Sink or swim: Learning to teach post-16 on an 11-18 Post-graduate Certificate in Education

Butcher, John (2003). Sink or swim: Learning to teach post-16 on an 11-18 Post-graduate Certificate in Education. Teacher development, 7(1) pp. 31–58.



This article investigates the needs and experiences of student teachers in England and Wales as they learn to teach post-16 on an 11-18 Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). A different curriculum and assessment framework is in place post-16, offering much with which mentors might engage in their training role. However, mentoring in relation to post-16 teaching is reported as inconsistent. As a consequence, students feel underprepared at the end of their training for the demands of post-16 teaching. Students and mentors describe the demands of learning to teach post-16 differently to pre-16, particularly the need to differentiate subject knowledge. Yet little attention is given to effective post-16 teaching strategies in the literature, so students possess a false preconception of post-16 teaching, which mentors have not always been able to challenge. The research was organised as a case study of post-16 teaching and was conducted on a sample of Open University PGCE English students and mentors. Five research instruments were developed and used iteratively to generate qualitative data revealing student perceptions and mentor responses. The study reveals significant problems for student teachers as they learn to teach post-16, which were confirmed by mentors. The results illuminate the specific need for more effective models of post-16 mentoring in initial teacher training (ITT). Mentors need more effective training in the breadth of their role, and the ITT Standards need to ‘mainstream’ competence in post-16 teaching more explicitly. The results also exemplify the relative invisibility of the emerging 14-19 debate as it might affect ITT. The study concludes that post-16 teaching in schools is likely to continue to be on the margins of ITT, and might be better supported in a newly qualified teacher's induction year.

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