A Guide to Instrumentalism: Initial teacher education in the lifelong learning sector

Liz Atkins

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Abstract

This paper provides a critique of the competence based approach to teacher education in the Learning and Skills Sector. This critique is made at a time of consultation of proposed developments to the current standards, which are due for implementation from 2012 and which will involve only minor changes. The existing, Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) standards were introduced in September 2006 following withdrawal of the old FENTO standards (FENTO, 1999) which had been subject to criticism that they did not meet the needs of trainee teachers and did not adequately reflect the developmental nature of Initial Teacher Education (ITE). The revised standards were intended to reflect this developmental process, and to contribute raising standards and the ‘professionalisation’ of the sector (DfES/Standards Unit 2004); however, even before their introduction concerns were raised about over-regulation (Lucas, 2004:49). Despite a significant level of investment in the new standards, what eventually emerged has been subject to even greater criticism than the FENTO standards (e.g. see Lucas, 2007; Finlay et al 2007; Gleeson and James, 2007 and Simmons and Thompson 2007). Key features in this criticism have been the narrow concept of learning and skills, and the lack of recognition of both the wider dimensions of professional practice and the importance of knowledge. Contextualised within this literature, this paper argues that the detailed and prescriptive competency based structure of contemporary teacher training in the FE sector, together with wider regulation such as Ofsted and LLUK endorsement requirements, is productive of teachers who are instrumental and conformist but who lack the knowledge to engage with the concerns for social justice which are fundamental to working in the FE sector. In turn, these teachers deliver an instrumental and competency based vocational curriculum which, the paper argues, is complicit with other systems and structures in education in the reproduction of labour and of social class. The paper also draws on literature addressing issues around assessment (Ecclestone, 2010) and professionalism (e.g. Gleeson and James, 2007; Bathmaker, 2006) as well as class based critiques of the FE system which draw on work by, amongst others, Avis, (2007), Atkins (2009) and Colley (2006). The arguments in this paper are also supported by a deconstruction of the current standards. This deconstruction has been used to identify what is – and is not – supported or promoted by the standards in the context of education and wider notions of professionalism and to problematise them in the context of contemporary literature.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event55th ICET World Assembly - Glasgow
Duration: 1 Jan 2011 → …

Conference

Conference55th ICET World Assembly
Period1/01/11 → …

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