teacher education

The One Teacher Test Which Won’t Make A Difference

Improving teacher quality has been central to recent education reform initiatives around the world. However, what counts as ‘quality’ within different educational contexts is highly contested, value-laden, vague and misconstrued. The Australian media, in particular, continues to circulate key political messages surrounding teacher quality, with the media suggesting that the problem lies with teachers themselves rather than the teaching practices, curriculum and resources they employ. The most salient solution, or that which is then offered to its readers for consumption, is the need for more national policy reform measures to address the failures or inherent decline of our education systems.   

National policy reform initiatives, in Australia and the US for example, have aimed to combat the seeming decline of their nation’s educational achievement as measured through scores on international achievement tests (e.g., PISA, TIMSS). This decline signals a loss of international competitiveness, contributing to a failure narrative which continues to haunt many education systems around the world. In Australia, concerns have been raised that a decline in national and international test scores signals a problem with the quality, or performativity, of its education system. Given that it is widely assumed that good teachers are inextricably linked to their students’ achievements, many educational policies have been underpinned by the assumption that quality in education can be quantified. In other words, the idea that teacher quality can be quantified and measured through the same measures we use to measure student achievement—standardised tests. However, the limitation of such an approach ignores the importance of context when determining what counts as quality in education. 

The Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE)

My research colleague, Russell Cross, and I were intrigued when the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE) was introduced in 2016. LANTITE was part of a suite of educational reforms introduced and which aimed to ensure that we selected the best and brightest into teaching. While we both agree that teachers should have strong literacy and numeracy skills, we are also aware that standardised tests can be powerful gatekeepers—determining who enters the profession and who does not. To better understand the impact of this policy on teacher education and the teaching profession more broadly, we endeavoured to critically interrogate LANTITE as policy. We wanted to problematise the assumptions that underpinned the policy and consider the (un)intended consequences of such an approach. We drew upon Cochran-Smith and colleagues’ four-dimensional framework which examined:

  1. The discourses and influences which shape policy formulations
  2. Constructions of the problem and solutions of teacher education
  3. Policy enactment or how policies are interpreted into practice
  4. The outcomes of the policy

As I outline below, this framework allowed us to explore the power relations involved and examine the relationships between key actors (e.g., teacher candidates, initial teacher education programs, TEMAG, etc.). Given that policy is described as a web, cycle and enactment, with policy being created, directed, translated, and interpreted within different contexts, policies are not transactional and/or one-dimensional but are a complex web of compromises and settlements among policy actors. 

Addressing the teacher quality problem with policy solutions

In countries like the US and Australia, a discourse of outcomes has shaped discussions about quality within teacher education. This entails a focus on quantifiable and measurable outcomes, such as student test scores, retention rates and job placements, which then become measures for determining the quality of teachers and teacher education programs more broadly. However, recently in Australia, there has increasingly been a focus on inputs, in addition to outcomes. We observe this in regards to how the LANTITE, a federal initiative, is positioned as a policy solution to the perceived teacher quality problem. The LANTITE as a policy solution suggests that the problem lies within initial teacher education programs—in how they select teacher candidates into their programs and whom they allow to graduate. Initial teacher education programs have been criticised for being ‘cash cows,’ establishing minimum entry criteria so that universities can meet financial targets. This suggests that the teacher quality problem is due to the selection of low quality teacher candidates. Therefore, LANTITE is offered as a cost-effective solution (not for teacher candidates who pay for it but for the education system more broadly) to filter out those who should not be in teaching.  

We also argue that LANTITE as a policy solution—a standardised literacy and numeracy test for teachers—attempts to directly respond to the decline in Australian students’ literacy and numeracy test scores on national and international standardised tests. This suggests that the decline in Australian students’ standardised testing scores in literacy and numeracy skills is directly related to the literacy and numeracy skills of their teachers. Therefore, one might assume that if we ensure that teacher candidates score well on a standardised literacy and numeracy test, so too should their students on similar tests.  While, again, we argue that teachers should have strong literacy and numeracy skills, we argue that this might be too simplistic and care should be taken in thinking that a standardised literacy and numeracy test can (or should) 1) ensure that those teachers passing this test will ensure strong student scores in national and international test scores and 2) act as a valid measure of teacher quality in such as wide range of Australian school contexts.

Reforming teacher education?

Educational reforms are a natural part of a progressive society—the desire to improve what we are currently doing and how we are doing it. However, we wanted to examine whether or not the LANTITE, as a policy solution, was creating substantive reform within teacher education. Given the financial burden placed on teacher candidates to take the test, we wanted to know how many students were being excluded from the profession of teaching and how this test influenced the perspectives of teacher candidates. Our quantitative analysis on 2,013 LANTITE scores from a large metropolitan university were consistent with the national LANTITE pass rate of 90-95%. However, our analysis found that when students failed an attempt, they had a 50% chance of passing the test on their subsequent re-sit. Therefore, the 5-10% who failed the test, in our sample, did not reflect the number of teacher candidates who failed the maximum number of attempts but who had failed at that particular point in time. This suggests that many of the 5-10% would later go on to pass a subsequent attempt.  Given that most students receive up to four opportunities to sit the test and the overwhelming majority of students who sit the test pass it, LANTITE does not appear to be a very effective policy measure in clearly discerning who should enter teaching and who should not. With this said, however, there is still more research needed to investigate who is failing the maximum number of attempts and the reasons why. Some teacher candidates have argued that LANTITE discriminates against those with learning disabilities, those who suffer from test anxiety and those who are mature-aged. This calls into question how test accommodations are (or whether they should be) made and whether a standardised test is the most fair and balanced way to measure literacy and numeracy skills. The teacher candidates in our study argued that the test was just one of many hurdles that they have had to endure and will continue to endure as they must incessantly fight to prove that they are capable of being a good teacher. 

While LANTITE may not appear to have made a substantive impact on who is entering the teaching profession statistically (I acknowledge that it can have a significant impact for teacher candidates at a personal level), our research findings suggest that it is shaping how society, through discourses in the media, and how teacher candidates themselves view the profession. Unfortunately, the LANTITE policy positions the profession, teacher education, and teachers at a deficit. There is an assumption that the profession attracts those who are seemingly not very capable and therefore the best solution is a consistent, national approach to regain some semblance of quality. I, as an educator and researcher, wholeheartedly want to attract (and keep) the right people into the teaching profession but I am unsure as to whether the LANTITE is the most effective way to do so. 

Dr Melissa Barnes is a senior lecturer in Monash University’s Faculty of Education, working within the fields of teacher education, assessment, policy and TESOL. She teaches and leads research initiatives that focus on policy construction, interpretation and enactment, with a focus on how policies, including structures such as curriculum and assessments, impact and shape teaching and learning.

Beginner teachers are NOT under prepared and NOT bad at managing behaviour. Here’s the evidence

For years claims have been circulating that newly graduated teachers are under prepared to teach in today’s often challenging classrooms, and that they are bad at classroom management. Thanks to mainstream media interest, and critics within education circles, these claims have led to an increasing array of government interventions in Initial Teacher Education in universities around Australia. What, how and to whom teacher education is delivered has been thoroughly examined and churned in the bid to improve teaching quality and student outcomes.

As teacher educators, intimately involved in teaching our new teachers and supporting them as they embark on their careers, we were deeply concerned about these claims so went looking for evidence of what was going wrong.

This blog post is about our research and what we found.

Be surprised, we found no evidence that beginning teachers in Australia are unprepared for the classroom or that they are bad at behaviour management.  

We believe extensive reforms have been made to Initial Teacher Education in Australia to ‘improve’ teacher quality without any evidence to support the claim that beginning teachers are less competent than experienced teachers.

Our research, carried out in Australian schools, found that most beginning teachers in fact engaged in higher levels of emotional support than their more experienced colleagues, and for most, behaviour management is not a problem.

Background on government ‘reforms’ to make teachers “classroom ready”

Following the now infamous 2014 Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report, which formalised the (we believe false) claim that graduate teachers were unprepared for the classroom, Australian universities have responded to accreditation requirements by

Various state governments have also made changes that impact universities intake criteria and course content: Queensland, for example, has mandated that students entering primary teacher education degrees must have four semesters of sound achievement in English, Maths and Science. New South Wales has signalled that to be eligible for employment in NSW government schools, students commencing a teaching degree from 2019, must:

  • Receive a minimum credit grade point average in their university degree.
  • Prove sound practical knowledge and ability, which will be reflected by an assessment of every single practicum report.
  • Show superior cognitive and emotional intelligence measured via a psychometric assessment.
  • Demonstrate their commitment to the values of public education in a behavioural interview.

Those doing online degrees are out.

None of these measures are bad, in and of themselves, although they have created significant compliance burden for teacher educators and schools of education, as well as increasing the fiscal pressure on schools and faculties of education.

The problem is that these interventions into university teacher education have come without any supporting empirical evidence that beginning teachers are less competent than their more experienced colleagues.

Our research into the teaching quality and classroom management skills of newly graduated teachers

What research method did we use?

There are different ways of measuring the quality of teaching. The two main ways involve using test scores (like NAPLAN for example) or by observing teachers teaching, and measuring the presence or absence of teaching practices known to add positively to students’ social, behavioural, and academic outcomes. The latter method is, of course, much more expensive because it uses direct observation, but it also can’t be manipulated like test scores can.

One method of direct observation is the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) observation measure developed by University of Virginia education specialists Bridget Hamre and Robert Pianta. We used this method in our six-year longitudinal study.

In our paper published in Teaching and Teacher Education this week, we compare the CLASS scores of beginning teachers (0-3 years’ experience) and experienced teachers (more than 3 years’ experience) and found no significant differences between the groups.

We used the CLASS system in our study investigating the development of severely disruptive behaviour of students because we were interested in learning the contribution made by the quality of teaching. In the very first year of this six-year longitudinal study, we noticed three standout teachers who were all in their early 20s and wrote about it in the AARE EduResearch Matters blog.

That’s also when we decided to ask how many years our teacher participants had been teaching in our research interviews because we were interested to see whether the excellent practice we were seeing bore out over time with a much larger number of participants.

Six years later, we can finally reveal: yes, it does and no, those three early career teachers were not an anomaly. Beginning teachers really do cut it.

We then broke our experienced teacher category into two (4-5 years and more than 5 years) and compared the CLASS scores of teachers in these groups with beginning teachers (0-3 years’ experience). This time there were significant differences with the 4-5 year experience group achieving significantly lower quality in three dimensions: Productivity, Instructional Learning Formats, and Negative Climate.

Importantly, there were very few participants in the 4-5 year experience group. While these findings do align with the possibility of a post three-year decline for some teachers, the findings should be interpreted with caution as extreme outliers can have a disproportionate influence on group means.

What’s the upshot?

We followed more than 200 students over six years and very few of their teachers declined participation. Their length of teacher experience ranged from 3 weeks to 38 years.

Basically, beginning teachers performed just as well as, or better than, teachers with more years of experience, regardless of the groups we compared them with. And, while all research is impacted by self-selection to some degree, in this study that was mitigated by our relationship with and presence in seven participating schools and the longitudinal nature of our project.

We found no evidence that beginning teachers were unprepared for the classroom or that they are bad at behaviour management. In fact, we found that most beginning teachers engaged in higher levels of emotional support than their more experienced colleagues. And behaviour management was the second highest scoring dimension of the 10 dimensions measured by the CLASS.

This evidence is good news for beginning teachers who must have been feeling pretty bruised in recent years and good news for preservice teachers who are scaling an increasing number of hurdles to prove their worth. It is also good news for teacher educators who work incredibly hard under enormous pressure to continually revise and refine their content and to support their students to do well.

Rather than implementing any more graduation hurdles designed to “vet” entry to the profession or further destabilising university teacher education, governments need to look at the evidence and turn instead to finding better ways of directing support to all teachers and provide intelligently targeted, quality professional learning to those who need it.

Professor Linda Graham is Director of The Centre for Inclusive Education at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Linda is currently Chief Investigator on several externally funded research projects including “Which children develop severely disruptive school behaviour?”, a six-year longitudinal study funded by the Australian Research Council. She has published more than 80 books, chapters, and journal articles, as well as numerous pieces published in The Conversation.

Associate Professor Sonia White is an academic in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education and researcher in The Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) at QUT. Sonia is a registered mathematics teacher and her research investigates children’s early learning and development.

Dr Kathy Cologon is a senior lecturer in the Department of Educational Studies at Macquarie University. Kathy has a particular interest in research and practice relating to the development and support of inclusive education, with a view towards greater recognition of the rights of all children.

Professor Robert Pianta is Dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and founding Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). He is a leading expert in the field of developmental psychology with much of his research devoted to supporting teachers use of quality teaching practices that best support children’s academic, social-emotional and behavioural development. With his colleagues at CASTL, he has led the development of well-known measures including the Teacher-Student Relationship Scale and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS).

Teachers ‘must show’ emotional intelligence but how will it be measured? (And other questions)

All initial teacher education graduates must now “show superior cognitive and emotional intelligence measured via a psychometric assessment” before they will be considered for teaching jobs in New South Wales public schools.  This requirement is part of the Teacher Success Profile launched last year by the New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes.

I asked the New South Wales Department of Education, Teach NSW and NSW Education Standards Authority for a copy of the Teacher Success Profile because I was interested to find out what “superior emotional intelligence” means. However, at the time of writing this article it has not been made available.

After doing further research into this, I am still unclear what “superior emotional intelligence” actually means.

My research on teachers and emotional intelligence

I lead a scoping review to find out what is known from the existing research literature about pre-service teachers and emotional intelligence. We found 24 articles published which fit the criteria for this scoping review, 23 of these used quantitative research methods, that is they used statistical, mathematical, or computational research techniques.

Our scoping review revealed little is known about pre-service teachers’ emotional intelligence. There is a lack of literature available for initial teacher education providers to use in supporting their pre-service teachers to develop “superior emotional intelligence”.

Lack of Australian context

The 24 articles we found were produced during the years 2000 to 2019. Over one third originated from Turkey, with the other studies representing globally diverse origins. Only one of the studies involved Australian pre service teachers.

Most of the current knowledge has been developed through quantitative research methods. Twenty-three of the studies used quantitative methods such as correlation and descriptive statistics. Only one study used a solely qualitative phenomenological method, which focuses on an individual’s lived experiences within the world.

While the scoping review did not explain what “superior emotional intelligence” might mean to the NSW Department of Education, the current quantitative literature does offer some insight into the trends, relationships and statistically significant results in the area of pre-service teacher emotional intelligence.

What we know emotional intelligence and teaching

Psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer who developed the model describe emotional intelligence as

a type of social intelligence which includes skills such as: recognising, monitoring and managing one’s own and others’ feelings; being aware of the difference between them; and applying this information to direct ideas and actions. Emotional intelligence includes both verbal and non-verbal evaluation, expression of feelings, regulation of one’s own and others’ feelings and the application of emotional content in problem-solving

Research has demonstrated that emotional intelligence plays a significant role in teacher effectiveness. In his book examining teacher emotional intelligence, former Professor of Educational Development at Birmingham City University, Alan Mortiboys, argues that in addition to high levels of subject and pedagogical knowledge, highly effective teachers also have high levels of emotional intelligence. Teacher emotional intelligence has been shown to influence students’ behaviour, engagement, attachment to school, and academic performance.

High levels of emotional intelligence also support teacher wellbeing. Teachers who are more skilled at regulating their emotions experience greater job satisfaction, positive affect whilst teaching and support from their principals, and are less likely to experience burnout.

The literature shows that pre-service (student) teacher emotional intelligence correlates positively with pre-service teacher  self-efficacy, which is a pre-service teacher’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations and accomplish a task.

We know that emotions greatly impact on the teaching and learning process. Emotions matter in learning, in teaching and in learning to teach.

We also know that emotional intelligence is not a genetically determined or fixed trait, therefore it is possible to both teach and learn emotional intelligence skills and strategies. Thus, the inclusion of emotional intelligence education in initial teacher education courses would suggest that graduates of these programs should demonstrate greater emotional intelligence as they begin their teaching careers.

We found many gaps

Although, having pre-service teachers with “superior emotional intelligence” sounds very appealing, my scoping review shows there are gaps in our knowledge that have resulted from the paucity of qualitative research in this area. Qualitative research is important as it allows for rich, detailed description of peoples’ lived experiences with complex phenomena, such as emotional intelligence.

Current literature does not adequately address questions such as:

  • Should emotional intelligence be included in initial teacher education program selection criteria?
  • How can initial teacher education providers best meet pre-service teacher emotional intelligence needs?
  • What is the most appropriate measure of emotional intelligence for pre-service teachers?
  • How can emotional intelligence skills be integrated across the initial teacher education curriculum?
  • How do pre-service teachers use emotional intelligence skills to inform their development as teachers?
  • How does pre-service teachers’ teaching practice change as their emotional intelligence develops?
  • Which elements of emotional intelligence are the most pertinent and the most challenging for pre-service teachers to develop?
  • How do pre-service teachers use emotional intelligence to help them manage challenging situations in their initial teacher education course?
  • How do pre-service teachers translate their emotional intelligence understandings into classroom practice?
  • How do pre-service teachers use emotional intelligence to benefit their students and inform their teaching practice as graduate teachers?

Further research is needed to address these questions. The findings of such research could prove significant in informing the implementation of the New South Wales Teacher Success Profile.

Joining the list of Teacher Education Reforms

Reforms in Australia’s initial teacher education programs add weight to the call for greater examination of emotional intelligence in initial teacher education programs. In response to Australian students’ declining results on standardised tests, a number of measures have been introduced to ensure the high standard of teachers graduating from initial teacher education programs. The reforms include an increase in the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) entrance score for all initial teacher education courses for school leavers. In addition, all pre service teachers need to pass online literacy and numeracy tests to ensure they are of an above average standard prior to graduating from initial teacher education courses. Further, initial teacher education providers are required to implement evidence-based selection criteria to determine teaching candidates’ personal attributes and motivations to ensure they are suitable candidates for admission to an initial teacher education course, and complete a formal Teaching Performance Assessment during pre service teachers’ final year of initial teacher education, demonstrating evidence of pre service teachers’ readiness to teach.

The Teacher Success Profile introduces a further externally-set requirement into initial teacher education which necessitates that pre-service teachers demonstrate “superior emotional intelligence”. Such regulations imposed on initial teacher education courses, aimed at ensuring high quality teaching graduates, require initial teacher education providers to invest significant funds and human resources into implementing and monitoring pre-service teacher outcomes to ensure these standards are met.

A need for funding for research and implementation

It is hoped that the implementation of such government-set regulations are accompanied by the allocation of sufficient funding to support the research that will need to be done in this area for proper implementation, as well as costs to initial teacher education providers in implementing and running such initiatives.

Dr Kristina Turner is a Lecturer in Primary Education at Swinburne University. Kristina is the Course Director for the Bachelor of Education (Primary) and Master of Teaching (Primary) courses. Kristina has worked in a variety of school and university settings. Kristina’s research interests are in teacher wellbeing, positive education and pre-service teacher emotional intelligence.

This information in this blog has been adapted from: Turner, K. & Stough, C. (2019). Pre-service teachers and emotional intelligence: A scoping review. Australian Educational Researcher , 1-23. doi:10.1007/s13384-019-00352-0

Teachers are NOT under-qualified and NOT under-educated: here’s what is really happening

Australian teachers are doing well. They are not under-qualified and they are certainly not under-educated, as some media stories would have you believe. They are doing an admirable job managing exhausting workloads and constantly changing government policies and processes. They are more able than past generations to identify and help students with wide ranging needs. They are, indeed, far better qualified and prepared than those in our nation’s glorious past that so many commentators reminisce wistfully about.

In fact, our teachers today are the best qualified ever. They are educational specialists. So are their teacher educators, people like us, who prepare teachers for their professional calling. Contrary to the opinions of some media commentators and politicians, our teacher educators are also better prepared and more qualified than ever before. They design and implement innovative, intensive and rigorous teacher education programs, they deal with constantly changing policy and government requirements, and they expertly mentor and supervise their student teachers’ classroom experience.

So let’s unpick this a little just to demonstrate the trustworthiness of our opening claim.

Teacher qualifications

A two-year course was enough to educate teachers in the 1970s. And this was an improvement on the “pupil-teacher” apprenticeship approach that preceded in the 1960s which allowed a person to start teaching before they finished high school.

These days, four or five years of tertiary education is the base line for preparation to be a teacher in Australia. This is followed by mandatory ongoing professional development. Teachers possessing a higher degree are also not uncommon. The profile of teachers in Queensland, for example, shows that 70% of QLD teachers in 2016 possessed higher degrees in the field of education beyond their initial teacher qualification.

Entrance to teacher education courses

The use of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) has come under scrutiny in the news recently as a measure for entry into teacher education courses in Australia.  However less than half of those entering teaching education rely on an ATAR in any way to indicate their academic suitability. Many others enter with a post-secondary academic qualification as their measure of academic preparedness for initial teacher education. That is, they have higher than Year 12 academic achievement as their claim to academic ability.

Further, ATAR as a measure alone is not used for teacher education entry in any institution in Australia. The ATAR has been shown to have limited value for teacher education as it oversimplifies the complex attributes that assist someone to start teacher education well, and it ignores the value of the teacher education program itself.

Students entering teacher education today are assessed carefully for their motivation and capacity for a teaching career before entry. They must demonstrate they have numeracy and literacy skills better than 70% of the population. Then candidates for primary teacher education programs in Queensland must have satisfactorily completed their secondary education with demonstrable achievement in maths, a science, and English. Indeed, each regulatory jurisdiction has their own set of requirements. New South Wales, for example, requires three band five ratings (better than 80% achievement) in their senior school results.

We think much of the public debate regarding the entry standards required for teaching programs is testament to an insinuation that a four-year teacher education course can somehow be devoid of any content, or development. If we just waited four years before letting teacher candidates loose on our poor unsuspecting students, then yes, the entry standards would be pertinent. But that’s not what happens of course.

As they are studying to become a teacher, student teachers today have to meet a stringent suite of requirements to develop and demonstrate pedagogical skills, theoretical understanding, conceptual and discipline knowledge across the National Curriculum, communication skills, planning and cultural development capabilities, and so on. This is coupled with substantial in-school teaching experiences and it is all assessed through a rigorous Teacher Performance Assessment.

Teacher education courses and teacher educators

But maybe the real problem is teacher educators and the courses they teach. Are teacher educators just academics who haven’t been near a classroom for years, or in the spirit of the statement “those who can’t do … teach”, are teacher educators just a crew of failed teachers? Certainly that is what some would have you believe. It is simply not true.

Take one of our institutions for example: in our teacher education unit we have 28 academics and all of us are fully qualified and registered teachers. Over 70% of us have been school leaders, heads of department, deputy principals, principals, and/or have held regional leadership roles. The remaining 30% are no slouches; they have all had long and successful careers of an average of 10 years in school classrooms before attaining higher degrees and moving to academia. All are deeply committed to providing a quality program to develop the next generation of teachers.

The teacher education programs we use are all heavily and nationally accredited. They are rigorous and vigorous. These courses are definitely not for the fainthearted. Every student that graduates with a teacher education degree has demonstrably changed and has developed as a professional in response to the program of study and experience we provide. Every graduate meets the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Their professional registration and our accreditation as a higher education provider depend on this. Teacher education institutions are required to provide clear evidence that this is always the case.

Coping with an exhausting workload

Meanwhile for teachers, curriculum areas have grown and the reporting and record keeping obligations have become more onerous. For the average Year 6 class where a single teacher is typically responsible for pulling the entire year of learning together, there are at least eight discipline areas aligning to the national curriculum, supplemented by no less than three cross curricular priorities and seven general capabilities. On top of this there may be cultural or pastoral studies if they are at a faith-based school. So that could be 13 teaching fields for the one teacher with the one class.

Yet back in the 70s, at least in Queensland, teachers were responsible for only six or seven subject areas (depending on whether music was considered in the mix) and they were able to develop their own approaches. They did have more students per teacher: the student/teacher ratio was 24-1 in 1970 compared with 13.7 in 2016. But, there was less content to teach, and a markedly reduced requirement for record keeping, obligations to prepare for national standardised tests, and so forth.

The point is, teachers today are highly qualified professionals who cope with an astounding workload.

So, let’s stop distrusting teachers and stop questioning their qualifications to do their job. Teachers today are well prepared. They are qualified, caring and capable professionals who can be proud of their achievement in graduating from one of today’s rigorous teacher education programs.

And let’s stop distrusting teacher educators. They too are well qualified and are well placed to provide effective teacher education based on their own well-developed capacity to relate to classrooms and students.

Our teaching profession is healthy and strong, and providing a wonderful service to our children, youth and communities. Why is that so hard for some commentators and politicians to believe?

 

Professor Nan Bahr is Pro Vice Chancellor (Students), Professor and Dean of Education at Southern Cross University. In this role she is responsible for oversight and strategic management for improved engagement, experience and retention of students across the University. Professor Bahr also has specific responsibility, as Dean of Education, for the quality of the Teacher Education programs, research and service in the field of education for Southern Cross University. 

Professor Bahr has a national and international profile for educational research with over 100 publications including four books (one a best seller). Key research has been in the fields of music education, educational psychology, teacher education, adolescence, resilience, and teaching innovation in higher education. As a University Teacher, she has been awarded the University of Queensland Award for Excellence in Teaching, has been a finalist (twice) for the Australian Awards for University Teaching, and has been awarded for extended service with the Australian Defence Force.   Nan is on Twitter @NanBahr

Professor Donna Pendergast is Dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University. Her research expertise is educational transformation and efficacy, with a focus on: middle year’s education and student engagement; initial and professional teacher education; and school reform. 

Donna commenced her career as a school teacher working in secondary, P-10 and senior college settings before shifting to the role of academic, first at Queensland University of Technology, The University of Queensland, and since 2009, at Griffith University.  She has served in many roles associated with the profession including Chair of the Board of Directors of Queensland Education Leadership Institute (QELI) and Chair of the Queensland Council of Deans of Education (QCDE).  Donna has more than 160 refereed publications, 16 commissioned reports and 19 books, including the popular Teaching Middle Years: Rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, now in its third edition and the recipient of an international Choice Award as an Outstanding Academic title. Donna played a pivotal role in preparing school leaders for the shift of Year 7 to secondary and the implementation of Junior Secondary in Queensland.  In 2015 she received the Vice Chancellor’s Research Supervision Excellence Award, and in 2017 she received a National Commendation from the Australian Council of Graduate Research for Excellence in Graduate Research Supervision. Donna has recently been awarded the Australian Council for Educational Leadership Miller-Grassie Award for Outstanding Educational Leadership. Donna is on Twitter at @pendergast_d

Associate Professor Jo-Anne Ferreira is Director of the Centre for Teaching & Learning and Academic Director, SCU Online at Southern Cross University. She is responsible for enhancing teaching quality and the student learning experience, both face-to-face and online. Prior to this, she was Director, Teaching and Learning in the School of Education at Southern Cross University. She began her teaching career as a secondary English and Geography teacher in South Africa and Australia.

Jo-Anne has developed and delivered award winning professional development programs in Australia, South Africa and across the Asia-Pacific region to teachers and student teachers. She has also taught in universities in South Africa and Australia. Her research interests are in online education and the sociology of education with a special interest in post-structuralist theories of identity, embodiment and power, in systems-based change, and in environmental and sustainability education. She has most recently led a decade-long research project on systems-based change as a strategy for embedding sustainability education in teacher education.

 

Understanding educational theory: vital or a waste of time for student teachers?

My student teachers often question the value of educational theory in their initial teacher education. Also often early career teachers tell me that the theory they were taught at university holds no value in their day-to-day practical lives.

I understand this point of view. The first years of teaching are largely about finding our feet and working out the system. The first years are also caught up in personal priorities such as finding permanent positions and railing against the casualisation of the workforce.

But this does not mean that theory does not underpin every decision a teacher makes. Theory even underpins the curriculum we are asked to teach. As I see it, understanding educational theory is a part of knowing why we teach what we teach and how. The theories that are taught in initial teacher education are aimed at helping beginning teachers understand who they are and why they want to teach. One of my motivations for wanting to teach History is so that I could work at helping students to be empathetic in their everyday lives. History is an excellent example of how this relationship works.

The Australian Curriculum Humanities and Social Sciences ( HASS) History strand is underpinned by what the curriculum writers have termed concepts (another word for theory). In the following, I am going to tease out some of these concepts to show how they are examples of theory in practice.

Sources

The location and interpretation of sources is the primary skill of an historian. There are many different types of sources, some more useful than others. Despite what you may think, there never is really a “bad” source. The decision to use a certain source or not is contextual. It may not be FACT but it can reveal a lot about a historical context depending on how the historian interprets the source within their study. So most sources are included or discarded according to the idea of usefulness, rather than whether they are good or bad. This is a subjective practice. The selection of a source is determined through the historian’s point of view of the world – theory. Furthermore, only a minuscule amount of human history has ever made it to the page or the gallery or the archive. Much has been destroyed. Much was never even recorded. So the job of an historian is to make connections between the sources available. This is a process of logical and rigorous imagination. The conclusions drawn are based on corroboration through continuity, change, cause and effect, but it is imagination none the less and subject to the historian’s theoretical point of view.

Cause and effect, and Continuity and Change

When historians use their imagination, they are using ideas of cause and effect, and continuity and change. For example, the reason we have the society we have at the moment is the result of cause and effect. It is very easy to trace the cause and effect through a lens of war and economy, but it is also through the concept of cause and effect that we can begin to show students that the deliberate forgetting of marginalized groups is in decision making and it is a reason that governments continue along the same homogenous pathways they have for centuries.

While society seems to be moving through a time of rapid change, the continuity of certain ways of knowing and understanding history have remained the same. The world seems to be speeding up but the way it has been governed has changed very little. White wealthy males, for example, are still the most powerful leaders, industrialisation and technological advancement are still seen by governments as the most important industries, and fear of other unknown people has been used as a method of mass control for centuries. Historians realise these theories of continuity and make their imaginative decisions about what happened in the past by through them.

Significance

There are too many events in the past to include them all and many history wars have been fought over which ones to include in the History strands of the HASS Curriculum. These history wars are most often about the inclusion and placement of histories of Aboriginal peoples, Torres Strait Islander peoples, and non-European peoples, and the theoretical lens through which those histories are taught. The choosing of significant histories can influence the civic attitudes of generations of people so is often hard fought.

Perspective

The choice of those histories is influenced by theories often called perspectives. One of the more famous media and political wars fought over which perspectives are allowed within the Australian Curriculum was a stoush between prime minister at the time, Paul Keating, and John Howard in the early 1990s when Keating was pushing for the inclusion of Australian History which showed how the nation had been built on the blood of the Indigenous and non-white immigrant/indentured labour population. This view was pitched against Howard’s view that wanted children to know and celebrate the achievements of the Australian nation. What both these perspectives denied was the voice of the people who lived the histories they were talking about including or excluding.

Empathy

A key reason for teaching History is the theory that it teaches children to have empathy which means that they will be able to more than understand other peoples’ points of view, they will know what it might be like to be another person. The theory is that students will only begin to understand historical empathy (and in turn social empathy) if they have enough exposure to differing perspectives, can interpret their own partiality, understand that their ideas may be based in modern thought, understand that there are gaps and silences in the historical record.

There are many interpretations of what it means to teach empathy in the classroom and some believe that it cannot be taught at all. But the personal theories that a teacher takes into the classroom will also influence their ability to teach students to be empathetic. For example, if a teacher’s personal viewpoint is that students do not need differentiation, it will be harder to teach students empathy because inclusiveness is based on empathetic thinking.

I hope this post opens up some clarifying statements and discussion about the usefulness of theory in Initial Teacher Education, but also educational training, qualifications, and professional development. I believe theory is a vital component but probably needs more clarity as to why and how (as I have demonstrated in this blog post). What do you think?

 

 

Naomi Barnes is an adjunct postdoctoral fellow at the Griffith Institute of Educational Research. Her key areas of research are transitions and social media in educational research.

 

So who wants to teach these days? (Be surprised)

The quality of teachers is a growing focus of educational reform around the world, with new policies attempting to ensure that only the ‘best and brightest’ are selected for the teaching profession. In Australia the push is evident in government policy that is increasingly imposing regulations, at both national and state and territory levels, on who enters teacher education programs. If Finland requires that all teachers have a master’s degree and South Korea only accepts applicants from the top 5% of the high school academic cohort, then Australia needs to lift its requirements for entry to teaching, so the logic goes.

But underpinning these developments is the assumption that prospective teachers lack the desired ‘best and brightest’ academic and personal qualities. (If the ‘best and brightest’ already aspired to be teachers why would you need policies to attract them?) So we decided to look more closely at who, among school students, is interested in teaching and why teaching appeals to them.

We discovered that interest in teaching is widespread among school students in Australia, though exactly who wants to teach – and the reasons students expressed for wanting to teach – might be surprising to many. But most surprising of all is that Australia is not doing enough to capitalise on the interest of our would-be teachers.

The best and brightest

In policy and mainstream media in Australia the dominant narrative is that current and prospective teachers fail to make the ‘quality’ grade. This, in turn, is seen to contribute to an image problem that deters ‘the best and the brightest’ from seeking careers in teaching.

This narrative has been particularly virulent in the news media whereby universities have been accused, with some basis in fact, of setting poor academic standards for entry into teaching degrees and using teaching to make up shortfalls in enrolments, regardless of the academic achievement levels of applicants. Low academic standards are seen as making teaching a less attractive pathway for ‘high quality’ applicants .The extended logic is that declining ‘attractiveness’ combined with projected workforce shortages will only exacerbate this problem. Hence, addressing the problem of teacher quality is framed not only as a matter of keeping those deemed ‘inappropriate’ out but also finding ways to bring those with the desired credentials in.

In response to these concerns, in 2011, the Australian Government first introduced a national set of standards and procedures for the accreditation of initial teacher education programs, declaring that ‘it is expected that applicants’ levels of personal literacy and numeracy should be broadly equivalent to those of the top 30 per cent of the population’. Providers enrolling students not meeting this requirement had to ‘establish satisfactory additional arrangements’ to make sure they met the standard before graduation.

While entry standards is the primary focus, the former Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, portrayed teacher education programs as ‘too theoretical’, making for graduates who cannot teach effectively in key areas, especially literacy and numeracy. According to the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group in 2014, teachers are graduating without the requisite knowledge and skills to be ‘classroom ready’, and this shortfall in quality must be addressed in order to lift student outcomes and arrest a decline in the performance of Australian students in international comparative testing.

Some states and territories have developed their own mechanisms for achieving the necessary academic standards for ‘the best and brightest’. For example, NSW authorities have restricted school leaver entry into teaching degrees to those who graduate with three Band 5s in their Higher School Certificate including English, and, according to accounts in news media, will soon introduce mandatory ‘personality assessments’ to ‘weed out candidates unsuited to teaching before they begin their degrees’. By 2020, the South Australian state government seeks to establish a requirement for all new teachers to hold a master’s qualification.

So is it true? Do we not attract the best and brightest?

Much of the discourse on the poor quality of teachers rests on a thin evidence base. This has been particularly so in relation to current concerns about the admission of high school leavers into teaching with poor academic credentials.

Yes, ATAR ‘cut-offs’ for entry to teaching degrees have declined in recent years. But this fact is not useful when considered in isolation. Other factors that should be considered include: the small percentage of students coming into teaching with a low ATAR (less than 20%); the inadequacy of ATAR as a predictor of student performance at university; ATAR as a norm-referenced rather than criterion-referenced indicator of relative performance (meaning that no matter how high performances are, there will always be a top 10% or bottom 50%, etc.); and, ATAR cut-offs as an indication of supply and demand, rather than quality. For example, enrolments in teacher education in 2014 were 42% greater than 2001 enrolments. Moreover, average yearly increase in enrolments for the period 2002–2009 was 1.9% but for 2010–2014 it was 4.1%. During this latter period there was an intensified national push to widen participation in higher education, including for people from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, many of whom make their foray into higher education through teaching, nursing, and the arts.

In this context and with an increasing number of places available, simplistic accounts of declining ATAR ‘cut-offs’ tell a fraction of a much more complicated story. In terms of our argument, while ATAR ‘cut-off’ data indicate that academic requirements for entry are falling, there is no evidence that the quality of students in the top 30%, for example, is changing from year to year. Arguably, ATAR has been mis-used to strengthen critiques of the quality of entrants to teacher education and teachers in general.

What we did in our study

Our study investigated the career aspirations of 6,492 Australian school students who, at the start of the study, were in Years 3, 5, 7, or 9 at 64 government schools in New South Wales, Australia. In a survey administered annually from 2012 to 2015, participating students were asked to indicate their occupational interests and give reasons for their choices. We collected a total of 10,543 valid surveys.

We wanted to know if substantial numbers of ‘bright’ students (with high academic achievement) are interested in teaching. Of those who are interested, are they among the ‘best’ and do they have the ‘right’ kinds of motivations?

Recent research has demonstrated that children are forming career interests at an early stage of their schooling and that most young children have aspirations for, and can envisage, future careers. Of the participating students, 5,925 nominated at least one occupation in any survey. Our focus in this paper is on the 821 students who, in one or more of the surveys, expressed an interest in teaching.

We investigated which kinds of students named teaching, and why, using a range of student background and school-related variables. While careful not to provide an overly celebratory account, we acknowledge cause for cautious optimism about the future of teaching which, we argue, provides critical input into current debates that touch not only the work, but the very character, of teachers.

What we found

Widespread interest in teaching

Of all students who named a specific career interest, 13.9% named teaching, that is, 821 of the 5,925 students who named at least one occupation in any survey. Considering all survey responses in which a specific occupation was named, teaching accounted for 9.8% of all named jobs. Teaching was second in popularity only to careers in sports, and was ahead of other frequently named occupations such as: veterinarian; actor, dancer, and other entertainer; animal attendant and trainer; police; defence force; music professional; life scientist; and, engineering professional.

There were no significant variations in children’s level of interest in teaching when we examined socio-economic status, cultural capital, language backgrounds, school location, school ICSEA, prior achievement, self-perception of relative academic performance, participation in tutoring, and whether or not they had a parent who is a teacher.

Significant effects were found when we considered gender, Indigenous status, and cohort, indicating areas of concentrated interest in teaching. Specifically, the odds of girls naming teaching were nearly five times the odds of boys naming teaching, while Indigenous students were more likely to express interest in teaching than non-Indigenous students. Students in the ‘middle years’ cohort (moving from Year 5 to Year 8 during the study) were less likely to express interest in teaching than students in the younger and older groups. Despite this significant cohort effect, interest in teaching across the age groups was consistently high – between 8 and 13 % of all survey responses for the four age cohorts.

Bright students are interested in teaching

Prior achievement was not a significant predictor of interest in teaching, with students in the top quartile – the ‘brightest’? – being no less or more likely to name teaching as a career interest than students in the lower three quartiles. Indeed, there was slightly more interest among students in the top two NAPLAN quartiles compared with students in the lower quartiles. Moreover, when considering the NAPLAN quartiles from which students expressed interest in teaching, 255 of the 821 students who named teaching, or 31% of this sample, came from the top quartile.

It was similar in the self-rating of the students interested in teaching as a career: 52.4% rated themselves as ‘above’ (39.5%) or ‘well above’ (12.9%) in academic performance.

Not a back-up plan

Given the widespread interest in teaching among students in our sample, we compared three groups of survey responses: surveys in which a student expressed interest in teaching only (that is, teaching but no other occupations); those in which a student expressed interest in teaching among other occupations; and, those in which a student expressed interest in other jobs (not teaching). This analysis was designed to test the possibility that large numbers of students were naming teaching as a secondary or ‘back-up’ choice and that such students might have different characteristics from those who expressed singular interest in teaching.

The analysis showed that the characteristics of students interested in teaching only and those interested in teaching among other jobs varied little in terms of proportions, with the one exception being that Indigenous students named teaching only (8.5%) in higher numbers than those who named teaching in conjunction with other jobs (5.8%).

We also compared the proportion of survey responses in which students named a singular interest in teaching (49%) with the proportion of survey responses from our larger sample in which students expressed singular interest in other popular occupations (Arts professional 56%, Nurse 54%, Veterinarian 54%, Architect 52%, Engineer 52%, Teaching 49%, Law 49%, Science 49%, Medicine 47%, Social/Welfare professional 47%).

We found that students who considered teaching were no more or less likely to name multiple occupational interests than students considering other occupations requiring a university degree, thus providing further evidence against a ‘back-up plan’ as an explanation for the high level of interest in teaching.

In summary, these data challenge the contemporary policy view that teaching is no longer attracting ‘bright’ or academically capable students. Indeed, 31% of those interested in teaching were in the highest achievement quartile. More broadly, we found a high level of interest in teaching that is widespread among students across the range of demographic and educational variables that were investigated.

Teaching appeals for the ‘best’ reasons

When asked why they wanted to teach, students’ explanations were primarily related to: ‘liking’ or ‘loving’ children (18%), the idea of teaching/being a teacher (14%), and/or a particular subject area (6%); a desire to help children to learn (16%); a perception that it would be fun or enjoyable to work as a teacher (12%); and/or, because they consider themselves skilled or otherwise suitable for teaching (8%). In general, altruistic concerns to help children learn and intrinsic motivations based on the attractiveness of teaching as a rewarding job dominated students’ explanations for their interest. These findings indicate that despite negative representations of teachers, school students who were interested in teaching expressed overwhelmingly positive views of the job and confidence in their own suitability.

The main differences among students were: girls more frequently referred to ‘liking’ and ‘loving’ children (20% females; 5% males); boys more often declared their interest in a particular school subject (14% males; 5% females); and, Indigenous students more often named their desire to help children learn (19% Indigenous; 15% non-Indigenous) and their affection for a particular teachers (19% Indigenous; 14% non-Indigenous) but less often declared themselves to have the personal skills that made them well suited to the role (5% Indigenous; 8% non-Indigenous) or to love a particular subject (4% Indigenous; 7% non-Indigenous).

How can we use this widespread aspiration to be a teacher?

Our point is not to take a particular position ‘for’ or ‘against’ current policy, nor to suggest we can identify the ‘real’ ‘problem’. Rather, our data provide a counter-narrative about who seeks to teach and selection policies that constitute teachers as the problem.

We question whether current resource-intensive efforts to lift the quality of aspiring teachers are warranted. If a considerable proportion of students interested in teaching come from the top academic quartile (31%), and the majority of students interested in teaching see themselves as ‘above’ or ‘well-above’ average in comparison with their classmates (52%), and many have a high opinion of their academic capacities and broader suitability as conveyed in the reasons given for interest in teaching, there should be plenty of high-achieving applicants to teaching.

Maintaining interest in teaching among school students may present a greater challenge than locking in academic achievement as the key problem, particularly if aspirants are bombarded with rhetoric that lowers esteem for teachers and teaching.

Rather than investing so heavily in the regulation of who can teach, Australian education policy makers might consider ways to capitalise on the widespread interest in and enthusiasm for teaching that appears to exist among school students, including high-achieving students and those in the later years of high school.

Our findings present a counter-narrative to the portrayal of teachers and teacher candidates as unsuitable for the job. As one of the only studies, internationally, of school students’ interest in teaching, this alternative representation of who wants to teach suggests a more hopeful future of teaching being in good hands.

 

Here is the full text of our paper Who says we are not attracting the best and brightest? Teacher selection and the aspirations of Australian school students

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Jenny Gore is a Professor in the School of Education and Director of the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre at the University of Newcastle. In addition to research on student aspirations, she is currently leading a research agenda focused on teacher professional development through Quality Teaching Rounds.

 

 

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Rosie Joy Barron is a former Research Assistant at the University of Newcastle. She is currently undertaking research higher degree studies at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include therapeutic education, political theory, and shifting understandings of equity and social justice. 

 

KATHHolmes copyKathryn Holmes, a former member of the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre at the University of Newcastle, is a Professor of Education at Western Sydney University. With a PhD in Financial Mathematics and a background in mathematics education, her research focuses on the application of technology in education, increasing participation in STEM disciplines, and improving quality, equity, and access in schools and higher education.

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Maxwell Smith is a Professor in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle and a founding member of the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre. With expertise in complex quantitative analysis, Max’s research interests extend from child development and pedagogy to measurement and evaluation in education.

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers are useful to teacher education students, here’s how

There is a strong critique of the impacts of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers from educational researchers. They argue teaching standards force teachers to focus too much on producing proof of classroom successes and leadership development. At the same time policy makers, who advocate and implement the standards, claim the standards provide a common language of teaching: making it easier for teachers to talk about and share their work.

Whilst both groups are equally entitled to express their informed opinions on such an important issue for education, as we see it, there are common omissions from both accounts. Both reply on persuasive arguments rather than evidence and both do not consider the views of teachers and prospective teachers. Also, educational researchers and policy makers are not the subjects of the performance standards. For these reasons we decided it was worthwhile to seek the views of teacher education students.

We wanted to develop an understanding of the actual impact of performance standards on the practice of teacher education students, specifically in relation to the assessment of their professional experience. Our study is a small and humble contribution offered as an invitation to a debate with all interested stakeholders.

Use of teaching standards in NSW

The use of teaching standards as a performance measure for teacher quality is now more than a decade old in the state of NSW in Australia. The process was introduced gradually from teacher education programs to new graduates who were labelled the ‘new scheme teachers’.

The first generation of these new scheme teachers are now into their twelfth year of teaching. In the interim, the NSW policy has been augmented by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers in concert with a nationally audited accreditation process for teacher education.

The progressive introduction of the standards in NSW from initial teacher education programs out into the profession has meant that teacher education courses have been a testing ground for their implementation. In schools and faculties of education, the often small group of teacher educators were given the task of integrating the standards into course and program outlines. At the same time, their colleagues in critical policy research in education were typically engaging in robust debates about the overall purpose of the standards. Despite these debates, the standards had to be implemented as a condition of accreditation for providers of initial teacher education in Australia.

The biggest initial impact of the standards was on the high stakes performance assessment required in professional experience for student teachers. This is where a large group of supervising teachers, untrained in the use of the standards, had to apply the new graduate teaching standards as criteria for assessing teacher education students on professional experience. Understandably, it was difficult for the providers of initial teacher education to achieve consistency in judgment across so many assessors and with unfamiliar assessment criteria.

Criticism of standards

There has not been a lot of research on the impact of having standards for teachers in Australia. Even the definition is not clear, in that we have gone from talking about standards for teaching to talking about teacher standards. (At the same time we seem to have shifted from talking about teaching quality to teacher quality in the past decade.) It is interesting to note that NSW introduced professional standards for teaching in 2005 whilst at the federal level, more recently, they were named the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

This might be interpreted as a mere semantic shift from teaching to teachers but there is a view in critical policy research that this signals a significant shift in focus from the collective to the individual. The implication of this redefinition is that it will be easier for authorities to hold individual teachers to account for their performance, thus positioning the standards as a way to regulate and check on teachers rather than a way to help them develop their professional skills.

If you want more detail of the arguments against the teaching standards offered by critical policy researchers please go to our full paper (find the link at the end of this post).

Standards as a common language

The promotion of the teaching standards as a common language to describe teaching as a profession is so commonly heard that it now could be regarded as a meme. The meme was evident in the findings of our study (more about this below).

What we did in our study

Our study examined the application of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers to the assessment of professional experience in teacher education at a point more than ten years on from their first implementation in NSW. We gathered empirical data via a survey of 229 secondary teacher education students from a program based in Sydney, NSW. We followed the survey with focus groups in an endeavour to record the students’ perceptions on the use of the standards as assessment criteria for professional experience.

We focused on the application of the graduate level of the standards to the assessment of the students’ professional experience. Within this focus we acknowledge the benefit of the standards acting as a common language for teaching, their supporting role in the formative assessment of teacher education students and the variable quality of their application as assessment criteria by supervising teachers.

Our findings

Standards as a common language

The meme was evident in our study in an interview response of one of our teacher education students:

It also does give me a language to discuss those things with colleagues. It gives me a language that I can easily call on if I want to discuss any of those things, maybe I just think are intuitive or obvious, but I can still speak those things with colleagues with a language we share.

Some teachers were not au fait with the standards

Members of the focus group which took part in this study specifically identified three “groups” existing among teachers, namely the “resistors and cynics”, “middle ground”, and “converts and advocates” of the Standards. As described by one teacher education student:

I feel like there are a few levels of the use of the Standards. There is the sort of lip service, “I have been teaching for a really long time, I am not really interested in looking at them”, level. There is thelevel of teachers who are slightly versed with them but not completely and so they touch on them maybe and will have a brief conversation perhaps with you about them and be able to refer to the Standards in general but maybe not specifically. And then there are teachers -in my experience, these are the sort othree groups of conversations I have – and then there are teachers and students also, colleagues of ours, who maybe are in any of these groups. It do not think it is necessarily age -related although generally the older, more long-teaching people are probably less, at this point, anyway, until they have to be accredited, generally less familiar with them in specifics. The third one is that group that really embrace them and really use them as a tool, because it is a really useful tool.

It was evident from some of our interview responses that the teacher education students often had to guide their Supervising Teacher in their understanding and application of the standards. This is exemplified by the following quote:

I asked my Supervising Teacher to give me a report midway through so that I could work on his feedback in the last two weeks. From this a number of the standards were unknown to him and we had to look up the meanings at the back of the prac’ book.

Where a Supervising Teacher did not relate feedback to the Standards, individual TES would implement a strategy to compensate for this:

I’ve basically started to highlight individual standards and attaching them to the lesson plan so that my Supervising Teacher specifically focuses on those standards in that lesson which made him provide a little more useful feedback.’

Although the Standards perhaps have not been internalized as a common language or are consciously understood by all teachers, none-the-less many teacher education students were of the firm opinion that the majority of teachers are highly proficient and innately capable of meeting all the Standard Descriptors.

Feedback and self relection

Another of our findings related to the standards being used effectively for formative or ongoing assessment during professional experience. This theme is evident in the following response from another teacher education student:

I did relate [the feedback given] back to the Standards mainly because my teacher did use the form, and the form is related to the Standards, and I really like that. I really found it very useful. I find the Standards useful … [because] I am able to use them as a structure for reflection … no matter how much I think I am doing it, or intuitively I am doing it anyway, I still find it reassuring to be able to check myself against it.

We feel that the proactive approach on the part of the teacher education students in our study is great preparation for the ongoing accreditation now required from teachers across their career span from graduate to lead teacher. In this respect, we are heartened by the response of another student who acknowledged that “it has been my own personal reflections that led to my progress.” As well, it seemed that the standards supported the development of the teacher education student in the absence of focused mentoring from the Supervising Teacher. This is an encouraging finding for teacher educators in this interim period where not all supervising teachers are conversant with the standards

The findings presented in our paper confirm some of the arguments presented in favour of the standards by their promoters. These are the worth of the standards as a common language, their role as an explicit framework for teaching and their value in promoting self-assessment, reflection on practice and professional conversations. The findings also lend weight to the argument that the application of the standards to the practice and assessment of professional experience is variable in quality, given that not every supervising teacher on professional experience will have the necessary skills and understanding of the standards to provide constructive feedback to our students.

 

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Tony Loughland is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at UNSW. Tony is currently working on the validation of a teacher observation instrument based upon the construct of teacher adaptive practices.

 

 

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Dr Neville John Ellis is a Lecturer in the School of Education at UNSW. His teaching and research interests are in teacher professional learning, classroom-based research, and comparative studies in education.

 

 

Full text of our paper

Loughland, T., & Ellis, N. (2016). A Common Language? The Use of Teaching Standards in the Assessment of Professional Experience: Teacher Education Students’ Perceptions. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 41(7), 4.

 

NSW Education Standards Authority: is this new authority genuine reform or political spin?

A key recommendation of the recently released Review of the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) is a call for “a more risk based approach to the Authority’s regulatory work”.

The BOSTES, renamed in the review as the NSW Education Standards Authority, is the authority that governs school education standards in New South Wales, including standards for curriculum, teaching and assessment, as well as school and teacher registration. So in this context ‘risk’ is an alarming concept. For us it conjured images of failing students with damaged futures in the hands of ill-prepared and incompetent teachers.

It was this mention of risk that made us particularly interested in the review, and what it might mean for us as teacher educators. We make the point here that while the review was written to guide developments in NSW, neighbouring jurisdictions in Queensland, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory and South Australia also will be paying attention. Teacher candidates and teacher graduates are very mobile these days. Changes in NSW will have a ripple effect.

We discovered the review does not suggest NSW students or schools are failing. Indeed the opening comment of the Overview synopsis states “The review found there is confidence in education standards…

So where is the risk? We decided to search for what the panel might conceive as risks. We used backward mapping from the review’s recommendations, to try to infer the risks involved. But first we looked at who was involved and who was consulted in the writing of this review.

The voice of teacher educators is largely missing

The three-member review panel held 105 consultations with organisations and individuals, but only 10 could loosely be thought of as involving teacher educators because of their connection with the Education faculties of universities. However, initial teacher education is not the only exercise of Education faculties, so indeed the connection between these 10 and actual teacher education programs and their design and implementation isn’t at all clear.

The 4,722 survey respondents comprised “principals, teachers, parents and students”. So teacher educators were not represented there either.

The review made 13 recommendations; several of these directly or indirectly affect our work as teacher educators.

The call for clarity and streamlining

The first recommendation is that education standards in NSW need to be reorganised. The argument is this is necessary to provide “greater clarity of regulatory roles and responsibilities and streamlined processes and systems” (p.5). The inference is that such clarity doesn’t exist and that processes are not clear. The regulatory processes are reported as “administratively burdensome”.

As we saw it, this is the first ‘risk’ we uncovered. We’ll call it Risk #1. It is that valuable time will be wasted and complex layers of processes and regulatory requirements will constipate vital reform.

As far as teacher education goes national authorities impose many of the processes so these cannot be part of the state’s streamlining process. Perhaps the streamlining could be of the additional requirements that NSW itself requires.

However there is no suggestion in the review that the extra layers imposed by NSW for initial teacher education accreditation should be removed. The new authority will still require initial teacher education accreditation and teacher registration to have unique NSW state based requirements. These will continue to be piled upon the rigorous national processes and requirements of AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership), ACECQA (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority) and TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency).

It’s hard to imagine how a call for streamlining and unburdening might work without some attempt at removing the layers of additional state-based processes and requirements.

So this appears to be an empty recommendation. Let’s move on to another inferred risk.

Teacher quality

The review focuses on teacher quality, and declares that teacher accreditation should remain the responsibility of teacher accreditation authorities. Setting the registration/accreditation of individual teachers aside, if there was respect for the national authorities, then the story should have just ended there. But the review highlights a need for “risk based auditing” of “Teacher Accreditation Authorities for ongoing quality assurance” (p. 33).

In other words, the review panel seems to be dissatisfied, or at least lacks trust, in the effectiveness of the national teacher accreditation authorities’ to exercise their role. This is a clanger. The NSW BOSTES leaders have been at the table for the development of the nationally consistent teacher accreditation policies and processes since they were birthed.

The report indeed acknowledges this by detailing the “engagement with the Education Council and inter-government forums” (p. 33) and declaring the NSW BOSTES as a partner in developments at national levels.

But whatever the inference is here, there are some well-crafted soothing words for the benefit of the national accrediting authorities in the following statement:

“It is the Review Panel’s view that, unless there is a material difference in policy and New South Wales is setting specific and higher standards, the Authority (BOSTES) should not reproduce existing resources” (p. 33).

So what is the risk being conjured up? Is it that fine and well-designed teacher education programs might not emerge from the nationally consistent and rigorous accreditation processes? This is an unlikely risk for NSW, especially given the ongoing input NSW BOSTES has had in creating those national frameworks.

Therefore, sadly, it is more likely that we have identified Risk #2: that BOSTES will not be able to maintain control of the nationally consistent accreditation requirements. It needs to do this to sufficiently satisfy the local electorates that NSW offers bespoke education.

Another key recommendation under the heading of teacher quality is that “the authority’s oversight of initial teacher education provision… is strengthened” (p. 35). Yet again this smacks of distrust of the nationally consistent processes and policies, but also of distrust of the quality and motives of teacher education providers.

Compounding this is the review’s call for “the power to place conditions on the approval of ITE programs and the suspension and revocation of program approvals” (p. 35). We can only wonder about all of that.

Final school practicum

Specific attention is given to the final school practicum in an initial teacher education program (Recommendation 6, p. 36). This is when student teachers do their last supervised teaching in classrooms before they graduate. We believe it is seen as the greatest of all risks. We identified it as Risk #3: that incompetent graduate teachers might attain teacher accreditation due to ineffective assessment of their capabilities in the final practicum.

So, the review panel wants the new NSW Education Standards Authority to have power over whether an initial teacher education program can continue to be offered, and it will depend on whether pre-service teachers graduating from that program meet particular standards set for the final practicum. This is a truly big stick, and only possible as a recommendation from a Review panel (and suite of stakeholder consultations) that did not feature a strong representation from teacher education specialists.

If teacher educators had been given a fair voice in this review they would have explained the wicked problems of equitable final practicum assessment. The enduring fact is that classrooms are not all the same, teacher supervisors are not all the same and schools are not all the same. Pre-service teachers will teach in different levels of schooling in different regions, and with extremely divergent ranges and mixes of socioeconomic, cultural and community factors.

The story of one provider of initial teacher education, just over the border from New South Wales, explains the scope of what we are talking about. Griffith University in Queensland is our university so we confidently use it as an example to provide insight into the scale of the exercise. In 2015, Griffith placed 2639 students into school practicum at 458 schools, including some in other parts of Australia, amounting to 60,531 days of practicum which is the equivalent of 166 years. Yes 166 years for just one university. While these were not all final practicum experiences, the scale of the exercise is a powerful message about the potential for this strategy to go awry.

In Queensland, all three education sectors, together with the ten higher education institutions and the Queensland College of Teachers, have collaborated to ensure a consistent approach to final professional experience performance and evaluation. The Queensland Professional Experience Reporting Framework is a result of that collaboration. Perhaps taking a look at this might be useful.

One final practicum is not a good measure

With this in mind, many teacher educators believe performance in one final practicum is not an appropriate bar to measure the effectiveness of an entire initial teacher education program. That is, unless and until:

  • There is a greater sharing of the responsibilities for mentoring and development of pre-service teachers at the coalface, in the classroom.
  • There are reliable approaches to moderation of practicum evaluation.
  • There are specialist teachers in school that understand their role as site based teacher educators and who work in partnership with the university teacher educators.

The greatest risk

We believe the review should have seen past what might look good for politicians and or what could be used to generate simplistic “good” media coverage. A focus far more important should have been how the teacher educator sector might participate in ways of working more effectively and professionally together and how they might improve their connections with classroom teachers and schools.

The greatest risk is fussing over who has control, and who can find the best “spin” to give reforms, is distracting us from our most important collective job; that is teaching students how to succeed as learners and to be productive and positive members of society.

In all, the BOSTES Review is disappointing. It adds bricks to the already existing walls between initial teacher education and the rest of the education sector. Its recommendations are framed in ways that reinforce negative regard and disrespect for initial teacher education and those of us who work in the sector.

As we see it an unhealthy focus on risk aversion (not risk taking at all) constructs a punitive environment that separates the people in education who should be working together to raise standards. To do that effectively the voices of teacher educators should be heard.

It is about time the authorities in charge of school standards in NSW stop referring to “stakeholders” and start talking about “partners”.

 

Here is the full Review of the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES)

Nan-Bahr_250pxProfessor Nan Bahr is Dean (Learning and Teaching) for the Arts, Education and Law Group at the Griffith Univerity. She is responsible for the quality of design and implementation of programs across the Arts, Education and Law Group, both undergraduate and postgraduate and development programs, including higher degree research and coursework. The role works with the Pro Vice Chancellor with decision making responsibilities regarding students issues and applications.

Prior to joining Griffith University in 2015, Nan was Assistant Dean (Teaching and Learning) and Professor of Education for the Faculty of Education at the Queensland University of Technology. This position followed from her role as Director Teacher Education with the University of Queensland. Nan has a background as a Secondary School teacher for Sciences, and the Arts, particularly Music. Nan holds a PhD in Educational Psychology and Music Education from the University of Queensland and has postgraduate and undergraduate degrees majoring in Biology, Music, Special Needs Education, and Educational Psychology. 

Professor Bahr has a national and international profile for educational research with over 100 publications including four books (one a best seller). Key research has been in the fields of music education, educational psychology, teacher education, adolescence, resilience, and teaching innovation in higher education. As a University Teacher, she has been awarded the University of Queensland Award for Excellence in Teaching, has been a finalist (twice) for the Australian Awards for University Teaching, and has been awarded for extended service with the Australian Defence Force.

Prof Donna Pendergast colour

 

 

Professor Donna Pendergast is Dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University.  She has an international profile in the field of middle years education.  She is actively involved in policy discussions regarding quality teaching and is the Chair of the Queensland Council of Deans of Education.   

Do Australian teachers have poor literacy skills? Let’s look at the evidence

Australians have been sold the idea that our primary school teachers today have poor literacy standards, not only by popular media but often by politicians and sometimes even by the universities that train our teachers. So how true is it? What evidence is there to support these claims? My colleagues* and I decided to find out.

This blog post is a report on our ongoing research. We haven’t finished yet. Our starting point is a survey of what the profession itself thinks (if you are a primary school teacher you might like to join in). We made a few surprising discoveries just to get to this point.

The neverending story

As Professor Bill Louden pointed out a few years and a few reports ago, there have been over 100 reports on teacher education in the last 40 years.

The latest instalment in the neverending story about what is wrong with the preparation of Australian classroom teachers was released earlier this year. It is the Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers Report

As a direct result literacy and numeracy testing of preservice teachers ( student teachers) is being rolled out across Australia.

Who is telling the story?

We are particularly interested in the construction of preservice and graduate teachers as lacking in literacy capabilities.

The view from popular media commentators is clear. Here are a few memorable ones

Can’t write can’t spell

Teachers have a lot to learn

Lament over standards as aspiring teachers flop literacy

It is not surprising that these comments are not supported with evidence. What we did find surprising is how little evidence has been used to support recommendations in government reports.

Tracing back the story

So we began to trace the empirical evidence behind the claim that our primary school teacher education students and graduate teachers lack literacy abilities

We examined academic papers and research reports, government reports and submissions to inquiries, and media commentary.

Those outside Queensland may not be aware that the ‘new’ literacy and numeracy testing was first recommended as part of a review in Queensland in back in 2009. And this was in direct response to a claim from the review that:

Concerns were raised about the adequacy of some primary teachers’ levels of content knowledge. ….These concerns echo concerns raised with the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy about the literacy skills of pre-service teachers. The Inquiry noted ‘some scepticism among practising teachers about the personal literacy standards of new graduates’

Ok so we have some concerns raised, and these concerns reflect findings from a previous Inquiry. This earlier one was the National Inquiry into the teaching of Literacy which resulted in the report Teaching Reading

So let’s go back to that report. The data quoted as evidence are provided through a description of “issues raised” in focus group discussions by participants.

The literacy competency of student teachers was raised as an issue in all focus group discussions. Participants reported that many pre-service teachers lacked the literacy skills required to be effective teachers of reading.

Surely the evidence provided was not just a group of teachers complaining about the quality of pre-service teachers?

Well not entirely. The report also drew on other reports, as well as some small scale studies involving the testing of pre-service teachers’ knowledge of aspects of language use.

One of these sources that is often cited is the Australian Government Report Prepared to Teach.

Yet the lead author of this report, one William Louden, also argued there is a need to investigate the different factors influencing the quality of our preservice teachers.

So after following the trail back to here, we decided to take up Louden’s suggestion and look closely at the different areas discussed around the literacy standards of primary school teachers.

Four dimensions identified to carry out further research

We believe that the factors that influence the quality of pre-service and graduate teachers can be grouped together into four dimensions.

Personal literacy

The first dimension relates to the personal literacy capabilities of preservice teachers. Can preservice teachers spell? Can they write? Is it true that “Graduating pre-service teachers’ levels of personal literacy should be equivalent to the top 30 per cent of the population”?

Knowledge of the curriculum

The second dimension relates to preservice and graduate teachers’ knowledge of the English curriculum. They don’t know enough about literature, they don’t know how to assess writing, they don’t know what to include and exclude from their classroom teaching. Hence the increase in packages and programs such as Soundwaves a spelling program that proudly claims, “you don’t need to be a phonemic expert”.

Quality of teaching

The third dimension relates to preservice and graduate teachers ability to teach, or their pedagogical knowledge about English and literacy. That is, if you don’t know how to teach spelling you can’t teach literacy; teachers who write are good teachers of literacy; teachers who use digital texts such as blogs and websites themselves are experts at using these in classrooms. There are also arguments in the literature about explicit teaching, direct instruction, inquiry based learning, whole language approaches, systemic phonics instruction, etc etc.

Teacher education

A fourth dimension is initial teacher education program’s impact on the above dimensions. So how does the standard of entry to teacher education program impact on graduate teachers’ personal literacy abilities? Does the mode of delivery of teacher education (four year, graduate entry etc) have an impact on graduate teachers’ ability to teach literacy? How does the length and type of professional experience (school based, intense internships) influence preservice teachers’ knowledge of the curriculum?

The content of initial teacher education programs is often hotly disputed as well. Do we teach phonemic awareness? Is there enough practice or too much theory? Who are the best people to teach initial teacher education? Teachers? Researchers?

The next step, a survey

We have used these four dimensions to construct a survey of members of the teaching profession across Australia.

We aim in this survey to answer the following research question, What are the expectations of the profession about the literacy capabilities of graduate teachers required to deliver high quality, intellectually demanding literacy education?

We envisage the results will provide some empirical data that can replace the anecdotes embedded in current storylines about the capabilities of preservice and graduate teachers.

After this survey our next step will be to discover what primary preservice teachers understand about their own personal literacy skills and their perceptions of their own abilities to teach literacy.

 

*My colleagues involved in this research are Associate Professor Beryl Exley (Queensland University of Technology) Associate Professor Lisa Kervin (University of Wollongong), Associate Professor Alyson Simpson (University of Sydney) and Dr Muriel Wells (Deakin University)  A related paper can be found here

Eileen-Honan

 

Dr Eileen Honan is a Senior Lecturer in Literacy and English Education at The University of Queensland.

What’s new about dyslexia?

A learning disability may be thought as a kind of ailment, difficulty, trouble, condition, even an illness in the eyes of some (with, sometimes, special gifts notwithstanding), and as such a special education teacher is a type of clinician.

Special education teacher as a clinician

We have a dictum in clinical medicine that states that we use treatments because they work, and not necessarily only because they make sense, and, as a corollary, we do not use them if they do not work, even though theory says they should work (change the theory!).   Nonetheless, it is fun to have theories and it is useful to have them as a way, at least, to devise new treatments (hoping that they will work). And, clinicians are commonly interested in the causes of the illness or condition they work with. In the case of developmental dyslexia, and unlike the situation in the 80s and before, many scientists have become interested in dyslexia and its causes, and many theories have emerged, some of which may now be contributing to new ideas for treatments.

Theories and new ideas about dyslexia

Everyone intuits that reading comes through the eyes (unless you are reading Braille), and therefore the visual system could be implicated in dyslexia. As it turns out, based on more recent research, the visual system may indeed be dysfunctional, although it is not clear to what extent the visual problem contributes to the reading difficulty. Some recently published scientific papers show that manipulating the way visual information is provided during reading improves the success rate. Other articles show that playing some action games on your computer or handheld device improves reading ability. Still others have failed to demonstrate significant visual problems in dyslexia and have discarded this as a fundamental explanation. The truth must exist somewhere in the middle, and at least one explanation may be that not all dyslexics are the same.  A convenient and ecumenical hypothesis would be that several systems contribute to learning to read and to reading (not entirely the same thing), and that mixes of deficits in all of these systems are needed for the clinical problem to emerge. In that case, helping out any one of the systems may be enough to get the problem somewhat taken care of.

A majority of researchers (whom the visual fans consider to be a mafia because they are powerful nowadays) are more inclined to blame the language system as the primary cause of dyslexia and pooh-pooh any visual explanation.

Phonetics and dyslexia

There are oodles of data showing some form of language problem in dyslexics, most of which having to do with phonology. Phonology is the study of the sound-structure of a language, and dyslexics have problem playing with language sounds (as in pig-latin and rhyming, for instance), which suggests that they do not know them well enough. However, phonology itself is a complex concept that contains sub-parts, which begs the question as to what part of phonology is involved. Some researchers, including this writer, believe that phonology can be subdivided into phonological grammar and phonetics, which are somewhat independent from each other in principle and in the brain systems that support them. The phonological grammar is the part of phonology that has to do with what sounds go together legally in a particular language (for instance, in English no word has the structure “lc” at the start, but “cl” is allowed, e.g., click, clack, clock). It appears that dyslexics are capable of learning these types of grammatical rules.

On the other hand, they are bad at speech perception, and, in one study, they even showed difficulty distinguishing a natural language from a machine-generated one. As this part of phonology, phonetics, implicates perception, rather than only the cognitive aspects of language, it is reasonable to suggest that dyslexia may originate from the dysfunction of very low level acoustic processors in the brain, soon after a sound first impinges on it at the brainstem, just in from the inner ear.

What does study of the brain have to say about these questions and debates?

Well, the study of the brain is a treacherous as the study of anything else, in that the scientist is prone to find things she can think of, and more rarely discovers things she did not suspect; she is also limited by the tools she has at her disposal. Most brain scientists who study dyslexia nowadays look at the function of the brain while the dyslexic is carrying out a language task.

For this, functional imaging with a magnetic resonance imager is used (like the one your physician uses to diagnose the cause of a headache, for instance, but used in a different way). First, the look is already biased, because language is emphasized (with rare exceptions in the field). Second, the look is biased, because it focuses on the function of the cerebral cortex (the highly folded rind containing most of the brain cells, or neurons, covering the cerebrum, which has grown out of proportion in human beings). It tends to miss the deeper parts of the brain, and misses the brainstem altogether, where more of sensory and perceptual experiences are processed.

There are clearly differences in the ways the brain functions when faced with a language task in dyslexics compared to good readers. For instance, the processing that should be mostly mediated by a given region of the cortex, is displaced both to other regions in the same hemisphere of the brain and to the other hemisphere, which means that the language circuits are altered. Areas that should be quiet during the task are not quiet, and those that should be highly activated are less activated, or not activated at all.

What do these differences mean?

We know that dyslexics read differently already. If the brain tests don’t show it, there is something wrong with the brain tests. Further, the tests have to go beyond showing differences which we already know exist. They have to tell us about mechanisms, the knowledge of which might help us with diagnosing dyslexia earlier, earlier at least than a child’s ability to read, even speak. This is because in dyslexia, as with other developmental cognitive conditions, early diagnosis promises better prevention and treatment. Another potential use of this kind of brain research would be to help us to differentiate among different types of dyslexia, presumably with different treatment approaches, which the reading tests alone may not be able to do. Finally, an altogether different type of scientist is looking for fundamental causes.

What are the genetic and environmental elements that predispose a child to dyslexia?

Some progress has been made in this regard, although I must say that progress has tangibly slowed down in the past couple of years. In order to discover a so-called dyslexia risk gene, it is important to examine literally thousands of people, and this presents a logistical problem for researchers. Some risk genes have been found and confirmed in more than one study (this is important). These genes, interestingly, point to pathways involved both in the structure and function of brain cells (neurons). They involve both neurons in the cerebral cortex and neurons in the deeper structures noted above. In some cases, the neurons may be noisy and unable to represent fine sound distinctions.

This is potentially very exciting, but still too early to make a great deal of. Potential outcomes of this research, if it pans out, would be medications that decrease the neuronal noisiness.

However, it should be stressed that the best therapy in this case would be to quiet down these neurons together with exposing the child to special education. It is not different from what I tell my patients with attention deficit disorder: “Look, this medicine will make your brain more suitable for learning in the classroom and while reading, but it won’t learn for you; you still have to study!

 More is coming

There is a lot more about dyslexia research, and one of the most exciting parts of it is that it dovetails nicely with biological research on other learning and developmental disorders. So, there are lots of people working to make things better. Moreover, there are lots of people making sure that the research is good.

In the end, what we want to do is to diagnose the risk earlier and plug the young children into programs that will lessen the impact of whatever negative neurobiological burden they were born in, while at the same time spending more time developing their particular genius.

 

Professor Albert M. Galaburda is currently in Australia and will be presenting at the  The Learning Difference Convention in Sydney on 6th & 7Th August at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse.

 

al Professor Albert M.Galaburda

Professor Albert M. Galaburda Harvard University USA, is the Emily Fisher Landau Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience Harvard Medical School Co-Director of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative Harvard University Chief, Division of Cognitive Neurology.