Delivering teacher education that works

Delivering teacher education that works

The University of Melbourne works closely with schools to prepare future teachers, a unique approach to teacher education. And it’s working.

They do things a little differently in the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education.

Ten years ago, the Graduate School made a radical shift in how it delivers teacher education, embracing an ‘evidenced-based’ teaching model that remains unique in Australia.

And it is paying off. Their own research shows Melbourne teacher candidates are in high demand, with 96 per cent employed within four months of graduating. They are also among the best prepared students at the University, recording high levels of satisfaction with how the course has readied them for the classroom.

So why are these students doing so well?

Putting theory into practice in the classroom
One of the most important distinctions from other teaching courses, according to Curriculum and Research Leader for the Master of Teaching, Dr Richard Sallis, is its extended placements.

Whether they’re studying the Master of Teaching in early childhood, primary or secondary, Melbourne teacher candidates are in centres or schools two days a week from very early in their studies, as well as completing block placements of around one month every semester.

“One of the most common things we hear is how well prepared and classroom ready our students are," says Dr Sallis.

The extensive placement model is perhaps more reminiscent of how a medical faculty would prepare doctors or allied health professionals, with dedicated staff members ensuring a close connection between the school experience and university classes.

Teaching is about relationship building
"We know there’s far more to teaching than standing up in front of a class," says Dr Sallis.

"It’s working with colleagues, identifying problems and working together to solve them. We find our students form a peer relationship with the schools they’re placed in.”

In other words, schools get to know the teacher candidates, and vice versa; it’s most likely why their employment rate is so high.

“When we place a teacher candidate in a school it triggers a whole range of activity that supports that school,” says Dr Sallis. "It's about relationship building with the schools' students, the parents and the staff."

But while extended placements and close relationships with schools are a core part of the clinical teaching model, it goes deeper than that.

Breaking down evidence-based teaching
The evidence-based teaching model can be split into two components: it’s about how the teacher candidates are trained (in close partnership with schools), and also how they teach.

“This teaching model asks our teacher candidates to adapt their lessons to the particular needs of each student in the class,” explains Dr Sallis. “Rather than expecting them to keep up regardless of their circumstance.”

This deceptively simple premise requires a very different approach to teaching, with evidence-based intervention at its heart.

“Teachers trained this way use an evidence base to make decisions about how they teach each individual in their class.”

That evidence is gathered through a variety of sources like observation, student feedback and assessment tasks. Teachers might try one intervention and evaluate its effectiveness before moving on to the next. It’s a continuous cycle.

‘Classroom ready’
“Our teacher candidates look at whether or not the teaching program is actually improving student learning right across the classroom,” says Dr Sallis. “And where certain students are falling down and why that may be.”

And because their lecturers use the same approach, Master of Teaching graduates are familiar with how it feels to be taught in this manner. Dr Sallis points out that lecturers use a very responsive model at the Graduate School, seeking feedback from teacher candidates after each placement and adjusting their own teaching accordingly. It all adds up to graduates that are well prepared for teaching in their own classrooms.

“Our graduates are not just classroom ready, but also prepared to become teaching specialists in their schools in the future."

This article originally appeared on the University of Melbourne’s website and has been republished with permission.