Re-imagining initial teacher identity and learning study: final report

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Conway, Paul F.
Murphy, Rosaleen
Rutherford, Vanessa
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School of Education, University College Cork (UCC)
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The aim of this research, the Re-imagining Initial Teacher Identity and Learning Study (RIITILS) was to continue writing from and to extend the Learning to Teach Study 1 (LETS1). LETS1, funded by the Department of Education and Skills (DES), was the first study of its kind on the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in Ireland, and involved the development and implementation of a study of initial teacher education in the PGDE in post-primary education, in one School of Education. Its aim was to identify the individual and contextual dynamics of how student teachers develop curricular and cross-curricular competences during initial teacher education (ITE). Within an overall framework that explored how student teachers develop their skills, competences and identity as teachers, it focused on curricular competences in mathematics, science and language teaching, and on the cross-curricular competences of reading and digital literacy and the development of inclusive teaching practices. LETS1 was the first programme level research on the PGDE, familiarly known to generations of student teachers and teachers as ‘the Dip’ or ‘the HDip’. Similarly, RIITILS involved a programme level study of the ‘Dip’, since renamed the Professional Diploma in Education (PDE). We use LETS 2 to denote data collection on undertaken in this second study. LETS 2 utilised and extends three key findings from Learning to Teach Study 1 (LETS 1): post-primary teachers struggled to enact the meaning of ‘real world’ experiences in maths, had limited understanding of how reading literacy impacted their subject and while they felt ready to teach did not feel able to promote inclusion. Using LETS 1 as a unique data set, LETS 2 updated it by collecting data from the 2012/2013 PDE cohort, and extended it by focusing on student teacher development (through interviews, survey and artefacts) to examine how mathematics student teachers engaging with reform oriented Project Maths, in particular, engage with the ‘real world’, reading literacy and inclusion. Drawing on research on teacher education both in Ireland and internationally, the RIITILS report is divided into four main sections: (i) an introduction and overview of the study, (ii) a summary of RIITILS activities including conferences (one in collaboration with US National Science Foundation-funded FIRSTMATH study; and another on the reform and redesign of initial teacher education through deepening engagement with pedagogy, which featured keynote addresses on Japanese Lesson Study in mathematics), as well as participation in local (Institute for Social Sciences in the 21st Century: ISS21) and international (e.g. US National Science Foundation funded TEDS/FIRSTMATH) networks (iii) findings from the four strands of the research: Teacher education policy, mathematics, literacy in subject areas and school university partnerships, and (iv) a list of publications in the form of book chapters, conference proceedings, articles – both published and in progress - from LETS 1 and this IRC-funded study during 2012-13. The IRC-funded RIITILS provided essential support to bring a large number of co-authored publications to conclusion, as well as initiate a number of others. Prior to this IRC-funded study, in addition to the main report and executive summary, two journal articles based on LETS 1 were published: ‘Novice teachers as invisible learners’ (Long et al, 2012, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice), ‘Authoring oneself and being authored as a competent teacher’ (Hall et al, 2012, Irish Educational Studies). Publications based on data from LETS 1 and LETS 2 that have been published from work undertaken during the life-cycle of this 2012-13 IRC funded Advanced Collaborative Research Award focus on: a critical discourse analysis of teacher education policy (Conway, 2013; Conway & Murphy, 2013), teacher education programme design (Conway et al, 2012), literacy in initial teacher education (Murphy et al, 2013, in press), teacher identity (Rutherford, et al, 2013, in press), workplace learning and initial teacher education (Conway, Murphy & Rutherford, 2014, in press; Conway & Munthe, 2014, in press), pilot of FIRSTMATH (Conway, et al, 2014, in press). A number of other articles, involving co-authorship by various configurations of LETS 1 and/or LETS 2 researchers, have been submitted for review and focus on: inclusion and ‘othering’ in teacher education (Kitching et al), current practices and future directions in school-university partnerships in initial teacher education (Connolly et al), the changing construction of literacy from LETS 1 to LETS 2 among student teachers (Conway et al), a Bernsteinian analysis of curricular emotions among student teachers of mathematics (Rutherford et al), a case study, employing a Bakhtinian-framework, of one student teacher’s construction of reform-oriented Project Maths (Rutherford et al), an analysis of changing conceptions of adolescent literacy and their significance for initial teacher education (Curtin et al), student teachers’ construction of modern language teaching (McKeon et al). A number of other manuscripts are well developed and are due for submission shortly and are detailed in the report. Like LETS 1, RIITILS is framed within a socio-cultural perspective on learning, and adopted a mixed methods research design. RIITILS involved four work strands: (i) policy analysis of the rapidly changing teacher education landscape in Ireland, (ii) an analysis of student teachers’ understanding and teaching of mathematics (particularly problem solving in the context of reform-oriented Project Maths), (iii) an analysis of student teachers’ understanding and teaching of literacy in their subject area and (iv) one-to-one and focus group interviews with three schools that have well-developed practices for supporting PDE students. Building directly on LETS 1, LETS 2 data collection on the PDE involved a survey of PDE student teachers, as well as interviews. Nine (n=9) students, who first or second subject was mathematics were interviewed at intervals over the course of the PDE programme, a focus group drawn from the wider group of mathematics pedagogy students was held, and one hundred and two students (n=102) responded to and completed a detailed survey on their learning to teach experience which had been distributed to the entire PDE 2012-2013 cohort. Among the dimensions of learning to teach addressed in the findings are the rapidly changing teacher education policy landscape in Ireland (Strand 1), significantly shaped by both new Teaching Council regulations as well as a policy step change in response to the results from the OECD’s PISA 2009. Strand 2 findings on the teaching of mathematics draw on two theoretical frames to present findings on mathematics teaching in an era of reform: (i) a Bernsteinian analysis of the classification and framing of emotions in mediating student teachers’ construction of mathematics pedagogy, and (ii) a Bakhtinian analysis of the discursive construction of problem solving narrated through a detailed case study of one student teacher who though, he ‘knows maths and likes maths’, as the article title indicates1, grapples with teaching Project Maths given the significant leap it represents from his own experience of learning of mathematics as a student at second and third level. This case conveys the vivid manner in which PDE students are typically experiencing the difference between their own experiences of learning mathematics in second and third level compared to what is now expected of them in teaching Project Maths. Strand 3 provides an analysis of how PDE students constructed literacy in their subject teaching, drawing on data from both the 2008-09 and 2012-13 cohorts and suggests both continuity and some important changes over time. In particular, whereas in LETS 1 student teachers typically associated literacy with support for students for whom English was a second language or had literacy difficulties, there was a notable emphasis on, and sense of responsibility by student teachers for, the wider role of literacy in their subject teaching for all - not just some - students. Strand 4 focuses on school university partnerships, a key aspect of initial teacher education, and as with LETS 1, the role of observation, mentoring and support in schools for PDE students was the focus of analysis. There was a significant increase in observation opportunities for student teachers from LETS 1 to LETS 2, and these opportunities, as was the case in LETS 1, were significantly associated with the presence of school level coordination. From LETS 1 to LETS 2, there was a small decline in the presence of school level coordinators, while assigned and sought after mentoring opportunities were similar, and there was a small increase in the number of student teachers that had no mentor, that is, school level, assigned or sought after, available to them in their school. In addition, LETS 2 identified a range of generative practices in some schools including: (i) discussion between cooperating/mentor teacher and PDE student after university tutor visits, (ii) a school resource book for mentor teachers, passed on year-to-year by the staff person designated to provide overall school coordination for PDE students, and (iii) a planning notebook shared between PDE students and their subject mentor teacher. Many of the findings from the Learning to Teach Studies are not unique to the PDE or to UCC but reflect perennial dilemmas and emerging challenges in the changing landscape of initial teacher education in Ireland and internationally. This fact is important in setting a context for the wider dissemination2 of the findings from Learning to Teach Studies 1 and 2. In conclusion, the purpose of this report was to present the main outcomes of the Re-imagining Initial Teacher Identity and Learning Study in terms of focus, activities and publications. In doing so the report presents work completed as well as on-going analysis and writing given the scale of both studies. Four ideas emerged as important in thinking about the implications of this study: (i) connected maths and reconfiguring experiences past and present, (ii) broadening engagement with literacy within subject teaching, (iii) deepening engagement with pedagogy in schools between PDE student and school mentors, and (iv) bridging between school and university and brokerage within both institutions. These four ‘big ideas’ are, we argue, worthy of attention at two levels, that is, both in terms of the redesign of initial teacher education and in the research on those reformed practices.
Postgraduate Diploma in Education , Post-primary education , Teachers' identity , Teaching skills development , Teaching competencies , Inclusive teaching practices , Pedagogy , Socio-cultural perspective on learning , Mathematics curriculum , Science curriculum , Languages curriculum
CONWAY, P. F., MURPHY, R. & RUTHERFORD, V. 2013. Re-imagining initial teacher identity and learning study: final report. Cork: School of Education, University College Cork (UCC).
© 2013, Paul F. Conway, Rosaleen Murphy, Vanessa Rutherford.