In recent times I have found the debate around Initial Teacher Education particularly stimulating. Institutional, academic and media contributions equally add to the vibrant nature of the discussion. Opinions may differ as to what the best way to prepare a teacher is, but the general consensus is that there is a need to raise the profile of the teaching profession in order to both attract the best candidates and to produce the best teachers. The 2010 Queensland Review of Teacher Education and School Induction provides a very useful overview of national and international Initial Teacher Education (ITE) best practice. One of the eighteen benchmarks proposed to evaluate ITE courses is that “a minimum of five years of pre-service education at university level is a requirement for entry to the profession”. A shift towards teaching becoming a graduate profession may contribute to the raising of its profile. There is however a range of other recommendations that may contribute to improved outcomes of graduate teachers and their future students. Some of the more interesting ones are:
- High academic standards and successful completion of attitudinal tests/interviews are a pre-requisite to entry in education programs
- Universities that offer pre-service teacher education establish (drawing on the model of the medical profession) clinical partnerships with schools. These should establish an understanding of good common practice, provide professional development for all staff, place specially-trained exemplary teachers in partner schools, and provide student teachers with experience of highly effective practice and a range of behavioural issues
- The practicum is modelled on an induction process which starts with the commencement of the pre-service program and includes in-school mentoring for one year after graduation
- Evidence based literacy training is provided to all student teachers who will be involved in literacy teaching
Dean Ashenden’s recent piece on Inside Story seems to intentionally want to “rough the feathers” and stir the debate. The article raises points in relation to this issue that are worth mentioning here. Ashenden compares learning to teach to learning to act and to play a musical instrument. He says that to become a teacher “takes time, practice and help” and goes on to explain that it is crucial to provide feedback in a cycle of “try–review–think–try again”. He goes on to say that “musicians need both theory and practice” and that “they learn them in interaction”.
These comments, when juxtaposed with the clinical model proposed in the Queensland review, are not revolutionary, but help when trying to visualise the kind of nurturing support needed to produce the best possible teachers. I am eager to see how pre-service education course providers implement the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership reforms and rise to the challenge of providing Australian students with the best possible education.