The northern territory teaching schools program: Exploring the promise of partnerships in regional professional experience.

Year: 2012

Author: Buckworth, Jenny

Type of paper: Refereed paper


One of the key challenges for education in Northern Australia is attracting and recruiting teachers who can respond to the challenges of the region at the start of their careers through a pre-service professional experience in the region.

For pre-service teacher education students in regional locations such as the Northern Territory these challenges include coping with the distance and isolation, the diverse and profound learning needs of students and the dynamic schooling environments with high staff and student turnover. In response to these challenges there are initiatives to improve teacher quality and promote remote and regional areas as options for study to employment pathways. These initiatives have to be able to provide adequate mentoring and support to students in such a challenging environment and respond to newly developed professional standards.

This paper describes and discusses the Teaching Schools Partnership, developed in 2006, involving teacher employing authorities in the Northern Territory and Charles Darwin University to provide professional experience.

Utilising Wenger and Lave's notion of 'Communities of Practice' as a theoretical framework this paper analyses the challenges of offering professional experience in a regional setting in a pre-service teacher education partnership. The partnership has in particular, mutual engagement and joint enterprise of both parties. The paper will explore the following questions.

  • ·      What benefits do Teaching Schools bring to the partners?
  • ·      How is Teaching Schools to be sustained in the context of change?
  • ·      What features of the communities of practice are evident in Teaching Schools and how do they promote professional experience in remote northern Australia?
  • ·      How do participating schools and their teaching staff benefit from being a partner in Teaching Schools?

In answering these questions, the paper  briefly describe the efforts of the partnership that looks beyond the conventional constraints of university and school-based placements requirements and explore what has worked to develop effective and sustainable practices. The paper will outline the current theoretical and conceptual principles and the framework of the Teaching Schools Partnership and describe practices that have made this collaborative successful between communities, schools and universities. Close examination of this partnership reveals a current need to extend the present strategic outlook and potentially engage at a broader scale with increased focus on community.