Teaching Council Research Report

Partnership between HEIs and schools crucial to supporting student teachers on placement – Teaching Council Research Report

7 November 2018

HEI-school partnerships are critical to ensuring an effective placement experience for student teachers, but are hampered by unpredictability in the supply of places and the pressures on schools in engaging with multiple providers. They need to be further supported in order to maximise the learning potential of school placement for student teachers, a research report published by the Teaching Council has stated.

The Teaching Council commissioned a team of external researchers, from UCC and the DCU Institute of Education anadad led by Professor Kathy Hall in UCC, to examine and evaluate how student teachers, as well as staff in schools and in Higher Education Institutions have experienced recent reforms in school placement for student teachers. The study also made recommendations for future policy and practice in relation to school placement.

The study looked at the period of time between 2014 and 2018 in Ireland and relevant international experience. Researchers worked with six Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and fieldwork took place both in primary and post primary undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Speaking today, Tomás Ó Ruairc, Director of the Teaching Council, welcomed the report, noting that it would allow the Council to make informed policy about student teachers’ experience of initial teacher education.

“The Council’s standards for initial teacher education, which must be observed by all HEIs wishing to have programmes accredited by the Council, are currently under review, and this report will inform the development of updated standards, particularly as they relate to the crucial school placement component. It will also be considered as part of ongoing discussions at national level in relation to the issue of teacher supply. I would like to thank Professor Kathy Hall and the research team for their in-depth work. We will now consider the findings of the report together with all stakeholders so that we can continue to support and enhance quality teaching and learning for all learners.”

Professor Kathy Hall noted that “Overall, the research found that school placement is a deeply meaningful professional experience for the vast majority of student teachers on teacher education programmes in Ireland. They feel competent and confident about their placements and have opportunities to learn to teach in a variety of schools over an extended time period. So, we can be assured that the reforms introduced by the Teaching Council over the past number of years are bedding down, and new models of school placement are becoming established in our schools. Unsurprisingly, however, some challenges remain, and our report has highlighted these for further attention”.

As well as recommending more widespread access to placement opportunities by student teachers, the report outlines a number of further considerations, including the following:

  • Experienced teachers working with student teachers during their placement should be given supports to prepare for this role, in particular when offering feedback to the student teacher.
  • The current school placement guidelines should be revisited and revised to ensure the approach for the placement of student teachers is appropriately consistent across HEIs, while at the same time allowing sufficient flexibility to be responsive to particular needs and school contexts.
  • A working group should be set up to consider how greater alignment can be achieved between the policy of student teacher placement and the actual enactment of the policy on the ground.