Teaching Teachers: The bets of American teacher educators

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Date published 13 March 2018

Last updated 21 March 2024

By Matt Hood and Harry Fletcher-Wood

This paper was born out of this provocation from our friend and colleague Steven Farr at Teach for All. Put another way, Steven argued that the decisions all teacher educators, us included, make about who we train and develop; what should be in the curriculum; how each aspect of that curriculum should be taught and assessed; and where and when training and development should take place are rarely intentional and consistent.

Put simply, as teacher educators we don’t make clear bets.

Steven also argued that this lack of intentionality and consistency, exacerbated by the limits of research into teacher education, makes us less effective, which has real consequences for the expertise of our teachers and the outcomes of pupils. By not making clear bets we often do a little bit of everything half well instead of making a choice and accepting the opportunity cost of the options foregone. By not being consistent (at least within an organisation) teachers on courses often don’t experience a coherent theory of learning - one teacher educator tells them one thing and another teacher educator contradicts them.

Great schools are intentional about what is in their curriculum and how it is taught and assessed. ‘Schools for teachers’ need to catch up.

This resonated so much with us that it begged the question - what if we tried to make the implicit, explicit? With help from an international network of teacher educators we have created a (much debated) structured interview and tested it with a pilot group of teacher educators in the USA.

The interview focuses on understanding the bets each provider is making to enable them to design a programme that meets the goals they have set out for participants. It includes a range of questions, the bulk of which invite interviewees to expose their bets. In many cases this is achieved through a process of prioritising preferences.

What follows in this paper are the presentations of those interviews - largely left for you to interrogate, with a small amount of commentary and concluding reflections from us. We hope you find this snapshot of the current design choices being made by this group of US teacher educators interesting, and we look forward to hearing your comments.

By Matt Hood and Harry Fletcher-Wood

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This article originally appeared on the website of the Institute for Teaching. In March 2019 the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute.

Matt Hood and Harry Fletcher-Wood

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