Teacher education students, graduates and employer perceptions of readiness for the classroom

Year: 2018

Author: Heck, Deborah, Simmon, Sue, Grainger, Peter, Willis, Alison, Karyn, Smith

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While teacher education reform calls for classroom-ready teachers, there are few definitions of the term ‘classroom-ready’. Although policy might suggest it is the achievement of the Graduate level of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST), completing a literacy test or a Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment, there is little consensus regarding definitions and a lack of understanding of how ‘readiness’ is perceived by students, graduates and employers. As teacher education professionals, we need to consider how we might challenge these taken-for-granted views in this era of measurement, and consider, as Biesta suggests, ways to reclaim professionalism. To advance this agenda as teacher educators, an understanding of perspectives of readiness from students and those working in the profession will support our work and respond to policy calls about improving classroom-readiness. The purpose of this research was to explore how initial teacher education students, graduates and employers perceive readiness for teaching in the context of an Australian regional university. The study draws on anonymous critical incident reports from initial teacher education students who had completed at least one professional experience placement in a school. The critical incidents asked students outside of an assessment context to describe a positive and a negative incident that demonstrate their readiness or lack of readiness for their role as a teacher.  The research draws on interviews with graduates and employers about their perceptions of readiness of beginning teachers. Data accessed from the ITE student critical incident reports identify many positive and limited negative examples of student readiness during placement.  A thematic analysis of the interview data finds four main aspects that contribute to initial teacher education readiness: professional experience, theory and coursework, personal attributes and skills and the development of relationships with others. A Leximancer analysis of data from ITE students, graduate and employers suggests areas for further exploration regarding readiness including: developing confidence with curriculum knowledge; classroom leadership rather than management; providing space to explore new ideas and permission to take some risks:  time management; and the need for a response  to the variable quality of mentoring during ITE programs and upon entry to the profession. The research has identified that graduates engage as reflexive professionals and they are keen to seek out support to further develop their practice. Our challenge as teacher educators is to work with teacher education students, graduates and employers in ways to acknowledge and privilege teacher professionalism.