As an educator at the largest teacher education institution in the Netherlands, I feel privileged to work with many inspiring, passionate colleagues across 20 school subjects. At Fontys University of Applied Sciences (Fontys Hogescholen), BEd and MEd programmes are currently taught to over 4,000 students. One of the initiatives I am especially proud of is the three-year induction programme for colleagues that I co-organise. Induction has been referred to as “the first three years after appointment to a higher education academic role from previous careers in schools or colleges” (Boyd, Harris & Murray, 2011, p. 7). It is grounded in a research base which assumes that, in a context without any formal training or professional preparation, it takes around three years to ‘become’ a teacher educator (see e.g. Murray & Male, 2005; Boyd et al., 2011; Loughran, 2014).
At Fontys University, induction programmes for teacher educators - in one form or another - have been organised for years. The current, three-year programme was initiated in August 2016. At the time, more than 30 new educators were employed. The main objectives of the programme are to learn what it means to be a teacher educator, to develop one’s own identity as a teacher educator, and to get to know the organisation.
In the first year, my colleague and I decided to focus on the six professional roles of educators, as distinguished by Lunenberg, Dengerink, and Korthagen (2014):
We organise at least one 90-minute session per role, in which we engage in activities to explore its definition, read excerpts from relevant academic publications, share our own experiences, and so on. Experts (e.g. members of the management team, policy makers, lecturers) are invited to share their views on the role. Once every two or three weeks, peer dialogues and critical reflection focus on the educators’ professional practice.
In the second year, four 3-hour sessions focus on the four fundamental principles of the Dutch professional standard for teacher educators (VELON, 2012); the objectives are for educators, now in their second year, to develop competence in:
At the moment, we intend to establish a third-year follow-up trajectory in which the participants are prepared for a formally acknowledged registration as teacher educators by the Dutch Association of Teacher Educators (VELON) .
It would have been difficult for us to organise this induction programme if we had not felt supported by local and national policy. It is clear to us that ‘the professional development of teacher educators’ is one of the main policy objectives of Dutch institutes for secondary and vocational teacher education at Universities of Applied Sciences. Educators from these universities exchange good practices on a regular basis. In turn, they are supported by the Dutch Ministry of Education, which encourages teacher education institutes to share approaches in order to further develop the profession.
In addition, as I referred to earlier, the Dutch national association for teacher educators, VELON, offers teacher educators a ‘knowledge base’ and a professional standard (VELON, 2012), which describes the professional roles of teacher educators. These documents provide the language my colleagues and I use to discuss our perspectives on teacher education in general, and on the induction of teacher educators in particular. VELON also organises conferences and other meetings, which help us strengthen our professional identity.
Finally, VELON is responsible for the professional register. This is a means for Dutch educators to actively join the profession by registering officially. In the process of registration, we develop and articulate our views on the profession on the basis of four leading questions. This perspective is then critically reviewed by an assessor. At the moment, over 1,000 Dutch teacher educators (both institution-based and school-based educators) have been registered, and this number is steadily increasing.
Within this national context, it is my aspiration that my new colleagues will continue to feel supported in their professional development as they make the transition into teacher education. It is my belief that a systematic approach to induction, like the one described here, can be one of the building blocks of a solid professional community.
Boyd, P., Harris, K., & Murray, J. (2011). Becoming a teacher educator: guidelines for induction (2nd ed.). Bristol: ESCalate / HEA Subject Centre for Education.
Loughran, J. (2014). Professionally developing as a teacher educator. Journal of Teacher Education, 65 (4), 271-283.
Lunenberg, M., Dengerink, J., & Korthagen, F. (2014). The professional teacher educator: Professional roles, behaviour and development of teacher educators. Rotterdam, Boston, Taipei: Sense Publishers.
Murray, J. & Male, T. (2005). Becoming a teacher educator: Evidence from the field. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21 (2), 125-142.
VELON, the Dutch Association for Teacher Educators (2012). Accounting for the Dutch professional standard of teacher educators.