Changing face of teacher education
- AITSL report shows an increase of students in online enrolments for initial teacher education (ITE) courses.
- ITE providers are required to consider perspectives of stakeholders and provide support for supervising teachers; however, in practice, establishment of genuine professional relationships with supervising teachers is the exception rather than the rule.
- Developing the student’s practice, skills and knowledge must remain the top priority, whichcan only happen when ITE providers acknowledge the pivotal role played by supervising teachers.
- Currently supervising teachers are paid a daily rate of $21.05; a figure that has not increased in 26 years.
A mini-boom in online enrolments for initial teacher education (ITE) courses is bringing higher education to more aspiring teachers; however,they must be classroom ready when they graduate. In the absence of adequate practicum support from ITE providers, it is practising teachers who are expected to step up and fill the gap.
A new report from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) titled The rise of online initial teacher education: what do we know? states a quarter of all ITE students studied their entire courseoff-campus in 2016.
This has doubled from around 10,000 more than a decade ago to 22,000 in 2016; one-in-four of the country’s 87,134 student teachers are now choosing online ITE courses.
What is the issue?
While online courses offer opportunities for aspiring teachers to achieve better balance between work/family commitments and study, this can create an issue regarding practicum.
By definition, the practicum experience requires beginning teachers to undertake situated learning in real schools; however, the rise of online ITE courses amplifies the professional distance between those who co-ordinate and supervise the practicum and the ITE provider.
AITSL Chief Executive Officer Lisa Rodgers said no matter where a student completes an ITE course in Australia, the number one focus needs to remain on a student’s practice, skills and knowledge so that the highest quality graduates are entering the profession.
“Like all ITE courses, ‘online only’ ITE courses also have a mandatory practical teaching component that physically places student teachers in classrooms to teach school students,” Ms Rodgers said.
The report also states that universities will need to look at how they support students during teaching placements when they reside away from their educational institution.
“Approximately 30 per cent of student teachers studying online are enrolled with an interstate provider not in their home state. Giving them the access and support for classroom placements in their home state or territory is important and we know many providers are focused on using technology and more traditional measures to do just that.”
How will this impact teachers?
The introduction of national accreditation for ITE programs has led to significant increases in workload for teachers who voluntarily take on supervision of preservice teachers in addition to their regular full-time role.
Despite their pivotal role in supporting pre-service teachers, universities have long remained indifferent to engaging in professional relationships with placement schools and supervising teachers and the rise of online ITE courses has the potential to exacerbate the situation.
The ITE accreditation guidelines state that the ITE provider must consider the perspectives of stakeholders such as employers, professional teacher bodies and practising teachers to support the delivery of professional experience in partner schools. This includes identification and provision of professional learning opportunities for supervising teachers and access to designated ITE staff who have current or recent experience in teaching.
However, in practice this does not occur and supervising teachers are left with little to no university support as they work to provide meaningful practicum experiences for the pre-service teacher.
Universities’ disregard for supervising teachers is also clearly evident in practicum supervision payments.
Currently supervising teachers are paid a daily rate of $21.05; a figure that has not increased in 26 years.
Our union, together with the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU), is currently agitating for an increase in payment for supervising teachers and challenging ITE providers to demonstrate that they value the contribution of supervising teachers in providing rich, situated opportunities for pre-service teachers to engage with professional practice.