Podcast - How a teacher training programme is adapting during Covid-19

How a teacher training programme is adapting during Covid-19

17 Jul 2020 (30:58)

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Anna Richards from the Suffolk & Norfolk School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) joins colleagues from Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing to discuss how the SCITT's teacher training programmes have been forced to adapt during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Visit the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing website to find out more about how CPSQ can be used in teacher training.

Read the case study on the Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT.

You can also find this episode on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Podcast transcript

Alana Walden: [00:00:07.58] Welcome to the Cambridge Assessment podcast. Teacher training is one of the many areas of education to be disrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic. In this episode, Anna Minett and Lyn Dale from Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing speak to Anna Richards from the Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT about how their teacher training programs have been forced to adapt during the pandemic and the tools they've been using to help them do this.

Anna Minett: [00:00:32.27] Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining the Cambridge Assessment podcast today. My name is Anna Minett, marketing manager for Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing. And I'm joined by special guest Anna Richards, executive leader at the Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT, which is the School-centred initial teacher training. And Lyn Dale Assessment Psychologist and Senior Assessment Manager for Admissions Testing. So just to give some background Admissions Testing have been working with the Suffolk and Norfolk skit and the Open University as part of a five year research programme carried out by the Relationships Foundation, which is due to end next year. And the aim of the study is to explore the impact of social and professional relationships on early career teachers success. And I think Lyn might cover a little bit of this later. But today we want to talk about how the global Covid-19 pandemic has affected teacher training programs, the challenges that they're facing and how they're coping without human contact and that chance to get in the classroom.

Anna Minett: [00:01:36.74] So teacher training programs already tackle issues such as trainee and teacher attention and the ability to provide mentoring and pastoral care to those who need it most. Has Covid-19 made these issues worse? Has anything been put in place to overcome this? And finally, we'll discuss how these challenges might have a future impact on new teachers. So, Anna, thank you for joining us today. Let's start by talking about the challenges your teacher training program has faced during the pandemic. Can you share your experience so far?

Anna Richards: [00:02:10.43] Well, thank you very much for inviting me here today and giving me the opportunity to talk about this issue, which we've all been living and breathing since the start of the pandemic. Just to give a bit of context about Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT, we're the largest school centred initial teacher training provider in the country.

Anna Richards: [00:02:27.32] We trained about two hundred and twenty trainees a year across primary and secondary phases.

Anna Richards: [00:02:32.72]> And this year we celebrated our 20th birthday. And as our name suggests, we work very closely with schools, our trainees spend at least two thirds of their time in school. So obviously, when the pandemic hit and the schools were pretty much closed, it gave us a huge headache because it's quite a challenge to train teachers when you can't have them in school.

Anna Richards: [00:02:54.65] Back in April, the government issued some guidance to say that all teacher training providers could continue to train their trainees if they had an online programme and that trainees who were expected to pass at the end of the course could still pass.

Anna Richards: [00:03:09.62] But obviously, they will have missed quite a lot of school experience. So a major challenge was creating very quickly that online bank of resources and activities to support our trainees. The other issue we had is that at the point of lockdown, we were only about halfway through recruiting all trainees for next year. So we had to adapt very, very quickly to go on line with that process as well. So it's been a lot to think about.

Anna Minett: [00:03:32.39] As pandemics been going on a while now. There must have been one cohort of trainees that you did manage to me at the beginning and then another group who you've not had any contact with. So what's the situation for both of those groups so that the groups?

Anna Richards: [00:03:48.14] We were on program at lockdown. As I said, they've had this online training, but one of the key things we've needed to do is support their well-being. Obviously, they've been everyone's been quite anxious and we've we've needed them to do a certain amount of work, but had to be very sensitive about the fact that some trainees were poorly themselves. Some people had caring responsibilities. Some of the trainees were trying to homeschool children. So there's been an immense amount of work to go into, making sure that what they've got is rigorous enough. So they're ready to be on duty in September. But also it was a reasonable thing to be asking them to do. And this was okay with the trainees that we knew very well because we had an idea about their context and how resilient they were. And they knew what they were able to be very open, as I know. Look, I can't do this. Something's happened in the family. You've got to adapt this for me. The other thing that's made it very workable is that those trainees know each other quite well through having been in lots of centre based training together. So they were able to collaborate very comfortably, very quickly within the online world. We've used a variety of of sources, but they have been able to do that because they already have those pre-existing relationships. And we have found that this term for them has been very effective and. Very positive about what they've had. There's more of a challenge with the new cohorts of trainees that are starting in September. Some of them who were recruited early in the cycle, we'd met and they'd been in front of children.

Anna Richards: [00:05:20.95] We have some task where we assess how they build relationships with children. But anyone recruited after the end of March, we've had to adapt to being in an online world. We've not seen them face to face. All the trainees have now had their inductions. And those initial days are usually very important to get to know the trainees and for them to get to know each other on those days. The induction days give you a real sense of, you know, how how those trainees are likely to behave and interact. And that kind of soft information that we gather at that point is often really useful for colleagues making decisions about which personal tutors might be a good match with the trainees, which placement schools could be a good match, because we know we always believed it, but we know definitely from the research we've done that the relationships between adults is what really helps trainee teachers survive and thrive throughout the course. So we haven't had those induction sessions face to face. So that has been a bit of a limiting factor, although we did try everything we could in the virtual world of using breakout rooms and giving the trainees lots and lots of opportunities to talk in small groups. But obviously, nothing is going to replace that face to face conversation with a cup of coffee. So we'll just be watching very, very carefully next year to support them and be very mindful about intentionally building their relationships as we go forward. Its quite a big difference between the two groups, the ones we we already knew and the ones that we haven't really met yet.

Anna Minett: [00:07:00.22] And how have you been able to overcome some of those challenges? And are you using any tools to help you with that?

Anna Richards: [00:07:06.82] One of the key things we've done this year is use the Cambridge Personal Styles Questionnaire. We have used it before. And what that told us actually then matched very closely with what we found out about the trainees as they went through the program. So we know it's going to give us a very reliable picture. And so that information that we'll have will help us with those decisions about personal tutors and schools as the face to face interaction would have helped us. And hopefully it means that we'll be able to have conversations with trainees based on our prior knowledge and what the CPSQ outcomes are telling us and point out to the trainees the things that they might find difficult and where they might struggle and get them to think about some strategies to support themselves, but let them know that we're there and we're expecting these things to be issues for them based on that information.

Anna Minett: [00:08:02.35] So you mentioned CPSQ there, Lynne. Are you able to tell us a little bit more about CPSQ and how it can be used with trainee teachers?

Lyn Dale: [00:08:10.93] Be delighted to fill in the hair, the Cambridge Personal Styles questionnaire, or we like to call it CPSQ for short, was developed over four years. Long, hard years of trialling and test construction by Cambridge Assessment and Cambridge Admissions Testing. Basically, it is a questionnaire. It's a personality questionnaire. So it asks questions about how people tend to think, feel and behave. It's designed to discover how individuals approach tasks, relate to others and cope with demands. Basically, it can identify trainee's behavioural competencies. It's where they like to behave, competencies or two words there that can impact on trainee performance and wellbeing trainees it. If I'm right around 20 to 40 minutes online, it's not a time questionnaire. We want people to be able to relax when they do it and think about how what they how they really behave, what the behavioural preferences are. Use the rate rank method of responding. And we find this creates a much more accurate report of the person I mentioned that is online on demand at home. So it is very good for remote working because people can sort of take their anywhere. Well, we've got a brand new nice new platform which makes it so much easier for people to now access the questionnaire. Do it results as soon as you completes questionnaire tutors and the trainee have results that they can use. It's a form of a narrative, what we call a narrative feedback rapport, and it provides feedback on certain competency areas.

Lyn Dale: [00:10:06.62] I need to mention here far part of our trialling of CPSQ was okay to develop it for higher education needs. We've actually been trialling it in schools, but when it comes to vocational work, we develop this competence, support for healthcare. And you'll hear it in some of these competency titles. So we have caring and compassion. So you can hear what that was really meant for health care. Person-centred communication, working well with others. Self-management. Professional practice. Engagement with learning and coping with demands. I was presenting a conference about these competency areas, the Relationships Foundation listened to the presentation and thought there could be something here for teachers. Anna up the SCITT also agreed and several of her colleagues did is that these areas could have mileage for teaching and overall we think we've properly got a feedback report, which is very good for people oriented careers rather than in particular health care. We're probably at some point soon going to be working with a group of social workers because they can see how those areas are relevant to them. But what we found. But that does do these areas of feedback competency areas mean anything? Well, you mentioned at the beginning about research that we have been involved with with Anna at the SCITT. The results we've got so far is we found far what's coming out is as the number one predictor set with CPSQ is coping with demands so that school the lower the score on coping with demands, the more likely it is a trainee will withdraw from the course.

Lyn Dale: [00:12:08.52] So we can identify who's likely to be at risk or of struggling potential withdrawal. Not everyone it has to be said. Not everyone who gets a low score on coping necessarily goes on to drop out, because the maybe other factors there. The factors such as tutor support, social support, mentor support in schools can, if you like, be a protective factor against dropouts. Some people who would score lower in this area may have developed coping strategies and we hope they would. Here as Anna has mentioned, basically is, you know, matching them to the right kind of supportive tutor who can maybe give them more time and can work with them to develop coping strategies to discuss with them what their stress triggers might be. It can also be that we find people later on coping with demands. They are often actually very highly competent I mentioned self-management, which is all about wanting to achieve, wanting to achieve, are working very hard, being very organized, really pushing yourself. So if you've got someone who really wants to do well, be a great teacher, but the resilience is a little bit low. They have a bad day in school and suddenly you have a trainee that may feel they just can't do this, that they're not going to be a perfect teacher. So maybe why not drop out now? And they need a good tutor there to be aware this could happen tutor. This kind of belief that they need to be perfect and achieve high standards in what they do, that needs to be actually challenged to remind the trainees that they are in training. They're going to make mistakes. It's not always going to be perfect and that the SCITT doesn't demand them to be perfect. They're just in training. So that would be one way to to catch someone who's beginning to doubt this has been a good career choice for them. Self-management is an interesting one in research, but we're finding again, this is statistically significant. But the higher your score on self-management, the more likely it is that you will be a strong trainee or an outstanding or an excellent trainee. It seems to support performance, doesn't protect you against withdrawal, because actually being striving and wanting to achieve the very best can with the wrong combination, coping with demands lead to withdrawal. Some of the other areas that are looking very interesting are the people-y. So the altruistic  and the people-y side. So I've mentioned things like communication and working well with others. They look like they're turning into protective factors. It may suggest if you're scoring higher on those areas, you've got a fit with the ethos of teaching. This is just a hypothesis. If you've got a better personal fit with the career, it may make it more likely that you'll stick with it.

Anna Minett: [00:15:24.57] Thanks, Lyn. Anna, I don't know if there's anything else you wanted to add to that?

Anna Richards: [00:15:29.28] I think since we've used with CPSQ over the last three or four years, what it's done is given the tutors and the staff a shared understanding and a shared language, and to be able to talk to trainees and, you know, in a non-judgmental way. And I think that that's been very, very useful. So as well as highlighting for trainees what might be going on and what their issues may be. It's been very helpful from a staff development point of view and has made us better able to intervene early, and in a non-threatening way, because we we're all talking about, you know, one specific output from from this questionnaire. It doesn't feel as if someone's making personal comments and is potentially sort of undermining someone as their personality and them as a human.

Lyn Dale: [00:16:19.36] So, yeah, making personal judgements out of nowhere. Yeah. It's giving it an almost, shall I say, a scientific foundation. And this is where this kind of to come be great to enable everyone to sing from the same song sheet. So you've got a framework that you're using together , a language that you can share together as well. So, yeah, this is one of the powerful uses of the tools. I mean, when considering someone at risk, a potential course withdrawal obviously, you do need to look at a range of factors which I know you're doing, such as the relationships support of relationships the trainee has. So there's other factors involved. But a least was something like the CPSQ you're opening up that conversation with people and you'd be hoping that training two can work together by discussing triggers, discussing what could undermine a trainee's confidence. What has happened to them in the past may be in other careers. I know a lot of your trainee trainees have had this is their second or even a third career in previous careers. They may have become quite senior or very experienced. There can be an expectation on their side I know we've had these conversations of walking into teaching and just being a fabulous teacher from day one. And that's some really that is unrealistic. And someone needs to using psychology speak here challenge those irrational beliefs. I'm using a bit of cognitive behavioural therapy there to say, no, it's it's unlikely. Where's this belief come from. So, yeah, it gives gives a two to to start with. I think myself personally. I don't know about you, Anna, is the caring and compassion, because at first when we looked at this report and its health care backgrounds and we went, wow, is this going to be relevant? Unsurprisingly, it's not right now the best predictor. It's got a very if you could see the stats and bar charts right now, you see it's a very suggestive thought. The more outstanding or stronger the trainee, the higher they score on this area. And I wondered if you had any any thoughts on that?

Anna Richards: [00:18:49.63] I think I mean, that finding is very much what you'd expect intuitively. And I think possibly even more true of the primary trainees than the secondary trainees, because if primary trainees, which is a gross generalization, obviously, but are very interested in the whole child, and they will spend all day, every day in term time with those that group of 30 children, whereas for secondary trainees, they are hugely about the children, but they see far more and lots of their focus is on their commitment to the subject they're teaching. So it will be interesting to unpick that a little bit more as we get more information. But certainly, you know, you've know teaching's a hard job now. Now more than ever. And if you haven't got that moral purpose of wanting the best outcomes for the children that you're working with, it's an almost impossible job. So so the caring and compassion is a hugely strong element in predicting effective teachers and teachers that will stick in the profession because that, you know, those qualities will will keep them going when things are challenging and difficult for them.

Lyn Dale: [00:20:00.41] Yeah, I mean, I mentioned I mean, it's just a hypothesis, but almost like a career profile for teaching. I don't want to go too far down that road because I think many different types of personality person can can make a good teacher. But there may be something certainly about in in health care. It's like caring that some that someone gets better and caring about their health. But teachers, for me, it seems people caring that someone develops as a person, caring that they learn. And if you've got that care for other people, that's making you a close match. But I have a question this is a Covid question. And you're mentioning that you're adopting a lot of what the government is asking you to adapt a lot of what you're doing, getting an online program together. What are the kind of online tools or training or are you using most of what we're doing?

Anna Richards: [00:20:58.66] We've had our own trainers altering the material that they would normally deliver in order to be able to deliver their training online. So they've adapted how they operate and obviously how you teach you. They would normally do a full day's face to face training. You can't do a full day's training via Zoom. It's just not workable for the tutor or the trainees. So there's a whole different way of working and teaching online, which we're having to learn. And obviously, we're expecting what we think our trainees will be having to do a certain amount of online teaching next year. As you know that the situation in schools remains disrupted. And that's not anything we've ever taught them to do before because it's not anything that's ever happened. So as well as just our own people doing courses, we're looking at other tools that could help us. One of the big concerns is that schools may not want visitors. So while tutors going into school to observe trainees teaching next year, because if our tutors are, there are two to four, five or six trainees. That means within a week they could be going into five or six different schools and potentially could be real vectors of spreading the virus. So we're exploring other options for how we can maybe video the trainees teaching and have the uploaded to a central portal so we can. So they can have the feedback from their tutors. And in some ways, that could be a real strength and would be something we'd retain because, again, it's not it's not someone's subjective view of what happened in the lesson. If the tutor and the trainee can see a video and see what the trainee dead, then it's you're looking at the same thing. But obviously, you know, there are big safeguarding concerns around filming things in school. So it's it's not a straightforward process. But that's very much something that we're looking at developing, because I think that will be necessary for this year, but will probably be a huge benefit going forward, you know, as we develop quality teaching.

Anna Minett: [00:23:07.97] Yeah, I think the techniques that you've discussed show that you've really had to adapt. But even with kind of adapting so well. Do you think there's going to be a future impact on trainees?

Anna Richards: [00:23:19.15] Yeah, very much so. I think the whole level of uncertainty in the world and the anxieties that are around is making people behave and respond quite differently to how they might usually do that. So that's a kind of underlying background. But we know from September the government advice is that children are going to be have to sit in classrooms, in rows facing the front, and the adults are meant to keep two metres away from them if they can. That is massively going to reduce the range of strategies open to teachers, you know, in terms of group work and discussion, then coming round and looking at children's work and giving them feedback in the moment. So we've got to make trainees aware that we need to train them for how things will be, hopefully post-Covid it, while also equipping them to deal with that sort of more traditional model of facing the front teaching. I mentioned earlier we're going to need to train them so that they can teach effectively online. And also it seems very likely that some schools are going to narrow their curriculums. But certainly for the next couple of terms to try and catch up children with maths, English, and I think I can understand why that's being thought about, but it will reduce the range of opportunities that trainees get. And more importantly, it'll reduce to the interest in the range of opportunities for children and their learning, because very often some of the subjects that might be squeezed a bit can be the things that keep children motivated, engaged and keen to come to school. And that knock on could have, you know, quite, quite big implications for the atmosphere in schools. So it's it's a very uncertain world. All we know is that on on the evidence of how well we've adapted and how positively it's been seen so far, we can be confident that whatever happens next, you know, we've got the team within, ask it to adapt and help those trainees to be the best teachers they can be.

Anna Minett: [00:25:20.23]< And I think that kind of moves on quite nicely to the next bit, which is are there any changes to your working practices that you're likely to take forwards post Covid-19? So anything that you'll continue to use?

Anna Richards: [00:25:32.71] I think so. I mean, nothing can replace the face to face interaction of a teacher in a classroom. And of the trainees together supporting each other and sharing their experience and the face to face contact that the tutors and trainers have. But some of the quality of the online stuff we've done means that that will be there as an enhancement. There'll be lots of material that trainees can refer to in their own time if they've got a particular issue with a particular class. Particular subject area. They'll have that a self study material that they wouldn't have done before. And so those sorts of things will be really useful. And it because we've saved a lot of time, because we're not driving around these two big counties of ours with slightly dubious road systems. It does mean that there is more time to do things. And, you know, there'll be some conversations. We won't talk face to face. But now everyone's very comfortable in a Zoom or Teams world. You know, it makes more frequent contact between tutors and trainees quite viable and for lots of conversations. It's absolutely appropriate and fine. So it may enable us to increase the amount of support directly we can offer trainees so that, you know, there'll be some positives going forward. Despite despite the huge challenges it's created for everyone.

Anna Minett: [00:26:54.22] Yeah, definitely. And Lyn, do you want to add anything?

Lyn Dale: [00:26:57.28] No, I don't think there but going back a little bit. I don't know if we covered, how can do you think CPSQ can help you match, so to speak, tutors with trainees?

Anna Richards: [00:27:14.32] Yeah, very much so. We know that we've got tutors who are more sympathetic and empathetic than others. So if you've got a trainer who's potentially got that low coping with demands, you want to put them with a tutor who we know, you know, has a lot of time, maybe doesn't have that many trainees. So has got the time to work with that training and help them develop equally. If you've got trainees where, you know, the self-management is an issue, but everything else is fine. You know, you can find a tutor who is better at actually reading the riot act and, you know, focusing on that side of things. And, you know, as people change in situations change, we can change the tutors about. But it's nice to retain them throughout the year if we can, because that relationship and trust builds up is very, very important.

Lyn Dale: [00:28:04.99] I know we we've I mean, in previous conversations we've talked about using CPSQ as an early warning alarm system and that, you know, there's tutor matching. But I know you've mentioned to me before the certain periods during the year where the trainees are evaluated. Have you considered or have you you seen with CPSQ as a sort of trigger, we've got someone here is low on coping, who may have certain self doubts about their abilities. Oh, let's get that phone call in. Or now, will it be a Skype or a Team's call. Find out how they're feeling, the reaction to their say test results or evaluation. You know, just checking out their well-being.

Anna Richards: [00:28:55.09] I mean, definitely all the way through and the way we used CPSQ this time before it was part of part of the research, the formal research so, the information was used slightly differently, but the trainees are being asked to share their CPSQ data with their tutors. The teachers know what that means. So we can be very, very proactive about, you know, keeping in touch and that those pressure points. Yeah. Knowing what's going on and having flagged the trainees who may, you know, respond or may find it very difficult if they're not doing as well as they would have hoped to do. So it does enable us to be proactive and tailor interventions, but even talk to the trainees beforehand and say, you touched on it earlier. You know, if we know a trainee has got a low coping with demands score saying to them, you know what we know from people who've got this kind of profile you've done the course in the past, is that these things might be issues for you and you might find these harder and get them to think about some things they can do, some some strategies they can develop for themselves, you know, in tandem with us to kind of pre-empt things for themselves and that greater self knowledge and self awareness that they develop through doing the CPSQ. You know, again, just just by being aware of things that possibly they they weren't before can be protective in itself.

Anna Minett: [00:30:23.68] Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and providing us insight on how teacher training programs are adapting during Covid-19. I just wanted to mention here that if anyone's interested in learning more about how the Suffolk and Norfolk scare using CPSQ, you can read our case study on the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing website. Thank you very much, everyone.

Alana Walden: [00:30:45.55] Thank you for listening to this episode of the Cambridge Assessment podcast. You can find more of our podcasts on our website just search podcast gallery. Or you can find us on YouTube, Spotify or Apple podcasts.

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