Always uppermost in the planning minds of universities and education departments, is training our future teachers. It is well known and understood that good teachers make a difference. Teachers who build student confidence and a commitment towards learning are always well remembered .
Those selected to train as teachers need to have done well in their own secondary years of education. Once relatively low tertiary entrance scores were sufficient to allow students into teacher training programs. This is no longer the case. The Federal Government wants those considering teaching to have finished in the top 20% of Year 12 students. A quality academic background is deemed essential for those contemplating entry into the teaching profession.
More recently, it has been determined that preservice teachers should pass literacy and mathematics competency tests that have been developed by the Australian Council of Educational Research. These tests became mandatory for students who commenced training from the beginning of 2017. Maths, spelling, English literacy including listening, speaking and reading tests were part of training programs in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. They should not need reinstating because they should never have been dropped.
Teacher training has changed over time. Until 2000, the focus for teachers on practice in schools was to be visited and advised on teaching methodology by university or training college lecturers. While lecturers still visit, the emphasis is now about partnerships between ‘Teaching Schools’ and universities. Trainee teachers are evaluated by classroom teachers who are their advisers and mentors. In each teaching school, a member of staff is appointed as Professional Learning Leader (PLL). The PLL supports both mentors and students. During practice, pre-service teachers are introduced to programming, planning and classroom teaching. A tutorial program to share ideas about teaching strategies is organised in each teaching school. Assisting student teachers to understand testing and assessment requirements is included in this focus.
The teaching schools approach is directed toward helping those in training to understand and meet graduate standards set by the Australian Institute of Teachers and the NT Teachers Registration Board. Results of literacy and maths competence are now included in registration requirements.
Could universities through their teacher training courses do more? Past university training included learning about teaching methods and the ways in which key subjects could be presented and taught. There was less onus on earning a degree and far more on teaching and classroom practices. That focus needs to be reinstated.