The making of teachers
: a study of trainee teachers’ experiences of learning to teach in different postgraduate routes in England

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study is concerned with the experience of secondary trainee teachers following full time postgraduate training routes in England. The research illuminates the differing approaches to learning and teaching practices in three settings offering postgraduate teaching qualifications: a university; a school-centred initial teacher training site and a blended programme that combines school-led and online learning. The study’s primary focus is on how trainee secondary English teachers learn and develop in the contrasting settings. Alongside this, consideration is given to how trainees’ identities as teachers develop during the training year. Analysis of the literature and the ramifications of government legislation on teacher training in England contributes to an understanding of the positioning of trainee teachers in the shifting educational landscape. Issues of identity are explored, addressing how trainee teachers define and redefine themselves through the everyday life events encountered in their professional and training contexts.

The lived experience of the trainees is captured using ethnographic methods. Observational data of the three contrasting cohorts is combined with classroom observations of identified participants. This is supported by semi-structured interviews staged throughout the year and consideration of the academic assignments completed as part of the training programme. The reporting of the ethnographic data is organised around a series of structuring concepts. This non-linear approach serves to highlight the recursive and sometimes regressive nature of the process of learning to teach. The yearlong immersion in three different research sites results in a richness of data whilst the subsequent analysis provides a significant contribution to our knowledge of what it looks and feels like to learn to teach in the increasingly marketized environment of teacher training in England.
The selected locations straddle the binary line between university-led and school-led training, although a stark contrast in outcomes between trainees following different routes was not apparent. The findings highlight qualitative differences in the provision between sites but also identify the shared significance of the school experience in shaping the identity and progression of trainees during the year. The analysis of the data culminates in the formation of a conceptual framework addressing issues of conflict, transition and agency. The framework offers a mechanism for the analysis of the trainee experience across sites, subjects and key stages and has the potential to inform the practice of teacher educators and policy makers in England and beyond.
Date of Award1 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorViv Ellis (Supervisor) & Bethan Marshall (Supervisor)

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