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Alumnus, Dr. Nick Mead releases his book to Newcastle University’s Robinson Library

Dr. Nick Mead provides a personal blog on his experiences from his Newcastle University education to his professional career and the release of his book on ‘Values and Professional Knowledge in Teacher Education’.

The recent contribution of my book on ‘Values and Professional Knowledge in Teacher Education’ (Routledge 2019) to the Newcastle University Robinson Library has a narrative behind it which stretches back to 1969 and the formative influences of my Newcastle University education on my career in education. After graduating from Newcastle, I taught for eighteen years and then became a lecturer in education at Oxford Brookes University where I have been for twenty-three years. What has evolved during my own professional development is an advocacy for the relationship between a teacher’s personal moral and political values and the scope to realise these in their classroom practice. Rather than beginning with a theoretical justification for the efficacy of this relationship in the working life of a teacher, in chapter one of the book I contextualise the meaning of this relationship within a narrative of my own professional development from teacher to university teacher educator. The narrative traces a growing sense that there is something of worth at stake if the importance of the relationship between trainee teachers’ personal moral and political values and their practice is undermined by standards-based teacher education which is focused on box-ticking and performativity.

As a teacher educator, this growing sense that something of worth is at stake in the training of teachers has taken me back to reflect on the nature of my own training at Northumberland College of Education, a constituent college of Newcastle University in the 1960s-70s. Arriving in 1969 at the peak of the Plowden Report (1967) on child centred learning and raised academic expectations through the introduction of the Psychology and Sociology of Education in what was essentially a specialist vocational ethos; I experienced what I now consider to be quite a unique blend of the academic and the practical. I say unique because from 1972 onwards, colleges of education either merged with universities, diversified or closed. What I did experience in particular were sociological perspectives on the purposes of education combined with classroom practice which connected with a growing awareness of how my own personal moral and political values related to what I believed I wanted to achieve in the classroom. In my book I have called this a ‘personal practical theory’ which developed an awareness of the sources for making pedagogical decisions, namely personal values, beliefs and understandings. 

This personal practical theory took on particular significance for me when, between 1989 -1997 when I was head of the Religious Education department in a comprehensive school and mentored trainee teachers throughout that period. This meant that I was involved in the initial implementation of the first set of Teaching Standards in 1992. As I progressed in the mentoring role I became increasingly aware of the challenge of meeting trainee’s training needs through a standards-based approach. In particular, I was aware of the importance of the role of the mentor in helping trainees to realise their personal values and motivations through their developing classroom practice. I reached the conclusion that the mentor’s self-understanding and their dialogic skills seemed to me to be crucial in developing the relationship between trainees’ personal moral and political values and their classroom practice. 

From 1997 until the present, I have worked in the School of Education at Oxford Brookes University. During this time I have been able to interpret and make judgements about the impact of teaching standards on the development of the relationship between trainees’ personal moral and political values. My book, informed by that ‘personal practical theory’ first encountered in my time at Newcastle University, seeks to argue that there is the potential to address the tension between values and meeting standards through school-based training. I conclude the book by asking the question: ‘to what extent is teacher education embedded in the purpose and rationale of the school so that trainee teachers’ values, and consequently their autonomy and identity can flourish? I would welcome any responses to this question and the preceding narrative, especially from any alumni who, like me, are reflecting on the longer view of teacher education. You can email me at nmead@brookes.ac.uk

Share your alumni stories at advancement@ncl.ac.uk

 

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published on: 19 February 2020