Initial Teacher Education for Further Education: An Evaluation of Trainee Teachers’ Experiences of their Teaching Placement
In relation to the ECER 2016 Conference theme, ‘Leading Education: The distinct contributions of educational research and researchers’ this paper will outline findings from an evaluation of the placement component of an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programme for Further Education and Training (FET). A recent requirement of the Teaching Council, the professional standards body for the teaching profession in Ireland, is for mandatory qualifications for teachers involved in the direct provision of FET (Teaching Council, March 2011). Placement forms an integral part of a degree in Education and Training which is the only concurrent initial teacher education degree in FET currently delivered in Ireland. The study aims to evaluate the successes and challenges of the placement year from the point of view of all stakeholders in order to improve the programme. The student teachers on the ITE programme are potentially the vanguard of practitioner based-research in FET and drivers of research-led innovation in practice.
The Further Education and Training sector (FET) in Ireland is undergoing a change process with “FET involved structural-level change, as well as changes affecting planning, prioritising, funding and the provision of FET programmes and services which are based on an identified need for a more coherent and effective system of provision” (SOLAS, 2016). SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority, is the State organisation with responsibility for funding, planning and coordinating Further Education and Training (FET) in Ireland. The FET sector in Ireland includes, but is not exclusive to, vocational training and apprenticeship, vocational education and training (VET), the Post Leaving Certificate sector (PLC), alternative basic skills programmes such as Youthreach, Adult Literacy, ,and adult, continuing and community education. The range of programmes and qualifications are reflected in the number of awards nationally and in the capital: “In 2014, the total output from the national education and training system, expressed as awards, amounted to almost 95,000 awards (NFQ 1-10) for the State; the largest numbers of these were in the business & law (22%), health & welfare (21%), and arts & humanities fields (13%); Dublin accounted for 37% of all national awards (NFQ 1-10); with regard to the field of learning, Dublin accounted for 40% of all awards for science & maths, 36% of ICT awards, and 35% of engineering & construction awards in the State” (Milicevic, 2015). Educators delivering further education and training programmes to these students must retain their vocational competence as well as pedagogical expertise to prepare students/learners for existing and emerging skills- shortages and gaps.
International research indicates that high quality initial and continuing teacher education is essential in fostering better learner outcomes (European Commission, Education and Training, 2013). This paper aims to evaluate the placement years (2014-2016) in an initial teacher education programme through the experience of students, lecturers, cooperating teachers and FET staff.
Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used.
The research methodology used is case study with a qualitative design approach. Research instruments include a purposefully designed survey questionnaire, focus group and interview. The study will gather mainly qualitative data of attitudes, experiences and opinions of placement in FET. Case study has been chosen as it is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon (the ‘case’) in depth and within its real-world context when the boundaries between phenomenon and context may not be clearly evident” (Yin, 2014, p.16).
Conclusions, expected outcomes or Findings
A successful reform of the FET sector is dependent on a broad range of FET stakeholders, including FET providers and practitioners, Higher Education Institutes and community and voluntary sectors working together with government department and agencies and SOLAS. It is expected that this research will show a need for more focused placement supports exploring a range of pedagogical strategies and training competences that are closely aligned with the diverse courses and skills provision on offer in FET. It is anticipated that findings will also show an opportunity and a need for practitioner-based research that can contribute to the development and progression of FET and the professional competences of educators and trainers working in the sector. It is expected that the outcomes of this research will contribute to the ongoing discussions on the professionalism of teachers and competence development in FET across Europe.
Economic and Social Research Council, 2008. ‘Challenge and change in further education’. [Online]. Available from: http://www.tlrp.org/pub/documents/FEcommentary.pdf. [Accessed 19 January 2016].
European Commission, Education and Training, 2013. ‘Supporting teacher competence development for better learning outcomes’ [Online]. Available from: http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/school/doc/teachercomp_en.pdf. [Accessed 20 January 2016].
Milićević, I. 2015. Regional Labour Markets Bulletin, September 2015. Dublin: SOLAS.
SOLAS. 2014. Further Education and Training Strategy 2014-2019. [Online]. Available from: https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/Further-Education-and-Training-Strategy-2014-2019.pdf. [Accessed 19 January 2016].
The Teaching Council. 2011. Further Education: General and Programme Requirements for the Accreditation of Teacher Education Qualifications. Dublin: Teaching Council.
Yin, R.K. 2014. Case Study Research Design and Methods. 5th ed. CA: Sage Publications Inc.