Preparing ‘classroom ready’ teachers: A critical analysis of a school-university partnership

Year: 2016

Author: Harold, Barbara, Stephenson, Lauren

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The introduction of teacher standards has focused attention on the importance of initial teacher education, and in particular, the school experience component. The Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers report (2015) noted that the types, quality, and level of integration of professional experience placements varied considerably and that the quality of the partnership between teacher education providers and schools, the level of expertise and preparation of the supervising teachers also impacted the quality of pre-service teacher (PST) experience. With this in mind the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has developed clear guidelines and procedures to support best practice in the field.This paper presents a critical analysis of a model of initial teacher education that preceded the AITSL requirements by several years but placed professional experience squarely at the center of the program and contained many of the elements now seen as critical in preparing ‘classroom ready’ teachers. Following a preliminary period of on-campus work to orient them to the coming classroom experience a cohort of 17 PSTs were placed in a private school for eight weeks to apply their professional knowledge. The essence of their professional learning occurred during the ongoing interaction between themselves, content knowledge and skills, supervising teachers, supervising faculty and students. The model used a triadic structure where PSTs, supervising teachers and university faculty supervisors operated as a true community of practice. It also assumed a ‘flat’ rather than hierarchical structure, where participants addressed each other as colleagues and collaborated to scaffold and build teaching practice experience and knowledge, ensuring that professional learning occurred for all involved.Data were collected from sources including faculty journals, professional development surveys, email records, meeting minutes, planning notes and informal interviews, and were analyzed using an inductive process of identifying themes and key content areas.The analysis drew on several theoretical frameworks including ‘simultaneous renewal’ (Goodlad, 1998), ‘communities of practice’ (Wenger et al., 2002) and ‘activist teacher professionalism’ (Sachs, 2003). Successes and challenges of the model are discussed, including developing and sustaining relationships among the participants, communication issues, workload expectations, leadership development, power relationships and ethical dilemmas. In conclusion it analyses how the model can inform recent professional practice perspectives in the Australian context.