Accessing initial teacher education in regional Australia: Empowering communities while building the workforce

Year: 2019

Author: Ambrosetti, Angelina, Harreveld, Bobby, Blayney, William, Busch, Gillian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In regional communities, teaching is one of the professions with distinctive opportunities and challenges (Kenny, Harreveld & Danaher, 2016). In such communities, contextual relevance and socio-cultural appropriateness in pre-service teacher education courses are essential (Ajayi, 2014; Darling-Hammond, 2009). It has been proposed that in Australia, sustainable regional, rural and remote communities may be supported by reform to the ways in which teacher education is delivered; especially when the relationship is reciprocal (White, Lock, Hastings, Cooper, Reid & Green, 2011). In this respect, reciprocity goes beyond pre-service teachers’ practicum experiences or the mobility of teacher graduates if it is to actually impact social networks and economic sustainability. At the heart of this investigation is the reciprocal relationship initiated by a regional community and responded to by a university offering teacher education.

The study discussed in this paper aimed to investigate the impact on a regional community through the delivery of an initial teacher education course through a community-initiated university centre. In light of recent federal government funding provided for the establishment of future community initiated university centres and study hubs in regional Australia, the findings from this scoping study has the potential to influence the way that these centres deliver initial teacher education. The study described here utilised both quantitative and qualitative data sets including archival data, demographic data and interview data from pre-service teachers, casual tutors, community members and graduates.

There are several key findings from the research. Firstly, it was found that participation rates in initial teacher education have grown substantially within the regional community, meaning that there is an increase in the contextualised professional capabilities that will benefit the region’s schools and the regional economy. Secondly, the support structures that are embedded within the university centre model enabled students to succeed more so than if they were studying via the traditional distance mode, thus growing their confidence and empowering them within their family and community units. Thirdly, the professional capability within the localised schooling sector increased in that teachers were being provided with opportunities to increase their own teaching knowledge and skills by working with and at the university centre. Finally, it was found that both the teacher graduates and pre-service teachers from the university centre became role models for others in their community, thus providing empowerment through education.