Miranda Barker, Lecturer and Module Lead for Collaborative Learning and Development at Birmingham City University

This case study showcases the positive outcomes for trainee teachers as a result of collaborative approaches facilitated by Universities and their partners such as Teach First.


BCU work with Teach First to deliver training for Teach First Trainees employed on the Teach First PGDE programme in schools across the East and West Midlands. Over the course of the 2 year programme, there are five modules including Collaborative Learning and Development, where the focus is to develop innovative responses to under developed practice through collaboration within a Community of Practice. This case study focuses specifically on outcomes from the Early Years and Primary Trainees.

How Did We Respond?

Working in close partnership, both tutors from and development leads from Teach First shared subject specific innovative examples, explored the nature of collaboration in Primary and Secondary Education and facilitated group Zoom meetings where trainees worked towards a shared goal.  Mentors in school worked with their trainees to support them in identifying an area of underdeveloped practice. Curriculum maps detail the coverage of this module from both Teach First and BCU and these are shared with schools and trainees.

Tutors attended calls with Development Leads to support the development of Shared Goals, to make the connection with the subject teaching and to model collaboration and positive partnerships. Towards the end of the series of calls, tutors attended to provide online group tutorials with Teach First to ensure consistent messaging, draw on the strengths and knowledge of both teams in the partnership and celebrate the successes of the participants.

BCU delivery provided strong live teaching focusing subject knowledge where there was high levels of engagement as well as opportunities for trainees to work collaboratively on inquiry-based problems. This material drew on the expertise of subject leaders from the Science and Technology departments and received positive trainee feedback.

As a result of the collaboration, trainees were able to form communities of practice, where they could draw upon in their teaching roles. Due to the more open-ended approach this year, effective subject teaching and the forum to discuss their intervention with peers, trainees developed a wide variety of innovative approaches in collaboration with their peers.

These included the creative use of educational technology to improve the teaching in the wider curriculum and inquiry based learning to develop subject teaching in Geography, History, Music and the Arts as well as explore contemporary issues such as Black Lives Matter.


Anonymous feedback from the trainees included the following comments:

“This module really causes us to have to work collaboratively and get out of our preconceived mindsets. This, I anticipate will enable me to get out of teaching autopilot and be open to new information.”

The best feature of this module is… “Using school community and Teach First BCU communities to support and enhance selected innovation to support pupil progress. By working collaboratively, it allows me to reflect on my intervention and magpie ideas that practitioners may have used before which will develop my own innovation.”

Opportunities to share and celebrate innovative approaches have inspired trainees to take their teaching to the next level in this pandemic and ensure that pupils are receiving an exciting and dynamic curriculum. Enhancing opportunities for trainees to work with both University and Teach First colleagues strengths the partnership visibly for all and enables trainees to draw upon best practice.

Looking ahead, we would like the Department for Education to provide greater support for new Communities of Practice amongst our Early Career Teachers through partnerships. Continuing to focus on developing their vision and creativity as well as their confidence in teaching the wider curriculum and embracing new technologies.


Comments from Teach First Development Leads

First collaboration call with trainees attended by 3 BCU tutors, which enabled TF and BCU to discuss with trainees the module and the aim of their assignment writing. Trainees found having tutors on these call very useful, as they were able to ask direct questions about their projects and the assignment, in the moment of their discussions, rather than emailing afterwards. Tutors continued to attend the calls throughout the module, and again this supported the trainees in clarifying their ideas, and really focussing their discussions on the key areas.

Sharing on session content between BCU and TF enabled tutors and DLs delivery the module to be very clear about what we were each sharing, and enabled us all to align our expectations with the trainees. This supported trainees throughout the module and ensured that they benefited from this joined-up approach throughout the module e.g. tutors and DLs clarifying their ideas for the projects and how the collaboration groups could work to support the formation of their group focused ideas.

Carolyne Bateman, 2021 (Primary Development Lead for Teach First, East Midlands)

As a partnership the work we did together was well aligned, I would put this down to the ongoing, frequent and clear communication between Miranda and myself. There was clear pieces of work completed together such as the curriculum maps, feedback was taken on board where there was some repetition in content between TF and BCU and this was adapted.

An area that proved most beneficial to trainees was having BCU tutors on the CLD calls. This was an additional opportunity for trainees to ask clarifying questions around their assignments and demonstrated to them that the partnership were working in conjunction with each other and showed the primary trainees the alignment in our messaging around their assignment.

As well as this, what proved useful was the sharing of content so that we as primary DLs could refer to what the trainees had been taught by BCU. After several conversations with primary trainees I gleaned that they found this module very clear due to the clarity of the content and delivery from both TF and BCU, they felt that messaging around their common goal was clear too.

Aatiya Randeree, 2021 (Primary Development Lead for Teach First, West Midlands)