Interrogating the ‘Quality Initial Teacher Education Review’: What’s the problem represented to be?

Year: 2021

Author: Wrench, Alison, Carter, Jenni

Type of paper: Symposium

Within the Australian context, there have been over 100 reviews of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) since the 1970s. This volume suggests a deep mistrust of both the institution of ITE and teacher educators. When ITE programs and teacher educators are framed by deficit discourses they are constructed as ‘policy problems’ requiring governmental solutions. Concerns have materialised around control, purposes and practices of education, as well as visions of ‘good’, ‘classroom ready’ and ‘quality’ teachers. Unsurprisingly graduate teacher registration in Australia is now premised on meeting three mandated requirements. Pre-service teachers must pass the National Literacy and Numeracy Test, provide a portfolio evincing attainment of all 37 Professional Standards for Graduate teachers (AITSL 2020) and pass the Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA), embedded in a capstone course and practicum. These policies suggest that the preparation of pre-service teachers is quantifiable in relation to measurable outcomes, skills and practices. They also represent movement away from deep, generative conceptions of teachers and teaching. In this paper we analyse the 2021 Initial teacher education review, and the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review Discussion paper, which focus not only on preparation of pre-service teachers but also the ‘quality’ of those recruited into the teaching workforce. Attending to language in these documents and related media commentary we draw on Bacchi’s What’s the problem represented to be?’ (WPR) approach to explore discursive framings, assumptions, silences, and emerging effects. Bacchi’s WPR also allows us to explore how pre-service teachers are constituted and possibilities for disruption and talking back to common-sense notions around ITE, pre-service teachers and teacher educators. In concluding we make a case for ITE programs that are responsive to the needs and concerns of the public rather than tied to governmental dictates, which privilege economic outputs. That is, socially just and strongly democratic ITE programs framed by educative purposes and, hence, capable of preparing socially critical teachers who can actually work well with all of Australia’s children.