EC: Education and Training
Cluster ‘Teachers and Trainers’
PLA, Iceland, 21–24 June 2010
Teacher Educators – ICELAND
Questions for homework June 2010
1. Who are considered to be Teacher Educators in your country?
To what extent are they a homogenous group?
The short answer is that teacher educator is far from being a transparent concept in Iceland
(the word does not even exist in the Icelandic language). It is very much a question of
identity whether one considers one self to be teacher educator.
All teachers at the Faculty of Teacher Education at University of Iceland as well as in four
smaller universities that provide teacher education in the country are considered to be
teacher educators regardless of their background. The subject teachers those who teach e.g.
Mathematics, Icelandic, English or the Arts in other Schools or faculties at the Universities
are normally not considered to be teacher educators and do probably not see themselves as
such. However, a great number of their students eventually become teachers. The subject
teachers’ professional identity is that of a university professional who sees him/her self
first and foremost as a researcher within his/her field.
At the Faculties of Education in addition to lecturers and professors there are ‘adjunct
teachers’ that have been recruited as part time teachers from schools to strengthen the
relationships between university and the field.
Last but not least the mentors in the partnerships schools should be acknowledged as
teacher educators. This applies to public teachers in pre-schools, primary schools, upper
secondary schools and vocational education.
As can be seen from the above teacher educators are by no means a homogeneous group
not even within the Faculties of Education. Teacher Educators have different educational
background: doctoral degrees, master’s degrees and some have a long experience working
in schools whereas others have no experience from schools. Some are originally educated
as teachers whereas others have had no such training and are not required to.
2. Is there a policy on Teacher Educators?
If not, how does it work?
Currently teacher education in Iceland is in a transition phase. All teacher education has
taken place at Bachelor level or as one year Certification course following Bachelor
degree. In June 2008 new legislation issues that from 2011 teacher education is a five year
university study (Bologna 1st & 2nd cycle) for pre-schools, primary schools and secondary
school teachers. This puts new demands on teacher education institutions and teacher
educators and opens up the issue of reconstruction the content and structure of teacher
There is an increasing weight within the Universities on that a doctoral degree should be
required to teach at universities in Iceland regardless of School or Faculty. There are no
extra requirements or a qualification policy for teacher educators not even the teachers
within the Faculty of Teacher Education who are normally considered to be TE. There are
no formal requirements for mentors in schools other than teacher qualification and no
official policy on how mentors should be recruited.
3. To what extent are initial Teacher Education, continuous TE and continuing
professional development seen as a coherent whole or totally separated undertakings?
Initial teacher Education, and continuous TE are two separate undertakings.
Continuous TE for primary and lower-secondary schools (grunnskoli) is organised by the
municipalities sometimes in cooperation with the schools of Education. Many teachers at
the Faculties of Education are heavily involved in CTE. Continuous TE for upper-
secondary teachers is financed by the state and organized in cooperation with Teachers’
Union. For a number of years teachers have been returning to universities to obtain a
master degree either in the subject MA or in pedagogic fields M.Ed.
First steps are being taken on behalf of the University of Iceland to narrow this gap and
offer CT in closer cooperation with the Teacher Union and the public schools.
4. How are the different kinds of Teacher Educator referred to in
policy documents about teacher education or the education system?
Teacher educators do not hold special titles in policy documents. They are all university
teachers except the teachers/mentors in schools. Teacher educators are university lectures,
senior lecturers, professors and adjuncts and in schools there are mentors.
5. What are the competencies that Teacher Educators need?
This is an important question with no simple answers, a question which should be at the
centre of discussion at the PLA seminar.
It seems that there should be a consensus amongst policy makers that Teacher Educators
should besides academic qualification in their subject area have acquired some knowledge
and understandings of Education theory, Pedagogies and schools. For example preferred
competences should be related to Curriculum theory, pedagogic content knowledge, some
teacher training is ideal and some skills in research methods in educational context.
Who ensures that Teacher Educators acquire these?
We have no standard competencies for teacher TE other than standard requirements for
university teachers. (Actually Teachers Certificate was required in the faculty of the
Iceland College of Education until the 1990s.)
When applying for a university post applicants to go through a rigorous evaluation
procedure primarily focusing on research skills. When applying for a post at Schools of
Education applicants undergo the same procedure as in other Schools or Faculties.
How homogeneous do they need to be?
It is feasible to set some national or even international (e.g. European ) guidelines for
teacher educators. But it is equally necessary to secure some flexibility considering the
varieties within educational settings, system and schools. In international context it is
important to take into consideration variations in educational histories and systems as well
as cultural context. The bottom line is that education; especially teacher education; relates
closely to cultural trajectories.