Skip to main content

The Exeter Model of ITE

Text is (c) University of Exeter

The Exeter Model of Initial Teacher Education offers a Research-Inspired approach to learning to teach that enables progressive development to mastering the skills and knowledge required of teachers as codified in the Teachers’ Standards1. The model is firmly rooted in principles derived from sociocultural theories of learning. These are that learning to teach requires:

  • Activity situated within the school context (‘Community of Practice’ – see Lave and Wenger, 1991)
  • Opportunities for dialogue with others, particularly those more experienced (see Vygotsky, 1978)
  • Scaffolded progress towards independent practice (see Bruner, 1978)
  • Tools to make sense of the knowledge, skills and social and political contexts of teaching (see Engeström, 1999)
  • Deliberately reflective thinking about teaching and learning, strengthened through engagement in classroom research.
  • Understanding that contradictions (eg between theory and current practice or between a teachers' view and a trainees' expectations) are stimuli for exploration of why these differences occur and for new thinking and practice. They are points of creative growth for individuals and ultimately for the system.


In order to scaffold practice, the Exeter Partnership and School Direct @Exeter PGCE (23/24 only) curriculum is explicitly designed to utilise key tools developed as part of the ‘Exeter Model’ within a phased approach to beginning teachers’ development.

Trainees begin to develop knowledge, skills and understanding in a supportive environment within the university before having two terms of school placement in contrasting experiences to enable them to be fully immersed within school communities of practice. Trainees begin with micro-teaching short ‘episodes’ with their peers at university, then teach gradually longer episodes with the support of subject tutors in school before moving to whole lessons and finally taking responsibility for the classes within their whole timetable over longer sequences of lessons.

Their development is tracked using the Formative Reflection on Achievement and Progress documents (FRAPs) in which they log evidence of their progress in each phase. They make a reflective statement on their development against a holistic view described within a ‘phase descriptor’ in which the language used is tailored to reflect development towards excellence in teaching.

In the School Direct Distance curriculum (23/24 only), the sequence is adapted to the different opportunities afforded by being on placement across the full academic year. Trainees follow the phases of the Exeter model and use the same development tools as our other routes.

However, they focus on developing procedural teaching skills in authentic classrooms earlier in their sequence, and development of declarative knowledge of teaching and learning is distributed more slowly across the academic year. Trainees focus on foundational knowledge of teaching and learning in term 1, adaptive teaching in term 2, and developing sensitivity in term 3, with structured taught input via weekly online learning and university seminar days, alongside a school-led training programme which is tailored to the needs of the regional partnership.

Trainees experience at least two placements, with a minimum of 6 weeks in their second 'contrasting' placement which is scheduled by lead partner schools as best fits their local programme. The 'phase descriptors' against which School Direct Distance (23/24 only) trainees are monitored in their FRAPs are adapted to reflect their different sequence of development, with the different routes all reaching the same expectations in the Developing Independence phase.

Alongside the usual lesson plans, evaluations and observations of practicing teachers, there are two key tools unique to the Exeter Model – ‘Agendas’ and the ‘Exeter Model Framework’. Each of these tools has been developed using theories of learning and are designed to support new teacher development according to the key principles outlined above. Each can also be used in a number of ways as the trainee’s teaching becomes increasingly sophisticated.


Parallel to the lesson plan which focuses on pupils’ learning, the agenda tool enables trainees to focus on a particular aspect of their own pedagogical development. They consider this carefully and describe what they will do in the relevant episode(s) within the lesson. An observing teacher notes non-evaluative comments on the trainees’ actions in relation to their ‘agenda’ during the lesson, which the trainee uses to reflect before engaging in a discussion about the lesson with the observing teacher.

Agendas are linked to focused observations of a teacher ‘demonstrating’ the aspect of pedagogy which is the focus of the agenda. It may be helpful to the trainee to engage in ‘reverse mentoring’, where an experienced teacher writes and teaches an agenda which the trainee observes. This models for the trainee how to use the tool, and is helpful in providing insight into experienced teacher’s decision making.

As the trainee’s teaching develops and they enter the Developing Independence phase, they move on to Focused Reflections, where they focus in depth on particular aspects of teaching. They can use the agenda tool to support their Focused Reflections.

The Exeter Model Framework

The Exeter Model Framework encourages trainees to take account of the whole spectrum of issues that sociocultural theories identify as important in educational decision making. It is designed to aid teachers in reflecting on their work in relation to a specific aspect of practice by drawing attention to a number of interlinked aspects of the context in which they are working.

The Framework prompts teachers to interrogate and discuss their practice by asking questions of themselves and each other in relation to their values and beliefs, their knowledge about their subject, about teaching, and about learning, the school ethos and community, and education policy. Lead Mentors, Reflective Mentors, UVTs and Personal Tutors are all encouraged to utilise the Exeter Model Framework during their Reflective Conversations.

To support trainees and teachers, we offer a broad version of the framework, a version with some generic prompt questions, and some specific ‘framework tasks’ with targeted prompt questions focused around key issues such as SEND, Assessment and Challenging the Gap (amongst others). All of these can be used by trainees individually but, based on our sociocultural theory of learning, we advocate them always discussing ‘framework tasks’ with other trainees and with teachers, to aid their completion. 

Using the Tools in different phases of development

All the tools within the Exeter Model can be used in a number of ways depending on the teaching skills being developed. As trainees move into the Developing Independence Phase, they will start to think about their classroom practice in a more holistic and challenging way.

Trainees will choose a particular pedagogical focus for a period of two weeks and will select between two and four training tools (Demonstrations, Agendas, lesson observation), alongside one compulsory observation, to develop that area of practice. At the end of this period a Focused Reflection will be written, drawing on all the training tools that have been used as well as any academic reading on the selected theme.