Scottish Teachers for a New Era (STNE) is a collaborative six-year pilot project whichseeks to prepare ‘teachers for a new era’ able to face up to the challenges of knowledgeand learning in the twenty-first century. The programme’s aims include the creation ofan extended professional culture, the broadening of learning experiences, opportunities todevelop new and personal approaches to teaching and a broader conceptualisation ofpupil gains leading to improved teacher and pupil learning.Common Course EvaluationMay 2010IntroductionThe design of STNE initiative incorporates common course evaluation as part of collaborativeevidence gathering and decision making tool. The evaluation process is an effective means ofbuilding confidence in the teachers graduating from the programme in the face of the challengesand needs of learners and society in the 21st century. Within STNE, improvement andmodification is habitually anticipated based on various forms of reviews. The common course evaluation involves course teams, student teachers and evaluationresearchers. The main function of the evaluation researchers is to facilitate data gathering andevidence-based decisions. Other functions of the common course evaluation are: creating aninstitutional culture which values decision-making based on evidence; encouragingcommunication, cooperation and collaboration of staff; facilitating joint ownership of evaluation;and facilitating professional growth; and translating evaluation outcomes into practice and policyon the programme.
Common Course EvaluationMethodThe mixed-method (quantitative-qualitative) design was adopted on STNE for the common courseevaluation. This involves collecting data using a questionnaire on a 5-point Likert scale of itemsranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” and open-ended items. This design isconsidered appropriate because a combination of qualitative and quantitative design helps topredict the likely impact various courses have on student teachers’ professional growth(Grammatikopoulos et al. 2008). By combining quantitative and qualitative data, it is possible toobtain insights that neither of the methodologies yields in isolation (Towns and Serpell, 2004).Quantitative information such as ratings of various aspects of the courses may help identify areasthat need revision. Qualitative information, such as responses to open-ended questions about aprogramme provides feedback which may not have been anticipated. The procedure of data collection was led by both course teams and evaluation researchers.The student teachers were involved in the process of generating aspects of the programme whichthey considered essential for their growth. They were also involved in the piloting of thequestionnaires. Tutors on the programme provided further directions and insight on the design ofthe questionnaire in terms of aspects of focus. Course co-ordinators and researchers administeredthe questionnaires to the student teachers after a lecture, tutorial or workshop. The student teachers were informed of the purpose of the common course evaluation. Theywere also assured that the information they provide would be treated in confidence and analysedanonymously. Student teachers were encouraged to participate in the exercise as a way ofproviding feedback and contributing to further improvement that they saw necessary on theprogramme. The participants in the common course evaluation were student teachers cohorts on theSTNE programme. The average student teacher participation rates per semester were 64 out of114 (first year), 68 out of 100 (second year), 65 out of 117 (third year), and 77 out of 91 (fourthyear) student teachers. Data analysis involved using SPSS descriptive statistics and thematic analysis ofqualitative data. The data reported here was collected in the 2008/2009 academic year.
Common Course EvaluationResultsFirst year student teachers felt they were able to identify the social-constructivist orientation of theprogramme, they indicated being effective in applying collaborative skills and implementingprofessional enquiry. They had started to develop values and commitment to social justice andinclusion. Student teachers also noted they were beginning to engage and act upon personal andprofessional reflection. The most significant learning experiences on the course were the serial dayplacements and the personal-professional development. They pointed to the following as requiringfurther consideration: field placement, and tutorial/workshops. Second year student teachers felt they had developed an understanding of curriculum in itsbroadest sense, they felt paired field placement promoted personal and professional learning andskills which enable them to work effectively in co-operation with peers and other professionals.They stated being more interested in becoming teachers and were becoming more capable of beingeffective teachers. They perceived the following as the most significant learning experiences on thecourse: serial day placement, lesson implementation on placement, creativity days, and tutorialsupport. The areas requiring further considerations were: communication and field placement. Third year student teachers felt they developed research skills and knowledge for use infuture for evidence gathering in the classroom, they had developed appropriate assessmentapproaches to support pupil learning, they had developed skills in embedding their knowledge of thelocal context of the school in supporting children’s learning, they had developed knowledge andunderstanding of how to contribute to the processes of curriculum development, and through fieldexperience, they were able to develop skills in demonstrating positive and professional interactionand relationships with children. They viewed workshops, field placement, personal and professionaladvisory, planning teaching and learning as the most significant experiences. They considered fieldexperience, support for research, input on planning and assessment as areas for furtherconsideration. Fourth year student teachers felt action research project enhanced their knowledge andunderstanding of educational theory and practice, deepened and broadened their understanding ofCurriculum for Excellence (CfE), extended their understanding of the necessity for children’slearning of integrating literacy across all curricular areas. They perceived field experience, curricularareas, and subject knowledge as the most significant experiences. They perceived planning, ICT,research activities, curricular, and assessment practices as areas for further improvement.
Common Course EvaluationDiscussion/ConclusionEngaging in common course evaluation and evidence-informed decision making is very crucial.Staff members on STNE are engaging in more systematic inquiry by constantly improving thedesign and delivery of teacher education programmes based on evidence. The findings here indicatethat the student teachers on the STNE programme are part of the process of further programmeimprovement and evidence gathering strategies. The findings demonstrate that the programme hasmade significant strides in using common course evaluation as a tool for dialogue and co-inquiry.They demonstrate that the student teachers were developing appropriately and that the various components,such as field experience, were critical in advancing the aims of the programme. At the same time, thefindings also indicate areas for further improvement in a bid to make the programme more responsive to theneeds of the student teachers. Such further improvements underline the significant place that commoncourse evaluation has in generating ideas for programme consideration. As such, it is imperative that aculture of systematic and robust common course evaluation is sustainably embedded as part of theteacher education curriculum on initial teacher education such as the STNE programme.ReferencesGrammatikopoulos, V., Zachopoulos, E., Tsangaridou, N., Liukkonen, J., & Pickup, I. (2008). Applying a mixed method design to evaluate training seminars within an early childhood education project. Evaluation and research in education 21 (1), 4-17.Mertens, D.M. 2005. Research and evaluation in education and psychology: integrating diversity with quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.Towns D.P., & Serpell, Z. (2004). Successes and challenges in triangulating methodologies in evaluations of exemplary urban schools. In Thomas, V.G., & Steven, F.I., eds. Co- constructing a contextually responsive evaluation framework (pp.49-62). San Franscisco: Jossey-Bass.