BERA Annual Conference 2016

British Educational Research Association


13-15 September, 2016 - Leeds, UK


Meeting the professional learning needs of Higher Education-based teacher educators


Gerry Czerniawski, University of East London



Vivienne Marie Baumfield, University of Exeter



The lack of attention at an international level to the induction and professional developmental needs of teacher educators is the driver for this symposium that considers the most effective way to support the professional learning of Higher Education-based teacher educators. Attempting to understand what the most effective ways are to support their professional learning is an intellectual journey fraught with difficulty. Different and often competing globalised, internationalised and localised understandings about what it means to be a teacher educator pose one such difficulty (Gewirtz et al 2009; Darling Hammond and Lieberman 2012). Within national borders, differences in the constellations, configurations of influence and patterns of professional relationships ensure that the experience of being a teacher educator differs considerably for different individuals even within what might appear similar contexts and settings.



This symposium presents three papers that draw on data from an international and comparative needs analysis of Higher Education-based teacher educators in the countries participating in the International Forum for Teacher Educator Development (InFoTED). Implemented in 2015, the survey deployed in this study gathered responses from 1158 teacher educators from Belgium, Ireland, Israel, Norway, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Analysis of this large-scale data base is still in the early stages and this symposium presents the initial findings from three of the participating countries, namely England, Ireland and Scotland.


The three papers are:

  • Teacher educators are professional learners too! Understanding the professional learning needs of English university-based teacher educators? (Gerry Czerniawski, University of East London, England)
  • The professional learning needs of Irish teacher educators: who is responsible? (Ann MacPhail, University of Limerick, Ireland)
  • ​A Journey to Excellence? The professional learning needs of Scottish teacher educators (Donald Gray, University of Aberdeen, Scotland)


Building on the recommendations of two European Commission reports (2012; 2013) that promote and support a shared vision and common understanding of what is meant by ‘quality’ in educating teachers and access to high-quality opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD), the three papers from this pan-European study addresses two research questions:


  1. What professional learning activities do university-based teacher educators value?
  2. How best can these activities be realised?


These research questions are necessary when considering that many teacher educators working in Higher Education acquire their expertise after taking on the position of teacher educator, especially if their background lies solely in either school teaching or research (Goodwin and Kosnik 2013; Murray & Male 2005; Smith 2011).

Each paper aims to contribute new knowledge and understanding to the ways in which teacher educators’ professional learning can be designed in both national and pan-European contexts. The results from all three papers will be presented under three headings: (i) life as a teacher educator, (ii) teacher education and research and (iii) professional learning opportunities.

The first sections of each paper will give contextual details, with priority given to the findings in the last section where the researchers aimed to find out what teacher educators’ current professional development needs are and how they think these needs can best be met.

Initial findings suggest two types of teacher educators’ professional development needs arise from the data; (i) those involving the development of teacher educators’ educational capacities related to their day-to-day remit as a teacher educator in delivery of programmes and (ii) those required for progressing an academic career, with the promotion of research and writing skills being the most prominent.



Ann MacPhail, University of Limerick, Ireland

Mary O'Sullivan, University of Limerick, Ireland

Paul Conway, University of Limerick, Ireland