and theories are largely untested, fashionable and quixotic – they are dated, unreliable and unvalidated in the NZ context. The rejection of content coverage and behavioural management is because the TTI are theory not practice driven and their participants are too long removed from the class or see it through the occasional lenses of their struggling students. The research i have seen in them is thin, irrelevant and unscientific, I regretfully agree with Hattie her in that the TTI in NZ make SFA difference to the learning ot=r equipping of their students to think, critique or teach. The reason why teach first texas et al do so well with so little TT is that the trad TTI’s are so fuclking useless. Dont get me wrong I individually and personally love them to death – to death I say it’s just that they can neither teach nor teach teaching nor be taught to teach teachers. I think to have teachers in schools teaching each other with maybe a holiday course on BEHAVIOUR MANAGEMENT and CONTENT COVERAGE would save TTI students and staff a great deal of time =money frustration and lost opportunity costs. While I welcome ” the complexity of the teachers purpose of education and the extent to which their daily practice reflects their educational philosophy’ i don’t think complex purposes nor philosophic reflections is any more to do with teaching than any of the other worthy well worn and worthless mantras that emerge from the mouths of many educational TTTis. I just think relationships, expectations and communities are far far far more important. We got a lecture on behaviour management at TTC it was foundered in the misbelief that a rich curricula would solve all ills – it was then and is now BS – at least science, arts and religious studies had theories that were coherent, more relevant and meaningful than educational ones – and more local too.

    In summary TTI cannot and do not teach, nor equip TT to teach. (IMHO) their research is worse than useless and neither scientific, useful nor meaningful and theories overblown AND underdeveloped lacking rigour, meaning and validation. All TTI should be part timers at TTI and work 4 days out of 5 in real live actual classrooms – the TTI should be inside the “Normal” schools they were set up to serve – and i don’t mean embedded in them i mean actually be them ie the schools should be where the TT students learn – ie on the job – do some theory paper if you must but as an online or holiday mOOc or webinar or whatever – the TTIs are worse than useless (tho really i do love them to death and had a ball of self discovery there)

    I am doing more study as I am wont to do – this is my third university and my 3rd post grad qual – with 2 undergrad degrees and grad diplomas – i have done enough tertiary training to know when i am paying for BS and i can say with fervour that TT in NZ is broke – financially, practically and effectively – tho Hattie says his one in Oz is great (so maybe not all TT in this inverse are stuffed)
    and i do like the practical hands on teacher lead training at Mindlab (tho hate with a passion the dead dog of APA essayists it is shackled to)

  15. Looks like we will have some interesting conversations when I am back at WHS next term Tony 😉 there is a good article in the latest education review magazine about this topic

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