Contributions at the Hungarian Research Association seminar

Teacher educators' competencies: What is needed in a multi-faceted and contested profession



In this contribution, I have addressed the character and work of teacher educators, the possibility and meaningfulness of defining generic competencies for teacher educators, what the contents of these competencies and an underlying knowledge base could be and what this means for the selection, education and professional development of teacher educators.


Main conclusions are:

The work of teacher educators can be studied from different perspectives: their roles and responsibilities, their enacted professionalism and what they are actually doing, and their biographies. Their work is multi-faceted. Though teaching and coaching of (prospective) teachers is prevalent, many teacher educators are also involved in research. Additionally, especially later in their career, many of their activities may be grouped around leadership and service: supporting development and innovation in the professional practice of teachers, in schools and school-university partnerships and in national and international educational networks and policy. These leadership and service activities are under-researched. The work of teacher educators is also contested and not always recognised in its double function of serving teachers in schools and serving academic standards in higher education and research.

It makes sense to define general competencies of teacher educators but when they are described in a national framework such as, for instance, standards, it is necessary to be attentive to the conditions in which they are being developed and used. These conditions concern professional ownership and a political and professional culture which is not mainly based on accountability, but also on supporting development and diversity.

The competencies and underlying knowledge of teacher educators are multi-layered. Principles about the character of the profession and identity of teacher educators are foundational. The core of these principles is the multi-layeredness and second order character of the profession. This means that the competencies teacher educators have should include the first order competencies teachers possess: disciplinary content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge about learning and teaching. And in a broader sense: knowledge of and a vision on the role of education, and on the roles of schools within and serving the surrounding community. The second layer is essential and more specific to teacher educators: pedagogy of teacher education, teaching and learning in teacher education as a subsystem of higher education, developing scholarship and conducting research, supporting the continuous professional development of teachers and service to the further development of education in a global and diverse society.

To combine all of these competencies in one person is impossible. Teacher educators are supposed to work in teams. An elaborated description of general domains of competencies may serve as a frame of reference for the personal and professional positioning and development, and for the professional discourse within teams of teacher educators.

The issue of the selection and education of teacher educators is under-valued in research and practice, while it is an essential aspect regarding the quality of teacher education. Prior education specific to teacher educators is non-existent. Induction for teacher educators into a university context is mostly based on informal mentorship by a colleague. What teacher educators want to learn depends to a large extent on their specific tasks, context and career-phase. As to how they want to learn, most teacher educators prefer `intentional informal learning´. Concerning their professional development in their roles as curriculum developer, gatekeeper and broker, hardly any research has been conducted. Factors promoting professional development of teacher educators are the existence of an accepted frame of reference, a supportive institutional context, personal characteristics of the teacher educators, and transformative tensions.

This means that principles and notions such as identity-development, communication, responsibility, contextuality and diversity are essential to the professional development of teacher educators individually, in teams and in communities, as a professional group, and to the educational community as a whole.

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Cochran-Smith, M. & Villegas, A.M. (2015). Framing Teacher Preparation Research: An Overview of the Field, Part I. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(1), 7-20.

Davey, R. (2013). The Professional Identity of Teacher Educators. Career on the cusp? London: Routledge.

Dengerink, J., Lunenberg, M., & Kools, Q. (2015). What and how teacher educators prefer to learn. Journal of Education for Teaching, 41(1), 78-96.

European Commission (2013). Supporting Teacher Educators for better learning outcomes. Brussels: European Commission – Education and Training.

Koster, B. & Dengerink, J.J. (2008). Professional standards for teacher educators: how to deal with complexity, ownership and function. Experiences from the Netherlands. European Journal of Teacher Education, 31(2), 135-149.

Lunenberg, M., Dengerink, J., & Korthagen, F. (2014). The Professional Teacher Educator. Roles, Behaviour, and Professional Development of Teacher Educators. Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers.

Smith, K. (2011). The multi-faceted teacher educator: a Norwegian perspective. Journal of Education for Teaching: International research and pedagogy, 37(3), 337-349.

Swennen, A., Jones, K., & Volman, M. (2010). Teacher educators: their identities, sub-identities and implications for professional development. Professional Development in Education, 36(1), 131-148.

Vanassche, E., Rust, F., Conway, P., Smith, K., Tack, H., & Vanderlinde, R. (2015). InFo-TED: Bringing Policy, Research, and Practice Together Around Teacher Educator Development. In: C. Craig & L. Orland-Barak. International teacher education: Promising pedagogies (Part C). Brinkley, UK: Emerald Books.

Vanassche, E. & Kelchtermans, G. (2014). Teacher educators' professionalism in practice: Positioning theory and personal interpretative framework. Teaching and Teacher Education, 44(2014), 117-127.



Jurriën Dengerink, VU University, Amsterdam


Trends in teacher education across Europe: An initial analysis



This presentation identifies three of the broad trends in teacher education across Europe, with some inevitably limited attempts to consider the resulting issues. The presentation first considers the background factors in policy analysis before moving to identify and discuss the trends in European teacher education. This choice of just three trends amongst the many patterns found in policy documents on teacher education across Europe is, of course, in the end, a personal one. These chosen trends in pre-service teacher education across Europe are: the actions which many member states are taking to improve the quality and status of teaching by using pre-service as a policy lever for change and quality enhancement in schools; the ‘turn to the practical’ with provision being ‘remodelled’ to enable student teachers to learn more in school settings; and the enhanced attention paid to those who teach teachers, both the traditional occupational group of teacher educators based in teacher education institutes or universities and the mentors based in schools.

The full paper can be read in New Aspects in European Teacher Education (2016) Falus, I. and Orgovanyi-Gajdos, J. (editors) Liceum Kiado, Eger, Hungary. Alternatively, please access it via Jean’s Research Gate page or contact Jean directly to request a copy.

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Davey, R. (2013) The Professional Identity of Teacher Educators: Career on the cusp? London: Routledge.

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European Commission. (2013). Supporting teacher educators for better learning outcomes. Brussels: European Commission.

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Falus,I., Foris, K. and Hütter, E. (2015) Supporting and Evaluating Beginning Teachers: A Hungarian Pilot Project. Presentation at the European Educational Research Association Conference, Budapest, September 2015.

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McNamara, O., Murray, J., and Jones, M. (editors) (2013) Workplace Learning in Teacher Education. Dordrecht: Springer.

Murray, J. (2002) Between the Chalkface and the Ivory Towers? A study of the professionalism of teacher educators working on primary Initial Teacher Education courses in the English education system. Collected Original Resources in Education (CORE) 26 (3) 1-529.

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Smith, K. and Ulvik, M. (2015) An Emerging Understanding of Mentors’ Knowledge Base in Tillema, H., van der Westhuizen, G. and Smith, K. (editors) Mentoring for Learning: Climbing the Mountain. Dordrecht: Springer.



Jean Murray, University of East London, England