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News of my new book.

I am so thrilled to tell you about the pre-notice of my book, based upon my PhD:

Teacher Education in Lifelong Learning: Developing Professionalism as a Democratic Endeavour

In it I promote the idea that professionalism among teachers should be marked by democratic relations, rather than by managerialism and performance management. The book investigates issues around the participation of trainee teachers in the Lifelong Learning Sector, by reflecting on their experiences and questioning how well initial teacher education prepares teachers as professional practitioners in the sector. The reflexive nature of the book promotes a deep discussion of the nature of professionalism, drawing upon the works of John Dewey, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, and places initial teacher education in the Lifelong Learning Sector firmly within the policy and ideological context of regulation, audit and control. It also illuminates pertinent discussions around teacher agency through a consideration of confidence, excellence, and routinised practices. Finally, the book takes us ‘through the looking glass’ to reveal the tensions within the teacher education curriculum as it prepares trainee teachers for a ready-made world, whilst at the same time attempting to encourage principles of social justice, inclusive practice and education as a democratic endeavour. It will be compelling reading for students and researchers working in Education and Sociology, particularly those with an interest in lifelong learning and teacher training.

I began thinking about writing this book while writing my PhD thesis. I wanted to break out from the constraints of doctoral writing all along, but thanks to the careful counsel of my supervisors, Dr Helen Jones and Professor Kevin Orr, I found one voice in my thesis writing – that of the scholar, and now, here I am searching for another voice – that of the writer.

Throughout this book I want to have a conversation with you about professionalism. This involves taking you on a journey into the world that I have inhabited for most of my career – being a teacher in further and higher education. For many years this entailed teaching a range of courses from pre-entry level –programmes of study intended to foster independence for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities, to post graduate level. I want to share with you my ideal of a democratic relationship between learning to be a teacher and becoming a teacher. I want to provide a space here for another voice to counter the spurious yet dominant notions of managerialism, performance management and similarly doubtful neo-liberal discourse that pervades the lifelong learning sector. If you are reading this book you probably already have a good understanding of the range of education and training that differentiates lifelong learning from schools. However, to be clear this sector comprises any form of formally (usually publicly) funded education and training activity that is outside compulsory education.

I hope that you will find in this book a patchwork of philosophy, reflexivity and biography in an attempt to place them in a ‘meaningful frame’ (Geertz 1973: 323). By a meaningful frame I mean encounters that are embedded in the context of being a teacher educator in the lifelong learning sector. Alongside this narrative a running theme is my journey as a practitioner researcher. I chart my own personal and professional journey into teacher education, together with the historical, economic and regulatory context prevailing during that journey. I provide a foretaste of the dissonances in the book, where the way that I developed my professional knowledge and practice was very different to that of my trainee teachers.

Finally I felt a moral imperative to write this book because of my gradual realisation of the impact of the initial teacher education curriculum on the developing teacher. My complicity in the inculcation of the products and processes of performativity led me to question the purpose of competency based curricula as it appeared to me to squeeze out broad, value based notions of teacher professionalism. The sets of assumptions that I held about what constitutes an educationally desirable ITE in the LLS experience for my trainee teachers became disrupted by my increasing propositional knowledge about teaching, education, participation, work based learning and educational theory.

I make uncomfortable points about teacher development, one of which is that teachers perform funnelled and routinised practices. This is because initial teacher education curricula have become increasingly funnelled and routinised, and that workplace learning is restrictive and bounded by spurious notions of competency-based practices and workplace regulation (Fuller and Unwin 2012). The time and space necessary for transformative learning are missing at worst, and at best operate despite the system architectures. I suggest moreover that the heavily regulated nature of the LLS appears to problematise the student, and increasingly limits trainee teachers (Ellis 2010), resulting in the adoption of these routinised or safe practices. I propose, among other things that doubt and uncertainty, time and space are part and parcel of the development of ‘professionals who it could be argued have a wider, critical understanding of the context in which they are working’ (Bathmaker 1999: 190).

Finally I acknowledge that much has been written, particularly recently, about the pervasive and pernicious impact of competency based curricula, neo-liberalism, and marketisation in the lifelong learning sector (for example Daley et al (2015; 2017). The originality of this book forms out of a similar purpose – to challenge the prevailing discourse, but this book offers a fresh perspective, that of one teacher educator seeking to develop and sustain the principles of education as a democratic endeavour.

The book should be out in March 2018, and if you are interested in hearing more about my journey please let me know.


The parable of the mobile phone step counter

The Steve Brown Blog

Once upon a time there was a teacher called Dave. Dave taught English in a college a few miles from his house. When the weather was good, Dave would ride his bike to work. Cycling helped to clear his head and energise him, and there were the obvious benefits to his physical health. Two fast bike rides a day was a proper workout which toned his muscles and helped his stamina. Dave was rarely ill when he was regularly cycling, he slept much better at night and he looked better too. Occasionally Dave would run round his local park at the weekends as well, but as long as he was cycling to work he didn’t feel the need to do this; he did it more out of enjoyment.

One day, Dave got a new app for his mobile phone. It was one of those step counters that lets you know your physical…

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Stop Teaching Calculus!


Recently I was privileged to be part of a discussion between two of my trainees on the Distance learning PGCE. This course, apart from being transformative for many of us (students and teachers), is also based upon the premise of ‘The Community is the Curriculum’. I purloined this phrase from Dave Cormier, and have been heavily influenced by his #Rhizo MOOCs over the years.  Emma and Stephanie (yes, these are their real names) are happy for me to re-post the discussion here. Our G+ Community is a closed group – perhaps it shouldn’t be but there we are -so I am unable to provide a link. Do continue the discussion using the comments below.
This was Emma’s first post:
For anyone else looking at maths, I stumbled upon this guy really like his ideas. He challenges the purpose of maths. Thought it would be a good link to mastery and problem solving.
Stephanie replied – and this is what piqued my interest and curiosity to watch the video. Before this I may not have entered the discussion and would probably have just left them to it. I thought that I didn’t have anything productive to contribute as mathematics teaching is not my specialism.
Thanks for posting this Emma.  Have sat through the whole thing and I have to say that I disagree with some of his opinions.  He says that computers are the only way forward in mathematics but agreed ‘times tables are somewhat useful.’  He would have been brought up learning his times tables over and over again due to his generation – something which maths in primary education is returning back to.  Therefore, do you not need to have the basic maths embedded, to be able to move forward and progress to doing mathematics on a computer?  Maybe technology is the way forward, but as demonstrated with his phone – it is not ready for us yet.
As soon as I watched the video and thought about Stephanie’s response I realised that the debate resonated so well with my reading and research during my PhD. Why do I seem to find John Dewey at every turn?
Here is my contribution.

Thanks Emma for posting and Steph for your challenging critique. Why is there a chasm (according to Wolfram) between mathematics in education and maths in the world? Does the answer lie in the separation between the abstract and the concrete (the knowing and the doing). A reading of Dewey can help here, as he recognised the problem of education and schooling.

“On the other hand, if an experience arouses curiosity, strengthens initiative, and sets up desires and purposes that are sufficiently intense to carry a person over dead places in the future, continuity works in a very different way. Every experience is a moving force. Its value can be judged only on the ground of what it moves toward and into”. (Dewey, 1938, p. 37-38) – Experience and Education.

Wolfram demonstrated the fallibility of computers during his demonstration, and he failed, in my view to reposnd well to Jon Snow’s question on this. He is also , again in my view, looking down the wrong end of the telescope. From his perspective he already has his ‘facts’ learned probably by rote and continued practice at school, yet he rejects the premise that they should be taught in schools. is that a risk worth taking? Perhaps we need to hear from a mathematician who was taught entirely by experiential learning (Montessori etc).

Experiential Learning theory implies the continuous interaction between the person and the context with reflexivity at the heart of learning from experience. However, there is a significant difference between the ideal and the reality. Stott (1995), commenting on Dewey’s influence on educational practices in North America puts it thus:

“Dewey’s educational experiment-revolution designed to bring democracy to North America has not been successful: its humanistic promises lie unfulfilled, and classroom group activities can be even more oppressive and less growthful than superior class instruction. Education is at the crossroads”. (1995: 32)

I find his conclusion troubling when listening to the recent ideological debates around Traditional v Progressive education (see here: ).

…but for me Dewey’s pragmatism, and Wofram’s endorsement  entail an enlightened profession that connects the knowing and the doing. Are we there yet?

Dewey, J. (1963) Experience and Education. New York: Collier Books.
Stott, L.(1995) ‘Dewey a Disaster?’. International Journal of Research and Method in Education. 18 (1), pp.27-33.

Those of you familiar with the networked power arising from twitter spats around progressive v traditionalist teaching may, like me, become more optimistic about the next generation of teachers – as I am when working with Emma and Stephanie.

#LBPGCE Early tweets via Storify

Here is a compendium of all the tweets using the #LBPGCE tag on @Twitter:

Students with stories to tell: Inclusive marking

Please see Ann’s post on Inclusive Assessment. Lots to consider.

annie's blogette

I ran my eye along the desk.  It’s not a big or beautiful desk. The space for planning and mark making with paper, pens and pencils is now occupied by anonymous technology. This desk and space is part of the identity of being a teacher. It provides a degree of stability, security and structure to a teacher’s day. Perhaps even a psychological safe place. I know who and what I am in this space. It’s where I generally live as a teacher when not in the classroom. It’s a shared space, a social space, a dialogic space. A space for conversations, co-existing, collaboration, thinking and reflection. The Ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus is said to once demand of a friend whose house had burnt to the ground, “If you really understand what governs the universe, how can you yearn for bits of stone and pretty rock?” I appreciate that the scale and magnitude…

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My 2014 favourite tweets about:

Education and Social Justice Teachers teaching, researching and working Adult education and participation Educational theories, ideas and musings on knowledge Education policy Educational research Audit, inspection and lesson observation Philosophy Technology Research tips Confidence and resilience

Education, justice and democracy – Stephen Ball

Stephen Ball calls for a new kind of teacher and a new form of professionalism built on collaboration and cooperative action. It is posted by BERA’s blog: and is an edited extract from Professor Stephen Ball’s report for CLASS, the Centre for Labour and Social studies, which was published in September 2013.

Please follow the link to the BERA site here for the full post:

Education, justice and democracy: the struggle over ignorance and opportunity.

I have included some of Ball’s work in my PhD thesis, particularly his use of the word ‘performativity’. First used by Lyotard (1984), Ball defines it as:

a technology, a culture and a mode of regulation that employs judgements, comparisons and displays as means of incentive, control, attrition and change based on rewards and sanctions (both material and symbolic). (2003:216)

The use of the word performativity links hegemonic practices with industrial models to achieve measurable efficiency, resulting in a culture that:

requires individual practitioners to organise themselves as a response to targets, indicators and evaluations, to set aside personal beliefs and commitments and live an existence of calculation’. (2003:215)

Lucas (2007) describes the learning environment for student teachers within the lifelong learning sector as both ‘expansive’ and ‘restrictive’. He describes an expansive learning environment as a place where there are opportunities to engage in

multiple communities of practice at and beyond the workplace, access to a multidimensional approach to the acquisition of expertise, and the opportunity to pursue knowledge-based courses and qualifications. (2007:99)

Although there are opportunities for teachers in the lifelong learning sector to collaborate and co-operate more commonly they are located within small teams. The effect of this restrictive environment can be uncertainty, resistance to risk taking, and lack of confidence in their professional knowledge and practice. Moreover, in the case of student teachers there are also restrictions placed by a teacher education curriculum that has been part of a state apparatus transferring largely uncontroversial professional standards (Simmons and Thompson 2007). While the standards referred to by Simmons and Thompson were the FENTO standards, their replacement, the LLUK New Overarching Professional Standards (LLUK 2006) continued (until their revocation in 2013) continued to restrict student teachers to a set of criteria aimed at experienced teachers (Crawley 2012). Furthermore Ellis (2010), referring to schoolteacher education, sees the landscape of teacher education as a process of acculturation to the

existing practices of the setting with an emphasis on the reproduction of routinised behaviours and the development of bureaucratic virtues such as compliance and the collection of evidence. (2010:106)

I do hope that the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers in England will inspire those of us working with teachers and in the lifelong learning sector to join the projects for democracy and community building, and certainly it is teacher educators who can inculcate the products and processes of collaboration and co-operative action through the initial teacher education curriculum.



Meeting OfSTED: The Game has Changed.


Left to right: @TomBennett71; @LearningSpy; @ClerkToGovernor; Mike Cladingbowl; @headguruteacher & @TeacherToolkit (18.2.14) Left to right: @TomBennett71; @LearningSpy; @ClerkToGovernor; Mike Cladingbowl; @headguruteacher & @TeacherToolkit (18.2.14)

This post follows on from the excellent accounts from David Didau (@LearningSpy)  and Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) about our meeting with Mike Cladingbowl at OfSTED HQ on Tuesday this week.

For me, this was the second time I’d met Mike Cladingbowl, OfSTED’s Head of Schools,  within a few days, following the Headteachers’ Roundtable meeting with Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw as reported here:

The Headteachers' Roundtable Meeting. Click to follow the link. The Headteachers’ Roundtable Meeting. Click to follow the link.

The Headteachers’ Roundtable meeting at the DFE emerged out of discussions with Michael Gove last summer; it was something we’d been working towards for months.  The meeting at OfSTED was entirely different.  Two weeks ago I received an email from the OfSTED communications team inviting me to the meeting on the basis of ideas I’ve expressed on this blog.  Evidently, there is a recognition at…

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Throwing Baby out with the Bathwater

Throwing Baby out with the Bathwater.

Via my great twitter friend Lou Mycroft!!

Blogs for the Week Ending 30th August 2013