Chapter 4. How can initial teacher preparation equip teachers with updated knowledge and competences?

This chapter discusses the challenges related to equipping teachers with the necessary competences and ensuring that the profession’s knowledge base is regularly updated. It first provides a framework that helps understand professional competence in its complexity. The first challenge countries are experiencing is providing a coherent and comprehensive curriculum that covers all knowledge domains, and develops practical skills and theoretical knowledge in a synergetic way. The second challenge relates to integrating new evidence and emerging models into teacher education curriculum. Thirdly, countries are facing barriers in aligning initial teacher education curriculum and the school context. Lastly, the chapter explores challenges related to building capacity among teacher educators. The chapter suggests that addressing these challenges involves ongoing reflection on teachers’ knowledge, strong initial teacher education (ITE)-school partnerships and supporting teacher educators. Specific ideas are outlined in the last section to help policy makers, teacher education institutions and schools to implement these strategies.


Teachers today need to respond to complex expectations such as meeting the individual needs of increasingly heterogeneous groups of students, developing 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving, as well as social-emotional skills, keeping up with technological change, and so on (OECD, 2017[1]). In addition, they are often expected to take on new responsibilities including collaborating with colleagues and other professionals, establishing partnerships, participating in leadership and management. Importantly, teacher candidates also need to learn how to become enquiring and adaptive practitioners able to evolve their practice as the curriculum continues to change and as new evidence emerges. To respond to such diverse expectations, teachers’ professional competence needs to be understood as a complex concept.

Figure 4.1. OECD Conceptual model for teachers’ professional competence
Figure 4.1. OECD Conceptual model for teachers’ professional competence

Source: Guerriero and Révai (2017[2]), Knowledge-based teaching and the evolution of a profession, in: Guerriero (2017) The Changing Nature of the Teaching Profession, OECD Publishing.

In line with extensive evidence, the OECD’s conceptual framework (Figure 4.1) models teachers’ professional competence as a multi-dimensional construct (Guerriero and Révai, 2017[2]). This encompasses the professional knowledge base of teachers – content and pedagogical knowledge – as well as affective-motivational competences (Guerriero and Révai, 2017[2]). Teaching also requires decision-making skills and professional judgement that allow teachers to analyse and evaluate specific contexts or learning episodes and, drawing on their knowledge and competences, make decisions about teaching approaches and instruction. Teaching approaches refer here to curriculum and lesson planning, selecting and applying sets of teaching methods, ways of classroom management, student assessment, and so on, while instruction is the implementation of these approaches in the classroom (Guerriero and Révai, 2017[2]).

This conceptual framework implies a number of challenges for initial teacher preparation (ITP) systems in helping prospective teachers acquire professional competences. In particular, ITP needs to:

  • account for multiple dimensions of professional competence

  • ensure the connection between knowledge and practice

  • ensure the link to schools

  • offer prospective teachers authentic learning opportunities.

This chapter focuses on the above challenges specifically related to initial teacher education (ITE), while Chapter 5 discusses challenges related to the transition from initial education to teaching practice.

4.1. Why is this a challenge?

4.1.1. Providing a coherent and comprehensive ITE curriculum

The first challenge relates to ensuring that professional competences are developed in all their dimensions. The different knowledge domains need to be covered on the one hand, and practical competences need to be developed to facilitate decision-making and instruction on the other hand. Doing this in a coherent way is, in many teacher education institutions around the world, strongly hindered by the “episodic” nature of programme delivery, consisting of a set of unrelated courses taught by people who do not work together (Bain, 2012[3]).

Covering all knowledge domains

Striking the right balance between breadth and depth in ITE curriculum is no easy task. Teacher education needs to prepare teachers in content knowledge (knowledge of a specific subject content), pedagogical content knowledge (knowledge of the teaching and learning processes particular to a subject), as well as general knowledge of pedagogy (knowledge of teaching and learning that is cross-curricular) (Shulman, 1987[4]). On average, 27% of teachers report that their formal education did not include content for all the subjects they teach, and approximately one in every three teachers did not have formal training in the pedagogy of all their subjects (OECD, 2014[5]). In addition, teachers across OECD countries feel prepared in the different knowledge and skills domains to varying extents (OECD, 2014[5]). On average, 7% of teachers do not feel well prepared in the content and 11% in the pedagogy of the subjects taught (OECD, 2014[5]). Over 10% of teachers also report needs for professional development in areas related to general pedagogical knowledge, such as classroom management, teaching diverse classrooms, or evaluation and assessment (OECD, 2014[5]).

The way teacher education is organised influences how coherence of teacher candidates’ experience can be achieved. ITE structure differs across and within countries. The two most wide spread models are concurrent programmes, which provide pedagogical training and practicum at the same time as courses in subject matter, and consecutive models, in which pedagogical and practical training follow courses in subject matter (OECD, 2014[6]) (see Annex B for the ITP model of countries participating in the study). The ITP reviews suggest that independently of the model, countries seem to struggle with finding the balance of subject and pedagogical knowledge. As Figure 4.2 shows, in a number of countries key knowledge areas are at the discretion of teacher education institutions. Among countries participating in the ITP study, in Japan there is a strong focus on both subject knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. The challenge identified here is not having enough depth of understanding due to too many topics, i.e. too much breadth. In Wales, there is a need to strengthen subject-specific knowledge in teacher education, whereas in the United States ITE programmes face the challenge of rapidly building content knowledge due to the insufficient level of entering candidates’ content knowledge. In Korea pedagogical content knowledge needs to be strengthened in teacher candidates’ knowledge base.

Figure 4.2. Content required for initial teacher training (2013)
For teachers teaching general subjects in public institutions, lower secondary education
Figure 4.2. Content required for initial teacher training (2013)

Source: OECD (2014[6]), Education at a Glance, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Developing practical skills linked to theoretical knowledge

Prospective teachers need not only to be prepared in the different knowledge areas, but also equipped with practical skills that allow them to make appropriate professional judgements and decisions, and deliver effective instruction (as emphasised also by the conceptual model in Figure 4.1). Establishing strong links between theoretical and practical training has long been on the teacher education agenda and is discussed in more details in Chapter 5. One way to achieve this is through aligning teacher education to professional standards. Among the countries to taking part in the ITP study, this effort is most visible in Australia, where teacher education institutions need to demonstrate how their courses prepare candidates to meet the standards in order to be accredited (TEMAG, 2014[7]) (Table 4.3/1). Nevertheless, such alignment is not straightforward due, in part, to the different conceptualisations of professional knowledge (Révai, 2018[8]). For example, teacher education institutions with strong academic traditions often reflect a knowledge and research-based conceptualisation, while standards would often have stronger emphasis on practice and a more restricted understanding of what professional knowledge is (Révai, 2018[8]).

A key determining factor in linking theory and practice relates to the knowledge traditions of educational studies (Whitty and Furlong, 2017[9]). Some countries and institutions still follow an academic knowledge tradition in teacher education, i.e. the content is structured in classical disciplines: educational psychology, sociology, history and philosophy (Whitty and Furlong, 2017[9]). In such a context the content is often determined by the epistemological traditions of each of these disciplines delivered by different faculties (Whitty and Furlong, 2017[9]), and therefore the knowledge base relevant for teaching and learning is fragmented and often very theoretical. Examples among countries participating in the ITP study facing this challenge are Japan, Korea and Norway. The ITP review identified a lack of systematic collaboration of different university faculties as a weakness in some systems. In Japan, for example, most education faculties have limited interactions with other faculties that provide subject specialist training. As a result, interviewees in Japan reported a lack of practical training, for example, in relation to student behaviour and dealing with parents. In Norway, due to the strong theoretical and subject content focus, teacher candidates reported to be less well-prepared for the realities of teaching. The ITP reviews noted in all countries that connection between content and process, and between subject, pedagogical content and general pedagogical knowledge should be stronger and better articulated.

Some countries or institutions have a practical knowledge tradition that is based on teachers’ tasks such as lesson planning, classroom management, evaluation (Whitty and Furlong, 2017[9]). Such a tradition, like the one in some Welsh institutions, is strong in developing practical skills, but these are not sufficiently underpinned by formal knowledge, theories and evidence. A third category identified by Whitty and Furlong (2017[9]) is integrated traditions. Good examples for this are the clinical practice model found in some institutions in Australia and the United States (see Box 5.2 in Chapter 5 and Table 4.3/2). The ITP study found that while integrated models have the potential to create more coherence between theory and practical training, as well as between general and subject pedagogy, this requires dialogue and co-design between universities and schools, and within universities. Moreover, “applied knowledge” for teaching is contingent on the skills and experience of individual teacher educators, and the willingness of individual schools to work more closely with universities. For example, the quality of the practitioner enquiry or action research based models that characterise some institutions in Wales very much depends on the research skills of teacher educators, as well as the rigour of education research conducted in the university in general.

4.1.2. Continuously integrating new evidence and models of teaching and learning in ITP curriculum

The second challenge relates to connecting professional practice (teaching approaches and instruction) to the knowledge base that is continuously updated with new evidence on teaching and learning.

Ensuring effective knowledge flow involves creating strong links between the production and use of formal research knowledge, data and indicators, but also the professional knowledge of teachers and other education stakeholders (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[10]). This also necessitates determining what knowledge will be relevant in the different contexts (Fazekas and Burns, 2012[11]). Education has long been struggling with establishing knowledge mobilisation mechanisms to ensure that teachers’ everyday pedagogical judgements are sufficiently underpinned by evidence (Révai and Guerriero, 2017[12]). ITP and ITE, in particular, have a fundamental responsibility in establishing such mechanisms and ensuring that teacher candidates are equipped with the most recent and most salient evidence on teaching and learning.

New understandings and evidence on teaching and learning are emerging from various fields. The growth of meta-analyses and systematic reviews makes it easier to take an overview of emerging evidence and build it into teacher education. John Hattie’s work on Visible Learning (Hattie, 2008[13]) and the development of the Sutton Trust Toolkit (Education Endowment Foundation, n.d.[14]) are two powerful examples of the way research reviewing is enabling increasingly evidence-informed teacher education and teaching practice. New insights from cognitive neuroscience and exploration of 21st century skills are generating new knowledge demands on teachers and teacher educators (Guerriero, 2017[15]). Such emerging evidence necessitates regularly revising and adapting all knowledge domains of the teacher education.

However, integrating new evidence in ITE is challenging for several reasons. First, teacher educators do not necessarily access new evidence easily. In a fragmented system, educational faculty can be far from disciplinary researchers (e.g. neuroscientists), and communication channels such as specialist journals or conferences do not always target teacher educators. The ITP study identified a lack of access to the latest education research for teachers in Wales, also noted in a recent report on teacher education in Wales (Furlong, 2015[16]). Second, some of the emerging evidence is not immediately relevant for teaching and learning. Teacher educators and teachers need thus not only access, but also interpret and translate research to make it more relevant for practice (Révai and Guerriero, 2017[12]). Third, the rigidity of institutional processes and external pressures can be obstacles to integrating new evidence in teacher education curriculum. In Korea, the ITP review underscored the problem that high stakes examination process, national curriculum, employment examinations and evaluation in general dominate and militate against evidence-based innovation. In Norway, institutions reported that they did not have sufficient time to embed new approaches partly due to a large amount of reforms and limited consideration of implications of changes. Some universities in Japan on the other hand, have priorities to continuously update their curriculum to reflect contemporary issues.

In parallel to emerging evidence, there have been concerns about the robustness of evidence in education to form the basis of professional practice in a systematic way (e.g. (Hargreaves, 1996[17]; Révai and Guerriero, 2017[12]; Dumont, Istance and Benavides, 2010[18]). Evidence is often scattered, sometimes controversial, and sometimes only small scale, context-specific qualitative studies are available. For example, innovative pedagogical approaches are emerging changing some of the traditional models of teaching and learning (Paniagua and Istance, 2018[19]). But to date there is little evidence on whether these really enhance student learning, and if so, in what context they are effective, and what professional expertise is needed to apply them (Paniagua and Istance, 2018[19]). Another example is technological development and the use of digital tools in learning. Many students and teachers have today access to various digital technology, but little is known about how to use these to enhance learning on the one hand (NASA, 2018[20]), and what professional knowledge is required on the other hand (Willermark, 2017[21]). Using information and communication technologies in teaching is also an area in which a high proportion of teachers report needs for professional development (OECD, 2014[6]).

In order to build a robust and systematic knowledge base for teaching and learning, teacher education institutions need to shape the research agenda and contribute to producing evidence (Révai and Guerriero, 2017[12]; Hargreaves, 1996[17]). Many scholars argue that this involves efforts to use robust methodologies (e.g. randomised control trials, meta-analyses) to confirm (or reject) and systematise emerging findings (OECD, 2007[22]). The ITP review found that in some countries, such as Wales, there was a lack of discussion in teacher education institutions about a research strategy and about building a field-wide body of evidence on what works. The ITP review itself was an initiative by the Welsh government to address this challenge. At the same time, there is a need to produce research that responds to teachers’ needs (Hiebert, Gallimore and Stigler, 2002[23]). Methodologies such as action research (also called practitioner enquiry) or design-based research are appropriate to formulate research questions that are generated by teaching practice (European Commission, 2015[24]). For example, some institutions in Wales require teacher candidates to conduct action research, but there are little or no opportunities to conduct other types of research, and no efforts are directed toward systematising localised and contextual findings into an integrated body of knowledge (Furlong, 2015[16]). In Korea, the review team found little focus on enquiry and experimentation to produce new evidence. By contrast, the Japanese lesson study was identified as a promising practice in generating local evidence directly relevant for teaching practice, although there would be a need to synthesise these across the system (Table 4.3/5). In the Netherlands, partnerships between schools and universities of applied sciences are conducting school-based research projects in collaborative and structured ways to build research that is relevant to teachers (Table 4.3/7).

4.1.3. Aligning ITE content with the school context and curriculum

The disconnect between teacher education institutions and schools – one of the biggest challenges the ITP study identified – results in ITE that has often little connection with the realities of schools. This problem is further discussed in Chapter 5,where we focus on ITE curriculum. The ITP reviews noted that ITE providers in general, and teacher educators specifically, do not have established communication channels and mechanisms to keep up with recent school policies such as school curriculum reforms.

New developments in school curriculum need to be considered when designing teacher education. Yet, creating efficient feedback mechanisms between teacher education and schools is a challenge in many countries. In several countries, such as Australia, the United States and the Netherlands, schools and school boards reported that their feedback to teacher education institutions is not always acted upon, and changes to school practices do not necessarily lead to updates in ITE. Limited school voice was also reported in Korea, where professors often lack experience in teaching in schools and explore ITE quality issues mostly with university staff and review teams. In Japan, on the other hand, the ministry sets strong guidelines for teacher education institutions to follow national curriculum in schools (Table 4.3/4). Also, some universities in the Netherlands survey their graduates and those with strong school-university partnerships reported to take such feedback on board.

A coherent school and ITE curriculum requires strong partnerships between institutions. For example, reforming school curriculum in partnership with teacher education institutions can foster such coherence. In Wales, the new curriculum has been developed in partnership with a network of schools, experts, the inspection and authorities (Welsh Government, 2015[25]), although it is not clear to what extent ITE institutions were involved in this process. In the Netherlands, the ITP review noted strong collaboration between some teacher education institutions and schools (see Box 4.3 and Table 4.3/7), although some of these initiatives depend on short-term funding that may risk their sustainability.

National school curriculum changes surprisingly frequently in a number of countries. Many education reforms affect the curriculum as new governments seek to operationalise their manifestos and respond to socio economic changes and newly emerging evidence. A large number of countries are actively engaged in the OECD Education 2030 project, which – involving numerous stakeholders – has developed a Learning Framework to define a clearer vision and goals for the future of education systems (OECD, 2018[26]). The Learning Framework identifies the importance of integrating learning across knowledge and skills while at the same time developing the attitudes and values that students will need to shape their world (OECD, 2018[26]). Such integration is at an early stage of conceptualisation (Lucas, Claxton and Spencer, 2013[27]) and development, so there is relatively little evidence to draw upon in developing pedagogical understanding of how to successfully do this in schools. Regardless of the specific directions that curriculum reforms will take in the future, the pace of change in societies is likely to translate into growing pressures for a constant evolution of school curricula. ITE programmes will need to adapt to this and develop means for better connecting with schools and responding to these changes.

4.1.4. Teaching teachers in line with emerging evidence and new models – the role of teacher educators

It is however not enough to revise ITE curriculum regularly. A vital element of authentic learning opportunities is “teaching as you preach”. That is, new models of teaching and learning, and emerging evidence need to be reflected in the delivery of teacher education. This implies that teacher educators themselves need not only to update their knowledge base, but also to adjust their practices to provide an authentic and coherent role model of teaching to their students (Lunenberg, Korthagen and Swennen, 2007[28]). Role modelling makes this profession unique (Cochran-Smith et al., 2015[29]), differing, for example, from the medical profession in that teacher educators demonstrate their practice directly on teacher candidates by teaching them, unlike, for instance, surgeons who do not operate on medical students (Lunenberg, Korthagen and Swennen, 2007[28]).

A lack of coherence between delivered content and actual practice is of concern in some teacher education programmes. For example, while most programmes have promoted constructivist views of learning, whether and to what extent teacher educators actually use these views in their teaching is not clear (Cochran-Smith et al., 2015[29]). On the other hand, some studies suggest that sociocultural perspectives on teacher learning have been widely taken up by teacher educators through practices that involve teacher candidates interacting, negotiating and, through that, learning from each other, as well as teachers and university supervisors collaborating (Cochran-Smith et al., 2015[29]).

As a European Commission (2013[30]) report underlines, one key challenge linked to the heterogeneity of this unique profession, is that teacher educators’ multiple identities lead to varying levels of commitment to teaching future teachers. Besides the faculty of education, in which staff members are likely to consider themselves as teacher educators, many ITE programmes involve staff from subject faculties, who spend a limited amount of time on teacher education. The report raises concerns about the ineffective role modelling due to poor teaching practices of staff that do not have a strong teacher educator identity (European Commission, 2013[30]).

The ITP study identified a number of challenges teacher educators are facing. In Wales, a risk of fatigue among teacher educators was noted due to the high workload and pressure to teach as well as conduct research. In the United States, teacher educators’ career incentives are based on research publications, and not preparing practitioners, which impedes a stronger focus on adapting innovative teaching approaches or implementing programme reform. In Korea, high stakes for teacher education institution’s rating may limit innovation and the adaptation and sharing of new practices.

4.2. What strategies can address the challenge?

4.2.1. Continuously reflecting on what knowledge and competences are relevant for teaching

Ensuring a comprehensive, coherent, relevant and continuously updated ITE requires engaging regularly in collective reflections on teachers’ knowledge, and more broadly, professional competences. A number of countries have introduced professional standards for teachers as a tool to make knowledge and competence requirements explicit. However, if standards are used as rigid checklists for accountability purposes (certification, evaluation), they do not facilitate continuous reflection. To the contrary, they can constitute a risk to flexibly including emerging evidence and innovation in both schools and ITE. Moreover, standards do not easily and directly translate into ITE curriculum due to the often conflicting conceptualisations of knowledge, and the complex processes of interpretation and translation (Révai, 2018[8])). Standards and ITE curriculum can nevertheless constructively influence each other if standards are used as communication and reflection tools and are regularly revised (Révai, 2018[8]).

Developing and creating artefacts other than standards, such as teacher education guidelines or course descriptions, can also create a platform for dialogue on what knowledge and competences are relevant for teacher candidates and teachers. An example for this is the collaborative process of a wide group of professionals in Norway who worked together to translate new ITE regulations into national teacher preparation guidelines Table 4.3/11). This development and constructive co-critique of the guidelines generated both institutional and cross-institutional working groups. Regular professional dialogues can however also be facilitated independently of developing documents. Teachers within and across schools, and more importantly together with researchers, teacher educators and other stakeholders can generate platforms for collaborative reflections. The OECD’s TALIS Global Video Library 1is an initiative that has the potential to function as such a platform (OECD, 2017[31]). An example for a one-off dialogue is the unique opportunity the ITP final conference provided for a range of international stakeholders to reflect on the qualities teacher educators and new teachers should have (see Box 4.1).

Box 4.1. Qualities of new teachers and teacher educators as defined in the final conference of the ITP study

Experts and policy makers from a number of countries including those that participated in the ITP study gathered at a final conference to share and discuss review findings, agree on common challenges in ITP systems in participating countries and begin to identify principles of effective ITP systems.

As part of identifying these principles, small working groups of attendees brainstormed the most important qualities of teacher educators and new teachers. The groups used various OECD, EU and country-specific frameworks related to teacher values, knowledge and competencies as an input to this process. Attendees reviewed and synthesised these qualities into the following lists. Due to the nature of this process, these lists are not comprehensive, nor universally applicable. They could however serve as a starting point for discussions and reflections among stakeholders.

Table 4.1. Qualities of new teachers



Basic knowledge and skills

  • High level of academic skills

  • Foundations of subject didactics / pedagogical content knowledge

  • Pedagogy / general teaching capabilities

  • Ability to analyse data (See also research mind)

  • Curiosity and willingness to learn and improve

  • ‘Research mind’ / ‘critical mind’ / metacognitive capabilities

  • Know how to give and receive feedback (to students and as teachers)

Communication and relationship skills

  • Ability to communicate and collaborate (communication and relationships); ability to share and collaborate with colleagues

  • Ability to build relationships with learners

  • Collective efficacy: orientation to collaborating and having professional dialogue with other teachers on aspirations for students (the difference between a candidate and a new teacher is orientation to student outcomes beyond the self)

Confidence, resilience, proactivity

  • Confidence in pedagogy (might not yet be expertise); confidence in their knowledge and ability to express their own knowledge and opinion to more senior teachers

  • Resilience (‘strong and not run away after first disappointment’)

  • Proactive / take action


  • Sense of mission and responsibility

  • Mindset that all students can learn / high aspirations for all learners

  • Ethical mindset

Table 4.2. Qualities of teacher educators



Basic knowledge and skills

  • Expertise in pedagogy; professional knowledge; specialist in first and second order teaching (ie specialist in teaching and teaching about teaching)

  • Research base

  • Modelling; doing, showing and feedback

Willingness to learn

  • Reciprocal relationship (learning both ways)

Communication and relationship skills; adaptability

  • Ability to build relationships with learners; empathetic to what candidate is experiencing

  • Boundary crosser and a participant in schools, programmes and research community; ability to bridge theory and practice (especially for subject specialists)

Values and vision

  • Sense of mission; having an ambitious vision for what’s possible for students and teacher candidates

  • Passion for learning and subject area

  • Commitment to quality

4.2.2. Fostering deep school - teacher education institution partnerships and feedback loops

Establishing partnership is an essential pillar to build capacity and foster feedback mechanisms and thereby to improve the system (Toon, Jensen and Cooper, 2017[32]). Deep partnerships between schools and universities can take multiple forms and extend to designing and evaluating programmes together, sharing data and information, observing and sharing practices and so on (Toon and Jensen, 2017[33]). Teacher education institutions and schools working together can facilitate the alignment of school and ITE curriculum. For example, those leading the translation of system-level policy reforms into a curriculum and infrastructure for an ITE programme should engage with colleagues leading parallel translation processes within the school system. This would ensure that both strands of development are coherently articulated.

Such partnerships are important in enabling teacher educators based in ITE institutions to keep in touch with school-based developments of practice and relate these to the wider evidence base. At the same time, partnerships also encourage school-based educators to prioritise professional learning and see engagement with ITP as a contributor to their own professional growth. Sharing data, providing feedback and jointly designing and delivering improvements to ITP and early career support can lead to a more coherent experience of beginning teachers (Toon and Jensen, 2017[33]).

Research partnerships between schools and universities can build the research skills of teachers and the practical knowledge of researchers (Greany et al., 2014[34]). Various mechanisms can support research partnerships between schools and universities, such as including school-based research in teacher education programme requirements, incentivising education faculty to raise the impact of their research on teaching and learning or introducing funding mechanisms (e.g. competitive grants) that provide opportunities for teacher educators and researchers to collaborate with teachers and schools in conducting schools-based research.

4.2.3. Supporting teacher educators to continually improve their knowledge and practice

While the status of teachers has now been generally acknowledged as important for successful education policies, much less is known about teacher educators. Yet, their central role in developing teachers makes it indispensable to acknowledge teacher educators as a unique occupational group with distinctive knowledge, skills and understanding about teacher education and its importance for schooling (Murray, Swennen and Shagrir, 2009[35]). In fact, there is still a debate about who teacher educators are (Murray, Swennen and Shagrir, 2009[35]; European Commission, 2013[30]). Recently, teacher educators have been defined as teachers of teachers to include not only those working in higher education, but more generally those engaged in the induction and professional learning of future teachers through pre-service courses and/or the further development of teachers (Murray, Swennen and Shagrir, 2009[35]; European Commission, 2013[30]).

In a number of countries teacher educators are predominantly appointed, evaluated or promoted based on their scientific work (Sonmark et al., 2017[36]), while their numerous other roles including coaching, facilitating collaboration among diverse organisations and stakeholders, assessing, developing curriculum, conducting research and engaging in critical enquiry are often neglected (Czerniawski, Guberman and Macphail, 2017[37]). Indeed, teacher educators need more support in their diverse roles, more opportunities for professional development, and would also benefit from induction, which currently does not exist in most systems (Sonmark et al., 2017[36]; Czerniawski, Guberman and Macphail, 2017[37]; European Commission, 2013[30]).

Although research on teacher educators is growing, there is still a need to build evidence about their status and quality. Some studies point to the low or ambiguous status of teacher educators, in particular those in academia, others report that their voice is seldom heard in the education agenda (Davey, 2013[38]). An indication of this phenomenon is that issues of teacher educators (e.g. their selection and training) are included in only three of the country background reports produced in the ITP study: Australia, the Netherlands and Norway. In the Netherlands teacher educators are considered as key stakeholders, and are also represented by the Dutch Association for Teacher Educators (see Box 4.2 and Table 4.3/8). This group’s key role in ITP design is acknowledged in Norway, and is manifested for example in the National Research School for Teacher Educators, or the Knowledge Parliament initiative (Table 4.3/10).

It is thus fundamental to consciously and strategically promote the status of this profession, starting by the assumption that an excellent teacher educator is more than an excellent researcher. Teacher educators need to be considered as a distinct professional group within teachers in higher education and in schools, with a deep mastering on teaching strategies tailored for the need of teacher candidates. Echoing the needs of teachers in schools, teacher educators should be provided with opportunities to participate in communities of collaborative enquiry centred on improving their teaching practice, and integrating new evidence and models on teaching and learning. In this regard, collaboration between teacher education institutions and school-based teacher educators can help develop a robust knowledge base for all teacher educators (Toon and Jensen, 2017[33]).

4.3. How can the different actors apply these strategies?

4.3.1. What can policy makers do?

Raising awareness and facilitating dialogue to develop a shared language and understandings of professional knowledge and competences

Raising awareness of the importance of a coherent, comprehensive ITE curriculum that is regularly updated with new evidence is a first step in building policy makers’ capacity. Korea is a promising example in that sense, where – despite the challenges noted earlier – the ITP review highlighted the shared belief in deep content knowledge and the importance of developing this knowledge as a key strength. In Korea there is a global interest in research informed policy and practice in teaching and ITE. Korean policy makers also recognised that ITE curriculum needs to prepare for the fourth industrial revolution (Table 4.3/6).

Facilitating dialogue among policy makers and with ITE stakeholders of quality delivery of programmes helps establishing a shared understanding of what quality means. The ITP study noted a growing awareness in the United States of the importance of improving programme quality. This manifested in a national dialogue about the quality of teacher preparation, which led to the introduction of federal regulations. States are now required to report on programme outcome measures (e.g. graduate employment and retention in teaching, feedback from graduates and their employers, and student learning outcomes).

Policy makers can also facilitate the development of a common language around teacher professionalism as a framework and basis for building capacity across schools and ITE institutions. The Australian Federal Government invested strongly on a wide consultation process for developing the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Table 4.3/3). These standards then formed the basis of ITE programme accreditation (Table 4.3/1). Another way to do this is through creating the conditions for the profession to establish its own professional standards or competence frameworks. Policy makers can also create a regular discussion platform for teachers, teacher educators, ITE leaders with the objective of revising and renegotiating the content of standards, ITE programmes and accreditation. The Welsh government for example has been engaging a wide range of stakeholders both in the development of new ITE accreditation criteria (Table 4.3/16) and the revision of teaching standards (Welsh Government, 2017[39]). The regular monitoring and analysis of the change of both standards and teacher education curriculum can lead to a more systematic and integrated knowledge base of teachers in the long term (Révai, 2018[8]).

Building capacity both through formal structures and informal peer learning processes

System level support for translating policy reforms into practice and designing ITE curricula should include appropriate opportunities for all stakeholders to build their knowledge on curriculum design and implementation. A specific form of building systemic capacity is to establish formal structures. The National Centres of Excellence established by the Ministry of Education and Research in Norway are a good example of systemic opportunities for collaboration and capacity building. This scheme, managed by the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (Table 4.3/12), implies a concentrated, focused and long-term commitment to stimulate the development of teaching and learning methods at the bachelor and master’s levels (Table 4.3/10). Establishing and funding high-level (master’s and doctoral) degree programmes in leadership, subject and general pedagogy is a strong way of building capacity of teachers, teacher educators and future leaders of ITE.

Informal processes such as peer learning are essential supplements of formal structures in capacity building. In Australia, there are opportunities for ITE leaders to share data and approaches, and to learn from one another in cycles of design and assessment. The Dutch ministry together with best practice teacher education institutions are creating a culture of collaboration, co-operation and “learning together”, evidenced by many school-university partnerships (Table 4.3/7). As part of its investment in building system-wide research capacity in education, the Welsh government actively facilitates the development of schools as learning organisations (SLO) (OECD, 2018[40]) (Table 4.3/17). The SLO model, co-constructed by a range of stakeholders, includes elements essential for capacity building such as continuous professional learning, and a culture of enquiry, innovation and exploration (OECD, 2018[40]).

Ensuring sustained funding to scale good practices

Strengthening processes in which institutions can learn from each other can help scale rigorous and effective programmes. The Netherlands encourages deep collaboration between selected schools and universities through a ‘quality check’ that sets expectations of what a good school-university partnership should look like (Table 4.3/7). The accreditation body has to approve these school partnerships before they are funded. Such well-funded partnerships stimulate innovation and encourage the implementation of high-quality collaborations on research and teaching development. The ongoing funding of these partnerships, and how to support others are important questions to address in order to ensure that effective collaborations are sustained and scaled across the system.

4.3.2. What can teacher education institutions and the teacher educator profession do?

Defining professional standards or guidelines for teacher educators and teacher candidates

Defining professional standards or guidelines for teacher educators is a way to articulate what capacity they need. In the Netherlands, there are collaboratively developed frameworks that set system-wide minimum standards for quality (Table 4.3/9). For example, the standards for teacher educators, developed by the Dutch Professional Association for Teacher Educators, define expectations for the base level of what teacher educators need to know (see also Box 4.2 and Table 4.3/8). In Norway, institutions collaborate on developing national guidelines for ITE (Table 4.3/11).

Being engaged in reflecting on and defining what knowledge and skills teacher candidates need to learn is also a way to improve ITE. In Australia, professional standards for teachers are also used to (re)structure ITE programmes (Table 4.3/3), and ITE leaders are generally invested in the standards and interested in refining and strengthening how prospective teachers are prepared.

Box 4.2. Educating the teacher educator: the importance of professional standards

Although most teacher educators have one or more post-graduate degrees in education or other related fields, they have rarely been formally and specifically prepared for their role. In most countries, teacher educators are not provided with induction or professional education, and are both an under-researched and poorly understood occupational group. In this context, central policies to quality requirements and professional competences are highly valuable to support the development of the teacher educator profession.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch Professional Association for Teacher Educators (VELON) developed the Dutch Professional Standards for Teacher Educators and a registration procedure in order to clarify the nature of the profession, offer a guideline for professional development, and a benchmark for professional registration. The standards contain competence areas and skills of effective teacher educators and a ”knowledge base” to sustain the building of a shared knowledge in this community of professionals (Table 4.3/8).

Introducing incentives for teacher educators to continuously develop their knowledge of teaching and improve their teaching practice

Institutional incentives for teacher educators such as performance evaluations and promotion criteria should extend to teaching competences, and updating and deepening knowledge on teaching and learning. Incentives can also include conducting school-based research. Such incentives should be accompanied by access to relevant professional development opportunities and dedicated resources for teacher educators. Most importantly, these efforts and incentives should be positioned as a way of developing collective efficacy amongst teacher educators and thus enhancing their quality and status as academic and teaching professionals. In the Netherlands, teacher education institutions collaborated to develop “knowledge bases” that describe what teacher candidates must learn as part of their preparation. These can function as tools to improve coherence, transparency and accountability through setting the same minimum expectations for beginning teachers across teacher educators and teacher education institutions (Table 4.3/9). A promising initiative was identified at the University of Michigan in the United States, where a clinical professor career (and promotion) track was introduced as an incentive for university professors to conduct school-based research and focus on preparing teachers (Table 4.3/13).

Establishing a strategy for self-improvement using data

Institutions can collect and use data for formative reviews and improvement plans. For example, feedback from stakeholders – teacher candidates, school-based mentor teachers, staff – can provide important input for improvement. In Korea, teacher education institutions use a variety of ways to review and improve their programmes including student course surveys and feedback from schools via school-university partnerships. Teacher education institutions also report that evaluation processes motivate improvement in general and provide useful information on what to target specifically. Although, as noted earlier, when the outcome of evaluation has high stakes for institutions, it can also limit innovation. A number of states in the United States collect data to review the effectiveness of their graduates (Table 4.3/14). If these measures are valid, reliable and professionally accepted they will help identify which programmes are effective and build the evidence base of what works. The Deans for Impact initiative in the United States mentioned in Section 2.3 in Chapter 2 is another example of how collected data can empower participating programmes to engage in cross-institutional learning (Table 4.3/15).

Collecting and making research on teaching and learning easily accessible

Teacher educators play a key role in mediating research evidence (Sonmark et al., 2017[36]). Creating a “repository” where teachers and teacher educators can access education research in an easy-to-read manner is one way to strengthen the link between theory and practice. This could be even more impactful and robust if developed in collaboration among ITE institutions. ITE institutions can also organise training for teachers and school leaders in how to use such a repository. In addition, it can help organise available evidence and identify research gaps to set future research directions. Wales, for example, may choose to prioritise funding and support for specific research topics that are unique to its context, such as bilingualism, rather than attempt to replicate larger studies conducted in other parts of the United Kingdom (BERA, 2014[41]). A crucial element in research mediation is ensuring that research made accessible for teachers satisfies high-quality standards. Any such initiatives need therefore to pay attention to quality.

Facilitating peer learning and collaboration across institutions and with schools to improve ITE programmes

Structures that enable universities to provide collegial review and feedback to each other to share ideas and jointly solve issues can contribute to improving the quality of programmes. Specific forms of collaboration can include institutions co-designing programmes, sharing or rotating staff, leading joint research projects and so on. To deepen and scale such partnerships, specific expectations and attributes could be defined and communicated. Several promising initiatives were observed in the ITP reviews. In Australia, universities are starting to engage in collaboration on joint research projects; the Netherlands is making a sustained effort to build collaboration among universities and with schools (see Box 4.3 and Table 4.3/7); in Norway an annual “Knowledge Parliament” is held for teacher educators to explore issues such as research based ITE, teachers’ knowledge and practice (Table 4.3/10). ProTed, a Norwegian Centre of Excellence in Higher Education is leading the collaborative work of teacher educators doing revisions to ITE programme guidelines to increase coherence and links with practice (see also Box 2.1. and Table 4.3/10).

Box 4.3. Strong school – teacher education institution partnerships in the Netherlands

Responding to concerns from schools and school boards about the “classroom readiness” of newly qualified primary teachers, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science facilitates and funds collaboration among universities of applied sciences (HBOs), which provide training in primary education, with school boards, and with individual schools. As a result, almost half of ITE institutions are now working closely with schools on course design and delivery.

One example of this is between Hogeschool Leiden and Snijderschool, Rijswijk that develop ITE and professional development programmes together and drive improvement across their schools.

Some key characteristics of the partnership are:

  • The school board employs a teacher educator to oversee the partnership, and provide strategic leadership.

  • The school and ITE provider exchange staff and work in each other’s institutions.

  • The staff from the school and ITE institution work closely together to develop and refine the ITE curriculum and delivery.

  • The ITE institution provides mentor training for teachers interested in undertaking this role and to strengthen the link between theory and practice.

  • Students, mentors and school leaders are asked for feedback on the programme every year (Table 4.3/7).

4.3.3. What can schools and teachers do?

Defining professional standards or guidelines for new and experienced teachers

Similarly to teacher educators, the teaching profession can also take responsibility in reflecting on the competences beginning teachers need in order to have a confident start in their career. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, for example, provide descriptors of four career stages for teachers – Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead – each representing increasing levels of knowledge, practice and professional engagement for teachers (Table 4.3/3). Although their development was coordinated by a national body (the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership), the process involved state governments, professional organisations, teacher unions and the teaching profession (NCEE, 2016[42]; OECD, 2013[43]).

In the United States, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is an independent organisation governed predominantly by teaching professionals, and partly also by school board leaders, higher education officials, union leaders and community leaders (NBPTS, 2019[44]). The Five Core Propositions developed by the NBPTS articulate what teachers should know and be able to do regardless of grade levels and disciplines. Together, the propositions form the basis of all National Board Standards, which describe how teachers enact the Propositions in particular content areas and with students of particular developmental levels. While the core standards exist since 1989, they have been regularly revised, most recently in 2015 (NBPTS, n.d.[45]).

The new professional standards for teaching and leadership in Wales, developed in 2017 involving the teaching profession, replace the previous Qualified Teacher Status standards (2009), Practicing Teachers Standards (2011) and Leadership Standards (2011) (Welsh Government, 2017[39]). They create a single set of entry standards for the award of Qualified Teacher Status and the successful completion of induction, while their descriptors also contain an aspirational level which provides a focus for career-long professional learning (Welsh Government, 2018[46]).

Participating in the design and revision of ITE curriculum

Schools can create stronger links with ITE institutions in order to feed their experience in the development of ITE programmes. This can happen through school leaders and teachers engaging in partnerships and networks with ITE institutions, but also through school-based mentors strengthening the link with university-based teacher educators related to teacher candidates’ field experience and the support of beginning teachers. Strong school-university partnerships in the Netherlands include exchange of staff; mentors, school leaders and students giving structured feedback on ITE programmes; and staff from schools and teacher education institutions working closely together to develop and refine the ITE curriculum and delivery (Table 4.3/7).

Leading and contributing to school-based research

Schools and teachers engaging in research is an important way of facilitating knowledge dynamics in the profession (Sonmark et al., 2017[36]; Révai, 2017[47]). Schools can create supportive structures and processes for innovation and research-based enquiry. To ensure the rigour of teacher-led research, schools can set up coaching schemes to support teachers in accessing, engaging with and designing research (e.g. involving researchers to train teachers in research methods) (Cordingley, 2016[48]). Practice-based research is widespread across multiple stakeholders in Wales (Box 4.4), and the ITP review noted an eagerness on the part of some schools to participate in research (Table 4.3/18).

Box 4.4. Research-based professional learning in the Fern Federation, Wales

The Fern Federation consists of two small primary schools in a deprived area of Wales. The schools were federated by the regional council as part of a school improvement strategy since both schools showed unsatisfactory results. Over the last four-years-and-a-half, the schools have established a strong professional learning culture to consistently develop teachers’ understanding of general and subject based pedagogy. Professional learning is based on systematic enquiry in a strongly research-based way. Teachers work on areas of pedagogy that they identify as worth improving (for example, questioning, assessment for learning, children’s engagement, collective learning). They design teaching approaches and lessons, and use observation and video recordings to review and analyse their own performance.

Teachers’ learning process and products (e.g. research outcomes and findings related to a theme, videos and collective reflections) are systematically stored and are accessible any time. Other important structures accompanying professional learning are co-coaching sessions and mentoring for teachers requiring further assistance Table 4.3/18).

Révai (2018[49]), Teachers’ knowledge dynamics and innovation in education – Part II., Pedagógusképzés

Table 4.3. Practices to ensure an evidence-informed, self-improving ITP system

Reference number

Title of practice



New accreditation for initial teacher education programmes in Australia



Clinical practice approaches in initial teacher education in Australia



Australian Professional Standards for teachers



Exploring the alignment of initial teacher education to the new national curriculum in Japan: Teaching for active learning



The use of lesson study to develop teachers in Japan



Attracting and developing teachers for the 4th industrial revolution in Korea



Schools and teacher education institutions co-creating ITE programmes in the Netherlands

The Netherlands


Industry-developed Professional Standards for Teacher Educators in the Netherlands

The Netherlands


Knowledge bases for initial teacher education in the Netherlands

The Netherlands


Center for Professional Learning in Teacher Education (ProTed): Promoting innovation, research strategic partnerships and sharing of best practice in initial teacher education in Norway



Ownership and understanding of the national teacher preparation guidelines in Norway



The role of the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education



TeachingWorks: A practice-based approach for preparing teachers in the United States

United States


Massachusetts’ review and approval of ITE Programmes

United States


Cross-state networks for the improvement of teacher education: Deans for Impact

United States


ITE programme accreditation in Wales as a means to strengthen research-informed initial teacher education programmes

Wales (United Kingdom)


Towards a research-informed, evidence-based reform agenda in initial teacher education in Wales

Wales (United Kingdom)


Professional learning based on systematic enquiry in the Fern Federation in Wales

Wales (United Kingdom)

Note: Hyperlinks point to the description of Promising Practices identified in the ITP reviews accessible on the Teacher Ready! platform.


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← 1. The OECD Global Video Library of Teaching will be an online platform for knowledge creation and sharing about teaching. Its centrepiece will be short video clips illustrating teaching practices for which a number of outcomes are known and proven. It will provide a window to teachers into authentic classrooms from across the globe and opportunities to actively learn from their peers.

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