Developing a community engaged teacher education program for regional and rural Victorian schools: The new NEXUS Master of Teaching program

Year: 2019

Author: Lampert, Jo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For teacher education, the challenge of engaging more deeply with local communities is about righting imbalances. This involves a shift in governance and power requiring an institutionally embedded strategy to allow rural and regional oft-marginalised communities an audible voice at the decision-making table, in central rather than tokenistic ways (Gillan et. al., 2017). Attracting, supporting and graduating teachers from some of the communities that need teachers most is understood as key not just to a passionately engaged teaching workforce, but one where teachers deeply understand the communities in which they teach, seeing families as holding the ‘legitimate knowledge’ that is important to their work with young people (Delgado et. al., 2002).

This paper reports on the early stages of the Nexus teacher education program, a reflective partnership (nexus) between university, schools and most significantly, local communities. As a new place-based Master of Secondary Teaching with community engagement at its core, the program is designed to recruit, prepare, support, graduate and track teachers through an alternative pathway into secondary teaching in low socio-economic regional and rural Victorian schools. Teacher candidates are selected in the program using an equity-based points system (Howard, 2016) taking into account applicants’ own backgrounds (i.e. from rural or marginalised communities), personal and professional histories, commitment to social justice as well as discipline content knowledge. We recognise that teachers who come from rural, regional or low SES communities, who are Indigenous, who may have language backgrounds other than English, or have experienced interruptions to their careers or other disadvantage, may have the experience and often the skills, knowledge and disposition to make a significant difference in schools. We want teachers who are knowledgeable agents of social change.

Nexus is a highly mentored, scaffolded employment- based teacher education program. We immerse our participants in schools, slowly guiding them to independence as classroom teachers. On campus, in schools and at selected community locations, they learn from teacher mentors and are hosted by community families, working side-by-side as they reflect on critical and social justice theory as they explore innovations in teaching for socially just practices that bring about change for students and their communities. In this respect, Nexus engages in knowledge building at all levels of teacher education including the targeted selection of teacher candidates and the co-production of a new model of teacher education informed by members of local communities to incorporate community perspectives.