Chapter 6. Towards principles of governing initial teacher preparation systems?

This last chapter discusses four principles that emerge from the challenges and strategies presented in this report with regards to governing initial teacher preparation systems. In particular, it first highlights the importance of strategic thinking and sets out a vision for initial teacher preparation (ITP) in the context of teacher learning as a continuum. Second, it discusses key elements of effective knowledge governance and how these can be implemented with respect to ITP. Third, the chapter emphasises the role of building capacity at the individual, organisational and system levels. Finally, it concludes by emphasising a whole-of-system perspective through strong partnerships and networks to drive systemic improvement.


This report has described the key challenges and corresponding strategies as they relate to designing initial teacher preparation as the foundational stage in the continuum of teacher learning. It presented teacher education as a complex system of multi-layered contexts, schools and policy environments – “a cluster of simultaneous interactions at multiple levels which people become part of for a period of time” (Ell et al., 2017[1]). Clearly, creating a coherent learning experience for teacher candidates, new and experienced teachers in such complexity requires system level coordination. This section summarises the strategies laid out above (see Table 6.1) with a view to governing initial teacher preparation (ITP) systems in ways that foster the development of coherent, evidence-informed, sustainable and self-improving systems.

Table 6.1. Strategies for improving ITP systems



Ensuring an evidence-informed, self-improving ITP system

1. Supporting rigorous and relevant research on ITP

2. Introducing accreditation that incentivises ITP institutions to build their own evidence and implement a continuous improvement approach

3. Fostering the dissemination and utilisation of evidence throughout the system

Ensuring a balanced teacher workforce

4. Using diversified longitudinal ITP data in actively forecasting workforce needs

5. Raising the status of teaching and teacher education

6. Attracting, selecting and hiring “the right” candidates

Equipping teachers with updated knowledge

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

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

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

Providing integrated early professional development

10. Offering extensive opportunities for teacher learning grounded in practice

11. Building on the experience of effective induction and mentoring programmes

12. Embedding new teachers’ early development in a culture of continuous professional learning

These strategies and the suggested forms of implementation are interconnected in multiple ways. For example, at least eight strategies are directly related to the effective production, use and dissemination of knowledge (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 11), while other six strategies (3, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 12) point to the need to understand and design ITP as a system. The ways in which the different stakeholders can apply these suggested strategies suggest that the following are vital elements in ITP systems:

  1. 1. The continuity and coherence of teacher learning throughout the career is at the heart of a strategic vision for ITP systems.

  2. 2. A sustainable ITP system requires the systematic production, mediation and use of data and evidence.

  3. 3. A self-improving ITP system needs strong capacity at all levels.

  4. 4. A whole-of-system view through cross-institutional and multilevel partnerships, engaging all actors and establishing positive feedback loops is necessary to ensure a coherent ITP system.

These four emerging principles are discussed in more details in the next sections.

6.1. Strategic thinking in governing ITP systems for coherent and continuous teacher learning

Flying start – the title of this report – reflects the key principle of the ITP study, which is conceptualising teacher learning as a continuum, in which initial teacher preparation is the beginning of a process of professional development and relationship with the wider education community. Developing this continuum across institutional boundaries, support systems, career structures and local school contexts, that is, in a complex ITP system, requires strategic thinking. A strategy first needs a vision for ITP shared among multiple agents. The mission for all institutions and actors, and the specific action plans to establish and sustain ITP based on the shared vision needs the capacity of all to work within a system perspective and understand planning as a dialogue.

When developing a vision, we need to take into account that initial teacher preparation does not work in a vacuum, but is driven by outstanding goals in education. Typically, the following common goals underpin educational policy agendas that aim at preparing future generations to participate in framing solutions for the challenges of our era:

  • Improve the learning outcomes and the quality of education provision in line with new contexts and challenges

  • Ensure equity

  • Improve the efficiency of the system.

Addressing these goals expands beyond the mission of ITP systems to ensure a balanced teacher workforce and highlights the need for improving the quality of teacher learning. In this sense, ITP has to build also on the role of the teaching profession, on how to train effective teachers, according to a set of well-established standards of practice and pedagogical knowledge that would be capable of advancing innovations and working collaboratively with other colleagues. Further, it has implications for understanding schools and teacher education institutions as learning organisations that are able to address problems and develop new solutions attuned to the communities they serve.

The vision for ITP as the first stage in a continuum is based on three main principles of understanding the teacher profession:

  • Teachers as learners. In the same way as their students, teachers need to be provided with a system of scaffolding that must help them develop and allow them to fulfil their potential as professionals. Continuously questioning their practice, developing their own educational ideals and strengthening their conceptions of equity and social justice are fundamental elements of teachers as learners.

  • Relevance of learning that takes place after ITP. The idea that teachers work alone and should take full responsibility over their classes from day one undermines the relevance of career-long professional development. A strategic vision for ITP should start with the assumption that becoming a teacher does not finish during the induction phase and therefore initial preparation. While ensuring minimum standards for teacher graduates, ITP must lay the foundation for an ongoing learning process. This implies that ITP systems should not be expected to cover all the possible competences for teachers, or to anticipate all the potential situations that new teachers may encounter, but to equip teachers for lifelong and collaborative learning.

  • Clinical and research practice in particular contexts. Embedding continually evolving knowledge coming from research and experience is key for teachers’ continuous growth. The interaction of knowledge about practice and enacting knowledge in practice includes translating learning theories into practice, experimenting with their implementation in particular contexts, as well as strengthening the validity of new practices. As a result, ITP must move beyond the theory-practice divide and prepare teachers for an ongoing enquiry about their practice. This necessitates creating strong partnerships with schools for allowing rapid flows of newly emerging knowledge and evidence.

An explicit common vision helps the system avoid conflicting agendas such as having rigid standards while understanding teaching as a creative, innovative profession. It also encourages a constructive dialogue through, for example, developing specific missions and actions plans to achieve shared goals according to the different realities of schools. Figure 6.1 illustrates the way forging a shared vision for ITP based on a continuum of teacher learning is anchored in the definition of educational goals and the role of the teacher profession.

Figure 6.1. The idea of continuum as a rational goal and an appealing strategic view
ITP continuum defines the role of teachers according to wider educational goals
Figure 6.1. The idea of continuum as a rational goal and an appealing strategic view

This report argues that the idea of a continuum does not only provide stakeholders with a meaningful concept that helps steer the system, it also sets out an appealing view for bringing them together in realising this goal. The above-described vision for ITP helps systems to creatively think about how to ensure a sustainable teaching workforce while improving its quality. It can serve as the basis for designing coherent policies and establishing well-adapted environments for policy implementation.

6.2. Governing knowledge for evidence-informed ITP systems

The strategic governance of an education system requires an effective organisation and flow of knowledge (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[2]). Identifying what knowledge is relevant in a given context is a prerequisite for effective knowledge management (Fazekas and Burns, 2012[3]). Developing a strategic approach to mobilising relevant knowledge involves thinking about its production and utilisation, as well as the link between these, i.e. knowledge mediation (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[2]). Knowledge governance in this sense, involves the following elements:

  • collecting quality and rich data for research and decision-making

  • facilitating access to data and knowledge

  • promoting a culture of using rich data and knowledge (OECD, 2018[4]).

With regards to governing ITP systems, two types of knowledge can be distinguished: knowledge that is relevant for designing ITP policies and knowledge that is relevant for the practice of ITP actors. Knowledge can originate from data sources (e.g. quantitative and qualitative data on teacher candidates, teachers, teacher educators), and evidence.

The challenges described in this report discussed some of the evidence collected in the ITP study, and available in international literature. Descriptions also pointed to gaps that still need to be filled. Table 6.2 lists the most important areas of evidence. While available data and evidence is dependent on particular systems, for many of these topics the amount of evidence does not yet seem globally robust. Available evidence is still often patchy, not well connected, not easily accessible and sometimes controversial. In some areas, however, such as student learning, instructional processes and teacher motivation, research activity is high in many countries.

Table 6.2. Evidence in ITP – a to do exercise for governing knowledge
Based on the ITP study and elements of the international literature

ITP stage

Evidence and data

Knowledge for policy (relevant to design and sustain ITP systems)

Knowledge for practice (relevant for ITP actors in their practice)

Attracting and retaining

Evidence on teachers’ motivational characteristics



Data on attrition and evidence on its cause



Teacher diversity



Evidence on the impact of teacher candidates’ background characteristics (e.g. previous academic achievement) on their later teaching competences



Equipping & quality

Evidence on student learning (e.g. neurosciences, 21st century competences)


Evidence on instructional processes (e.g. effectiveness of teaching methods, evaluation)


Impact of innovative teaching approaches


Evidence about university-based teacher educators’ status and identity


Evidence about university-based teacher educators’ quality (e.g. pedagogical practices, professional knowledge and competences)




Evidence on the impact of induction initiatives (e.g. in-depth qualitative studies)



Evidence on mentors’ status and identity.



Evidence on mentors’ quality (e.g. pedagogical practices, professional knowledge and competences)



Certifying and hiring

Longitudinal ITP data that facilitate forecasting workforce needs (e.g. student and teacher candidate enrolment, certified teachers, teacher migration, shortages)


Integrated data on teacher candidates, new teachers, teacher educators and mentors in ITE institutions



ITP implementations and effectiveness

Impact of structural features of ITP programmes


Systematic reviews/evaluations of ITP programmes and practices


Evidence on effective ITP practices across institutions of the system


Relationships between ITP components and teacher candidates’ learning


Compiling similar lists and determining the status of evidence and data for each topic is a useful exercise that ITP actors and policy makers could perform when governing knowledge. In areas where more evidence is needed, ITP leaders can map actors who have the capacity to contribute to building the evidence by collecting data, conducting research, coordinating and systematising existing evidence, and mediating this towards practice. For example, teacher candidates, teachers and researchers involved in initial teacher education (ITE) can co-conduct research on instructional processes. ITE institutions can work together to coordinate such research projects and then synthesise the outcomes to strengthen the evidence base at the system level. This in turn needs to be built in ITE programmes, which requires mediation by ITE leaders and teacher educators. Mentors and school leaders can also play a role in mediating evidence towards schools and teaching practice. It has been argued that practitioners will find research relevant and more directly applicable for their practice if they have a certain degree of ownership over the research (Révai and Guerriero, 2017[5]).

In areas that are relevant for policy design, such as the effectiveness of certain ITP practices (for example induction programmes), relevant actors may include policy institutions, brokerage agencies (e.g. to conduct systematic reviews and meta-analyses), but also teacher education institutions and schools to collaborate in data collection.

Similarly to facilitating strong partnerships, a strategic governance of knowledge in ITP systems requires established mechanisms, funding schemes, incentives and so on. These efforts will then also lead to a more systematic and integrated knowledge base for ITP systems. The OECD CERI is currently engaged in developing a policy toolkit to support countries and stakeholders in governing complex systems, including in governing knowledge (OECD, 2018[4]).

6.3. Building capacity for self-improving ITP systems

Developing the individual professional competences of all actors playing a role in ITP design and development (e.g. teacher educators, mentors, heads of ITE institutions, school leaders, and policy makers responsible for ITP) is at the heart of quality and evidence-based teacher education programmes. Capacity building should however go beyond that, and include developing organisational and system level capacity as well (Figure 6.2).

Figure 6.2. Framework for capacity building in ITP
Figure 6.2. Framework for capacity building in ITP

Source: Based on Matachi (2006[6]), Capacity Building Framework, UNESCO.

At the individual level, capacity building involves developing teacher educators’ knowledge and competences to process, evaluate and integrate new evidence on teaching and learning into their teaching practice. Teacher educators also need to be able to facilitate the production of evidence, as well as explore and model up-to-date pedagogies. As discussed in Chapter 5, those who are supporting beginning teachers during their induction and in their early years whether they are school-based mentors, experienced teacher colleagues or external coaches, need specific knowledge and competences. These have to be acknowledged and strategically developed. In turn, school leaders responsible for leading their pedagogical team, need for example knowledge of human resource development and management (e.g. selecting, supporting, monitoring mentors, beginning and experienced teachers), and a capacity to build personal and professional relationships, as well as a team (Révai and Kirkham, 2013[7]).

An organisational capacity – resources, structures, processes and leadership – is needed to provide individuals with opportunities to develop in and fulfil their multiple roles. This also includes having a shared vision of the continuity of teacher learning, a culture of valuing people’s ideas, encouraging collaborative learning and building collective knowledge to move towards that vision. For this, organisations also need to develop distributed leadership for learning. Using a concept from modern management literature, organisations involved in ITP (ITE and policy institutions and schools) need to become learning organisations in order to address the challenges described in this report (Kools and Stoll, 2016[8]). In fact, the suggested strategies laid out in the chapters are very much in line with the recommendations formulated specifically for systems aiming to turn schools into learning organisations:

  • establishing stronger collaborations between schools and teacher education institutions

  • promoting professional learning throughout the professional lifecycle through enquiry, exploration and innovation; strong induction programmes; mentoring and coaching, observations and peer review

  • developing learning leadership in schools and other parts of the system (OECD, 2018[9]).

At the system level, capacity is required to create appropriate structures, and perhaps more importantly, facilitate processes that allow the continuous improvement of teacher preparation. For this, system level ITP leaders need to be aware of the challenges discussed in the previous sections and need to have knowledge and competences to address them. A key element is the capacity to govern data, knowledge and evidence across the system as described in the previous section. To date, only few systems provide regular training for stakeholders in using data for their purposes (González-Sancho and Vincent-Lancrin, 2016[10]).

6.4. A whole-of-system perspective for a coherent ITP system

If ITP is considered as a continuum, it should provide beginning teachers with a coherent learning experience across coursework, practical training, induction and early career professional development. Yet, ITP is often a fragmented experience for many beginning teachers, and stakeholders in ITP systems struggle to work together to create a coherent learning experience (Beck and Kosnik, 2009[11]; Hammerness and Klette, 2015[12]; Grossman, Hammerness and McDonald, 2009[13]). Key stakeholders in teacher education – teacher educators, mentor teachers, policy makers and teacher candidates – do not cohere on the basic elements of teacher education nor its strongest influences (Ell et al., 2017[1]). Most teacher candidates, teacher educators and researchers belong to the tertiary education system, whereas most teacher mentors, school leaders and policy makers operate in the school system. The fact that different policy makers are often responsible for the different elements of the teacher education pathway also makes it a challenge for stakeholders to co-create a coherent learning experience for beginning teachers. Schools often have little say over the design of ITP programmes, and ITP institutions often have little say over the design of school induction programmes and other support schemes provided to beginning teachers, as was the case in almost all the countries reviewed as part of the OECD ITP study.

A coherent ITP system needs to establish cross-institutional and multilevel partnerships to engage stakeholders who belong to different contexts in a whole-of-system perspective. Strong partnerships are more than regular discussions between schools and ITP institutions on operational issues such as practical training placements, and include designing, evaluating and improving programmes together (Toon and Jensen, 2017[14]) as depicted in Figure 6.3.

Figure 6.3. Levels of depth in partnership collaboration
Figure 6.3. Levels of depth in partnership collaboration

Source: Toon, D. and B. Jensen (2017[14]), Teaching our Teachers: a Better Way - Developing Partnerships to Improve Teacher Preparation, Learning First, Melbourne, (accessed on 11 October 2018).

As described throughout this report, strong partners collaborate to provide authentic and reflective practical training and induction experiences for beginning teachers. They discuss decisions about selection into ITP programmes and hiring into schools based on the needs of the local context. They routinely share and discuss quantitative data on candidate outcomes as well as qualitative information from graduate teachers and schools to inform programme improvement.

To ensure that school-university partnerships live up to their potential, ITP stakeholders need a common vision and commitment to work towards that. This is however not enough. Systems require deliberate strategies to build strong partnerships:

  • Mechanisms to support the collaboration of different partners and institutions. Co-ordinated knowledge sharing, and formal feedback and mutual review processes, in which partners share and analyse data and feedback to identify both strengths and areas for improvement, are examples of mechanisms that support partnerships. Accountability mechanisms such as programme accreditation and school review processes can also encourage strong partnerships if this is an explicit element in them. Accreditation reviews can recognise those partners who successfully collaborate on programme improvement initiatives. Similarly, an explicit collaboration with ITE institutions on preparing and supporting beginning teachers could be included in school review/evaluation processes.

  • Collaborative learning. Collaborative practices and a collaborative culture should be embedded into ITP systems. Schools and ITE institutions should participate in networks, professional learning communities and other learning partnerships with shared responsibility for learning, mutual support of each other's learning, supportive leadership and a commitment to the common good (European Commission, 2015[15]). Systems can support collaborative learning by offering learning opportunities to all stakeholders involved in ITP – those based in schools, universities and other institutions. For example, providing tools and joint training in topics that are a priority to the system (e.g. new school curriculum, assessment and evaluation) can strengthen connections, and help build a shared understanding and language.

  • Sustainable resources: dedicated time and ongoing funding. Collaboration needs investment, and all actors across the system need dedicated and recognised time for engaging in partnerships. Short term funding mechanisms can impede the establishment of ongoing and well-functioning partnerships and networks of ITP stakeholders. Providing additional funding to accredited school-university partnerships is a way to ensure standards for deep collaboration.

  • Fostering professional responsibility, agency and trust. Guaranteeing stakeholders’ agency over processes of decision making, steering and monitoring is key to establishing strong partnerships (European Commission, 2015[15]). As partnerships depend on the stakeholders’ involvement in building a shared purpose, mutual trust and respect, and common language over a number of years, they cannot simply be mandated by the system (Toon and Jensen, 2017[14]). Rather, the system should encourage professional responsibility and personal ownership. Likewise, evaluation and feedback loops can easily make actors vulnerable, as they share genuine areas for improvement and must be willing to implement change based on the feedback. Such mechanisms therefore require a high level of trust and transparency.

However, sometimes partnerships, not only actors, also work in isolation, which may provoke opposing effects at the system level. Therefore, coordinating different governance levels and policies, and aligning the diverse roles and responsibilities of actors is necessary (OECD, 2018[4]).

Establishing or incentivising the creation of networks can allow different stakeholders to mutually apply pressure on each other towards an explicit goal, creating communities of practices around the reflection on common challenges (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[2]). Such networks have the potential of connecting professional learning at different levels: from school and ITE institution to cluster to system level, thus enhancing system capacity (OECD, 2015[16]). Networks for knowledge sharing, skill development, and reflection on practice among schools have proved to be successful for culture change, capacity creation, collaboration and the scaling of innovations (OECD, 2013[17]).

A recent report by the European Commission identifies three potential benefits of different networks:

  • networks as policy or practice incubators (experimenting with new practices to address certain challenges and testing them)

  • networks as a tool for educational governance (ensuring quality assurance processes and resource management)

  • networks as a participatory democratic form (peer learning, knowledge sharing or addressing specific issues in national policy) (European Commission, 2017[18]).

Similarly to partnerships, networks are effective when they maintain a clear focus on purpose and mobilise quality information (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[2]). Other essential criteria are developing high-trust relationships, ensuring appropriate frequency of interactions inwards and outwards, and a deliberate strategy to focus on leadership from the middle in relation to system goals and local needs (Hargreaves and Ainscow, 2015[19]). Overall, networks are forms of distributed leadership, and offer windows of opportunity for participants to move beyond their own interests and navigate through different institutional boundaries and rationales.

To sum up, a whole-of-system perspective is necessary to moderate tensions and drive systemic improvement. Governing ITP with a view to the whole system is a time-consuming enterprise, and it must be grounded in an ownership of the policy objectives and planned action among the stakeholders implementing the policy (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[2]). Engaging stakeholders in processes at all levels is therefore a prerequisite for implementing a whole-of-system approach. Given the highly diverse needs of the actors that configure ITP systems, the implementation of the continuum on teacher learning discussed in this report calls for ITP policies to be flexible enough to respond to unexpected situations and continuously integrate new knowledge and embrace emerging patterns.


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