How universities can produce well-prepared teachers

How universities can produce well-prepared teachers

A recent survey revealed that nine out of ten university graduates are fully-employed three years after graduating. But while universities produce highly-employable and highly-paid graduates, one profession appears to be lacking work-ready employees.

The most recent OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey found that many Australian teaching graduates are leaving university ill-equipped for the classroom and are not as ready as their foreign counterparts.

But this is not the case for all universities.

Theory and practice
In August, Murdoch University was recognised in the AFR Higher Education Awards for leveraging the use of technology with its ‘Micro-teaching 2.0’ program – a virtual classroom which aids in the training of student teachers.

Other universities are taking a more traditional route: attaining real-world classroom experience.

The University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, for example, has been implementing an evidenced-based’ teaching model where their teacher candidates are sent to centres or schools two days a week, similar to how doctors or other health professionals take up residency.

By the end of a semester, a teacher candidate would have experienced a month’s worth of block placements.

Charles Sturt University is another university taking this approach.

In celebration of World Teachers’ Day, the University shared the experiences of two of its alumni, who have both enjoyed varied and exciting teaching careers since graduation.

Danielle Seymour, who majored in primary education and graduated in 2008, currently teaches at a government primary school in Dubbo, NSW.

Seymour recounted the amount of practical and in-school experience they had to go through before graduating.

“I was great because I was required to complete more teaching practicums compared to other university students, which gave me more hands-on experience, and I believe it helped me to become a targeted graduate,” she said.

“I have been fortunate enough to work in catholic, independent and government primary schools in Dubbo, Condobolin, Orange, Wee Waa, the Hunter Valley, Gunnedah and Cobar.”

Seymour said that while she predominately worked as a classroom teacher, she also held learning support and literacy and numeracy support roles.

Peter Finlay, an industrial technology and agriculture teacher in a secondary school in Orange, NSW, shared a very similar sentiment.   

“One of the best things about my degree were the practical teaching subjects. We did four practicums, with the last one going for 10 weeks. It was one of the subjects that set us up for what teaching is really like,” Finlay said.

Finlay, who graduated from Charles Sturt in 2001, also supervises university students who are taking their placements at his school.

“I remember being daunted by the thought of going on [practicum] and not sure what is expected or if I could do it. I try and offer the same thing to a [practicum] student that I do to my students; they need guidance, encouragement and support,” he added.

More tips
Having extended teaching practicums can only go so far once graduates finally set foot in the classroom as full-fledged teachers, Seymour noted.

She said graduates will still have to gain more experience even after they leave university to become more attractive prospects to employers.

“My advice to other university graduates, is don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a permanent job straight away,” she added,

“Move and teach in rural communities because you will gain a lot of experience as a classroom teacher. You will be more employable if you have full-time classroom experience.”

Finlay said new teachers should also remember to maintain their enthusiasm.

“Teaching is a great job, every year I enjoy it more. Students change, syllabi change and the world and society changes so it is ever evolving,” he said.

“You can put a lot into it and it is rewarding. Students respect and respond well to a teacher who is invested in them.”