A Community of Practice Model (CoP) of Professional Experience through Innovative School-University Partnerships

This paper describes and evaluates a model of initial teacher education that advocates for a continuum of teacher development and professional learning with universities, education sectors and schools sharing responsibility and ownership regarded as critical in preparing ‘classroom ready’ teachers. The aim of this project was to investigate how a differentiated model of professional experience might operate for the mutual benefit of teacher mentors, teacher leaders, teacher education students and tertiary supervisors within a community of schools spearheaded by a 'NSW Department of Education Professional Experience (PEX) Hub School' . Teacher education students were supported in their development through a CoP model with the aim of developing their ability to confidently and consistently demonstrate achievement of the graduate teaching standards. A concurrent aim was to develop the teacher mentors’ skills in coaching and mentoring in order to provide pre-service teachers with opportunities to demonstrate and reflect on the teaching standards.The results identify ways to promote collaboration, professional dialogue and relational leadership in order to improve our understanding of how communities of practice could operate in future school based professional experience placements for the mutual benefit of all CoP members and community stakeholders.The paper also examines and discusses successes and challenges of this model of innovative professional experience including the critical role of the mentor, mentoring conversations and relational trust; mentoring professional learning support; mentoring as a form of teacher leadership; the role of university presence; clear, explicit expectations and ongoing communication; adequate time for the development of positive mentoring relationships; how developing and sustaining relationships among the CoP members is established and workload expectations. In conclusion it addresses how the model can challenge and inform professional experience models in the Australian context and beyond.