Can disruption lead to positive changes in Initial Teacher Training?

Posted by Katie Eldridge on June 9, 2020

‘You don’t learn from experience but from reflecting on experiences’.

OK, I know this is to slightly misquote John Dewey but it is pertinent given the unprecedented experiences we are going through and, I would argue, also the unprecedented opportunities to reflect and make positive changes for the future. 

Amidst the chaos, confusion and tragedy, many colleagues have responded with incredible flexibility and remarkable dedication: I have the utmost respect and I am in awe at the work of so many and would like to believe that their efforts could have some positive outcomes in the future. 

There has been an helter-skelter of innovation and ad-hoc innovation to support both pupils and student teachers. There has been little time to pause and think more constructively but now, maybe, is the time to pause from doing the urgent and focus on building a positive future.

The ongoing challenges for ITT, not just in the current crisis, are significant.

Many schools, teachers, industry partners and others have responded flexibly to put materials online, and some of it is excellent, but is simply transferring work online enough? Is there much more that needs to be done? IRIS Connect, for example, has reviewed, refined and developed many aspects of its platform in response to need and, in particular, to support the medical profession.

The system has been stress tested; lessons have been learned, weaknesses exposed, strengths identified and opportunities have arisen.


We now have choices: In our use of educational technology we can either consider online learning a simple stop-gap before we return to what we did before, or we can reflect on both the disadvantages and advantages of the broader use of technology and consider what this means for the future. 

I keep being reminded of the essay by Charles William Elliot, President of Harvard University when, in 1869, he wrote a road-map for education in his seminal essay, ‘The New Education’. In this essay he made the case for continuously updating how and what students learn so that education could evolve in step with society. Society has changed beyond recognition in the last 150 years and technology has driven much of this change. Has education, the contents and the ways in which we work with trainee teachers kept up with these changes? I am not suggesting that all teaching or training can ‘move online’; it can't, but maybe it can help develop embedded practices that can be improved on.

Again, a slight misquote, Plato in the ‘Republic’ said “Our need will be the real creator”.

Over the last months, exposure to technology and digital learning has been greater than ever before. Teachers and those responsible for training teachers have needed to develop new skills and new approaches.

So, just a few questions for colleagues providing Initial Teacher Training:

  1. Have you a ready and constructive alternative for traditional observations of trainee teachers? Solutions that could save staff time and reduce your carbon footprint. Solutions that provide genuine formative feedback?
  2. Did you prepare trainee teachers with the adaptive skills to respond to new situations? 
  3. Was the training of digital skills and technology a core competence in students’ learning?
  4. Have you grasped the opportunities of technology to improve the learning experience of your own trainee teachers?
  5. Do you enable trainee teachers to collaborate through technology?
  6. Have you explored how technology can help shape new pedagogies for pupils?
  7. Have you developed the skills of your own staff to help them deliver online teaching and learning?
  8. Have you seen the opportunities that greater use of technology can provide to enable you to be more financially efficient and effective?
  9. Do current solutions meet the rigorous standards of online security?

Graham Newell, Director of Education set out much of this thinking in a recent article in NAACE.

We don’t know yet whether there will be a second wave or even a third wave but we do know the world will never be quite the same again and this can be for the better - if we allow it. 

How can IRIS Connect help? A few examples from around the world

The IRIS Connect platform is very much more than a simple video capture or video streaming tool and has many features that enable collaborative working, analysis, research, coaching, reflection and teaching. The system is used in 30 countries and contributes to many projects and research activities across many sectors, including the most sensitive and confidential areas such as for the observation and coaching of medical staff and doctors.

Here are just a very few of the ideas and solutions that colleagues in schools and universities have developed:



i. Improving observations whilst saving time and money with remote video.

ii. Finding alternatives to traditional observations that may become increasingly difficult in the near and medium future. Ensuring that observations offer genuine opportunities for coaching and mentoring.

Colleagues in Finland found they could save up to 40 days visiting time by blending remote and face-to-face observations. Critically, students have said they favoured this approach and found the feedback more effective:

Supporting Student Teachers' Practical Expertise (Finland)

NB: IRIS Connect (iConnect) has been used in the medical sector for many years to observe and train doctors working with patients. Video is now accepted as an alternative solution for presenting evidence for examinations. 

Improving coaching and mentoring for trained teachers - either time shifted and using time-linked notes and tools or real-time remote coaching.

There is strong evidence supporting the efficacy of video-enabled coaching including real-time ‘in-ear coaching’.


This research project, for example, looks at ‘live in-ear coaching’.

Enabling peer-to-peer mentoring for trainee teachers.

In the multinational Erasmus+ project ViSuAL (Video Supported Collaborative Learning Knowledge Alliance), one aspect students found powerful was peer-to-peer collaboration and mentoring:

And in this blog the value of peer-to-peer coaching is discussed:

Coaching for Teachers: What school leaders need to consider

i. Enabling students to collaborate over distance for JPD, research and projects.

ii. Enabling the remote delivery of courses in a manner that blends the advantages of both synchronous and asynchronous delivery

Since the ‘Film Club’ approach was developed from a collaborative project with the EEF to bridge the gap between theory and real practice, it has been consistently refined and developed and is a powerful tool for collaborative learning over distance.

Universities in Europe are now developing bespoke Film Clubs for their ITT students and teachers after qualification.

Find out about Film Club Academy, where you can develop teaching strategies and improve your practice through reflective and collaborative CPD.

If you have access to Cambridge Journal of Education, this is worth a read: ‘Using video clubs to develop teacher’s thinking about practice in oral feedback and dialogic teaching’, Thomas Perry, Peter Davis, Josephine Brady (May, 2020)

Improving the quality of ITE skills beyond the basics such as online, interactive white boards and GDPR regulations - including pedagogy. 

IRIS Connect has been involved in many international projects looking to improve the digital skills of ITE students.  For example the Erasmus+ funded ITELab (Initial Teacher Education Lab) project was created to help resolve “the way in which student teachers currently receive training on ICT, and has been a key road block to innovative pedagogical practices”;jsessionid=EDADB4109BE8E1C35A0B94EF9CD95398

Supporting ITT students to use video banks to enable the development of resources and curriculum design - especially when undertaken as a collaborative exercise within and across schools and institutions.

In this ‘TeacherTales’ blog Chris, a UK assistant head, explains how they have used lesson banks for curriculum development:

TeacherTales: How we created a user-friendly curriculum model online

Using technology to provide cost effective solutions for ITT and improving student engagement and access to trainee teacher resources.

Enhanced Teacher Training (Netherlands)

Developing the skills of remote teaching  for ITT staff, trainee teachers, NQTs and teachers.  

Refining distance learning with IRIS Connect

Using video for bespoke training solutions for student teachers and ongoing coaching for NQTs.

An example is the “Experts in Teaching’ project at VIA University, Denmark:

Supporting a third of Denmark's trainee teachers with video CPD


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