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Professional Development | Professional Learning | Research Methods | Theoretical Frameworks

Further Education (Martin Jephcote and Mike Harper)

FE teachers, many of whom are part-time, constitute a fragmented ‘profession’, many drawn direct from vocational areas with no prior teacher training.  The majority undertake their teacher training part-time and in-service on courses that range from level 4 to 7, either at their place of work, with many but not all franchised by HEIs, or at an HEI.  Most trainers are based in colleges of FE.  Historically, being a teacher and teacher training has been informed by models of and literature on adult learning drawing on established text books informed by psychological perspectives.  Teacher educators have engaged trainees in models of reflection and critical practice and mentoring plays a key role in supporting professional learning and professional development.  The increasing training provision at levels 6 and 7 should be opening up interest in a wider literature, including research evidence and critical commentary.

Within the TEG resource a search of further education identifies 30 items.  Most research is qualitative and small scale and in the main, employs interview techniques.  A minority are large scale, mainly qualitative or mixed method approaches.  Some are conceptual in their focus, offering critiques of regulatory frameworks and policy and implications for practice, and not surprisingly, given the history of further education in the UK, policy is a theme in many accounts of professional learning and professional development

FE teacher trainers will benefit from insights from the schools sector into initial trainingprofessional learning, mentoring, reflective practice and induction.  In recent years the quantity and quality of research into further education has been significantly added to, some with a focus on teachers at different stages of their careers, exploring matters such as teachers’ identities and professionalism and the nature of their learning embedded in practice. 

In the field of further, adult and work-based education and training, situated learning and communities of practice have received considerable interest but CPD much less.  Within and outside the TEG resource there is evidence of research into FE teacher training, constructions of professional identities and professionalism , communities of practice, de-professionalization, discourses of professionalism and professional standards .  See Working Paper 11 at



Situated Learning – Linked to communities of practice, see Lave and Wenger (1991), see Colley and James (2005), Avis and Fisher (2006) who contrast ideas about communities of practice with those of learning as a social practice and ‘mode 2 learning’. Also see Eraut (2000a) on non-formal learning and tacit knowledge and Salisbury and Jephcote (2010).  References at Working Paper 11

Communities of practice – Lave and Wenger (1991) describe the role of ‘communities of practice’ in the development of trainees’ professional identity.  See Avis et al. (2002b; 2003), Bathmaker and Avis (2005), Avis and Fisher (2006), Guile and Lucas (1999) and Salisbury and Jephcote (2010). However, Colley et al. (2007) found the reality was that trainees on teaching experience were marginalised and alienated by demoralised staff in their placement colleges. Bathmaker and Avis (2005) note that Lave and Wenger’s concept does not allow for the impact of ‘new work’ on existing communities.  Avis et al. (2003) found that student teachers’ peripheral/marginalised position made involvement difficult, or that such communities were so fragmentary that students did not know how to participate.   Gleeson et al. (2005) found no evidence that such “communities of practice” actually exist; yet consider that the challenge is to build one around new, research-based pedagogy and working practices. Avis and Fisher (2006) look at scope of new forms of learning and development of ‘type 2 ‘ knowledge. Also see Colley et al. (2002) and (2007) where the latter discusses their role in the dynamics of professional participation and three ways the theory needs to be modified to take account of some of the objections above.  Bathmaker (2006) comments on collaborative professionalism, which may be strategic compliance (see below) or a means of reducing isolation. The ‘fractured’ nature of FE employment can militate against Communities of Practice (Gleeson and James 2007).  Eraut (2002) questions the usefulness of the concept without rejecting it out of hand.  See Tummons (2008) for comments on aspects of Communities of Practice in ITT, not generally considered.  References at Working Paper 11

FE teacher training – Harkin (2005) comments on the role of theory in ITT.  Provides some data on proportion of teachers with/without formal qualifications in England.  Bates (2003) supports view that trainees have difficulty with theory.  Bailey and Robson (2002) (2002) point to governments’ piecemeal approach to teacher training; Lucas (2007) critiques ITE for FE and adult education in the UK arguing against employer-led national standard model which disregard the multi-specialist and professional dimensions of practice and marginalises the importance of knowledge.  Suggests a role for communities of practice, not just ‘learning by doing’ but providing a supportive, practice based training; Lucas and Unwin develop the theme further arguing for in-service training to be better related to strategies for professional development (Lucas and Unwin 2009).  Thompson and Robinson (2008) review new approach to ITT post-LLUK standards (and also provide a good historical account).  References at Working Paper 11

Professionalism: construction of identity – Halford and Leonard (1999) conclude that professional identity is shaped by (varied) discourses but also by the agency of the individual; identities are varied ant contingent. Goodson (1995) – referring to schoolteachers – notes that identity is an ongoing project. Gleeson et al. (2005) ask if  professionals are empowered agents or simply recipients of policy reforms, and consider that their role is to mediate such a dualism, balancing the tensions of policy and practice.  See Gleeson and Shain (1999) for social and situational construction of professionalism among middle managers.  There is the idea of ‘shuttling’ between professional identities (engineer, hairdresser etc. – FE tutor) a process of continual ‘wandering’ – (Colley 2002; Colley and James 2005) and loyalties to previous occupations (Colley et al 2007) and Jephcote and Salisbury (2009).  See also Robson (1998) and Clow (2001), noting importance of prior occupations. 

For Colley and James professional identity is multiple and changing (but not in a set trajectory) continuously made and remade; and is tied in with personal/political identities/trajectories at the same time.  Quicke (2000) identifies ‘new times’ when individuals, groups and organisations reflexively re-invent themselves in response to change, suggesting a ‘new professionalism’ based on collaboration (but this conceals the exercise of power in a Foucauldian sense – so the reflective practitioner is simply a product of a hidden agenda of power).  Avis et al. (2002a) describe discourses (of disciplinary knowledge and pedagogic skill) referred to differentially in different contexts; also the construct of the ‘good lecturer’.  Bathmaker (2006) follows this up in the way trainees construct ‘personal’ and ‘collaborative’ professional identities where the former reflects commitment to students and specialist knowledge.  Stronarch et al. (2002) reject a professional ‘type’ and see professionalism as juggling between ethical/professional considerations and performativity (ecology of practice v economies of performance). 

Beck and Young describe, in the HE context, a Bernstinian view of the formation of professional identity, as knowledge based, but such stable knowledge bases are now replaced by two developments: the mixing of subject specialisms into ‘new courses’ in response to market demands and as a response to employers’ needs and globalisation, a new focus on generic skills (‘learning to learn’/trainability) that are essentially content free and incapable of defining the self (Beck and Young 2005).  Day et al. consider schoolteachers’ identities as constructs that are the product of circumstances and neither relatively stable nor fragmented; construction of identity is central to issues of efficacy and self-esteem (Day et al. 2006).  A similar theme is in Shain and Gleeson (1999) where strategic compliance with managerial dictat protected pedagogic/professional interests in name of being a ‘good lecturer’.  

The process of de-professionalisation is one of re-constructing ideas of professionalism (cf Colley et al. (2002) on the non-permanence of habitus, and Gleeson et al. (2005) idea of ‘creative compliance’ and ‘principled infidelity (Hoyle and Wallace 2007).  Similar theme in Raffo and Hall (2006), but emphasising need for a stable sense of self and issues in personal identity construction.  Avis and Bathmaker (2004) note the conflict between trainees’ values of empathy and care, thwarted by students’ attitudes – but pre-figuring a new ‘critical pedagogy’?  Avis and Bathmaker (2006) identify the importance of previous working experience in forming identity (and unfavourable comparisons of professional standards in FE with those outside!) links also in that last respect with Ainley and Bailey (1997). See also Gray (2006) for the tensions school teachers face.  Bathmaker and Avis (2007) looked at trainees formation of identity during teaching practice and show how they are pushed into adopting a pedagogic ‘teacherly’ identity; they propose (cautiously) a ‘schooling’ identity i.e. trainees look back to their own experiences rather than forward so not a process of ‘becoming’ as proposed by Colley et al (2003) and less a matter of vocational habitus. 

Professional Standards as a means of control; knowledge base and academic identity; new professionalism; Compliance: See Working Paper 11 at

































How to reference this page: Teacher Education Group (2009) The Teacher Education Bibliography. London: TLRP. Online at (accessed )

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