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A Lecturer’s View of Teacher Training – PP34

The topic of the week is A Lecturer’s View of Teacher Training.


96326489675c6455a67emJames is a lecturer at Sussex University where he has been for over 11 years. Sussex has just had a very successful Ofsted inspection.

Paul begins by asking James what he thinks is the best way to train teachers. James is very keen on the system we currently have – a mix of in-depth classroom experience with experienced teachers and mentors in school backed up by what he calls the professional aspects of education – the theories of teaching and learning, how children grow and develop and understanding why we do what we do. James says this for him is what sets teaching apart from other jobs for which people can just be trained.

James contrasts professions like Law or Medicine with teaching and argues that 36 weeks of training wouldn’t be accepted there, yet we train teachers in this timescale. He says that he thinks we are right at the limit and would prefer much longer training for a profession with such responsibility.

There is a huge amount of pressure on trainees today – much more than when James was trained. Now, you are expected to be good or outstanding – and in a much shorter time. There needs to be time to reflect, to understand what you are doing in teaching.

James believes teaching is part craft, part science and part vocational. Some people are naturally good teachers but when they are asked why, they find it hard to articulate. This is why the underpinning training in the professional aspect of teaching is so important – it’s not enough just to be shown good teaching and be made to copy it – you need to understand why it is good. This makes teaching more than simply a craft.

Paul asks what the top 3 aspects of teaching new trainees feel they need to be trained in. James responds with this list:

1. Behaviour management

2. Subject knowledge – where it is not enough to have a great degree or qualification in the subject –

3. Classroom presence – which is all about managing the classroom as opposed to managing behaviour – the two are complementary

When asked about how you can weed out the people who won’t ever be a good teacher, James mentions that an indicator is how much the candidate talks about themselves, their own achievements rather than what they can bring to children. Very highly-qualified people apply for teaching now but when asked about what it feels like to fail they can’t really answer. If they don’t have this kind of empathy, it’s very hard to develop it. At interview, it’s important to get this right. James thinks it’s very important to include children in interviews as the relationships the candidates can develop will be clear to see even from this short time.

James talks about Finland and how the teaching profession enjoys a much higher status than in the UK – and explains what we can learn from this.

James points out that education needs to have stability and not change each 5 years. He thinks that, like Finland, we should be working over 20 years or more and that we should protect the status of Qualified Teachers. (QTS)

Finally, Paul asks James what advice he would give to people considering a career in teaching, before they apply. Here are his top tips:


  • Go into schools – primary or secondary school are always looking for volunteers – you’ve got to know you are going to love your time in the classroom
  • Whatever your subject, go around the school and find out as much as you can about all subjects and areas
  • Examine why you want to go into teaching – if you have a desire to help children learn then it’s probably for you
  • Don’t forget all the other voluntary groups out there – it doesn’t just have to be schools where you get experience with working with children


Creative Commons image by: jimmy_tst

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