Initial teacher education professional communities: Enhancing student experience, achievement and retention

First year students continue to be challenged by the transition to University because settings and expectations differ from those at school and other Universities, resulting in first year student withdrawal (House 2000; Tsui 2007). Lizzio and Wilson (2013) also suggest that the first year, and in particular the first semester, is a critical time for students and hence, the early first year student experience is of significance to a student’s long term academic success (Richardson, King, Garrett & Wrench 2012). The Professional Communities Project aims to build capacity, connection and a sense of community among commencing University of South Australia Master of Teaching (n= 260) and Bachelor of Education (n=510) pre-service teachers. At the beginning of 2016 a new approach to supporting pre-service teachers in their first year and first study period began wherein Academic Advisors are assigned to every student commencing in these programs in 2016. Advisors are deliberately assigned to target specific communities, e.g. secondary English pre-service teachers mentored by a secondary English academic. These Academic Advisors will support students throughout the duration of their program and transition into the workplace. This paper will outline the Professional Communities (PCs) framework and provide initial student and staff experiences through online survey responses and Academic Advisor and student meeting reports. Findings from this project aim to inform initial teacher education, and specifically enhance student experience, transition, initiation, retention and graduate excellence by promoting an academic culture founded on connectedness to the space and place of university. House, J. D. (2000). Academic background and self-beliefs as predictors of student grade performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. International Journal of Industrial Media, 27, 207-220.Lizzio, A. & Wilson, K. (2013). Early intervention to support the academic recovery of first-year students at risk of non-continuation, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 1-12.Richardson, A., King, S., Garrett, R. & Wrench, A. (2012). Thriving or just surviving: Exploring student strategies for a smoother transition to university. International Journal of the First Year Experience, 3(2), 87-93.Tsui, L. (2007). Effective strategies to increase diversity in STEM fields: A review of the research literature. Journal of Negro Education, 76(4), 555-581.