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«2005 Australian Teacher Education : Although Reviewed to the Eyeball is there Evidence of Significant Change and Where to now? Michael Dyson Monash ...»

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Australian Journal of Teacher Education

Volume 30 | Issue 1 Article 4


Australian Teacher Education : Although Reviewed

to the Eyeball is there Evidence of Significant

Change and Where to now?

Michael Dyson

Monash University

Recommended Citation

Dyson, M. (2005). Australian Teacher Education : Although Reviewed to the Eyeball is there Evidence of Significant Change and

Where to now?. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 30(1).

http://dx.doi.org/10.14221/ajte.2005v30n1.4 This Journal Article is posted at Research Online.

http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ajte/vol30/iss1/4 Australian Journal of Teacher Education




Michael Dyson Monash University Abstract Teacher Education within Australia is once again on the cusp of further reviews at both State and Federal levels. This is in spite of frequent and invasive reviews and inquiries over the last 150 years of formal teacher education. Since the 1980s many reviews have been conducted with the intent of improving the quality of teacher education – in order to improve the learning outcomes for the pupils in the nation’s schools. This paper examines some of the reviews and the emergent patterns as it follows the journey of teacher education from the 1850s to the present day. It highlights many of the recurring dilemmas and the frustrations of the educational community, which includes the following: Education versus Training; Theory versus Practice;

Supply versus Demand and Profession versus skilled & competent practitioners. Perhaps it is now time to recognise the binaries that have continued to cause division and move beyond them into a new era based on mutual collaboration, acceptance of diversity, effective dialogue and resource sharing. The establishment of a common foundation of essential knowledge/learning and the development of core non-negotiable elements, including a blend theory and practice, within Australian teacher education, has the potential to lead to substantial benefits for the nations children.

Introduction According to Korthagen (1999) it would seem that teacher education throughout the world, in (HEIs), is in trouble. Korthagen makes this point based on the move, especially in the UK, to move PSTE to school-based ‘training on the job’ because of a perceived failure of the HEIs to prepare beginning teachers for the reality of the classroom in this post modern digital age. This substantial shift, consisting of a return to an almost apprenticeship model of PSTE, caused by the failure in the HEIs, that occurred in the UK in the early 1990’s, indicates one of the great dichotomies surrounding, and seemingly endemic, within teacher education in the western world for many years. Training, according to Smith (1992), which is closely associated with apprecticeships, tends to be located in a specific field and associated with the development and acquisition of a battery of skills and competencies that in turn become the tools of a skilled practitioner. On the other hand, an education consists of a more global and integrating outlook focused on knowledge acquisition, thinking, skill development, engagement, morality and the understandings behind the knowledge in all aspects of life (Smith, 1992, p. 2).

It would seem that when the practice ‘in the field’ is valued over theory there is an increasing emphasis placed on training, as distinct from an emphasis placed on education. This further suggests when the concept of education, as defined by Smith (1992) is prioritised, rather than training, there is a synergy, rather than a separation of theory and practice. This synergy has the potential to build the professional status of the profession of education, as distinct from preparing skilled and competent practitioners. Herein lies four of the most significant issues that have continued to impact upon teacher education preparation over the last 150 years.

• Education versus Training

–  –  –

• Theory versus Practice

• Supply versus Demand

• Profession versus skilled & competent practitioners It is my understanding, along with many other educators, (Britzman, 2003, D. Coulter & Wiens, 2002, Gore, 2001, Groundwater-Smith, Cusworth, & Dobbins, 1998, Hargreaves & Fullan, 2000, Korthagen & Kessels, 1999, Leach, 2000, Zeichner, 1999) that there are other, and perhaps different ways than we have used in the past, to prepare quality teachers for this now digital, bordering on the genetic, age. I have also formed the opinion that there are special requirements, or unique characteristics vital to be present in a quality teacher for this age - such as the following: a quality teacher is self-efficacious and capable in their own right, is willing and able to take responsibility for the various tasks at hand, is able to manage their own life but is also able to recognise that they are not alone, is a moral person recognising the rights of others, is willing to put the needs of others, especially their students, before their own, when it is necessary to do so, and recognises that through collaboration and resource sharing the power of one becomes the power of many. Indeed a quality teacher is capable of changing one’s beliefs and everyday practices. A quality teacher is therefore a learner as well as a teacher and is primarily focused on facilitating quality learning in their students. The basic assumption that lies within these statements is that a quality teacher is a prerequisite for a quality education.

In looking for evidence to substantiate these claims I have considered the following: Firstly, I have attempted to examine one of the most crucial and important elements of humanity, i.e.

quality education for the successors of planet earth. Secondly, through an investigation into the history and the inquiries into teacher education I present what has been seen in the past as the best way, or the way to conduct, Pre-service Teacher Education (PSTE). Thirdly, I will present the re-occurring and unresolved themes of PSTE in an attempt to establish how best to prepare quality, capable and self-efficacious beginning teachers who can embrace the challenges of a post modern digital world.

Preparing teachers in an age of uncertainty

In this post modern age of uncertainty education in general, and in teacher education in particular, it would seem to be vital that systemic change be anticipated, encouraged and implemented through the shifting of existing perspectives and a revision of existing, belief systems. Effective, and ‘Future Age’ thinking, i.e. open “Worldview” thinking (Reece & Overton, 1970) cited in (Knowles, 1990, p. 17) rather than just ‘Present Age’ thinking has the potential to guide the holistic shaking down of all that is thought to be known by the individual preparing to be a teacher. Bauman (2001) places emphasis on what he refers to as ‘tertiary learning’ – “learning how to break regularity, how to get free from habits and prevent habitualisation, how to rearrange fragmentary experiences into heretofore unfamiliar patterns while treating all patterns as acceptable solely until further notice” (Bauman, 2001, p. 125). A graduate leaving a teacher education program, rooted in tertiary learning, should be able to view their life, their chosen career, their spheres of influence and their personal contribution to planet earth in a totally different way to that which they perceived it when they entered their teacher preparation course. If this were the case then the graduates from teaching degrees, or education degrees, would emerge with a keen sense of “educational judgement” (D. Coulter & Wiens,

2002) that is founded on a unity between thought and action.

Australia in joining the rest of the world in the first decade of the 2nd millennium has moved once again into a re-occurring cycle of examining what is effective in pre-service teacher education. It does so, as well documented by Preston (2000), on the cusp of a major shortage of primary and secondary teachers. This shortage is not only an Australian problem but also a Vol. 30, No.1, February, 2005 38 Australian Journal of Teacher Education worldwide problem. The problems associated with this shortage are manyfold. A move could be taken by Governments and Education Authorities to push teacher preparation institutions into conducting ‘quick fix’, short duration, pre-service teacher education courses. Such events have occurred in the past and have resulted in poorly qualified teachers presenting at the chalk face.

Short term courses ‘pressure cook’ applicants and just about anyone who wanted to be a teacher could possibly pass through the preparation process in teacher education just to fill the job vacancies (Auchmuty, 1980). Another danger already presenting itself is the employment of less than fully qualified student teachers that are being offered, and are taking up, teaching positions either as instructors or as casual relief teachers. Even though this is now illegal in the State of Victoria, under the recently promulgated Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) Act of 2001, some schools are prepared to risk the heavy fines and place unqualified persons into classrooms. Their reasons for taking the risk are based on the claim that there is a lack of teachers available to take up teaching positions, including part time and casual relief work.

However, at this time of a shortage it is still just as vital that the students in our schools receive quality teaching from a qualified, committed and dedicated teaching profession. It is perhaps timely that organizations similar to the Queensland Board of Registration and the recently instituted Victorian Institute of Teaching are now emerging in a number of States across Australia, promoting the registration of all teachers and claiming to represent the profession of teaching. Teachers, without registration, are no longer permitted to teach in any school (government or non-government) within Victoria. Most other States now have similar regulations in place, or are in the process of developing the same. One might well ask - why now?

My response focuses on the following; firstly, there appears to be an Australia-wide need to lift the status of the teaching profession i.e. by formal recognition of credentialed professional teachers, secondly, to apply a set of standards applicable to all those involved in teaching and thirdly, to provide a means of regulating the profession into the future (Victorian Institute of Teaching, 2003). However these things are not new to the profession of teaching as will be evidenced through the historical journey presented in this paper.

A return to the core of education

Gore (2001) rightfully places a key emphasis on that which should always be at the core of teaching and learning. It is the student, and what they get out of a learning experience, in terms of their learning, which is of paramount importance. It is also logical that this same focus should also exist in the higher learning institutions (HEIs), charged with the responsibility of conducting pre-service teacher education. Part of the responsibility of tertiary institutions includes opportunities for research, the provision and dissemination of up-to-date relevant knowledge, and programs that balance theory and practice. In an attempt to understand the historical influences and to briefly map the story of teacher preparation in Australia the four issues, already identified, will be used as a framework, or as journey markers, as we proceed through the 150 years of acknowledged formal teacher preparation.

A journey of review

In conducting a researched review of the journey of teacher education in Australia I too, like others before me (Ramsey, 2000), have reached the conclusion, that, as a group, teacher education has been reported on and examined almost beyond belief or reason, especially over the last 25 years.

–  –  –

The roots of teacher education: A focus on training rather than education In Australia, like New Zealand and the UK, the roots of teacher preparation, or what has in the past been referred to as teacher training, reside in the tradition of a monitorial or apprenticeship system. Within this scheme, as noted in the National Inquiry into Teacher Education (NITE) report of 1980, “teacher training institutions [schools] were as much concerned with bringing teacher trainees up to an acceptable minimum standard of general education as with ensuring effective teaching in the classroom” (Auchmuty, 1980, p. 1) As recorded in the appendix to the NITE report, submitted by Hyams (1980), the early 1850’s in Australia were significant because it was at this time that the first formalised system of teacher education came into being through the ‘Model’ schools. The ‘training’ of teachers was conducted from 1850 in these ‘Model’ schools rather than in specialised institutions. It was known as the pupil-teacher system and remained in place well into the 20th Century. The pupilteachers ideally built up their teaching skills by working under the supervision of a masterteacher both during and after school hours. As a method of teacher education it was popular because it was cheap and as noted by Hyams (1980), abuses were evident in terms of excessive workloads for the pupil-teachers, neglect by the supervisors in terms of education of their protégé and in poor working conditions for the pupil-teachers. In fact almost the entire teaching force during these times was prepared as teachers through on-the-job skill-based training, an apprenticeship scheme, based on a process of skill and competency development. It would appear that the essential reason that this occurred, and remained in vogue for so long, was on economic grounds rather than educational grounds. “In the face of such extensive cost saving, scant attention was paid to the plea that it was undesirable to have school children taught by those who were themselves so young and immature” (Hyams, 1980, p. 250).

The emergence of theory as the basis for teacher preparation

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