The Work of Teacher Educators – New Zealand

Funding year: 
1 year
University of Otago
Post school sector
Project start date: 
January 2014
Project end date: 
December 2015
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. Alexandra C. Gunn
Research team members: 
Dr David Berg, AP Mavis Haigh and AP Mary Hill

Project description

As a means of more fully understanding the complexity and effects of teaching and learning within university-based initial teacher education (ITE), this project explored the discursive construction and material conditions of university-based teacher education including teacher educators’ work: what is being worked on in university-based ITE?  Why? And, with what effects?


This study aimed to explore the work of teacher educators in university-based settings.  By studying teacher educators’ work: how it is produced, maintained, and practiced, it is possible to pay attention to the conditions within which student teachers are learning to teach and from this theorise about current and future directions in ITE.  We explored the work of teacher educators by:

  • analyzing the discursive production of the category of teacher educator in job advertisements, position descriptions and via interviews with recruitment personnel;
  • interviewing and work-shadowing university-based teacher educators as they practiced their daily work;
  • interviewing student teachers who were involved in teaching and learning activities with participating teacher educators, about their experiences, interpretations and motives;
  • working with participating teacher educators in a collaborative data analysis workshop to make meaning about ITE.


Why is this research important?

Understanding the quality and impact of ITE is a question of strategic importance to Governments the world over.  This project sought explanations about what happens within university-based ITE so as to more fully understand how teacher educators’ work impacts on student teachers learning and why.  We hope that insights from this study will inform current and future directions for ITE in Aotearoa New Zealand at a time of system wide change regarding the education of future teachers.


What we did

Our study compriseed two related phases – in it we shifted our gaze on ITE from the discursive to the material.  First we explored how the category of work known as teacher education, and the conditions of work for teacher educators in Aotearoa New Zealand university based ITE were construed.  This occured via an analysis of job advertisements for university-based teacher educators, followed by interviews with management personnel associated with recruitment.  Then, following up insights from phase one, we will shifted our project to focus on the daily practices of teacher educators by interviewing, work shadowing, and documenting the breadth of ITE work they were engaged in.  To explore teaching and learning in university-based ITE we looked closely at teaching that occured during the work shadowing and invited student teachers to give us their perspectives and insights into that work.  Our teacher educator participants joined with us in a participatory data analysis workshop in the period post work-shadowing to share their insights into university-based ITE.

What we found

Employment of teacher educators to positions in universities showed the workforce being bifurcated along academic and professional lines.  Appointments fell into two main categories - those who were being employed to teach (including student teacher supervision in practice) and not research, and those sought for research who might also teach, but not in areas of ITE that involved supervision of student teachers on practicum. Positions for dually qualified personnel who were research and teaching qualified and who would therefore be able to address the full scope of university-based ITE were few.  Questions are therefore raised about the sustainability of quality university–based ITE; the ability to move beyond traditional theory and practice dualisms; and potential for university–based ITE to support system–wide improvement via research informed practice and effective practical interventions.  Furthermore, if teacher educators and student teachers object motives within teaching and learning events are made explicit they may be able to work more critically and effectively to shift understandings and expand practices of teaching beyond repetitions of historical practice.