Teacher Education Training Quality in Australia
From The Australian Higher Ed on lecturer, teacher and trainer continuing professional development. ‘Teaching skills are best learned through collegial training. ESTEEMED deans tell us how to do it. Crown ministers plot new laws to keep us doing it. And there’s even the occasional vice-chancellor who’ll dob me in if I stop doing it.
Everyone’s had their say on how to teach better.
Here’s a view from a teacher who’s been trained by one lot, untrained by another, retrained and retrenched by one amalgamation, and then promoted and organisationally developed inside out in the next.
TAFEs, universities, private colleges; each system’s teacher training values really are different, but buried so deep in their respective DNA that most followers regard them as unquestionable one-size-fits-all truths.
When I started teaching in TAFE I was automatically enrolled in a nearby university’s graduate diploma of education. The course was part-time, using my actual TAFE classes for observed practice.
My TAFE supervisors sat in on some classes. They checked lesson plans and nudged me when I got off track.
After two years I started to get the hang of it, and the uni gave me a licence.
Then one day I came to work when amalgamation (rather than today’s deregulation) was rattling nests. The staffroom was half-empty. The survivors had turned into academics overnight. Except we had teaching qualifications that weren’t required of most of our new university colleagues. With PhDs or even a masters, you could wing it. And they did.
My old teaching skills worked well in the smaller class sizes I was used to. Lots of group exercises, creative stuff, dialogues and peer-to-peer teaching.
But as my classes started to swell, I started to retreat. To the lectern, where my handwritten lesson plans had morphed into two big PowerPoint screens so 300 or more could see.
I remembered a few students’ names, but hardly needed to use them because I was doing most of the talking now…….
….And did another course in teaching English as a second language.
The classes were small again. The name at the bottom of the testamur was from Oxbridge. The delivery via a private college.
I learned more in a month about teaching than I had in years. And I’d never worked so hard — even during my hard-earned PhD.
The skills for teaching English as a second language to a global benchmark may seem specific to that discipline.
I now know they’re not. I had more observed lessons and feedback in one month than I have ever had in public institutions.
Teaching isn’t just about accreditation. Just as you’d hope your own education isn’t just about learning for a test.
Good teaching can be taught, and is being taught, in places selling performance over prestige. The more hours I spent teaching while being observed by experienced teachers, the better I got.
It could be the first step to increasing the number of experienced teachers able to observe and train new teachers in real-world classrooms. Whether public or private, it’s collegial training that delivers the goods.
Ian Lang is an e-learning designer and Honorary Professor of Digital Media at the University of Melbourne.‘
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