Reframing learning to teach as a social and relational practice:
: an examination of key influences on the trajectory of professional development of secondary school PGCE trainees.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The landscape of initial teacher education (ITE) in Britain is changing (BERA Inquiry, 2014). In England, trainee teachers’ routes to professional qualification are subject to assessment against Teachers’ Standards (Department for Education, 2012), which some argue enshrine the competences trainees require for professional life (Cole, 2008). Competence views of teaching are challenged elsewhere as reductive (Stanley and Stronach, 2012) and counter to the view that teaching (Hobson et al., 2008) and learning to teach (Hodgson, 2014) are complex pedagogical activities (Alexander, 2008). Some argue the competence-view of learning to teach reduces teaching to a “craft-based occupation” (Beauchamp et al., 2015), epitomized in entirely school-based training initiatives such as School Direct (National College for Teaching and Leadership, 2014a) with trainee teachers learning “on the job” (Department for Education, 2010, p23). This study aims to contribute to this debate by examining trainees’ professional development within the historical development of the teaching profession.Whilst undertaking a Post-graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), data on seven trainee teachers’ professional development were gathered throughout three school placements using active interviewing (Holstein and Gubrium, 1998), prior to within- and cross-case analysis (Creswell, 1998). Trainees’ hand-drawn trajectories of professional development show turning points (Vygotsky, 1978) which direct analysis towards key influences on a complex intellectual process of learning about practice (Dreier, 2002), refining indications from earlier analysis using a componential model of professional development (Evans, 2011).Using Vygotsky’s method of developmental study (Vygotsky, 1978), professional development is understood as a historical process whereby practice-related concepts “take shape” (ibid.) and trainees’ learning (about practice) supports their (professional) development. A relational agency interpretation (Edwards, 2007b) emphasises the influence on trainees’ professional development of working jointly with professional colleagues on problem-resolution, contingent on trainees’ learning through tool and sign use during practice (Wertsch et al., 1993). The findings of this small study suggest that trainee teachers’ professional development is only adequately conceptualised as a complex process led by the intellectual activity of learning about practice. The implications of reframing learning to teach as a social and relational practice implies a personalised approach to teacher education which, this study finds, may support the development of responsive practitioners.
Date of Award22 Feb 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMichael Fertig (Supervisor) & Kyoko Murakami (Supervisor)


  • teacher education and development
  • trainee teachers' professional development
  • historical sociocultural theory
  • Vygotsky
  • English secondary school PGCE
  • relational agency

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