Developing an agenda for research and education in Wales

by Hannah von Ahlefeld
Project Lead, TALIS Initial Teacher Preparation study, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

It’s an exciting time in Wales for education. In the wake of a number of high-profile reports by the OECD and leading international experts urging change in teacher education, Wales is implementing a wave of reforms designed to improve delivery of teacher education. There is a new curriculum; new teacher and leadership standards for teachers; and new accreditation standards for providers of initial teacher education.

Research can be used as an important pillar and driver of these reform efforts. The need to build research capacity was underscored in Professor John Furlong’s review of initial teacher education in Wales, Teaching Tomorrow Teachers. He highlighted the importance of research as a means of developing student teachers as critical consumers of or participants in research; recognising the role of research or critical reflection in teachers’ professional learning; and encouraging “universities to help their staff develop as research active university lecturers.” (p. 13).

In countries like Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore, teachers are both consumers and producers of research. In these countries, evidence-based practice is embedded from initial teacher education through to induction and beyond, supporting the professional growth and development – and professionalisation – of teachers. But achieving this is no easy task. It requires a shared understanding of the importance of research by all stakeholders; effective partnerships between higher education institutions (HEI) and schools to ensure programmatic coherence and alignment between theory and practice; and coherent, strategic approach to delivery and evaluation of teacher education.

From 15-17 March 2017, more than 40 delegates from the Welsh Government, schools, higher education institutions, research, regional education consortia, Education Workforce Council and others met with eight experts from Australia, Flanders (Belgium), Norway, Netherlands, Singapore and the United States to brainstorm how to build up research capacity in schools, teacher education programmes and education faculties across Wales. Workshop participants worked together to define six key challenges facing Wales with regard to developing a research agenda:

  1. Need for a national strategic research plan for education in Wales that impacts learning
  2. Need to build up research capacity in education faculties
  3. Need to incorporate more and  deeper content knowledge  and expertise into teacher training and research in order to create depth in learning
  4. Need to curate, create and share research through HWB, HEIs, lead schools and pioneer schools – and provide teachers with the knowledge and skills to engage in research
  5. Need to better integrate theory and practice by developing a 1) national strategy for engaging all stakeholders in developing a common language on research and practice and 2) maximising the potential of the research agenda included in the professional standards across the sector
  6. Need for a national approach to professional learning to include an explicit commitment to (evidence-based) co-teaching.

As Wales continues on its reform journey, one thing is for certain. A shared vision and readiness for change, drawing on talent within Wales and internationally, can only lead to success.

For more information on the OECD Initial Teacher Preparation study, in which Wales is participating, along with Australia, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia and the United States, contact:

OECD Initial Teacher Preparation study
The Welsh Education Reform Journey: A Rapid Policy Assessment
Improving Schools in Wales: An OECD Perspective

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