An investigation into the impact of incidental learning on trainee teachers’ professional development, whilst working in the FE context

The journey that a trainee teacher experiences on their way to becoming a professional teacher is of great importance, often shaping the sort of teacher they are to become (Avalos, 2011; Jephcote, Salisbury, 2009). The teacher training programme is based on measurable learning outcomes, delivered and assessed under formal conditions. Trainees spend time in a work placement and it is this environment that provides a rich opportunity for incidental learning to occur, potentially bridging the gap between formal knowledge acquisition, theory building and practical application.
Of particular interest is the incidental learning that happens within the initial stages of a placement, sometimes considered as the survival strategies. The results from this should provide rich qualitative data identifying some of the factors that need to be in place, to foster as many opportunities for this type of learning, to take place in a meaningful way.
This longitudinal study also investigates further stages as a trainee progresses through the programme, in order to identify the impact that this incidental learning has on their ability to meet the professional standards. The findings of this PhD will identify incidental learning that takes place alongside the more formal taught element of the PGCE, and judge to what extent this has an impact on a trainees’ development and how this may change through the learner journey.
It is envisaged that these findings will increase understanding of how incidental learning can take place in a meaningful way. This is of particular importance, as it is hoped that through gaining an increased understanding of how to support and develop the skills necessary for incidental learning to occur, this type of learning will have a positive impact on the development of the trainees, throughout the course. It is hoped that the study will provide suggestions for how the programme can be further developed in light of the findings, in order to establish a best practice model for future trainees.
Progress so far:
I have conducted the secondary research and written the first three chapters, which have been successfully presented to an R2 board. I have nearly completed the primary data collection via longitudinal case studies. I have conducted a series of interviews, focus groups, observations and looked at reflective journals for 15 participants. The final round of interviews will be taking place in May 2017.
The key findings so far indicate that at the beginning of a placement experience, trainee teachers are learning about survival strategies, focussed on the immediate issues of dealing with unexpected issues as they arise. Once they have undertaken more teaching hours, they begin to establish more as a teacher in terms of their identity and their confidence with working within a team. This is part of the transition between student teacher and teacher.
This research is of importance to anyone undertaking a placement alongside their programme of study and looks at factors that need to be in place for incidental learning to take place.