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Effective Inset for Teachers of Four Year Old Children inSchoolRosemary Rodger aa Edge Hill College of Higher EducationPublished online: 12 Sep 2006.
To cite this article: Rosemary Rodger (1991) Effective Inset for Teachers of Four Year Old Children in School, British Journal ofIn-Service Education, 17:2, 93-99, DOI: 10.1080/0305763910170202
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Effective Inset for Teachers of Four Year OldChildren in School
Rosemary RodgerEdge Hill College of Higher Education
In-Service Training for the teachers of four year oldchildren in school became a national priority underLEATGS for the period 1989-91. The aim of thetraining was to:
'update and improve knowledge andunderstanding of teachers currently teachingin primary classrooms containing children whoare younger than 'rising fives' and of non-specialist advisers with responsibility for suchchildren and to retrain teachers who are cur-rently teaching other age groups'.
This article aims to explore some of the issues sur-rounding INSET for teachers of young children andto describe the characteristics of effective INSETfor reception class teachers based on the evidenceof a series of evaluations of in-service provision forsuch teachers in three LEAs in the North West ofEngland. The INSET was commissioned by LEAsfrom a College of Higher Education and contrary tocurrent trends away from college-based in-servicethe research identifies effective characteristics ofin-service which would be impossible to replicatein a school-based environment.
The success of the in-service was to be judgedon the match between the courses evaluated andthe criteria for effective INSET as postulated byJoyce and Showers (1980), Crandall (1983), Fullan(1982) and Schon (1983 and 1987). The issuesraised by these evaluations are important at thistime in light of the increasing move from school-focused INSET to school-based training. This wasrecently reinforced by the NFER (Brown and Early1990) who describe effective in-service in termsof the need for more focused school-based work.The evidence from these evaluations suggests thatteachers of young children welcomed the oppor-tunity to meet teachers from other school andauthorities to discuss and analyze their practice inan environment away from the school.
Criteria for Effective INSET:messages from research
There is some evidence relating specifically to thestructure of INSET for teachers of young children.
Indeed can one say that INSET for this group ofteachers is different than that for.any other group?This article will throw further light on this. Thecourses were structured to take account of theavailable recommendations from various reports.For example, HMI write of the need for this train-ing to provide guidance on a suitable curriculum andto be clearly focused (DES 1989b). Abbott (1986)and Barrett (1985) felt that attention should be paidspecifically to focused INSET on what the childrenwill gain from, for example, sand play, imaginativeplay, construction toys, plasticine and clay, pain-ting etc. This would be most successfully achiev-ed by developing one's observational skills andanalyzing one's own classroom practice with sup-port of colleagues on an 'action research' model ofINSET. Evidence from HMI Report (DES 1989c) onprovision for four year olds in reception classes sug-gests that teachers need to consider the learningopportunities in the imaginative play area, outdoorplay, construction and creative areas of theclassroom. Consideration was further given to theconditions needing to be developed within thecourse to ensure teachers would learn from the in-service and most importantly of all reappraise theirexisting practices in the light of the needs of youngchildren. The criteria the courses were measuredagainst were compiled from other research in thisarea and can therefore be said to be eclectic inorigin. These were:
conditions within the course; (Eason 1986 andSchon 1987)teacher commitment; (Fullan 1982 and Cran-dall 1983)exemplary practices; (Crandall 1983)training; (Joyce and Showers 1980 and Schon1987)
An important criterion was the degree of supportoffered to the teachers once the course was com-pleted. This, according to Fullan (1982), would bemost effectively achieved by the Headteacher ofthe course.members school attending the coursewith the course member or actively supportingchange in the classroom.
Fullan (1982) further states that INSET mustbring teachers together. This is particularly impor-tant for teachers of four year olds in receptionclasses who may feel isolated within their ownschools.
' Because of the isolation of teachers from oneanother there may be a lot of pluralistic ig-norance that each one assumes that no oneelse is interested, whereas if there is peer in-terest, it can represent one of the most satis-fying (and necessary) aspects of the changeprocess'.
Conditions with the courseOrganisation of the room to ensure all teachers
felt part of the group. Space permitting, theteachers and course leader need to be sitting infor-mally in a circle. Introductions that enable theteachers to share experiences and concerns at thebeginning of the course and the opportunity for thegroup to experience a number of learning ex-periences themselves were important considera-tions. The lecture was not a well received form ofdelivery on any of the evaluated courses. The keyto successful INSET was to ensure the balance bet-ween individual, group discussion and focusedobservations was maintained. The content of thethree courses was broadly similar, (fig. i).
Fig. (i) Course ProgrammeSession 1 An Early Childhood Curriculum and
the Needs of Young ChildrenSession 2 What are your children learning in
School?Organising the classroom
Session 3 Areas of Experience:The Role PlayCentre
Session 4 The Construction AreaSession 5 Sand and Water ExperiencesSession 6 Providing First hand experiences in-
side and outside the classroomSession 7 Aesthetic and Creative ExperiencesSession 8 Promoting literacy in the classroomSession 9 Assessing young childrenSession 10 Reviewing your practices and course
The provision of active learning experiences, therole of parents and the requirements of the NationalCurriculum will be incorporated into all sessions.You will be encouraged to share experiences andreflect on existing practices. School-based taskswill be given weekly.
Teacher commitmentAll the courses required the teachers to attend
in some of their own time and to carry out a con-siderable amount of school-based work in the formof observations of children and diary records ofaspects of their own teaching. The level of atten-dance for all courses stayed consistently high thusdemonstrating the level of commitment by theseteachers. The NFER survey (Cleave et al. forthcom-ing 1991) emphasises the degree of commitmentshown by reception class teachers.
The role of the teacher in bringing about schoolimprovement has been well-researched (Stenhouse1975, Fullan 1982, Joyce and Showers 1983 and1987, Crandall 1983, Huberman 1983 and Schon1983, 1987). Change will not take place withoutthe support and commitment of teachers. The workof Stenhouse (1975) contributed widely to cur-riculum change and the development of teacherspractices. He argued thafthere was a strong rela-tionship between curriculum development andevaluation.
'Evaluation should, as it were, lead develop-ment and be integrated with it. Then the con-ceptual distinction between development andevaluation is destroyed and the two emerge asresearch. Curriculum research must itself be il-luminative rather than recommendatory as inthe earlier tradition of curriculum development'.
(Stenhouse, 1975 p. 22)
Kemmis (1986) suggests that a curriculum pro-gramme and its evaluations are highly interactive,not only in summative decisions but throughout theprocess of curriculum development.
Examplary PracticesTeachers can be exposed to exemplary practices
in several ways within an in-service course. For ex-ample, by watching videos of good practice (BBCINSET) and by including teachers on the coursewith a proven record of good practice, which wasfelt within these courses to be the most effectiveway of demonstrating good practice. Otherteachers will have the confidence to emulate thisperson. Similarly, if the presenter of the new prac-tice is another teacher, sharing similar experiencesa common collegial bond is formed and there tendsto be an increase in credibility.
TrainingTraining in the practice is the area where it is
possible to begin to distinguish features that are ex-clusive to the teachers of young children and to HE
provided in-service. For the majority of early yearspractitioners training must be seen as integral totheir existing skills and competencies. The trainingtakes place alongside the teachers' increasingawareness of the needs of young children.
Schon (1987) calls this the 'reflective practicum'.It is based on the view that teachers can be'coached' but not taught what they must do. Thecharacteristics of this are:
i) a supportive climate to ensure teachersdevelop the ability and openness to share theirpractices and describe the competencies theyhave in the classroom;
ii) 'knowing in action' i.e. knowledge that isrevealed in intelligent action. Teachers them-selves would describe this as intuition. It isrevealed by teachers in their daily routines;
iii) 'reflect-in-action' i.e. when a situation arisesthat a teacher cannot readily resolve she/heeither brushes over it or, stops and thinks.
To enable the climate to be created within acourse that ensures that teachers do in fact beginto reflect on their own practice and consider theimplementation of new innovations the stance ofthe course tutor plays an important role. The neces-sary skills will be transmitted through a combina-tion of the teachers learning by doing, interactingwith fellow teachers and the tutor coach and the'background learning' that takes place in the group.Schon (1987) describes 'background learning' asall that goes on in the group: new habits; thoughts;and actions. The learning is achieved by exposureand immersion. Furthermore, the coach tries to findout what teacher understands, what her difficultiesare and what she already knows.
Some teachers feel threatened by a tutor's auraof expertise and respond to their learning predica-ment by becoming defensive and under the guiseof learning actually protect themselves from lear-ning. This has been described as the 'stance'(Schon 1987) towards the interaction. It is neces-sary for the teachers to 'unbind' (Argyris & Schon1974) and shed the sense of vulnerability that leadsthe teacher to become defensive. Has this been acharacteristic of much of the Cascade model of in-service training which has characterised mostNational Curriculum training in the past months?The teacher needs to be helped if unable toarticulate his/her confusion and encouraged to askquestions in an attempt to unbind the learning bind.This is a difficult task, but Schon describes thecompetencies needed by tutors to achieve this.Firstly; admission that one does not have all the
answers. This enables the focus to shift from theteacher to the tutor and thus opens up the dialogue.Handled sensitively this will lead to the teachersgenuinely sharing their concerns and feelings withother members of the group.
Administrative LeadershipA final requirement for the successful implemen-
tation of skills and/or knowledge acquired by ateacher on an INSET course is the strong supportexerted by the headteacher (Fullan 1982, Cox1983 and Huberman 1983). This support can bebest demonstrated by the headteachers active in-volvement in workshop sessions with the teacher.
The Context of the Research: the three LEAsThe courses to be evaluated were held in a Col-
lege of Higher Education in the North West ofEngland. The courses were held in the College fora group of 20 teachers from each LEA. The courseswere all of ten sessions duration and held weeklythroughout the term. The teachers attended someof the course in their own time. This research wascarried out between September 1988 and July1990. One of the central aims of the research wasto match the criteria of effective INSET as outlinedin the work of Crandall (1983), Joyce and Showers(1980) and Schon (1983 and 1987).
The Research DesignAn 'action research' model was adopted using
the definition of Cchen and Manion (1980):
'action research is the small scale interventionin the function of the real world and a close ex-amination of the effects of such evaluations,'
The developmental strand to the evaluations wassignificant as the reflection on practice which wasencouraged with the teachers was similarly takingplace with the researcher and thus reinforcingStenhouse's (1975) view that evaluation leadsdevelopment and emerge...