Pathways to Practice - Kairos Consultancy and Training

pathwaysThis paper presents the beginnings of an innovative new pathway to practice program, piloting an extended model of initial teacher education between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Department of Education. A number of alternative pathways in teacher education have re-emerged in recent years, especially those situated within the school community. The current community-based program is for students in their second year of the Bachelor of Teaching, and is a pilot teacher education pathway for pre-service teachers, tailored towards the local teaching needs of Tasmanian schools.Research suggests that there are likely to be a variety of effective pathways into teaching and the challenge for the partnership is to ensure that elements of program excellence are embedded (Zeichner & Conklin, 2008). The focus of the program will be on reflective practice with an aim of enhancing pre-service teacher’s practice in the classroom. As part of the pilot, pre-service teachers will be engaged in university coursework, to give them sound theoretical and curriculum understandings, classroom observations of practice in action, and reflections on the practice-theory nexus. An emphasis will be to build connectedness between the pre-service teachers in the program to ensure that they are not isolated but share strong relationships with each other (Darling-Hammond, 2000). It is the relationships that will be established between the pre-service teachers, colleague teachers and university staff during the pilot that will help to build and extend the partnership as we work together in supporting the development of an excellent teaching and learning profession.

Piloting a new partnership in teacher education

by Karin Oerlemans and Bob Phillips

The Partnership

The University of Tasmania (UTas) and the Tasmanian Department of Education are combining to provide an innovative pilot teacher education pathway for preservice teachers, seeking a teaching career in Tasmanian Government schools. A number of alternative pathways in teacher education have re-emerged in recent years, especially those situated within the school community. The current community-based program is for students in their second year of the Bachelor of Teaching, and is a tailored towards the local teaching needs of Tasmanian schools.

With increasing pressure on schools globally to find highly qualified teachers, and the introduction of incentive based employment and teacher training opportunities in other states in Australia, the DoE and the University came together to pilot a teacher education partnership. The aims of the project are to increase the retention of teachers in Tasmanian Government schools, to grant extended practice opportunities for pre-service teachers assisting them in becoming excellent reflective practitioners, and to explore ways of improving colleague teacher’s and pre-service teachers reciprocal relationships and mentoring and the effect on teaching practice (Glazer & Hannafin, 2006).

The Pathway Project

The project will place pre-service teachers in schools during the first week of the school year, giving them time to observe and reflect on the establishment of the classroom environment and routines. Pre-service teachers will continue in schools for a further day a week, whilst completing their coursework, allowing them to reflect on the theory-practice nexus, understandings they will be able to share with fellow pre-service teachers, not participating in the project. During second semester students will spend two days a week in schools. The time in school will be further enhanced by guiding pre-service teachers’ practice through the collection of a reflective portfolio, which will be used to identify teaching issues/concerns/problems of personal and professional relevance, drawing upon their growing professional knowledge and understanding of their contexts. During their time in schools pre-service teachers will explore the processes and possibilities of practitioner research, and generate preliminary plans for investigation into an aspect of relevance in their own educational context. This is to provide them with the opportunity to recognize the role that reflection plays in forming a link between the conceptual and theoretical bases of teaching and learning.

It is hoped that the program will benefit the pre-service teachers, by complimenting their university studies with and extended time in schools, utilising the support and mentoring from experienced colleague teachers who will have time release to specifically work with them throughout their final BTeach year and into their early years of teaching. Pre-service teachers in the program will have an opportunity to experience a school year from start to finish, as well as gain further experience in other selected teaching schools. They will be given access to specialist DoE training courses beyond that covered in their university course work, in literacy, numeracy, e-learning, other curriculum areas and behaviour management. Specialist assistance will be given with classroom establishment, lesson planning and student management and further support through a professional learning team structure.

The focus of the program will be on reflective practice with an aim of enhancing pre-service teacher’s practice in the classroom. As part of the pilot, pre-service teachers will be engaged in university coursework, to give them sound theoretical and curriculum understandings, classroom observations of practice in action, and reflections on the practice-theory nexus. An emphasis will be to build connectedness between the pre-service teachers in the program to ensure that they are not isolated but share strong relationships with each other (Darling-Hammond, 2000). It is the relationships that will be established between the pre-service teachers, colleague teachers and university staff during the pilot that will help to build and extend the partnership as we work together in supporting the development of an excellent teaching and learning profession.

A framework for Practice

Research suggests that there are likely to be a variety of effective pathways into teaching and the challenge for the partnership is to ensure that elements of program excellence are embedded (Zeichner & Conklin, 2008). Ideally, pre-service teachers become better practitioners by teaching, learning from, and being supported by colleague teachers within the school context (Hall & Davis, 1995). Hertzog (2002) suggests that the physical and social contexts of schools, the situational context, in which the practice takes place, are fundamental to the practice and the learning that takes place within it. Part of the project is to ensure that supportive environments are selected that will help to establish the pre-service teachers’ sense of self-efficacy (Glazer & Hannafin, 2006), thus fostering increased collaboration amongst the colleague teacher and the pre-service teachers, which will tend to perpetuate success. The importance of the selection of supportive and exemplary colleague teachers, cannot be overstated, teacher-leaders who will be ‘living examples’ of good practice (Feiman-Nemser, 2001).

The role of the colleague teacher will include modeling a variety of teaching strategies, and positive behaviours, helping locate instructional resources, understand school policies and administrative requirements, and provide technical assistance in the use of various tools, such as computers and networks (Glazer & Hannafin, 2006). The colleague teacher must provide times for questioning, discussions and monitoring the progress in teaching practice over time. Enhancing teaching practice may be achieved through the engagement of collaborative practice with the pre-service teacher in the development of learning activities, and by joined reflection on the experiences. Where a positive relationship is created encouraging growth of the preservice teacher, there is increased evidence of risk taking, idea generating, open discussion and sharing of experiences. The relationship becomes reciprocal, and it is hoped that both parties will benefit. The effect of the relationship on the practice of both pre-service and colleague teacher will be studied as part of the pilot.

The teacher education pilot, a partnership between the Tasmanian Department of Education and the University of Tasmania will take place during 2009, with 20 students being offered the opportunity to participate. Students selected will be drawn from the second year cohort of the Bachelor of Teaching. Pre-service teachers will be selected through a rigorous application process, which includes interviews with prospective participants. Pre-service teachers will be placed in government schools in Southern Tasmania. Support offered through the project will take the form of a studentship and on completion a permanent position with the Department of Education. Evaluations will take place during the course of the year and on completion of the students’ course work, to enable further decisions about the program and its structure to be made (Zeichner & Conklin, 2008).

A last word

The intent of the project is not to provide comparisons between the various pathways, as Zeichner and Conklin so aptly point out, there is tremendous diversity in the admission to the various programs and the settings for which they are prepared to teach, and so there is likely to be a need for a variety of effective pathways, our aim is to ensure that there are elements of excellence present in all of the various pathways into teaching.

References:
Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Studies of excellence in teacher education. Washington, DC: American Association fo Colleges for Teacher Education.

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). Helping novices learn to teach: Lessons from an exemplary support teacher. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(1), 17-30.

Glazer, E. M., & Hannafin, M. J. (2006). The collaborative apprenticeship model: Situated professional development within school settings. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 179-193.

Hall, J. K., & Davis, J. (1995). What we know about the relationships that develop between cooperating and student teachers. Foreign Language Annuals, 28, 32-48.

Hertzog, H. S. (2002). When, how, and who do I ask for help?: Novices’ perceptions of problems and assistance. Teacher Education Quarterly, 29(3), 25-41.

Zeichner, K., & Conklin, H. (2008). Teacher education programs as sites for teacher preparation. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nemser, J. D. McIntyre & K. E. Demers (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education: Enduring questions in changing contexts (3rd Ed., pp. 267-289). New York: Routledge.

© January, 2009 Karin Oerlemans