Teacher Education – building research-informed communities

The landscape of Teacher Education (TE) in the UK is rapidly changing and new and innovative models of where and how teachers engage in formal initial and continuing professional education are burgeoning. TE has always occurred in a range of contexts and with varying partnership arrangements (between universities, primary and secondary schools, further education colleges and early years settings), but policy developments over the last decade have resulted in the growth of an increasingly complex and diverse ecology. The parts played by Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in designing, supporting and sustaining new models of TE are many and varied and University Departments, Institutes and Schools of Education have an exciting opportunity to re-imagine the roles they play in teacher preparation partnerships. Understanding how research underpins, enhances and enriches TE is a unique, crucial and central contribution that universities make in securing high quality TE.

Recognising the unique role of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), the BERA-RSA review, Research and The Teaching Profession, Building the Capacity for a Self-Improving System (BERA, 2014), recommended that UCET should “work with its members and partners to…produce a sector-wide plan to strengthen research informed practice wherever this is required.” (p29). However, within the education community, the concept of research is used in a variety of what might be thought of as loose ways, including, for example, reports of innovative practice, as a component of professional development, exchange of knowledge and the theory-practice nexus. This has important implications for teacher education (TE), both initial and continuing.

UCET understands teaching to be a scholarly, evidence-based activity and that “where possible, teacher educators should introduce new teachers to pedagogies grounded in a firm evidence base” (Royal Society and British Academy, 2018 p56) thus equipping them both to undertake their own high quality research and to “understand how to interpret educational theory and research in a critical way, so they are able to deal with contested issues” (Carter 2015: p8). We welcome calls for “an agreed level of familiarity with current research in education, and evidence assisted practice in general” (Bennett, 2017 p2) but push beyond the notion of research ‘familiarity’ to offer a bolder, more aspirational framework that sets new challenges with increased expectations for the role and contribution of research in TE.

This paper builds on the BERA-RSA (2014) review, to set out the position of UCET, which is to affirm teaching as an intellectual activity, in which research and researching enhances teachers’ capacity to make a positive and enduring difference to the lives of the children and young people with whom they work. The primary audience for this paper is the community of teacher educators and teacher education leaders and managers working in our university, school, college and Early Years’ settings. The paper will also have resonance for those with strategic interest in teacher education such as University leaders, Head Teachers and policy-makers.

Responding directly to the BERA-RSA challenge, this UCET position paper sets out a practical, dynamic framework that will support development of high quality research-informed practice wherever teacher education occurs. The purpose of this is to enable teacher educators in any context or setting to undertake critical curriculum review, (Nunn, 2017) and to develop TE provision that is deeply and purposefully engaged with research. The framework is supported by exemplary case studies, covering topics including research ethics, action research, scaling up of small scale research findings, developing research capacity and community in school-HEI partnerships.


  • BERA (2014) Research and the teaching profession: building the capacity for a self-improving education system. Final Report of the BERA/RSA Enquiry into the role of research in teacher education. ISBN 978-0-946671-37-3
  • Nunn, J. (2017) Strengthening the quality and content of initial teacher training. Planning in Partnership.