Establishing school university partnerships to provide effective practical teaching experiences in science education

Year: 2015

Author: Chittleborough, Gail, Campbell, Coral

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Concerns over primary teachers’ lack of science knowledge and confidence to teach science has led to recent questioning of the effectiveness of traditional approaches to teacher education. The Science Teacher Partnerships with Schools (STEPS) project is one response to these concerns. It is a collaboration of five universities that each independently set-up their own school based partnership approaches with schools to deliver their science education programs. Each aimed to provide pre-service teachers with the genuine experience of teaching science while being supported by university teaching staff. The project has drawn on feedback from pre-service teachers, teachers, principals and teacher educators at the five universities to examine its practices that led to the development of an Interpretive Framework (IF) to describe how to create and maintain effective partnerships with schools. This paper presents case studies of the school-based practices at each institution. The analysis looks at the characteristics of the various partnerships and uses this information to develop descriptions of different types of partnerships: connective, generative and transformative. The representations of partnerships are described with respect to the level of embeddedness within the partner institutional structures, the nature of the partnership as collaborative or cooperative, and the extent to which links between theory and practice results in reflection on practice and professional identity development for the various partnership stakeholders. The findings point to the critical success factors and threats to initiating and sustaining effective school-university partnerships. The Interpretive Framework, which is supported by a range of case-study descriptions and exemplar vignettes, is a model for growing and sustaining university-school partnerships. In a period where university-school partnerships are dominating discourses within and around effective teacher education, the model presented in this paper offers a strategic way forward for those wanting to initiate or enhance existing partnership programs. The implications of the project have been to better understand the nature and potential of the university-school partnership. The Interpretive Framework presents guidelines to help grow and sustain university-school partnerships through firstly more effective practical teaching experiences that bridge the theory practice gap that be-devils many teacher education programs; and secondly, building the confidence and competency of primary teachers to teach science.