German teachers trained in apprentice-style courses "less likely to leave the profession"

16 October 2018

A multinational audience has heard how harnessing a German apprentice-style model of teacher training could boost teacher retention in England.

Delegates gathered at Cambridge Assessment’s new global headquarters, Triangle, to debate the contested issue of the nature of teacher expertise and the implications of this for teacher training.

The event was hosted by Professor Christopher Winch of King's College London, an experienced teacher who has worked in further, primary and higher education. Drawing on his ground-breaking analysis in his book Teachers Know How, he outlined three different conceptions of teacher: craftworker, executive technician, and professional. These models are often implicit in national arrangements for teacher development. Each model has very specific implications for both training and practice - and rather than be invisible assumptions, his work emphasises the extent to which the guiding model in a system should be explicit, making policy decisions and action more deliberate and effective.

Briefly, ‘craftworker’ teachers rely on subject knowledge, experience, character and situational judgment for their effectiveness, whereas ‘executive technician’ teachers rely on following protocols developed by curriculum and pedagogic specialists, and ‘professional’ teachers tend to exercise judgement on the basis of subject knowledge, a good conceptual grasp of the field of education and knowledge of empirical research about teaching and learning.

These different aspirations of effectiveness are inevitably supported by different approaches to teacher training, Professor Winch explained, although, he argued, both the craft and executive technician models could have a limited degree of success. However if we want to attain the highest standards we need to embark on an incremental direction change in how teacher education is provided in England to encourage the development and eventual dominance of the professional model.

One of the suggested direction-changes saw Professor Winch unpack an apprenticeship-style model of teacher training from Germany, which sees stronger links between the university phase of teacher education and their going into the classroom. One drawback to this particular model as it currently operates in Germany is that it is subject to high dropout rates during the practical training stages but he keenly stressed that teachers who did finish the course were much more likely to stick with the profession, with even some level of social disapproval attached to those who choose to leave teaching in Germany.

The live audience included this year’s international delegation from the Cambridge Assessment Network’s annual Leadership in National Assessment programme as well as a hundreds-strong online viewership, watching from countries including Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan, Romania, and Somalia.