The future of teaching: master teachers and work experience
These high-level teachers advise on classroom behaviour, specialist subjects, and teaching techniques.
Professor Aspland said education careers flatten out once teachers get to the classroom. After that, there is little room for professional development and wage increases unless they step into administrative roles.
Meanwhile, teaching itself is more complex as curriculums become more crowded, parents’ expectations expand, and technology such as mobile phones and social media becomes highly disruptive.
“Instructional teachers are experts in pedagogy. They offer advice. In some countries they teach but their main role is professional learning.”
“More and more tasks get added to teacher education curriculum. Things like riding bicycles or how to talk to parents.” Professor Tania Aspland. Australian Catholic University. Supplied
She said most states have adopted the lead-teacher concept, developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. These are classroom teachers who are skilled in a particular subject; get official recognition; higher pay; and career advancement without moving into administration.
“Lead teachers are the first step in the right direction. But an instructional teacher is an expert in teaching, content and classroom behaviour. They have postgraduate qualifications.”
She said trainee teachers don’t have time to learn everything before they leave university. Teacher education curriculums themselves are overcrowded.
Trainee teachers are taught how to manage classrooms, but if they’re going into secondary schools they have to study a specialist subject. And if they’re going to a primary school there are eight content areas they have to study.
“More and more tasks get added to [the] teacher education curriculum. Now it’s things like riding bicycles or how to talk to parents.
“We can decide what is core and what is not. Then trainee teachers can study fewer things, but in greater depth.”
In his interview with the Financial Review Mr Tehan said he agreed with a recent blog post by Professor Aspland in which she said raising minimum ATARs for education degrees was not a solution.
About 40 per cent of teaching education students get into university with ATARs of less than 70. Some experts have said the minimum should be 80.
Mr Tehan quoted directly from Professor Aspland’s blog, in which she wrote: “Leaders in the field of teacher education, myself included, see this as yet another of those simplistic quick ‘fix’ ideas. It works well as a media grab for a politician but will do little to help encourage people into a teaching career.”
Professor Aspland said she thought Mr Tehan would be “a great leader of reform”.
“He’s willing to cooperate with stakeholders. He’s interested in the future of young people.”
— Professor Tania Aspland, Aust Catholic University, on Dan Tehan
“Since the election he’s proved to be a great listener. He’s willing to cooperate with stakeholders. He’s interested in the future of young people.”
Apart from not obsessing about ATARs and reducing the scope of teacher-education curriculums, she said trainee teachers had to get more classroom experience before they left university.
They needed to spend more time observing good teachers at work and they had to engage with actual classes much earlier in their degrees.
Then they needed to work with mentors and do internships to focus on the practical side of what they were being taught.
Wollongong University, south of Sydney, whose vice chancellor Paul Wellings wrote the university performance review for Mr Tehan, is also working on teacher-education reform.