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The future of FE colleges: Colleges must dramatically change what they deliver and how they deliver it

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Colleges need a clearer identity and more investment to thrive say @EDSKthinktank  With a White Paper on the future of the Further Education (FE) sector due this autumn, a new report from education think tank EDSK finds that colleges in England have been hampered by a lack of a clear purpose as...

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Dr Sai Loo, UCL Institute of Education, University College London

4 ways to frame #FE teacher educators’ identities

This series of three articles on further education (FE) teacher educators is based on the research monograph, Professional Development of Teacher Educators in Further Education (Loo, 2020)[1].

The first article examines the pathways to becoming educators.

For this second article the topic is the identity of these educators.

A review of these relevant sources provides this topic with a way into thinking and framing the FE teacher educators’ identities.

Identities are not stable but fluid and dynamic and are socially and culturally constructed and re-constructed.

1. Being a professional

Relevant literature sources:

The first theme, ‘being a professional’ uses communities of practice and situated learning to unpick identity. Identity is used to justify and make sense of themselves as teacher educators (McKeon and Harrison, 2010), where personal history is relevant.

A collegiate sense of identity is developed through conversations and collaborations with peers (Williams and Ritter, 2010). Tensions such as ‘lower status’ felt by novice educators in universities also serve as a facilitator to identity formation (Boyd and Harris, 2010).

Findings and discussion:

The first theme, ‘being a professional’, the participants see themselves as wearing several hats in their roles, and they consider themselves as a bridge between several communities. Tensions exist concerning the lack of professional recognition and where the mandatory requirement to become qualified teachers was no longer in place. From Teacher Educator (TE) 9:

Teacher educators could be seen as ‘connected professionals’ – the idea that you are a lot more things including connecting to the community

2. Second-order practice as educators and not teachers


Relevant literature sources:

Regarding the second theme, the educators’ values of putting their trainees first (Boyd et al., 2010), modelling good practice, involvement in research activities (Boyd and Harris, 2010), retaining their ex-school pedagogic experiences, ‘second-order practice’ (i.e. as educators and not teachers) (Murray et al., 2011) are identifiable factors.

Findings and discussion:

Regarding attributes, characteristics and education, vision, values, and seeing the sector as offering further learning opportunities to all who want to pursue education are significant factors in themselves.

TE18 exemplifies these perspectives:

Values and visions are about being the best teacher you can be: making a difference to your learners, taking pride in your work and being professional at all times, and acknowledging that you can have a negative and positive impact.

3. Emotional connection


Relevant literature sources:

Concerning the ‘emotional connection’ theme, emotional ecology is used to imagine the identity of FE teachers regarding their pedagogic, life, and occupational experiences (Loo, 2019) and found that FE teacher educators put their trainees first. Pereira et al. (2015) provide a psychosocial slant where helping and caring are emotional constructs between educators and trainees.

Findings and discussion:

The abiding theme on ‘emotional connection’ relates to a strong connection with their learners, and as caring and nurturing educators. This is exemplified by TE17:

I see myself as a teacher whether I’m teaching holistic therapy, counseling or teacher training. I’m just working as a facilitator, and I’m trying to get the people there to have the best experience they can and make the most of their time. I don’t really see myself as a teacher but a hand holding facilitator … a companion.


4. Contextual issues

The fourth theme relates to contextual issues. They are issues of accountability (e.g. Ofsted), political influences (e.g. Lingfield Report), contested quality assurance and the role of educators in FE institutions (Springbett, 2018).

With the final theme on contextual issues, the significant ones indicated by the participants were a non-mandatory requirement of a teaching qualification, the imposition of tuition fees, the resource constraints by institutions, and the performative culture of accountability. These factors added to the constant battering of the educators’ values and identities. The TE25 statement exemplifies this concern:

What is happening is a concern as doing things by the letter constricts and reduces the chance to think outside the box. This can limit teacher educators being autonomous, informed self-reflecting professionals. 


Despite these tensions, 86 per cent of the participants from the questionnaire felt positive about their professional identities as educators.

These educators held onto their firm values. The small percentage of dissenting voices appeared to offer a more balanced viewpoint of acknowledging the emotional connections with their trainees on the one hand and understanding the systemic lack of professional status and the negative contextual issues on the other.

These four identified themes have an impact on these educators’ professional identities. It is by acknowledging the positive and negative aspects of the educators’ selves that they can move on. Also, managers and policymakers need to understand the factors affecting these educators and their relevance to training effective deliverers that these stakeholders can offer their support.

Dr Sai Loo, UCL Institute of Education, University College London

Sai Loo (PhD, MA, BSc, FHEA, ACA, FETC) has taught in FE and worked in industry as a Chartered Accountant. Sai has published over 120 articles, conference papers and keynotes (84 per cent are single-authored) including six research monographs with Routledge. His research area is ‘occupational education’ across teaching, learning and work settings from pre-university to professional education.


Boyd P, Allan S, Reale P (2010) Being a teacher educator: pedagogy, scholarship and identity of lecturers in teacher education in further education workplace contexts. 2014. Available online at: http://www.cumbria.ac.uk/Public/Education/Documents/Research/EducatorsStorehouse/TeachereducatorsinFEColleges.pdf (accessed 5 September)..

Boyd P, Harris K (2010) Becoming a university lecturer in teacher education: Expert school teachers reconstructing their pedagogy and identity. Professional Development in Education, 36(1): 9–24.

Loo S (2019) Teaching knowledge, professional identities and symbolic representations of qualified teachers with occupational experiences. In Loo S (Ed) Further Education, Professional and Occupational Pedagogy: Knowledge and Experiences. Abingdon, Routledge.

Loo S (2020) Professional Development of Teacher Educators in Further Education: Pathways, Knowledge, Identities and Vocationalism. Abingdon: Routledge.

McKeon F, Harrison J (2010) Developing pedagogical practice and professional identities of beginning teacher educators. Professional Development in Education, 36(1–2): 25–44.

Murray J, Czerniawski G, Barber P (2011) Teacher educators’ identities and work in England at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century. Journal of Education for Teaching: International research and pedagogy, 37: 261–277.

Pereira F, Lopes A, Marta M (2015) Being a teacher educator: Professional identities and conceptions of professional education. Educational Research. DOI: 10.1080/00131881.2015.1078142.

Springbett O (2018) The professional identities of teacher educators in three further education colleges: An entanglement of discourse and practice. Journal of Education for Teaching, 44(2): 149–161.

Williams J, Ritter J K (2010) Constructing new professional identities through self-study: From teacher to teacher educator. Professional Development in Education, 36(1): 77–92.

[1] Findings of 33 participants, drawn from FE colleges, higher education institutions and private providers, who were or had been educators in the sector, were used. The data was captured from the survey, semi-structured interviews and Talking Heads (unstructured audio recordings). The eight researchers involved in this English project were Gordon Ade-Ojo, Heather Booth-Martin, John Bostock, Jim Crawley, Baiba Eberte, Sai Loo (Principal Investigator), Nicola Sowe and Sonia Spencer. In the book, issues of the educators such as teacher professionalism; profiles of the participants; pathways, initial disciplines and current titles of the participants; teacher educators’ knowledge; professional identities; professional education; and supporting case studies were investigated.

Details of this article are based on the keynote presentation, ‘Professional Development of Teacher Educators in Further Education: Initial Disciplines and Journeys’, IJMCS-LSRN-TELL Collaborative Conference, 5 July 2019, University of Greenwich, London.

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Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

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