An investigation of the roles, relationships and experiences of part-time placement tutors in their supervision of student teachers on school placement

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Fitzpatrick, Patricia M.
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University College Cork
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Initial teacher education represents the beginning of formal study for those who wish to pursue a career in teaching. The issue of teachers and teaching has become an important part of governmental policy in many countries, and the preparation of teachers has received much attention in recent years. Key to the preparation of future teachers is their experience of school placement; the opportunity afforded to them to gain real-life experience of teaching in a range of school settings. The student teacher, supported by the school-based cooperating teacher and the university-based placement tutor represent the school placement ‘triad’ (Macintyre and Morris 1980); the central figures in school placement. Many research studies have been conducted on the experiences and perspectives of student teachers and co-operating teachers. By comparison placement tutors, especially part-time placement tutors, have received considerably less attention. Yet this latter group of placement tutors are the mainstay of many initial teacher education programmes where fulltime staff, already stretched to capacity with teaching and research duties, are often unavailable to fulfil the role of placement tutor. The setting for this doctoral study was the final year school placement module of an undergraduate initial teacher education programme, in a university in the Republic of Ireland. The goal of the study was to explore the experiences, roles and relationships of part-time placement tutors in school placement. A multiple case study of six part-time placement tutors during a year of school placement was conducted. A tripartite theoretical framework using the constructs of Identity (Holland et al. 1998), Multimembership (Wenger 1998, 2009, 2010) and Third Space (Bhabha 1990; Zeichner 2010) was employed to inform the study. Data collection methods included individual interviews with the participants, observations of their practice and a researcher diary. Thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006) was used to analyse the data. Three themes were identified in the data analysis. The findings in Theme One: Becoming a part-time placement tutor in initial teacher education indicate that part-time placement tutors come with a biography of ‘once a teacher’ which informs their practice. Commensurate with this fact, they continue to embrace a teacher identity in their role as teacher educators. Theme Two: The lived experiences of part-time placement tutors in initial teacher education provides substantial evidence that part-time placement tutors enact a multifaceted, complex and ‘dual role’ of both assessor and assistor (Slick 1998) for student teachers. The importance of induction to the role, access to ongoing continuing professional development and structured support, and the use of established assessment guidelines emerge as key elements necessary to facilitate part-time placement tutors to fulfil their roles effectively. The findings in Theme Two also offer significant insights into the challenges that part-time placement tutors encounter in the current informal university-school partnerships in initial teacher education. Despite this, the evidence demonstrates that part-time placement tutors are highly motivated, committed and supportive teacher educators who enjoy their role. Theme Three: Part-time placement tutors in the landscape of school placement reveal that part-time placement tutors operate on the fringes of two communities of practice, the school and university, acting as valuable liaisons between both communities. Findings on Third Space learning in this theme indicate that the prevailing school placement system does not support Third Space professional practices, though participants testify that introducing a Third Space in school placement would greatly assist student teachers in their journey of learning to teach. In addition, while part-time placement tutors enjoy positive professional relationships with student teachers and co-operating teachers, the landscape of school placement does not facilitate the formation of established relationships between part-time placement tutors and these other two members of the school placement triad. In light of the paucity of research on part-time placement tutors, this doctoral study is a unique and original addition to the field of teacher education. Furthermore, given the recent establishment of the School Placement Working Group in the Republic of Ireland in 2018 coupled with the subsequent publication of the Report and Action Plan of the School Placement Working Group (Teaching Council 2021a), the conclusions and recommendations of this study are timely and provide a significant contribution to policy, practice and future research directions regarding the role of part-time placement tutors in initial teacher education.
Student teacher , Multimembership , Teaching practice , Teaching Council , School placement triad , School placement , Teacher education , Placement tutor , Co-operating teacher , Teacher educator , Third space learning , Identity theory , Teacher educator identity
Fitzpatrick, P. 2021. An investigation of the roles, relationships and experiences of part-time placement tutors in their supervision of student teachers on school placement. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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