Innovation Unleashed in Teacher Education

New degree programs involve closer partnerships between unis and working teachers.
Apr 30, 2024
Uni courses designed with teachers for teachers.

Innovative teacher education is focusing on closer partnerships between schools and universities; university tutorials led by practicing teachers, and high school students engaging in university education classes.

The aim is to resolve the deep challenges facing the education system, hoping teachers can begin their working lives expediently and better prepared for what is in store. 

Associate Professor Don Carter, University of Technology Sydney says, "In this era of an acute teacher shortage, it is important that universities establish strategic and durable partnerships with schools to attract school leavers into the profession.

"The partnerships need to target current pressing issues such as the role of digital technology in learning, teaching literacy and numeracy, classroom management and developing student capabilities such as a love of learning, resilience and confidence.”

UTS has partnered with several different schools, all of which provide advice and input into the design of its teacher education courses to enhance the authenticity and robustness of UTS’ subjects.

"Prospective teachers need experience in schools as early as possible. In the very first few weeks of the UTS Master of Teaching degree, we have the entire cohort of first year students engage in authentic learning at partner schools.

"One school partner, Inner Sydney High School, has developed coursework for our programs, delivering tutorials for UTS teacher education students on digital learning as well as tutorials on handling classroom challenges.

"Teacher education academics are uniquely positioned to design and implement school-based research that targets a school’s local needs, while the participation of practising teachers in the design and delivery of university teacher education subjects integrates up-to-the-minute content and knowledge about teaching and learning.

"One of UTS’s school partners, Macquarie Fields High School, has developed an innovative idea that has sparked considerable interest in teaching as a career. The MFHS Future Teachers Club is a club for MFHS students to learn about the skills, knowledge and attributes required for effective teaching in schools. UTS and MFHS both recognise the benefits of providing students with early experience of what teaching is like ‘behind the scenes.’

"In this mutually reciprocal partnership, we have had UTS students engage with tutorials at Macquarie Fields, and secondary school students in the FTC attend teacher education classes at UTS. Overall, positive school partnerships provide UTS students with an early and frequent exposure to real-world teaching experiences that helps both them and their students to thrive."

There is no shortage of people who want to teach, the problem is removing the barriers and a recast teaching course at University of Newcastle is attracting healthy number of students. 

In October 2023 the University of Newcastle School of Education launched the Graduate Diploma in Teaching Secondary as a pathway to the Master of Teaching Secondary Program.

The program has been carefully designed in consultation with regional school principals, the Department of Education, Catholic and Independent sector leaders, teacher federations and AITS.

The program ensures that students are genuinely classroom ready in just 12 months. The new Graduate Diploma is delivered via a trimester rather than semester model, and it is front-loaded so that students have completed seventy-five per cent of a Master degree in the space of a one-year diploma. 

Professor John Fischetti Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Human and Social Futures and University of Newcastle says, "The new program addresses the teacher shortage in several ways. Firstly, it provides a meaningful response to the fact that students in NSW can begin to work in schools in the second half of their degree.

“The new program also offers a model of initial teacher education that is workable in the current economy and the cost-of-living crisis.

"Older students who are already in the workforce and who would consider a career-change to teaching are being stopped short by the prospect of a two-year gap in earnings.

"Already, our Graduate Diploma has attracted four times the enrolments as last year in our Master-only option.

"There is no shortage of people out there who want to teach. Despite the difficulties teachers are experiencing at the moment - workloads, and attrition from the profession - and all the attention they have received, teaching still offers joy and the chance to make a difference every day.

“Candidates can work during this online program and even do so as casual teachers or assistants in schools.

"Designing teacher education in a way that removes financial and practical barriers and relates theory to practice is something that we are proud to have taken on as a university.”

The reality is that our classrooms are not just diverse, they are super-diverse now.  

Professor Umesh Sharma Professor in the Faculty of Education Monash University says, "Tackling superdiversity means making taking universities to schools, or vice-versa; otherwise, lasting and significant change may not occur."

"An exciting, experimental project at Monash University has modelled a better way to deliver the skills, confidence, and experience to teach in superdiverse classrooms that preservice teachers need.

"It involved academics co-designing and co-teaching a course with experienced, practicing school teachers. The course was specifically designed to deeply prepare preservice teachers for teaching super-diverse student populations in regular classrooms.

"Whether in terms of students' economic and social backgrounds, race, ethnicity and religion, diverse learning needs, or in terms of mental health and neurodiversity.

“Teachers confront the steep challenge of super-diversity at the same time as teacher shortages and other crises of teacher working conditions are hitting home.

"In our experimental project, school educators and university academics collaborated from the inception of the course to the delivery of the final session. School educators discussed real life challenges that they faced in addressing diversity in their class and identified strategies that graduate teachers could use.

“When compared with those who were taught a standard course, graduate teachers who had the opportunity to learn from experienced school educators were significantly more confident that they had the ability to teach inclusively in real classrooms.

"In this absence of more interconnection between the university and school contexts, superdiversity will continue to present itself as a problem for schools and teachers, rather than as the immense opportunity that it really is."

Image by Zuliyan Fermansyah