Introduction to the special issue on the work of teacher education : policy, practice and institutional conditions

McNicholl, Jane and Ellis, Viv and Blake, Allan (2013) Introduction to the special issue on the work of teacher education : policy, practice and institutional conditions. Journal of Education for Teaching, 39 (3). ISSN 0260-7476 (

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This special issue of the Journal of Education for Teaching focuses on the practical activities and material conditions of higher education-based teacher educators’ work. The articles address questions of concept and practice, discourse and labour and the ways in which teacher education as an activity of higher education is related to the institutional contexts within which the activity is located. The material conditions of academic work have become the focus of much renewed interest in higher education as a series of intellectual, cultural and economic trends (Hartley 2009) have converged so as to question the roles and responsibilities of teacher educators as a category of academic workers. Generally, research suggests that partnership teacher education, in which universities and colleges work with schools to train teachers, is highly successful and there is plentiful evidence in support of this fact (e.g. Iven 1994; Christie et al 2004; Ellis et al. 2011). However, concerns about changes to initial teacher education towards more school-led approaches persist internationally. Much contemporary policy discourse has been framed around the belief that schools are best placed to train teachers and, while there may be an implied consensus of intention to support beginners in their learning during practice, the discussions do little to suggest that the notion of a research-informed teaching profession is an aim worth addressing. Troublingly, as Christie et al. (2012) recognise, the erosion of the role of higher education in teacher education may not only lead to volatility and reductions in funding and employment opportunities in education departments but is likely, by extension, to impact adversely on research capacity in teacher education institutions. Clearly, research which explores the activities and perspectives of teacher educators, their expertise and yet their increasingly difficult positioning within higher education more generally, has the potential to inform the development of the profession from within and, importantly, the strengthening of an academic culture of teacher education.