One of Donald's seven reasons was:
"IrrelevanceThe drift towards ‘University-led’ courses had loaded these courses up with irrelevant theory that has no real bearing on the practice of teaching. A good example is Abraham Maslow, a staple in teacher training, yet of no use to anyone in terms of what they’re actually asked to do in schools."
I can only talk (with relatively little knowledge, I confess, though I have supervised trainees and picked up anecdotal evidence) about PGCE courses in modern languages, but I suspect what I say could apply to other subject areas. I am slightly concerned that trainee MFL teachers do not get enough theory. Apart from learning something about the general psychology of learning and the history of education, I consider it important that young MFL trainees get a solid grounding in theories of second language learning. Anecdotal evidence from forums and personal acquaintances suggests to me that this is not always the case.
Do all MFL trainees learn about the history of language teaching movements? Do they learn about behaviourist and cognitive theories of learning? Do they understand arguments for and against grammar-translation or audio-lingualism? Do they consider the limits of natural or direct methods? Do they look at learning versus acquisition? Do they study communicative theory, the comprehensible input hypothesis, the monitor model, suggestopedia, whole body approaches or the oral approach? Do they learn about phonetics and phonology? Do they study syllabus design?
If they do not, then they are missing out on some basic theoretical underpinnings of their practice and may not fully understand why they are teaching in such and such a way. I would go as far as to say they are full professionals in the best sense. Whilst I would accept that, in the end, teaching a language is often a pragmatic exercise where you use what works, and that many of the generic techniques of teaching, including effective assessment for learning, also apply to language teaching, it is also crucial to have a grasp of the pros and cons of different approaches and methods.
If we move teacher training out of universities and into schools, then we risk losing a great deal. The current balance of school placements and time in university to reflect and learn seems broadly appropriate to me. We just need to make sure that that the content of university PGCE courses includes enough theory of the right type, that courses are large enough to be economically viable and well taught by a range of well qualified people with a solid academic base of educational and second language learning knowledge.