Excellence and expertise in further education teachers’ professional formation

Project summary: 

This project will aim to: 

The professional formation of teachers in English further education, including ITE (Initial Teacher Education) curricula and associated standards, has been subject to extensive critique over time. While standards and modes of delivery have changed, the core curriculum of FE teacher education retains broad similarities to that delivered prior to the introduction of the FENTO (Further Education National Training Organisation) standards in 1997 (Tummons, 2014). Policy discourses and regulatory frameworks have increasingly emphasised occupational expertise for over a decade but the practical expectations of ‘vocational pedagogies’ and ‘dual professionalism’ remain unclear (Esmond & Wood 2017).

Despite the perceived poverty of their professional formation, many teachers in the sector are widely acknowledged by peers to be excellent practitioners. However, there is a paucity of research which explores the characteristics of such teachers, or which attempts to determine how such characteristics are acquired. To what extent and how are they informed by ITE or by other formative experiences or credentials, and, if so, of what type and at what level? Are the specific skills associated with excellence in teaching more closely aligned with theoretical understandings or work-place practice? 

Drawing on a theoretical framework informed by understandings of knowledge, and of work-based learning, this qualitative study will seek to understand the extent to which the contemporary ITE curriculum informs the development of a teacher regarded as excellent by their colleagues, and what characterises those individuals and differentiates them from their colleagues?

Research cluster 

Technical and vocational education and training

Entry requirements

For our PhD programmes, we normally expect you to have a First or Upper-Second (2:1) honours degree and preferably a masters degree from a UK University in a relevant subject including Education or Sociology/social policy.

International students may also need to meet our English language requirements. Find out more about our entry requirements for international students.

Project specific requirements must align with the University’s standard requirements 

How to apply

Please contact Dr Bill Esmond (w.esmond@derby.ac.uk) in the first instance for more information on how to apply.

The University has four starting points each year for MPhil/PhD programmes (September, January, March and June). Applications should be made at least three months before you would want to start your programme. Please note that, if you require a visa, additional time will be required.  


Self-funded by student. There is a range of options that may be available to you to help you fund your PhD.


Liz Atkins
Professor of Vocational Education and Social Justice

Professor Liz Atkins is a leading scholar in the field of vocational education and training (VET). She has published widely on her concerns about how VET helps low-attaining young people move from school to work and associated ethical/methodological and social justice issues. Her recent book with Duckworth (2019) is Research Methods for Social Justice and Equity in Education (Bloomsbury).

Square image of staff member Bill Esmond
Professor of Professional Education and Training

Bill Esmond is Associate Professor, Education & Employment. His research is located at the intersection of workplace learning, vocational and higher education. His analysis of systems and practice is widely published in international journals, and he supports the research aspirations of vocational practitioners, from local projects to doctoral study.