Julie McLeod

This is mistaken and disrespectful – a wasted opportunity

Teacher educators have been driving improvement in initial teacher education for decades. That’s been clear from as early as 1998 when the Australian Council of Deans of Education released “Preparing a Profession: Report of the National Standards  and Guidelines for Initial  Teacher Education Project”.  The report outlined the first program standards for ITE and, as a professional group, teacher educators have initiated, co-designed and willingly responded to reforms ever since. But one of the things which is striking about the Teacher Education Expert Panel (TEEP) report – and several other reports of this nature – is that a very narrow selection of evidence is relied upon  while much of the rigorous evidence, thoughtful scholarship and good practice within teacher education have been ignored. The very people who have conducted research in the area and who know the field and the broader context have been excluded. More importantly, much of the rigorous evidence, thoughtful scholarship and good practice within teacher education have been ignored. The assumption that teacher educators are not motivated to continuously improve their programs without punitive measures or financial incentives is mistaken, disrespectful and represents a wasted opportunity to work more constructively with the sector.   

These are some of the key reasons the Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA) and the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE), held a joint forum focused on responding to the TEEP report, Strong Beginnings, which has recommendations across four domains: strengthening ITE programs to deliver confident effective beginning teachers; strengthening the link between performance and funding of ITE programs; improving the quality of practical experiences in teaching; and improving access to postgraduate ITE for mid-career entrants. 

And on Tuesday evening, nearly 200 teacher educators across Australian states and territories,  and internationally in England and Lebanon, came together to listen to a panel of five invited distinguished academics: Jenny Gore, Deb Hayes, Viv Ellis, Donna Pendergast who had publicly commented on the TEEP report. The fifth panellist, Michelle Simons, was a member of the Teacher Education Expert Panel and provided insight into the development of the report. 

TEEP was described variously by panellists as ‘a turning point’, ‘a missed opportunity’, ‘a rupture in the discourse of initial teacher education’ and’ disappointing’. And we, as teacher educators, had been tipped off before the release of the report – media coverage involving some panel members anticipated, even at the release of the discussion paper, that education academics would not like the results of the review. This belief was based upon a notion that teacher educators have a vested interest in maintaining  the status quo and are somehow resistant to change.  Yet most education academics’ ‘vested interest’ is in providing the very best initial teacher education, much like surgeons have a ‘vested interest’ in survival rates of patients and engineers have a ‘vested interest’ in building bridges that don’t fall down.

Donna Pendergast advised we must not consider TEEP in isolation. It comes alongside a range of other reviews affecting the higher education sector, such as the Universities Accord Interim Report and the forthcoming  review for the Better and Fairer Education System. They all talk about the importance of teachers and teachers’ work and the role of initial teacher education. These reports  will inevitably interact. And, Pendergast continued, it’s important not to forget we are still in the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) cycle of reform. There has been zero evidence to date  about the effectiveness of that particular review and now we find ourselves in the middle of a new one. This is a missed opportunity. 

“Most of the initiatives, recommendations and ideas that we saw in the TEEP report were not directed at transforming our system, but in fact, at the crisis around teacher shortages, and so ITE has become the vehicle for trying to diffuse and redirect the political space.” Donna Pendergast

A further theme raised across the panellists was that specifying core content, government over-prescription of any kind, has not been justified and will result in cookie cutter education programs which are the antithesis of what we need to attract and prepare a diverse teacher workforce.

New research from Viv Ellis’s team at Monash shows, resoundingly, that teachers felt their ITE had prepared them well for the classroom. That trope, that teachers don’t think teacher education is any good, is one of five prevailing myths he spoke about. The others are that universities don’t do as they are told; phonics is only taught at one university; university degrees are highly influenced by liberal arts and sociology; and that England should be a role model for Australia. But a country which has falling life expectancy, inconsistent and even poor health care, endless economic damage caused by Brexit; in his view, that is hardly a model Australia should follow.

The TEEP represents an odd juncture for initial teacher education. Despite the election of a new, now Labor, government, in some ways TEEP represents a link to the previous Coalition government, particularly the review of quality teacher education led by former Education Minister Alan Tudge. It appears that new education minister Jason Clare, wants to implement and carry forward the recommendations of the former government: strengthening initial teacher education and the linking of performance indicators of ITE to funding, strangely, as a solution to the problems of teacher shortages and teacher attrition. The minister also wants to review professional experience (and the AARE blog will have more on that tomorrow) and to explore the chronic teacher shortage.

What TEEP represents really is a significant turning point in the conversation around teacher education. Those myths noted by Ellis dominate the discourse – and now there’s the equally pernicious  claim that current ITE is not informed by evidence, a claim that is not borne out by the robust bodies of evidence that currently inform the ITE curriculum. 

Despite the challenges posed by TEEP,  the closing commentary from the audience referred to the development of a sense of shared purpose and a desire to be united in terms of what happens next. While acknowledging significant concerns about the TEEP report and its outward-facing representations of teacher education, there were nevertheless some  ‘cracks of light’ continue to shine through. There is now an opportunity to work collaboratively and collectively to respond to this latest review. 

Yet as teacher educators and educational researchers, we also need to remain vigilant and stand up and be heard, and call out the ‘turning point’ moment that this report represents.  One challenge is to ensure alternative visions for education and ITE are heard; what we need more of is research-informed discussions about the kinds of teachers we need, and how best to prepare them for the changing world.  

From left to right: Ange Fitzgerald is professor and associate dean (education) in the School of Education at RMIT University. Terri Bourke is  president of the Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA) and Academic Lead Research in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at QUT. Julie McLeod is President of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) and Professor of Curriculum, Equity and Social Change at the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

Possibly the last blog of the conference . . .

Still happy to take contributions inspired by the AARE Conference but we will be returning to regular programming next week so please follow these guidelines. Please write to jenna@aare.edu.au

Thank you very much to everyone who contributed posts and photos over the past week.

Meghan Stacey, senior lecturer in the UNSW School of Education, writes, Symposium: What’s the “new sociology of education”, then and now? Looking back to the 1970s and ahead to today

In 1971, Michael F.D. Young published the edited collection ‘Knowledge and control: new directions for the sociology of education’. This among other signature texts of the 1970s constituted work characterised as ‘the new sociology of education’, which saw the field shift from, as symposium convenor Julie McLeod put it, ‘taking problems’ to ‘making problems’. In this shift, aspects of schooling which had previously been taken for granted, such as what and whose ‘knowledge’ constitutes the curriculum, were opened up for scrutiny. 

The symposium asked contributors to consider what this ‘new sociology of education’ did and did not notice; its legacies; and what might or should constitute a ‘new’ sociology of education for today.

The first response to this remit came from Bob Lingard, who pointed to large scale assessments, datafication and globalisation as examples of forces which have shifted studies in the sociology of education and which demand a move beyond methodological nationalism. Lingard’s talk resonated with points made by the third speaker in the session, Joel Windle, who argued for ‘rescaling’ in a ‘new’ sociology of education for today, in which thinking about knowledge and control is shifted to a global level. 

Lingard and Windle’s arguments were given a useful counterweight by the fourth speaker in the session, Eve Mayes, who brought discussion of the new sociology of education to the level of classroom-based research and practice through the example of the ‘Teachers for a Fair Go’ project, highlighting the ongoing need to question ‘what schools can be’.

Yet questions of the future, and in particular a future for the sociology of education, were seen by some speakers to be under threat. Lingard noted that while in the 1970s, sociology of education would be taught in the first, second, third and fourth years of initial teacher education, this presence has since dwindled significantly. A similar point was made by the second speaker in the session, Parlo Singh, who noted an (over?) emphasis on Bourdieuian theory in the sociology of education today, despite Pierre Bourdieu having only a relatively fleeting engagement with education (unlike, for example, his contemporary Basil Bernstein). Singh argued that the lack of sociological training in today’s initial teacher education may explain this trend.

According to Jessica Gerrard and Helen Proctor, who presented the final paper in this session, “declarations of the new” always bring with them “whispers” of the old. For Gerrard and Proctor, this raises questions about just what is sought to be ‘conserved’ in ‘conservative’ views and politics. 

Yet in the context of this symposium, where the future of the sociology of education itself appears to be in danger, perhaps an important question is what needs to be ‘conserved’ from the legacy of the developments of the 1970s. In particular, there may be a need to emphasise the central role of the sociology of education in supporting, as Mayes highlighted, the ‘fair go’ that classrooms can but often do not provide for students. As such, the sociology of education is not separate from but in fact central to initial teacher education. As the discussion that followed the papers highlighted, the sociology of education supports an understanding of teachers as navigators and negotiators of a curriculum which is not taken for granted, but instead, understood as culturally contingent and power-laden. This means we should be enhancing, rather than further marginalising and denigrating, the sociological education of the pre-service teachers we teach.

As convenor of a large, sociologically-informed undergraduate education course, I am sometimes questioned as to the ‘practicality’ of my course for students of teaching. It is too ‘theoretical’, some students (and sometimes colleagues) say. And while the theory is essential, it may be that the links between this theory and the actual work of teachers in classrooms needs to be made more explicit for the next generation of teachers. As such, and as session convenor Julie McLeod suggested as the symposium concluded, foregrounding the importance of the sociology of education in schools and initial teacher education classrooms may need to be a first priority of any ‘new’ sociology of education moving forward.

Photos below are just some of the images from the conference

Louisa Field, PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, writes on Teachers’ Work and Lives

Philip Poulton

The University of Sydney

Primary Teachers as Classroom Curriculum-Makers: Emerging Findings From a Longitudinal Study Exploring Teachers’ Experiences in Curriculum-Making With a Standardised Curriculum 

“I just have to make the thing with the outcomes, in the way that others want me to make, and then I have to teach the thing in the way it says” and “I think what guides the programming is really driven by our questioning of how we do we equip these students for a world that we can’t anticipate or envision yet?” These are two examples of the very different experiences of curriculum-making for teachers in Phillip Poulton’s doctoral study. In this longitudinal study, Phillip has followed preservice teachers from their final year of initial teacher education into their first year of classroom teaching, exploring the realities of early career teachers’ reported curriculum-making experiences. This study has found that whilst these teachers reported varied curriculum-making experiences, these were not always characteristic of more knowledge-led forms of curriculum-making. Rather, these were characterised more by instances of curriculum delivery.

During this presentation, Phillip drew on two individual teachers, both alike in terms of their valuing of education and conceptions of curriculum-making. However, in their first year of teaching, these two teachers found themselves in classroom fields with very different agendas and orientations towards curriculum. One teacher reported greater agency in working with curriculum in a flexible and collaborative environment, guided rather than restricted by the syllabus. The other teacher reporting a contrasting experience, finding herself in a non-collaborative environment and ticking off ‘outcomes’ prioritised above all else. Phillip’s study provides fascinating insight into the lived experiences of early career teachers who, while all aspiring to be knowledge-led curriculum-makers, were either enabled or constrained by the conditions of their individual classroom fields. Understanding more about these experiences is particularly pertinent today, especially with current discussions centred on ‘ending the lesson lottery’ and centralising lesson planning for teachers. Phillip’s doctoral study offer impetus for us to challenge such delivery agendas placed on classrooms which often narrow teachers’ curriculum-making practices. Rather, teachers’ curriculum-making needs to be reinforced as a key tenet of teacher professionalism – practices that are dependent on teachers’ professional knowledge of their students, pedagogy, and content.

Dr Claire Golledge The University of Sydney

No Capacity, No Equity: Schools, Universities, and New Challenges for Teacher Professional Learning  

Dr Claire Golledge’s paper focussed on how teacher professional learning (PL) mandates can exacerbate inequity across schools and systems. All Australian teachers are required to meet mandatory professional learning expectations in line with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Dr Golledge’s presentation drew on her own experience as a former leader of professional learning, and from her doctoral case study research to illustrate that not all teachers are positioned equally to meet these mandatory PL requirements. To highlight this point, Dr Golledge presented two case studies of teachers in vastly different learning contexts, one in an inner city, elite, independent school and another in a regional, government school where the bulk of students come from low socio-economic backgrounds. Despite vastly different PL needs and differing capacities of these teachers to access professional learning opportunities, both of these teachers are subject to the same PL standards and requirements.  While the teacher in the independent school was supported with their PL with a healthy budget, covered classes, and access to a range of accredited PL, the teacher in the regional school faced additional challenges of funding, finding casuals to cover classes, and access to accredited professional learning within her school. Dr Golledge’s study raises a key point that we often talk about educational inequity amongst students, but what about the impact on teachers? This is something which is all too often overlooked. This presentation sparked lively conversations about the ethics and equity of for-profit professional learning providers as well as asking what role universities should play in helping to support teacher professional learning and access to research in schools.

Data sharing and the challenges facing educational researchers

The way educational researchers share their research is changing. Across the world, interest is growing in encouraging researchers to make their research data openly available for use by other scholars or interested parties.

This is linked to seeing the potential significance research data may have beyond their original use. Governments, keen to maximise return on investment, want to support researchers to make their data available for others to use and move away from storing it in inaccessible repositories.

One prevailing view is that if research has been publicly funded, it should be freely accessible: anyone who could use the data should have access to it because it is then more likely to generate further benefit or knowledge.

So, in the educational research world, funding organisations are beginning to introduce new requirements for data sharing. Institutions are looking at new ways of storing and managing the data produced by their researchers. At the same time, there is much interest in experimenting methodologically with data sharing and in attending to the innovations and challenges associated with digitised data and digital worlds.

These experiments in data sharing take different forms. Data sharing might mean completely open access in one context – accessible to all with no restrictions – or it might mean access to data is mediated by the lead researcher or repository staff. Data sharing repositories might also be used by researchers to store data in a way that would leave open the possibility for access to the data to be made available after a certain period has passed.

As we see it, there are pressing reasons for the educational research community to engage more fully with these developments and to critically consider both the possibilities and problems they raise, particularly but not only in relation to qualitative research.

In qualitative research, the sample size is usually small and the research is typically aimed at understanding motivations or gathering insights into subjective experience, ideas and opinions. In this type of research, context (who is involved and where) is vital.

Educational and social sciences researchers more broadly may have concerns arising from opening up access to and sharing their qualitative research data. These include the potential for re-use or application of the data out of context, or the possible identification of research participants who might not have given consent for their data to be assessible by other researchers.

The pathway to data sharing in Australia

Internationally, new policies point to a changing context in how research data is managed and maintained. Since the OECD first published its OECD Principles and Guidelines for Access to Research Data from Public Funding in 2007, OECD nations have moved to promote increased access to data generated through publicly funded research. Although early efforts to promote data sharing following this report were stymied, there are strong signs that data sharing is back on the global research agenda in recent years.

In 2016, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Research Councils UK, Universities UK, and the Wellcome Trust jointly authored a Concordat on Open Research Data, which proposed a series of principles for working with research data. The first of these principles defined open access to research data as ‘an enabler of high quality research’ and included the direction that ‘researchers will, wherever possible, make their research data open and usable within a short and well-defined period’.

That same year, the European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation published Guidelines on FAIR Data Management in Horizon 2020 as part of the H2020 Program. These guidelines emphasise that data should be FAIR, meaning Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. They require all projects participating in an extended Open Research Data pilot to develop a Data Management Plan and seek to make open access the default setting for research data generated as part of the Horizon 2020 Program.

Similar developments are also evident within Australia. There are signs the Australian Research Council (ARC) may move towards requiring open access of data generated from ARC funded research. The ARC’s Research Data Management Strategy currently states:

The ARC is committed to maximising the benefits from ARC-funded research, including by ensuring greater access to research data. Since 2007, the ARC has encouraged researchers to deposit data arising from research projects in publicly accessible repositories. The ARC’s position reflects an increased focus in Australian and international research policy and practice on open access to data generated through publicly funded research.

This policy is also reflected in the ARC’s current funding rules for its Discovery and Linkage Programs which both include the statement:

The ARC strongly encourages the depositing of data arising from a Project in an appropriate publicly accessible subject and/or institutional repository. Participants must outline briefly in their Proposal how they plan to manage research data arising from a Project.

The recently updated Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research also includes a new section titled ‘Sharing of data or information’, which states:

it is common for researchers to ‘bank’ their data or information for possible use in future research projects or to otherwise share it with other researchers. It is also increasingly common for funding agencies to require the sharing of research data either via open access arrangements or via forms of mediated access controlled by licenses. To this end, data or information may be deposited in an open or mediated access repository or data warehouse, similar to an archive or library, and aggregated over time. Archived data or information can then be made available for later analysis, unless access is constrained by restrictions imposed by the depositor/s, the original data custodian/s or the ethics review body.

The new code includes detailed stipulations around the management and data and data sharing and the ethical practices required to do such work well.

Additionally, while the ARC advise that the current preference is to encourage compliance of institutions and academics, expectation and scrutiny of this in final reports is becoming more stringent and there are signs that open access to research data could become more strictly enforced in the near future. If such changes to requirements do occur, it is unclear whether researchers, university repositories (infrastructure, resources), and research cultures and practices will be equipped to meet them.

Possibilities and challenges of data sharing in qualitative research

Data sharing opens up possibilities for greater transparency in the practices, methods, and outcomes of educational research and has the potential to enhance rigour and impact. However, data sharing and re-use also gives rise to specific ethical and epistemological challenges.

Well-documented challenges for sharing qualitative research data include:

  • managing the re-use of qualitative research materials without compromising the specificity of the context in which they were produced;
  • the creation of appropriate materials to guide re-analysis of archived qualitative datasets;
  • transparency and care in obtaining participant consent for archiving and re-use of research materials at the of data collection as well as subsequently;
  • the ethical and practical protocols governing the management of access to archival repositories;
  • identifying appropriate ways to mitigate perceived and/or actual risk;
  • responding productively and practically to the ethical and methodological dilemmas posed by making more widely available research materials that have been generated by research teams or individuals; and
  • distinguishing between data sharing as simply policy compliance and as an opportunity for creative methodological innovation.

It is timely for educational researchers to actively engage with and address these issues. First, to ensure future policy dictates are not insensitive to the needs and nature of both the field and the subjects of its research. Second, to foster ethical, methodologically sound and creative approaches to archiving and data sharing. Such practices could have the potential to develop new avenues for research and allow it to reach wider audiences, thereby enhancing the impact and reach of such work.

Policies within Australia aimed at encouraging data sharing typically do not adequately attend to the distinctive issues data sharing raises for qualitative research practices. At the same time, more robust engagement among Australian qualitative researchers with these matters will likely open up new possibilities for educational research community to more effectively influence the direction of policy and knowledge-making practices in this area.

Our workshop on data sharing in qualitative research

With this in mind, we recently facilitated a two-day workshop on Open Access, Data Sharing and Archiving of Qualitative Research that aimed to promote critical dialogue on these agendas, specifically addressing the affordances and challenges they present for the sociology of education. This workshop, supported by an AARE competitive grant, sought to canvas ideas and dilemmas across a number of intersecting but also distinct strands of work – spanning policy, research and cultural sectors – that are part of the changing context in which we conduct and communicate our research.

Possibilities for a gateway website

Following this workshop, a smaller group met to consider how we might further develop collaborations, demonstrator projects and a community of research practice in this area. Here, we discussed processes, exemplars and practices for digital archiving of qualitative projects along with possibilities for building a research community to support a web-based gateway or portal that could showcase programs and projects in the sociology of youth and education – tentatively titled Studies of Childhood, Education and Youth (SOCEY).

This gateway website could link to individual project websites, including those that might be designed for archiving of their research materials as well as others which might have a web presence with publications available. The aim would be to enhance the profile, reach and communication of individual projects and to show the scale and scope of the field more broadly. Such a website might facilitate the preparation of research or educational materials for different audiences and communities – schools, participant or advocacy groups.

Over the coming months, work will continue on the site and a core working group, drawn from researchers Australia-wide, to assist in its development.

Keeping an eye on the creative, ethical, practical, methodological and regulatory dimensions of the cluster of activity occurring in data archiving and sharing is part of the challenge.

We welcome any feedback, ideas or expressions of interest in this program of work. Please get in touch directly or leave a comment.


Julie McLeod is a Professor (Curriculum, Equity and Social Change) at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, and Pro Vice Chancellor (Research Capability) at the University of Melbourne. Her research in the history and sociology of education encompasses curriculum, youth, gender and feminist studies. Her recent ARC Future Fellowship project was on ‘Youth identity and educational change in Australia since 1950: digital archiving, re-using qualitative data and histories of the present’ (makingfutures.net; juliemcleod.net). Publications include Uneven Space-Times of Education: Historical Sociologies of Concepts, Methods and Practices (2018); Rethinking Youth Wellbeing: Critical Perspectives (2015); The Promise of the New and Genealogies of Educational Reform (2015); Researching Social Change: Qualitative Approaches (2009); Making Modern Lives: Subjectivity, Schooling and Social Change (2006). Contact Julie at j.mcleod@unimelb.edu.au


Kate O’Connor is a postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Social Transformations and Education Research Hub at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Her research interests are in curriculum policy and practice in schools and universities, sociology of education, educational technology and digital scholarship. She is currently undertaking research within an ARC-funded program of work on Youth Identity and Educational Change, led by Professor Julie McLeod. Kate can be contacted at koconnor@unimelb.edu.au


Nicole J Davis is a Research Assistant at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and a Humanities & Social Science Informatics Specialist in the Social & Cultural Informatics Platform at the University of Melbourne, as well as a PhD student in the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies. Her PhD research centres on urban history, while her wider research interests and practice span history, the history of education, digital humanities, and the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) sector. She currently project manages and undertakes research relating to the Studies of Childhood, Education and Youth (SOCEY) initiative alongside Julie McLeod. Nicole can be contacted at davis.nicole@unimelb.edu.au