Elizabeth White – Principal Lecturer, University of Hertfordshire
1 June 2022
The Professional Framework for Teacher Educators was designed by teacher educators, for teacher educators, to guide their professional learning and development by explicitly defining elements of practice and providing a growing knowledge base for the profession through a wealth of linked resources.
The resources available on the NASBTT Teacher Educator and Mentoring Zone (TEMZ) are organised into different areas, or principles, for professional development using the Professional Framework for Teacher Educators. This set of principles was identified and developed by a working party of teacher educators, from schools, SCITTs and universities, called together by NASBTT in 2019. The Professional Framework has the following four quadrants: Learning and Teaching; Professional Relationships; Organise and Manage and Professional Learning and Development. The way the Framework was developed and the rationale for doing this are shared below.
The starting point was a definition of teacher educator as ‘all those who have a formal active role in the facilitation of professional learning by student teachers and teachers’, derived from the European Commission (2013) definition (Boyd and White, 2017: 124). This inclusive definition embraces school and university-based teacher educators, and includes mentors, tutors, consultants and leaders of professional development for teachers.
From here, principles were established for developing a framework to support teacher educators’ professional learning and development at any stage of their professional journey. The principles were relevant to mentors, other school-based teacher educators and university-based teacher educators. This had the advantage of crossing institutional boundaries, bringing the profession of teacher educators together, rather than providing more segregated resources for specific groups of teacher educators. Here was an opportunity to provide aspiration, expansion, and challenge for advancement as a profession. This is exemplified in the Professional Learning and Development quadrant of the Framework, where the role of advocate for high quality education for all learners; expanding the knowledge base related to teacher education; contributing to improving the teacher education profession; and contributing to creating visions for teaching, learning, and teacher education have been highlighted.
The Framework was designed to be flexible, so that evidence of practice demonstrating the elements of the Framework could be drawn from different educational contexts, and not tied to one CPD course. Throughout the Framework the generic third-person pronoun, ‘they’, pertaining to the teacher educators, was used for inclusivity. The term ‘teachers’ was used for those with whom the teacher educators were working, rather than indicating their career stage, realising that teacher educators work with both preservice and in-service teachers. The language employed is succinct, clear and user-friendly. The Framework was also designed to be rigorous, providing guidance for high quality practice that teacher educators would be proud of, and would value for professional recognition. In comparison, the Mentor Standards (DfE, 2016) provide minimum expectations for mentors and do not have the level of aspiration found in the Framework. The elements of the Professional Framework for Teacher Educators do not comprise a set of standards, but they can be cross-referenced to the Teachers’ Standards (DfE, 2012), the Mentor Standards (DfE, 2016) and the UK Professional Standards (AdvanceHE, 2011). The aim was to provide a useful framework to support an expansive environment for professional learning and development, rather than produce a set of mandatory minimum standards (Hodkinson and Hodkinson, 2005). Various aspects of the Framework will be more dominant in some workplaces, reflecting the diversity within the profession. The professional standards for teacher educators in America (ATE, 2008) and in the Netherlands (VELON, 2012) and the UK Professional Standards Framework (AdvanceHE, 2011) helped to inform the design and content of the Framework.
The Professional Framework for Teacher Educators provides clarity about the nature of the profession and affords a reference for the entire profession. In England the teacher educator profession is fragmented into several sub-groups depending on their workplace: some are school-based, others university-based; some are working in further education and some in early years; some are consultants and some have hybrid roles between two settings (White, 2014; Boyd and White, 2017). Additional complexity and richness is provided by the multiple professional identities of some teacher educators, for example, school-based mentors have identities as teachers and teacher educators. The European Commission assert that awareness of these multiple professional identities is important ‘for the development of a coherent and sustainable system of professional learning for teacher educators’ (European Commission, 2013:29). The political landscape has often caused a sense of fragmentation and even polarisation between school-based and university-based teacher educators. The Mentor Standards (DfE, 2016) provide expectations for a subgroup of school-based teacher educators, separating this group out from the wider professional community. The challenge is for school- and university-based teacher educators, including mentors, to develop their identity as teacher educators and to benefit from being part of the wider community of teacher educators, both nationally and internationally, school-based and university-based, including researchers in the field (Lunenberg, 2015). In England there are separate bodies to represent the interests of school-based teacher educators (the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, NASBTT) and university-based teacher educators (the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, UCET). There are a number of factors working hard against fragmentation of the profession. The leadership of NASBTT and UCET can be commended for working together to represent the profession as a united front with policy makers. At grassroots level there is often collaboration between school- and university-based colleagues, in partnerships for initial teacher education. Our Professional Framework for Teacher Educators could provide another common point around which mutual understanding, interweaving and enrichment of experiences can serve to unite a richly diverse profession, adding to the sense of community among these professionals, and the benefits that a diverse collaborative community brings.
The Framework guides the professional learning and development of teacher educators by explicitly defining elements of practice and providing a growing knowledge base for the profession through a wealth of linked resources. A knowledge base can be constructed by a broad community that includes practitioners and researchers to enhance the practice of individuals and the collective practice of the local or broader community (Lunenberg and Dengerink, 2021). As practice is complex and evolving, so too the knowledge base needs to be dynamic, expanding, growing out of discourse between teacher educators, and informed by research. The breadth of coverage in the elements of our Framework and the depth to which they can be addressed can be used to inform stimulating and expansive opportunities for professional learning and development, whilst supporting self-evaluation and identification of professional development needs. It is also important to recognise that professional knowledge carries a contextual aspect that can be applied through local communities of practice. Lunenberg and Dengerink (2021) provide four recommendations in their chapter on designing knowledge bases for teacher educators, which our Professional Framework for Teacher Educators aligns to: clarity about the aim of the knowledge base; structure built around the focus of the pedagogy of teacher education; attending to theoretical and practical knowledge to serve the needs of the broad community; and ownership by the professional community so that it becomes the knowledge base of teacher educators rather than for teacher educators.
A further advantage of our Professional Framework for Teacher Educators is the opportunity it gives for autonomy in the profession. A framework created for teacher educators and by teacher educators is a framework that we can own and develop as a profession. It is a framework that we can be proud of and use to maintain a high standard of professionalism and to provide guidance for professional recognition, rather than being regulated through having a set of standards imposed by a statutory body. It is worth noting that although the Mentor Standards (DfE, 2016) are not statutory, the recommendation is that the regulatory body, Ofsted, should have regard to the standards in their inspection of ITT providers. There is resistance to the use of professional standards which are imposed upon professionals and regulated by a statutory body because of the restrictive nature of stnadardisation and the performativity culture that prevails in the English educational system (Kennedy, 2014; Douglas, 2017). In the Netherlands professional standards have been developed for teacher educators by the Association of Dutch Teacher Educators (VELON). The development of the Dutch standards by teacher educators themselves has led to powerful feelings of ownership and their standards are evolving with the changing landscape in which they work (Swennen, 2014). Dutch teacher educators have a voluntary system of recognition through professional registration involving self-assessment, professional development, peer review and formative feedback (Koster and Dengerink, 2008). As a professional group, we could build on the Dutch example using our Professional Framework for Teacher Educators as a robust tool for individual professional development and have a voluntary system of recognition to raise the status of English teacher educators and to bring the professional community together to strengthen and develop our profession.
Ask yourself the following questions for your local context:
- Are teacher educators recognised as a distinctive professional community?
- Are mentors recognised as school-based teacher educators, part of the professional community of teacher educators?
- Do school-based and university-based teacher educators have access to a professional learning community of teacher educators?
- Do both school-based and university-based teacher educators have a sense of belonging to the professional learning community of teacher educators?
- Does it matter?
Now, go back and ask yourself these questions for the national context.
- Is our Professional Framework for Teacher Educators something that you can be proud and take ownership of?
- Would you like to contribute to the knowledge base that is growing on TEMZ?