Tuesday, February 12, 2008

teacher training

Here are the sorts of things covered in teacher training courses. These courses typically run for one year:
  1. classroom management and behaviour management
  2. lesson and program preparation
  3. induction into a real school
  4. subject expertise
  5. learning theory
  6. history of education and pedagogy
  7. curriculum framework brainwashing (in South Australia it's called SACSA, a social constructivist framework which many experienced teacher despise)
The point I would make is that some of these things take considerably less than one year (1,2 and 3) and others take considerably more than one year (4, 5 and 6), to acquire a base level of competence. Others (point 7) are just a complete waste of time.

Student teachers vary a lot. Some don't relate or connect very easily to students. Others don't have a strong subject knowledge and make elementary mistakes in maths or whatever when teaching. To correct these problems will take a lot of hard work over more than a year.

Student teachers with a strong subject base who connect readily with the kids and are curious about learning quickly become good teachers.

I don't really have a problem with highly successful students (strong subject expertise) being given a crash course in teaching methods (8 weeks - Teach for Australia - is better than 5 weeks - Teach for America) and then being paired with an experienced mentor (Teach for Australia proposal) when they go out and teach in a disadvantaged school

This seems a reasonable response to real problems:
  • the problem of the low and declining subject expertise in many of those who apply to teach
  • the problem of hard to staff disadvantaged schools
  • mathophobia - some primary teachers can't do grade 5 maths according to one expert
  • the long tail of under achievement in Australian schools
The McKinsey report (page 31) recommends scrapping university based teacher training in favour of a more hands on just in time interventionist approach:
  • move the initial period of training from the lecture theatre to the classroom
  • placing coaches in schools to support teachers
  • selecting and developing effective instructional leaders
  • enabling teachers to learn from each other
None of this amounts to radical change which does require delving into points 5 and 6 on the initial list above. However, these issues take more than a year to understand anyway, they tend to be taken up by those with a deep passion for epistemology, which perhaps is not taught well at teacher training courses anyway.

The situation with remote indigenous education in Australia is so bad and so urgent that a quicker, simpler solution ought to be supported --> Teach for Australia. This does not preclude more radical transformations and in fact may help create the conditions to support such transformations.

No comments: