In search of teacher excellence: honours programmes and the recognition of teacher excellence in the Netherlands

Marco Snoek, Sanne Spil, Ellen van den Berg, Edmee Suasso de Lima de Prado

Abstract


In the Netherlands, and in many other countries, teacher policy and teacher education are strongly focused on ensuring that teachers meet certain minimum standards. As all student teachers need to meet these standards, teacher education programmes might put the main emphasis on the ‘average’ student and pay little attention to students who can perform better, which would lead to a middle-of- the-road perspective on teachers and teacher education curricula.

However, there is a growing awareness within higher education of the diversity of students with respect to their abilities and ambitions. In the Netherlands, there are initiatives to develop excellence programmes and honours programmes that recognize and accept student diversity. Such programmes offer ‘excellent’ students new challenges in the development of their excellence. But as ‘excellence’ is not centrally defined, higher education institutes can define the concept independently.

Here, we present two examples of teacher education institutes that have developed honours programmes that emphasize excellent student teachers. While traditionally honours programmes in universities are focused on stimulating outstanding research performance of excellent students, in both examples a different focus is taken. The honours programmes in these universities for applied sciences do not focus on academic performance, but focus more directly on the roles of outstanding teachers in schools. One of these institutes focuses on primary teacher roles, the other on secondary teacher roles. Both use research in the content of the honours programmes and in the evaluation of the programmes.

Here, an analysis of the two programmes is related to developments in teacher policy and the teaching profession with respect to teacher excellence, e.g. the recent recommendation from the Netherlands Education Council to nominate the top 5% of teachers as ‘excellent teachers’ – a recommendation that was received with mixed feelings by teachers, teachers’ unions and school leaders.

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Editor-in-Chief: Prof Norbert Pachler
UCL Institute of Education, University College London
ISSN 1746-9082