Teacher educators in higher education: a study of their practice and contribution during school placement visits

Amos, Sandra J. (2014). Teacher educators in higher education: a study of their practice and contribution during school placement visits. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000a711


The Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), offered by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in partnership with schools, is an established route into teaching. Typically pre-service teachers (PSTs) are supported by an HEI-based subject tutor who visits during school placements. An interpretivist, qualitative approach was taken to investigate the practices and knowledge tutors used during visits, and the PSTs’ perceptions of how they benefited.

Six science tutors working in different HEIs were accompanied on their visits to one PST throughout a one-year PGCE course. Audio recordings and field notes supported in-depth interviews that were used to construct tutors’ practice. The PSTs’ perspectives were elicited through semi-structured interviews. Through a thematic template analysis of the interview data three main dimensions to tutors’ knowledge and practice were identified: support, development and management.

The findings revealed that tutors’ knowledge of PST development, combined with their external perspective, leaves them well-positioned to play an important role in initial teacher education. Whilst PSTs’ characteristics and school context contributed to variation in outcomes, it was the tutors’ underlying aims, view of PST development and the extent to which their practice was PST-centred that were most significant.

Tutors’ management practices indicated that separatist or HEI–led views of partnership dominated. Although the intention was to support, when PSTs were left to make sense of the conflicting advice of teachers and tutors they rejected both, opting to rely on their existing beliefs about teaching. School and HEI partners must work collaboratively with PSTs if the contribution of each is not to be undermined by the other and PSTs are to understand the value of each. This would be enhanced if the rationale behind tutors’ practice was shared and their expertise made explicit. In addition, tutors need to know the PST’s expectations and beliefs and have regard for these.

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