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Learning to teach: making sense of learning to teach
Learning to teach: making sense of learning to teach

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1.4 Transmission approach

Some argue that the ‘transmission’ style of ITE is characterised by a ‘top tips’ approach, where experienced practitioners, either in schools or universities, consider their solution to be the correct one. It is here that there is a difficult balance for student teachers to understand. One the one hand they have expert tuition and guidance from professionals who have found solutions or their best practice ideas that work for them and their context. On the other hand, student teachers are individuals who exert different influences and bring ideas into the classroom. Their interactions and relationships are unique to themselves and therefore they need to develop their own versions of ‘best practice’. In this way the transmission view of learning can be critiqued in the following ways:

  • Knowledge in teaching is not reliably transferable – It is very difficult to identify a solution to a problem that will work in every context and every time. Transmitting knowledge as ‘the way to do it’ can be counterproductive if the student teacher then experiences situations in which the suggested solution it isn’t successful.
  • Teaching is highly complex and context specific – Schools have their own underlying principles, beliefs and values that manifest themselves in the way they teach pupils and in how they expect teachers to behave. Again, a teacher moving between contexts may find one approach is not effective in other contexts.
  • Student teachers start ITE with different levels of knowledge and skills, and different understandings of pupil learning – The transmission approach can neglect the individualisation of the learning process of the student teacher.

The argument in favour of this type of approach is that it allows for the standardisation of knowledge and skills. It is relatively easy to sit every student teacher in a lecture hall and make sure they know facts about child protection, or to coach a student teacher to copy how a mentor delivers a particular lesson. For some topics, such as understanding a particular legal framework or how to use particular ICT software, this might be the most effective approach. However, you may lose some good teachers who don’t respond to learning in this way if it is used inappropriately.