Teacher Education in FE

Gatsby gave support to a three-year project during 2016-2018, led by Professor Kevin Orr at the University of Huddersfield’s School of Education and Professional Development, to research and support FE teachers’ subject-specialist pedagogy. The programme worked with trainee teachers in science, technology and engineering fields.

Subject-specialist pedagogy

Materials from the programme are now available:

We hope these materials will prove useful for trainee teachers and teacher educators, and for current FE teachers as a professional development resource.

For FE teachers of technical education, the nature of valuable professional development opportunities varies – including informal discussion with employers, structured employer placements, and formal training in reflective pedagogy. This professional development may contribute to teachers’ knowledge – including subject knowledge per se, occupational knowledge, teachers’ general pedagogical skills, and their subject-specialist pedagogy.

The programme aimed to improve teachers’ decision-making by focusing on their subject-specialist pedagogy, especially in connection to the effective sequencing of teaching, expectations of students’ understanding at appropriate thresholds, and effective assessment. To achieve this the programme focused on four themes:

  • Pedagogical content knowledge
  • Recontextualisation
  • Connectivity with the workplace
  • Occupational identity

Project activity
The Huddersfield programme began with research to better understand what good teaching on technical SET courses looks like. A literature review exploring the existing body of work around subject-specialist pedagogy was carried out, and is available here:

This informed the development of a programme for trainee teachers – built on the idea that pedagogy is informed decision-making, relating to a particular body of knowledge or curriculum, and student or group of students.

Work to implement and refine this intervention included online and face-to-face instruction and resources for trainees taking initial teacher education courses run by Huddersfield and three collaborating universities (University of Bolton, Canterbury Christ Church University and UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire)) through their respective partner FE colleges. In order to include more participants, this phase has expanded to include teacher educators in colleges and universities as well as trainee teachers on the ETF SET for Success project.

The evaluation phase assessed the impact of this intervention in relation to other factors that may affect the development of good teaching. The evaluation report, available here, notes that as a consequence of the intervention, two major university providers altered their ITE curriculum to include subject-specialist pedagogical approaches. There is ongoing agreement that the development of subject-specialist pedagogy for SET through ITE programmes for the FE sector is both possible and desirable for the improvement of SET teaching.

Subject-specialist pedagogy - a video introduction to the programme:

Online resources are now available for trainee teachers, teacher trainers, teachers undertaking CPD, and subject leaders wanting to deepen their understanding of subject-specialist pedagogy. For updates on this - and related - work, sign up for our technical education newsletter.