Changes to Teacher Training

Newspapers (e.g. Age , Sydney Morning Herald)are reporting that an “expert teacher education panel” recommendations have been accepted by the various States education ministers to reform initial teacher education.

The report identified several perceived weaknesses with initial teacher education includes not enough time in classrooms and a lack of course focus on teaching literacy, numeracy and classroom management.

Let’s first of all name one elephant in the room – its initial teacher education – universities cannot possibly provide all the experiences needed for inexperienced teachers to feel confident in handling all the expectations we place on teachers. Systems, schools and the profession itself have a hand in this through continued mentoring for at least 4 years and continued professional learning after that.

As a former experienced Principal who employed many graduate teachers and now as a casual academic for a university visiting preservice teachers in schools I think I have some experiences worth noting.

  • We are asking experienced teachers, some of whom are unconsciously skilled to mentor preservice teachers often without support. My conversations with these well intentioned mentor teachers is to help them ask questions and provide feedback that promote preservice teacher reflections for subsequent adjustments to their instructional practice.
  • To support preservice teachers not only to write up lesson plans that contain the expected student outcomes (course content) but to briefly describe their intended instructional sequence and strategies to engage and empower students in their learning. I say briefly because their specific improvement focus is where greater detail is required e.g transitioning students during a lesson.

I’ll stop there and ask for any feedback before I comment further.

Newspapers comment further on the report: The Australian.

Universities are obligated to have their initial teacher education course accredited I believe in Victoria through the Victorian Institute of Teaching.

I went to Melbourne Teachers College in the mid 1970’s before it was merged with Melb University. Our courses were considered basic when compared to Melb Univ courses for example I had to learn a musical instructment (the recorder) back then as I was expected to teach music as a classroom teacher to primary students.

The 1970’s teacher education presented as a period of change from the apprenticeship model where teaching was seen as a craft to a more scholarly model where we studied education as well as teaching.

What I would argue is that we need both – more time in classrooms where we practice the strategies and evidenced based models around instruction (initially taught through the University) as well as a scholarship voice allowing us to reflect upon our experiences.

Again I’ll stop this article and await feedback before pressing on.

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