Issues in assessing international pre-service teachers during the field experience: A pilot study

The internationalisation of higher education is a global phenomenon and Australian universities in particular are experiencing increasing cultural diversity in their student population. This is true also in the cohorts of pre-service teachers in education faculties. This paper explores some issues in assessing international pre-service teachers from the perspectives of lecturing staff, liaison staff and supervising classroom teachers during field experience. The authors present preliminary data from a pilot project in which participants representing these three roles were interviewed. Participants were asked to describe their experiences, beliefs and attitudes to the assessment of international pre-service students during field experience, with particular emphasis on ethical issues that arose during these experiences. The findings suggest concerns around a lack of international students' English language proficiency, insufficient background information for these students on schooling in Australia, limited information for supervising teachers to support these students during field experience, and inconsistent approaches to grading students against assessment criteria.

The authors discuss some implications for the support of international students as they undertake field experience in Australian settings. Active recruiting of international students suggests that Australian universities have an ethical responsibility to provide adequate support for students who may have English as an additional language. In addition, experiences of teachers supervising international students in the field may be enhanced by clear expectations on approaches to assessing these students.

Solutions to some of the challenges faced by lecturing staff, liaison staff and supervising teachers may lie in increased support from universities as they seek to prepare EAL students more effectively for their field experience in Australian settings. Improved communication between lecturing staff, liaison staff and supervising teachers may also promote greater consistency with regard to the assessment of EAL students in the field. While the data emerging from this pilot study suggest that such solutions may improve the experience of staff and students within this context, is such support viable in the long term? This paper poses the question as to whether, in a climate of reduced funding to the tertiary sector in Australia, such increased support is sustainable.

Keywords: Teacher education; higher education; international students; field experience