Designing a Bedalian ITT program: aims and objectives
Initial Teacher Training is the formative part of a teacher's career. The skills and knowledge that they gain throughout their training will inform the rest of their career; their teaching, their decision making, their attitude to change and development, their relationships with students, their drive, their enjoyment of professional development, amongst many other things. I believe that teacher training should not be a 'tick box' exercise, but should be something personalised to every teacher and should respond to their specific skills, needs and interests.
I am currently in the process of designing such a program. The aim is that the program will be:
When I did my GTP I was encouraged to be creative by the excellent mentors I worked with, but the process itself was a fairly formulaic, 'tick box' activity. I collated evidence for standards, without any need to think progressively if I didn't want to, and the program itself did not demonstrate any of the pedagogical principles that it was supposed to be instilling. I want to design something which intrinsically utilises creative teaching methods, and inspires progressive teaching in trainees. Something that gives new teachers the confidence to explore their intuitions, and which models what dynamic teaching can look like, without dictating what it should look like.
Teaching is always changing: the schools change, the students change, colleagues change, the research changes, teaching fashions change, curricula change. I am keen to develop a program which celebrates and takes advantage of these changes, rather than continuing in the same way in spite of these changes. What are the school priorities for this year? Let's make those an aspect of the training. What's a hot topic in education right now? Let's do some research into that. What books are we reading in Teaching and Learning Book club this term? Let's read those and reflect on how they affect teaching practice. Let's respond to the environment around us.
All teachers have different needs. Some are excellent at behaviour management from day one, but take time to become great planners, some are super creative, but need help giving sufficient structure to their lessons, some throw themselves into the life of the school, some have exceptional subject knowledge, some have a talent for giving clear explanations, some are confident in leading practicals and completing risk assessments, some work well in a departmental team, some are great at writing assessment. But no ITT is going to be great at all of these things. And on day one, they may be good at none of them. A great ITT program makes allowance for the fact that different trainees will need to work on these different aspects in different orders of priority; and I want to lead a scheme which is highly flexible and allows trainees to progress reflectively spending more time on some areas and less in others, and working on some aspects of the practice first, and leaving some parts for later.
When I did my GTP, the emphasis in assessment was on how I had made progress. Although I agree that progress is really important, I also think that it is important for trainees to reach a certain level of practice. In a similar fashion to the Canadian education system, I believe that teachers should reach challenging standards and be excellent practitioners by the end of their training. As mentors we should differentiate by support, and the way we offer training, rather than compromising on the quality of education which is expected at the end.
There is an active research community looking into how to train teachers. Many other countries have very different accepted wisdom about the best way to prepare ITTs. I am keen to capture and build on this research and empirical evidence when drawing together ideas for my Bedalian teacher training system.
When I was training, much of the literature I was asked to read was exceedingly dull, and much was not pitched at the right level: either it was too academic, or too vague and simplistic. Since I have trained, I have read numerous books on pedagogy, cognitive science, educational ideology, etc. which have been fascinating, engaging reads. I am hoping that I can create a reading list of interesting, rather than inappropriate content. Furthermore, I believe that discussing teaching is the most interesting part of teacher training, and so I am planning to provide a lot of opportunities for discussion. Studying is always more interesting if it is meaningful, so a program that adapts seamlessly to the needs and interests of the is the objective.
On top of the aims above, I think teacher training should feel feel like a journey, with genuine progression throughout, rather than a bit of this, then a bit of that. For this to be the case, I believe that the aims and objectives of the training should be extremely clear, so that the trainee knows why every task is being completed. And the flexibility of the program should mean that ITT is always making progress on their area of greatest need which should make the scheme feel purposeful. To give the scheme unity, areas should be returned to periodically, always with progression, either in the way the aspect is encountered, in terms of teaching topic or key stage, or focusing on planning, rather than lesson observation for example, or in the level of academic rigour, or in the way the evidence is collected.
Finally, Bedales is a unique school with a clear vision of how education should be. Teaching Standard 8 requires teachers to model the ethos of the school in their practice. I think that at Bedales this is vital and that ITTs can go one step further. I would like trainees to feel that they really understand the vision of John Badley and I will suggest that they do read some of his writings to get to grips with the unique Bedalian philosophy. On top of this, I want the whole program to have a Bedalian feel: to be centred around the trainee, to be all of the things above. To ensure that the teacher in question becomes an independent, inquisitive learner about pedagogy.