Learning Philosophy for Initial Teacher Training

Overview of Learning Philosophy

As one of our student teachers, you will establish and justify your own pedagogy and practice to develop a responsive personal perspective on teaching where the centrality of learner progress is the measure of effective teaching. The programme is based on research informed practice to equip you to engage with current research and evidence.

You will collaborate across phases and subject areas, supported by the partnership between the partner schools and the University. Throughout the year university link tutors will exemplify best practice in the sector providing a structured framework for reflection for all trainee teachers, tutors and mentors.

The underpinning learning philosophy for teacher education at the Aberystwyth Partnership is loosely based on the principles identified in Korthagen, F., Loughran, J., Russell, T., (2006). Developing fundamental principles for teacher education programs and practices. Teaching and Teacher Education. 22, pp.1020–1041

Their principles were noted as follows:


Principle 1: Learning about teaching involves continuously conflicting and competing demands

Learning about teaching requires an engagement with a variety of people, of learners, of backgrounds, of environments, of organisations, and these factors create a competing and complex landscape in which to work.  Opfer and Pedder (2011) identify this complexity of environments and how they may interact differently at different times, with different people, and at different intensities.  The student teacher must thus be prepared to negotiate these influences, and this provision must expose them to these complexities whilst preparing them to adapt and manage the variety of circumstances and situations.  Thus there is a vital importance to the deliberate encouragement of cognitive conflict in student teachers’ thinking (Cobb, Wood, & Yackel, 1990) but the reciprocal relationship of the school and university in a clinical model can contribute effectively to the co-creation of knowledge (McLean Davies et al, 2015).

This course will encourage cognitive conflict through an integrated teaching approach where student teachers will have to establish and justify their own pedagogy and practice in the light of pedagogy and practice from different teaching phases.

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership:  Pedagogy, Collaboration,

Principle 2: Learning about teaching requires a view of knowledge as a subject to be created rather than as a created subject

Learners are active meaning makers who construct meaning rather than receive it and thus require connections to be made, a context in which to learn and a challenge to the ‘equilibration’ of the mind.  This is based on a constructivist, Piagetian perspective but whilst also accommodating the Vygotskyan view of the influence of social activity and context (Moore, 2000).  The integration of student teachers’ learning across the phases, and their deliberate interaction with peers, mentors and tutors, provide that contextual dis-equilibration, in order to enable them to actively establish and justify their own learning and perspectives for teaching.  This can contribute additionally to the integration of practice and professional learning (Conroy, Hulme & Menter, 2013).

This course will demand that student teachers engage individually with pedagogical concepts and ideas ensuring that they must establish and justify a flexible and responsive personal perspective on teaching whilst understanding and respecting the views and needs of others.

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership:  Pedagogy, Professional Learning

Principle 3: Learning about teaching requires a shift in focus from the curriculum to the learner

Michael Fullan (2011) states that ‘Starting within the classroom the basic building block is instructional practice linked to student achievement’ which he calls the instruction-achievement nexus.  Hattie (2012) identifies that among key mind frames for impactful teachers are that they ‘believe that their fundamental task is to evaluate the effect of their teaching on student’s learning and achievement’ (p182) and that they ‘want to talk more about the learning than the teaching (p.185) The focus here must therefore be on ensuring that the student teachers’ focus lies soundly on the learners and their success and progress.  This does not in any way undermine the need for pedagogical content knowledge but provides a clear focus for application.

This course will place a distinctive emphasis on the centrality of learner progress as a measure of effective teaching with subject and phase specialisms established but drawing upon the principles of effective teaching found across phases and subject areas.

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership:  Pedagogy, Innovation

Principle 4: Learning about teaching is enhanced through (student) teacher research

Developing and improving teaching and learning is essentially based on action and reflection (Bartlett and Leask, 2009) and this is the basis upon which teacher research is built.  There is some consensus that research in educational settings is an essential contributor to the development of practice and policy (Curtis and Pettigrew, 2010) although the student teacher needs to understand the limited nature of action research and the potential criticisms of such research in terms of ‘validity, credibility and triangulation’ (Curtis and Pettigrew, 2010:57).  There is a need to ‘bridge the gap between codified research knowledge and the everyday ‘craft’ knowledge of teachers’ (Wilson, 2013:3) and thus it is essential that student teachers are thus provided with the tools and opportunities to study and engage with, and in, teacher research.  The opportunity for collaboration and consideration of authentic issues within a clinical model enhances research-based interactions (Conroy, Hulme & Menter, 2013).

This course will exemplify research informed practice whilst insisting that student teachers are equipped to engage with research and are committed to inform their practice on the basis of robust research evidence. 

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership:  Pedagogy, Professional Learning, Innovation.

Principle 5: Learning about teaching requires an emphasis on those learning to teach working closely with their peers

An integrated programme insists on the co-operation and collaboration of student teachers, tutors and mentors across phases and subject areas.  Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism identifies the social and cultural influence on a learner’s development and through relationships, connections and interactions learners can ‘collaborate towards a shared goal’ (Gray & MacBlain, 2012: 71).  Linked to this concept, Hattie (2012:73) identifies the ‘power of teachers working together critiquing their planning’, as a strong outcome of the Visible Learning research and thus the close co-operation of student teachers with their peers, their mentors, school staff and tutors must be a core aspect of the provision, in order to enable the achievement of successful teaching. 

This course will establish the principles and methods of collaboration and co-operation across phases and subject areas that will form the grounding of future practice.

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership:  Pedagogy, Collaboration, Leadership

Principle 6: Learning about teaching requires meaningful relationships between schools, universities and student teachers

The essential relationship between the partner organisations and the student teachers has been clearly evidenced, since it has the potential to have significant influence on practice in schools as well as in the content of taught courses, and the placing of university staff within schools contributes to this (Darling-Hammond, 2013).   Zeichner (2010) confirms that student teachers are more able to be successfully trained where there is careful co-ordination and mentoring between school and university partners.  Where that network of professionals’ roles have been clearly and explicitly defined in partnership, then the disconnect between university and schools is reduced and bets practice is achieved (Allsop, 1994).  For this reason strong and close partnership relationships are an essential aspect of this provision and the adoption of a clinical approach enables valuable peer engagement for student teachers (Conroy, Hulme & Menter, 2013) and brings clarity of understanding to the craft of teaching (McLean Davies et al, 2015).

This course will be created and maintained in partnership between the partner schools and university, leading to a seamless integration of agreed learning experiences throughout the training provision.

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership:  Pedagogy, Collaboration, Professional Learning

Principle 7: Learning about teaching is enhanced when the teaching and learning approaches advocated in the program are modeled by the teacher educators in their own practice

Due to the multifaceted nature of teaching and the variation in the learning environment, Boyd, Harris & Murray (2011) identify the need for teacher educators to develop modelling as a method within their teaching, which involves the practical use of methods and procedures with the student teachers rather than the transmission of information alone.  This provides better opportunities to engage with the rationale, justification, thinking process and feelings that complement the actual practices (Loughran & Berry, 2005).  Modelling thus offers methods of enhancing the understanding of experiences by dis-assembling the teaching process, by emphasising the complexities of teaching, by acknowledging the differences between teaching intent and actual teaching behaviours and providing opportunities for collaborative teaching which opens out new possibilities (Loughran & Berry 2005).

This course will exemplify best practice in the provision across the whole year with university link tutors kept at the cutting edge of pedagogy through their close engagement with the partnership schools.

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership:  Pedagogy, Professional Learning, Innovation, Leadership

Principle 8: Learning about teaching is nurtured and enhanced via a deep-rooted reflective process between peers, mentors and tutors.

Schön (1983) has brought the concept of the reflective practitioner to attention, as a professional will engage with his or her work environment and adapt practices.  This is an essential concept for student teachers to establish at the beginning of their careers, thus forming mind-sets for the future.  Zwozdiak-Myers (2009) has identified different dimensions of reflective practice in the context of teaching, and these can be used to understand and develop practice.  The establishment of good practice in this regard is vital since it has been suggested that the classroom environment may have an effect in limiting creativity and change over time (Putnam & Borko, 2000) and thus the ‘clinical placement’ model, where tutors are located within school clusters, becomes an essential ingredient to facilitate reflection, change, nurture and development (Conroy, Hulme & Menter, 2013).  The localised presence of university based tutors addresses the need to ensure that reflection is purposeful and effective and does not become a superficial justification of actions and practice (Hattie, 2012) and can, indeed, contribute to the reflective development of mentors and tutors as well as student teachers (McLean Davies et al, 2015). 

This course will provide a structured framework for reflection, establishing time and methods to enable reflective interactions by all student teachers, tutors and mentors.

Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership:  Pedagogy, Collaboration, Leadership


Allsop, T., (1994). ‘The language of Partnership’. In Wilkin, M., Sankey D., (Eds). (1994). Collaboration and Transition in Initial Teacher Training. London: Kogan Page.

Bartlett, S., Leask, M., (2009). ‘Improving your teaching – an introduction to practitioner research, reflective practice and evidence-informed practice’.  In Capel, S., Leask, M., Turner, T., (2009). Learning to Teach in the Secondary School. London: Routledge.

Boyd, P., Harris, K., Murray, J. (2011). Becoming a Teacher Educator: guidelines for induction. Higher Education Academy. Education Subject Centre.

Cobb, P., Wood, T., Yackel, E., (1990). ‘Classrooms as Learning Environments for Teachers and Researchers’. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education. Vol. 4, pp. 125-146+195-210

Conroy, J., Hulme, M. and Menter, I. (2013) ‘Developing a Clinical Model for Teacher Education’, Journal of Education for Teaching: International           research and pedagogy, 39 (5), pp. 557-573.

Curtis, W., Pettigrew, A., (2010).  Education Studies: Reflective Reader. Exeter:  Learning Matters.

Darling-Hammond, L., (2013). Developing and sustaining a high-quality teaching force.  [Online]  Available at: https://asiasociety.org/files/gcen-darlinghammond.pdf [Accessed: 08/02/2019] 

Fullan, M., (2011).  Learning is the work. [Online]  Abvailable at: https://michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/13396087260.pdf [Accessed: 08/02/2019].

Gray, C., MacBlain, S., (2012).  Learning Theories in Childhood. London:  Sage Publications.

Hattie, J., (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers – Maximising Impact on Learning.  London:  Routledge.

Loughran, J., Berry, A., (2005). Modelling by teacher educators. Teaching and Teacher Education. 21 (2), Pp 193-203.

Mclean Davies, L., Dickson, B., Rickards, F., Dinham, S., Conroy, J., Davis, R., (2015). ‘Teaching as a clinical profession: translational practices in initial teacher education – an international perspective’. Journal of Education for Teaching. 41:5, 514-528.

Moore, A., (2000).  Teaching and Learning – pedagogy, curriculum and culture. London:  Routledge Falmer.

Opfer, V.D., Pedder, D., (2011). ‘Conceptualizing Teacher Professional Learning’. Review of Educational Research. 81 (3), pp.376-407

Putnam, R., Borko, H., (2000).  ‘What Do New Views of Knowledge and Thinking Have to Say About Research on Teacher Learning?’ Educational Researcher. 29 (1) pp 4-15

Schön, D., (1983). The Reflective Practitioner. Abingdon: Routledge

Wilson, E., (Ed) (2013).  School-based Research – A guide for education students.  London:  Sage Publications.

Zeichner, K., (2009).  Rethinking the Connections Between Campus Courses and Field Experiences in College- and University-Based Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education. 61 (1-2) pp 89-99

Zwozdiak-Myers, P., (2009). ‘An analysis of the concept reflective practice and an investigation into the development of student teachers’ reflective practice within the context of action research’, London:  Brunel University.  PhD thesis.

We have therefore adapted the application of these principles to encompass the philosophy for teacher education that is found within Aber Teach+ - Aberystwyth ITE Partnership Group.