The agility with which ITE Partnerships have responded to the pandemic reflects the strength and quality of their provision.
This case study illustrates how the secondary education group at Middlesex University have developed a ‘pedagogy of the pandemic’. Initially, as a group of teacher educators, they had to adapt and develop their training provision so that it was suitable for remote learning. As the pandemic situation escalated, this soon evolved into preparing trainees to teach in a virtual school environment. Strong initial teacher education is dependent on modelling the expert application of knowledge and skills as well as opportunities to observe expert practice. The secondary team realised that they had to rapidly learn how to transfer and apply their pedagogical knowledge within an unfamiliar context. The fact that they were able to do this so quickly speaks to the strength of their own underpinning knowledge and understanding of how people, adults and children best learn.
The team experimented with both live and recorded sessions. Sharing good practice became part of the normal routine, across all programmes from different phases of ITE to programme groups across the wider university. The secondary team actively sought out and disseminated learning opportunities for trainees, for example by May 2020, all secondary PGCE trainees had completed training from Future Learn about Using Technology in Evidence-based Teaching and Learning. Moving into the next academic year, trainees were actively sharing good practice in the use of online interactive tools such as Jamboard and Socrates, demonstrating their use at school department meetings. Our school-based training mentors have been singing their (trainees) praises and celebrating trainee expertise with remote education. Having had the unique opportunity to simultaneously experience remote education as a learner and its delivery as a training teacher, our trainees are becoming the experts within the virtual school environment, We are delighted to discover that trainees are sharing good practice from university learning with their colleagues in schools. The modelling of effective pedagogical practice by teacher educators within the secondary education group is having a significant impact. For example, one secondary trainee commented;
‘I think it may have been how he (PGCE subject course leader) often asks for someone to challenge, build or agree with a previous answer from a peer. I found that this was an effective way to control discussion and deepen student’s understanding. He uses that phrasing a lot in his subject sessions with us. Took me a little while to realise how effective it is with questioning especially with remote learning.’ (Secondary trainee, Feb 2021)
Despite this prematurely and newly acquired expertise, our trainees have maintained a sensitive and perceptive awareness of the realistic challenges ahead;
“Education is not just about teaching, it’s about them as a whole person. When we went back there were huge differences in the levels, some children have not accessed online learning at all so adapting your lessons to ensure every child can access what you’re doing is hard.
“I’m excited to go back in March, you do miss the classes you teach. It’s a combination of being excited and thinking what will it be like when we’re back? How are we going to catch up with the students who have inevitably have fallen behind and help them reclaim their space? Because they’ve been away for long, the school environment can feel alien so we have to get back that sense of community and there will also be mental health and other issues caused by the pandemic.” (Secondary trainee, February 2021)
Overall, the experiences of the pandemic show that HEIs are a vital conduit in supporting Initial Teacher Education. These unusual events have shown that they are able to adapt and create curriculums which effectively combine up to date theory and subject specialist input alongside opportunities for students to apply this theory to the development of their teaching practice