‘Transforming Teacher Education’ – ms. complete!

Finally, after a lot of rewriting, the thing is done. Jane is on holiday somewhere in southern Spain and not responding to my texts. So while she bakes, I sweat on. Thanks, Jane 😉

The book has to some extent written itself as it is reporting on the research we have been engaged in for the last four years, first with Anna Pendry at Oxford and then with Allan Blake and Jim McNally in the people’s republic of Strathclyde. The reason it has taken so long to finish is that the chapters we wrote first, thinking they were ‘banked’, have all had to be rewritten. Looking back on the period 2011 – 2013 in particular, people were very pessimistic about the future of ITE in (or at least partly in) universities. Since then, of course, School Direct has gone with a whimper rather than a bang and universities and other higher education institutions in England are still in there, baling out the sinking reform, still partnering up with schools, still trying (in spite of all the chaos that the reforms created) to produce the thirty thousand or so teachers England needs every year.

So, as we now know, it is easy to write pessimistically; it is much harder to write a complex analysis that looks to the future. That is why pedagogy is so hard to do. And why sociology isn’t…. ouch!

As a taster, here is the draft preface for the book which comes out in early 2015, January I think. Now available for pre-order on Amazon.




Viv Ellis & Jane McNicholl



This book is about how we educate, train and develop teachers and, specifically, about higher education’s contribution to their preparation. We researched and wrote the book over the four years since the election of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in the UK in 2010. Our interests in transforming teacher education pre-date this election but the rhetoric of reform since 2010 has spurned us on to complete our investigations, go through the processes of peer review, search the international research literature, make site visits to several countries and submit a proposal to Bloomsbury that has led to this book. The book will be published a few months before the 2015 General Election in the UK and at about the same time as the Carter Review of Initial Teacher Education reports (the Carter Review is an independent but government-initiated and supported review of the content of initial teacher education programmes in England). Whether we like it or not, the book comes out of a political context and it will feed into one. And right at the beginning of the book we want to signal that we are not writing it to be defensive of the status quo in initial teacher education in England or anywhere else. We are not seeking simply to defend what has gone on in universities under the name of initial teacher preparation.


When talking about education and education policy it has become very common to fall into a familiar rhetorical trap. Neoliberalism and the specific policy turn that Stephen Ball (e.g. 2012) has termed the Global Education Reform Movement – the GERM – presents urgent arguments in the public sphere that are presented as ‘reform’ ideas. They are strongly and explicitly motivated and often articulated with great eloquence and fervour. These reform ideas frame proposals that have easily recognizable and often apparently well-intentioned outcomes and the outcomes are measurable through the specification of targets and numerical benchmarks. The modality of reform is one that has become known as New Public Management (McLaughlin et al, 2002). The trap for those who have an alternative view is one of simply defending current arrangements, of arguing that there is evidence that these arrangements are sufficient and that the risks associated with the reforms are too high. Statistics and methodological critiques are often traded in skirmishes the terms of which have already been set by the reformers. The GERM has determined the ground on which the argument takes places, its premises, propositions and overall conclusions.


Debates about teacher education have often followed this pattern and we discuss some of the reasons for this situation in the chapters that follow. In summary, we believe that teacher education as a field has been somewhat conservative in approaching its own development as a higher education activity. In this book, we refer principally to the UK (specifically, England) but we do believe the argument has some wider relevance internationally. However, it is important to note we do not seek to blame teacher educators for this situation nor to apportion blame elsewhere. Rather, we seek to offer an analysis of the situation as it has arisen culturally and historically and then to propose some ideas for the development of the field that will be of benefit to the education system as whole. So we do not defend teacher education as it is in this book. Instead, we want to work towards a transformative agenda.


Our rejection of the reform/defend dichotomy and our commitment to the transformation of existing arrangements and premises in teacher education has been stimulated by the work of many scholars. Pauline Lipman’s 2011 book The New Political Economy of Urban Education was particularly influential. Writing about urban education and about Chicago schools in particular, Lipman argued for the necessity of ‘rupturing the neoliberal tropes that opposition means supporting the status quo’ (Lipman 2011, 164). In place of a defensive stance, Lipman proposed a transformative one that opened out the debate to the wider society and engaged children, parents and communities. She proposed a category of ‘nonreformist reforms’ that intervened in the ruptures between reformist and defensive positions. Fundamentally, she argued for a reframing of the arguments as a first step in ‘fracturing the hegemonic alliance’ that supports the GERM, asserting that ‘how issues are framed sets the parameters of possible solutions, defines who is responsible, and embodies the sort of society we wish to have’ (p. 163). Cognitive linguist George Lakoff has made many similar arguments for reframing the arguments of ‘left’ and ‘right’ in our general politics (e.g. Lakoff 2004). No matter how much ‘data’ or ‘evidence’ one produces from defensive standpoint, the power of the reformers’ framing metaphor is determining.


Viv Ellis rehearsed the argument we have started to make here at a seminar at the University of Washington in April 2012, strongly influenced by Lipman’s work and against a background of a growing crisis in teacher education – and higher education – in England. The analysis of the reform/defend binary in teacher education policy and proposals for a transformative reframing have subsequently been made elsewhere (e.g. Zeichner & Sandoval 2013). But we believe we need more than a critical sociology of teacher education policy and an awareness of the hegemonic alliance and funding networks that underpin GERM rhetoric about the preparation of teachers. If teacher education is also an educational project and one driven by educational questions, then we also need a pedagogical analysis of the situation that is future-oriented and simultaneously both theoretical and practical. To arrive at a pedagogical agenda for the transformation of teacher education is the goal of this book – not to present a completed recipe for ‘rolling out’ or ‘scaling up’, as the pervasive metaphors of reform might have it. And to that extent, we are almost setting out to write a book that will be unsatisfactory by currently dominant criteria. If, however, we at least begin to stimulate a reframing of the arguments and identify the ruptures in the reform/defend contradiction in which human agency and creativity might be possible, it will have been worth the effort.