Teachers as teacher educators in the post-COVID world

Teacher educator conversations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic: opportunities and responsibilities (post 3)
October 13, 2020
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Teachers as teacher educators in the post-COVID world

“Without realising it, teachers are embracing the responsibility of being teacher educators”


It has been a decade since the highly influential report Teaching Scotland’s Future, also known as the Donaldson Report, was published. This document set out a blueprint for developing teacher education in Scotland. I know this report well, because I read it cover to cover, in preparation for my current job in Teacher Education. The interview presentation asked me to consider the recommendation: “All teachers should see themselves as teacher educators...” (Donaldson, 2010). I argued this was a noble aim, and something that could make a real difference in teaching. Despite this, I don’t think we have made as much progress in this area, for a variety of reasons, as we could have. Until now, that is.

There has been so much written on the current global pandemic, with some of this focussing on the opportunities, and this sits slightly uncomfortably with me. What is happening now is not a good thing. The impact on economy, and mental health, is likely to stretch long into the future. Despite this one thing that has given some comfort is that people are developing ways to cope. This is what humans do, we adapt and learn. Education is a sector where this should come naturally but top-down systems can sometimes inhibit this. The classic text from critical pedagogist Ivan Illich (1971), written nearly half a century ago, argued we need to deschool society, and there are real parallels from school-based education to the way teachers learn. The product or output view of education detracts from the process of learning.

The education sector has long been subject to managerialism and centralised control but there are also people willing to challenge this. For example the grassroots TeachMeet phenomenon, which began in Scotland, and has since spawned similar innovations such as the recent #BrewEd movement. TeachMeets were originally small informal events for teachers, organised by teachers, where attendees would discuss pedagogical issues. Although these started as small gatherings in pubs, they quickly developed to be hosted by entire schools, or in universities and grew into much larger events, taking place all over the world. BrewEd events are very similar, and began with teachers gathering, again in pubs, to listen to speakers who volunteered to share their expertise on teaching practice. During lockdown, with pubs closed, the first ever online version of this face-to-face #BrewEd event took place (Andre, 2020) with thousands of people engaging on the day or later with a wide range of presentations delivered and accessed for free. These examples of Grassroots CPD exemplify how teachers are prepared to come together to help and support each other.

The educational theory that best explains this is self-directed learning or, to give it the academic name, heutagogy (Hase and Kenyon, 2013). One way of looking at this is all the learning that goes on informally, below the waterline of a metaphorical iceberg (Rogers, 2014). The opportunities for this informal learning is obvious at events like TeachMeet or BrewEd, but it is also taking place within the wider teacher community – now more than ever. This idea of teacher professional communities and communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) isn’t new, but teachers seem to be embracing this, almost unconsciously, and Rogers (2014) categorises this as implicit learning.

During this time of crisis, and constant change, teachers are supporting each other through more formal channels, such as government schemes or systems, or using social media (everything from Twitter to Pinterest) with individual teachers sharing resources or ideas. There are also the unseen support networks with WhatsApp groups providing peer support even asking the ‘silly’ questions that they previously may have been reluctant to pose. But what place is there for teacher educators in this? Amidst this seismic shift it would be natural for the teacher educators, especially those in the academy, to be a little concerned by this move toward unaccredited, teacher-owned, low-cost professional development. However, this also presents a huge opportunity for teachers at all levels, and across the sector to engage and learn from each other. Surely if all teachers should embrace being teacher educators, so teacher educators should embrace the chance to learn too. And the role of teacher educators is acknowledged by the founders of the BrewEd movement, who wanted teachers, support staff, leaders and university based staff to collaborate together.

During this time of crisis, and constant change, teachers are supporting each other through more formal channels, such as government schemes or systems, or using social media (everything from Twitter to Pinterest) with individual teachers sharing resources or ideas. There are also the unseen support networks with WhatsApp groups providing peer support even asking the ‘silly’ questions that they previously may have been reluctant to pose. But what place is there for teacher educators in this? Amidst this seismic shift it would be natural for the teacher educators, especially those in the academy, to be a little concerned by this move toward unaccredited, teacher-owned, low-cost professional development. However, this also presents a huge opportunity for teachers at all levels, and across the sector to engage and learn from each other. Surely if all teachers should embrace being teacher educators, so teacher educators should embrace the chance to learn too. And the role of teacher educators is acknowledged by the founders of the BrewEd movement, who wanted teachers, support staff, leaders and university based staff to collaborate together.


References

Andre, G. (2020). #BrewEdIsolation. In @MREFINCH (Ed.), 9:27 am, Twitter

Donaldson, G. (2010). Teaching Scotland’s Future. Edinburgh, UK: Scottish Government.

Hase, S., & Kenyon, C. (2013). Self-determined learning: Heutagogy in action. London, UK: Bloomsbury.

Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling society. London, UK: Calder and Boyars.

Rogers, A. (2014). The base of the iceberg. Informal learning and its impact on formal and non-formal learning. Toronto, Canada: Barbara Budrich.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning as a social system. Systems Thinker, 9, 2-3.

Richard Holme
Richard Holme

Richard Holme is an Academic Lead for Masters in Education at the University of Dundee and lecturer in education and teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. His areas of specialism include primary education, STEM subjects and curriculum innovation. Richard's main area of research interest is teacher professional learning and development specifically focussing on grassroots professional development. His doctoral research thesis focused on the topic of DIY or teacher-initiated professional development.

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