Aileen Kennedy – Keynote Abstract for #seraconf19

A story of transforming teacher education

Aileen Kennedy: Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh


The pursuit of reform in teacher education is currently a global preoccupation, driven by a meta-narrative that behoves us to improve teacher education in order to enhance our country’s economic standing and success on the global stage. This meta-narrative positions ITE as being in crisis, leading to greater attempts at ‘holding teacher education accountable’ (Cochran-Smith et al., 2017) whilst at the same time encouraging innovative solutions to this so-called crisis. Increasingly, we see policy responses to this narrative which promote ‘transformative’ practices as part of the answer.

In this talk I want to share my own developing understanding of transformative learning, more recently shaped by some of the influential thinkers in the field (e.g. Freire, Mezirow,  Fleming), but originally stemming from a values-based position rooted in a social justice perspective. In a sense, I want to share a real-life story in which I have, over time, been better able to use theory to my name practice (Brookfield, 2017).

As well as interpreting and sharing theory that has helped to transform my ‘meaning perspectives, frames of reference, and habits of mind’ (Mezirow, 2006), I will also draw on some of my own conceptual and empirical research, including work on conceptualising models of ‘continuing professional development’ (CPD) (Kennedy, 2005) as well as more recent findings from the collaborative ‘Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education’ (MQuITE) project ( However, neither engaging with published theory, nor engaging in conceptual and empirical research have been sufficient in themselves to raise my consciousness of how teacher education might be ‘transformed’, so the main part of the story I want to tell is about the development of the unique MSc Transformative Learning and Teaching: a two-year ITE programme qualifying teachers to work across the primary/secondary transition, adopting an explicitly activist orientation to their work. This work has provided some of the most deeply educative, challenging and transformative experiences of my professional life to-date. In sharing and reflecting on this experience, I will be joined by Lizzie Hay, a recent graduate of the programme, and Becca McGovern, a current year 2 student. Lizzie and Becca will add mulitiperspectivity to my story, illuminating key aspects with their own perspectives and those of their peers. This, we hope, will provide a richer and more rounded story. We will argue, from research and from experience, that transforming teacher education is very much a social and relational, rather than a technical process, influenced by cultural, historical and temporal considerations.

In concluding, we will offer up some ideas that we hope will stimulate further thinking and debate about what ‘transforming teacher education’ might mean to us individually and collectively.


Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher: 2nd edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Cochran-Smith, M., Baker, M., Burton, S., Chang, W. C., Cummings Carney, M., Fernández, M. B., & Sánchez, J. G. (2017). The accountability era in US teacher education: Looking back, looking forward. European Journal of Teacher Education40(5), 572-588.

Kennedy, A. (2005). Models of continuing professional development (CPD): a framework for analysis. Journal of In-Service Education, 31(2), 235 – 250.

Mezirow, J. (2006). An overview of transformative learning. In P. Sutherland & J. Crowther (Eds.), Lifelong learning in practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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