Working together in the third space: What motivates school teachers to work in partnership with teacher educators to prepare pre-service teachers for the teaching profession?

Year: 2018

Author: Green, Corinne, Eady, Michelle, Tindall-Ford, Sharon

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A recurring question regarding the quality of initial teacher education (ITE) programs in Australia and internationally is the perceived divide between theory that pre-service teachers (PST) learn at university and their experiences in schools (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Mayer, 2014). Research has demonstrated that when PSTs study theories of education in a way that is disconnected from classroom practice, they are not adequately prepared for the complexities inherent in the teaching profession (Adoniou, 2013).
In recent years, significant changes have been made in an effort to address this perceived divide with the aim to ensure high quality graduate teachers. In the United Kingdom, the ‘School Direct’ scheme has given schools control over selecting PST candidates, and the ITE providers they will work with (Jackson & Burch, 2016). In the United States, ITE providers are encouraged to work with ‘Professional Development Schools’, providing structured opportunities for collaboration between teacher educators and quality school teachers (Lewis & Walser, 2016). Within Australia, collaborations between schools and ITE providers have been recommended to “facilitate a close connection between teaching practice and initial teacher education” (Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group, 2014, p. 25).
Collaborative school-university partnerships operate in what Zeichner (2010) describes as the ‘third space’ between schools and universities. In this shared space, school teachers and university academics work together in non-hierarchical partnerships, valuing the diverse knowledge and expertise they can each contribute to ITE (Robson & Mtika, 2017). These partnerships may involve PSTs engaging with theory on school sites, collaborations between school teachers and university academics to develop education programs, or hybrid teacher educators with a role both at the university and the school (Lynch, 2015; Taylor, Klein, & Abrams, 2014).
This conference presentation will discuss the findings of a multiple-case study exploring Australian school teachers’ motivation to be involved in school-university partnerships to develop PSTs for the teaching profession. This focus on motivation is novel, as much of the literature on school-university partnerships has focused on the implementation of partnerships and the benefits and challenges associated with them (Zeichner, Payne, & Brayko, 2015). The findings of this study have led to a deeper understanding of school-university partnerships, the reasons for which teachers are involved in them, and the support that can be provided to establish and maintain effective partnerships. This study can thereby inform the implementation of sustainable school-university partnerships in the future, contributing to the continued improvement of initial teacher education.