First of all, if we are to nail our colours to a mast, we must know what that mast consists of. What are the principles of learning science on which we wish to build our own programme? How reliable is the research evidence in this area? How can we mitigate for prior assumption within pre-service teachers and also provide guidance and models that help dispel this? We have to take a cautious but pragmatic approach that acknowledges the need to provide knowledge to pre-service teachers but that also takes in to account their novice status and their existing schema, founded on their own experiences when they were in school. The art and purpose of ITE is to train new teachers to teach their subject or discipline to others – this is very different from simply telling someone what they know about a subject. They have to both learn to teach and teach to learn – quite a balancing act for their own cognitive abilities. They develop two schema – they have to unpick their existing knowledge of their area and re-knit it in a way that allows it to be clearly presented, modelled and assessed in others and then also alongside this develop appropriate pedagogical approaches for imparting that knowledge in the most appropriate manner for the varying contexts, demographics and cohorts that they may face – both of what Piaget called assimilation (new knowledge inserted) and accommodation (existing knowledge adapted).
A newly QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) ITT trainee said if she could say anything to a pre-service teacher it would be, ‘that all their conceptions of teaching and learning are biased because they have been successful as part of it; not everyone finds it that easy’. I thought this was really powerful – learning is not a gift, some students will struggle, and pre-service teachers need to understand how to combat that struggle and enable learning to take place. Just because we got the grades to get on the courses to become the teachers of the next generation doesn’t mean that everyone can, nor that everyone wants to – the curse of knowledge in full flow! As ITE providers we therefore must consider that idea of memory as opposed to memories; we want pre-service trainees to understand that learning is that change in the long-term memory, not how memorable the lesson itself was. An understanding of cognitive science helps us here, and will help our trainees, but we must tread carefully in our construction. As ITE providers we are teachers first and foremost, we mustn’t assume prior knowledge in our pre-service ‘students’, and we mustn’t allow misconceptions to develop. We must present material in small steps and allow knowledge to be built on knowledge – if their assumptions and experiences give them skewed perceptions, we must counter these.
1) Our own definition of Learning Science and how to assess the perceptions of it in our pre-service trainees, as well as how much of it we need to ‘teach’ in the early stages.
2) The efficacy of the research we found our programme on; context is key to the use of evidence and research material and we have the power and autonomy to make informed and critical choices about the rocks on which we build our houses.
4) The nature of our scaffolding and prompting as our trainees ingest material on their own – how can we ‘guide’ their practice?