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					10 TRAINING




  Learning at
   the chalkface

                                  F
                                          or some time there has been
       Rethinking
                                          concern about the quality of teacher
     how we train                         education courses,” says Professor
   the teachers of                        Louise Watson of the University of
    tomorrow. By                  Canberra. “Most of the recent reviews on
Darragh O Keeffe.                 the subject have suggested that university
                                  education departments are out of touch
                                                                                                Teaching clinic at Kaleen High School, ACT
                                  with reality. The view is that students
                                  are not prepared in the art and craft of                     to facilitate reflection and evaluation of        They spend an hour or two teaching,
                                  teaching; that there’s too much focus on                     the teaching experiences. In most cases,          depending on the ages in the class. They
                                  theory and not enough on practice.”                          assessment for the unit of study is based         work in small groups, of up to six students
                                    For the past seven years, education                        primarily on their performance in the             each, so the class is subdivided.”
                                  faculty staff at the university have been                    teaching clinic.”                                    Redman says the students glean an
                                  developing a model called teaching clinics,                     The model is applied in many units of          insight and understanding into the
                                  whereby they deliver content and pedagogy                    study across all year levels at the university,   children’s behaviour and learning
                                                                                               in the fields of health and movement;             processes. “They listen closely to what the
                                                                                               science; social and environmental                 students say, and what they do. They take
                                   INTHISSTORY




                                                 • University faculty of education staff
                                                   have developed a new model, called          education; literacy learning; and english as      note of what the students learned, and
                                                   teaching clinics, for delivering content    a second language.                                what they didn’t. Then they reflect about
                                                   and pedagogy to pre-service teachers in        “In our faculty, the teaching clinics          what happened in each other’s groups
                                                   school classrooms                           developed in an organic way, driven by            and the implications of that. It enables
                                                 • The model is bridging the theory-practice   teacher education staff,” explains Watson.        them to develop a clear pedagogical
                                                   divide and addressing concerns about the    “About seven years ago, our physical              approach for responding to children’s
                                                   quality of teacher education courses        education lecturer decided that her courses       learning needs. And they’re doing it in
                                                 • A national network has been set up to       would be better delivered if they were            a collaborative way, with academics,
                                                   link the universities currently running     more school-based. She couldn’t see the           classroom teachers and their peers.”
                                                   such models.                                point of making her teacher education                As well as the behavioural aspect, the
                                                                                               students pretend to be children in role plays     teaching clinic also serves to bridge the
                                  to pre service teachers in school classrooms.                conducted in the university gym, when they        theory-practice divide, says Watson. “Before
                                     In a paper discussing the new model,                      could all be in an actual school with real        this, a common form of assessment was
                                  recently presented at the Australian                         students. Through her own contacts she            to ask students to write a lesson plan and
                                  Association for Research in Education                        started to teach her core subjects in schools.”   submit it to the lecturer to be marked.
                                  (AARE) national conference in Brisbane,                         The notion spread to other staff within        Therefore, the student would be assessed on
                                  Watson and her colleagues say it is based                    the faculty. Now, 30 per cent of students         the content of their lesson plan, but not on
                                  firstly on the principle that pre service                    are engaged in clinics in their core              their classroom delivery. Within the teaching
                                  teachers must reflect upon and learn from                    subjects, complimenting the practicum             clinic, the student is assessed on the both the
                                  their teaching experiences. The second                       where they are sent out to schools. With          content and the delivery of their lesson plan.
                                  basis is a belief that it is crucial for teacher             the graduate diploma, for example,                It’s about bridging the theory-practice divide.
                                  education lecturers to be embedded, to                       students are in a classroom within a week            “Another benefit is that the student isn’t
                                  some extent, within the school experience.                   of starting the course.                           alone in the classroom should things go
                                     “These teaching experiences give                             Meanwhile, at the University of                wrong. If the lesson plan is too short, for
                                  students the opportunity to apply their                      Melbourne, student teachers have been             example, and there’s 10 minutes to fill, the
                                  learning in a genuine and demanding                          learning at the chalkface for the past 10         lecturer can step in to help,” says Watson.
                                  setting with the support and supervision of                  years, when staff began taking student                The feedback from students has been
                                  faculty staff,” the paper states.                            science teachers to local schools. Bringing       overwhelmingly positive. The more real-time
                                     “In a teaching clinic, pre service teachers               the theory to life in a classroom setting is      experience they can get with support from a
                                  are expected to perform structured                           a model they have found to be extremely           lecturer, the happier they are, says Watson.
                                  teaching roles in a real classroom under the                 successful, according to Dr Christine                “The most obvious outcome is a
                                  supervision of faculty staff and classroom                   Redman, senior lecturer.                          noticeable increase in the level of
                                  teachers. They are expected to reflect upon                     “In our primary stream, we have 125            professional confidence and self-efficacy
                                  their teaching experiences and on the links                  students and five primary schools taking          among pre-service teachers,” the paper
                                  between the theory and practice of what                      part. The students go out with academics          states. “Working with their lecturers
                                  they do. Structured support is provided                      for three hours every Friday morning.             to apply knowledge immediately in a

10 February 2009   www.educationreview.com.au
                                                                                                                                 TRAINING 11
                                           their first professional experience           “Any attempt to introduce a             colleagues are hopeful they will receive
                                           placement and felt that they were           teaching clinics model on a faculty-      a grant which would enable them
                                           ahead of their fellow students from         wide basis would be risky and             to evaluate the effectiveness of the
                                           other discipline areas who had not          potentially unproductive without          teaching clinics. “We would like to
                                           had a similar experience.”                  the enthusiasm and a high degree          compare the learning outcomes of the
                                              The teaching clinics, if widely          of preparation among faculty              30 per cent of students in teaching
                                           adopted, would have implications for        staff. The resources involved in          clinics with the other 70 per cent
                                           university education faculties in terms     maintaining strong and productive         of students. We want to know how
                                           of policy and funding, Watson believes.     relationships with external partners,     cost-effective the model is, in terms of
                                           “There is pressure within the university    particularly in terms of faculty time,    student learning. Ultimately, we care
                                           system, particularly for education          should not be overlooked.”                about the impact of teaching clinics on
                                           lecturers, to publish in peer-reviewed        Redman agrees, saying it                the quality of teaching.”
                                           journals. Publications are a major source   takes a big commitment from all
                                           of professional recognition for faculty     stakeholders, including not only the      Go to www.canberra.edu.au/faculties/
                                           staff. However, although the teaching       faculty staff, but also the classroom     education/teacher-ed/teaching-clinics
                                           clinics require extra work and time for     teachers and the principals.
                                           the lecturers involved, in the current        Changes may be required in faculties
                                           system, there is little professional        of education for the model to be widely
                                           recognition or reward for taking a more     implemented, but as far as schools go,
                                           applied approach. So there’s a resource     as the other major stakeholder, Watson
                                           issue in the long term.                     says there is overwhelming interest
                                              “Also, it can be confronting for         and support. “They are clamouring to
                                           lecturers to do this; they need to          get involved. They love it. One school
                                           be confident in their own teaching          changed its timetable so it could be
                                           skills. It’s not everyone’s preferred       part of the clinics,” she says.
school setting reduces the theory-         approach,” she says.                          Watson says there is widespread
practice divide and increases student         The paper elaborates on the future       interest in the teaching clinics and
satisfaction with the course. Students     of teaching clinics, saying the model       a national network, which will run
within the graduate diploma in             “depends largely on the willingness         through a website, is being formed.
education, for example, commented          of faculty staff to engage with             A national workshop is also planned
widely on the benefits of the teaching     schools and school teachers on a            for later this year.
methods unit in preparing them for         constructive and respectful basis”.           Meanwhile, Watson and her                Teaching clinic at Majura Primary School, ACT.




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