interesting article about quality of teaching

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    Lapdog, I would be interested, given your background, on this opinion piece.  My personal view, albeit simplistic, improve teacher remuneration for new teachers and you'll get better candidates going into teaching profession.

    Poor students likely to make poor teachers

    THE report by the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group released today is largely what it claims to be — a set of strong, implementable recommendations to initiate genuine national reform of initial teacher education.
    Unfortunately it dismissed the opportunity to improve teacher quality by elevating the calibre of teacher education candidates.
    The report recommends many laudable and much-needed reforms designed to strengthen the accreditation standards for teacher education courses, collect and publish better information about course quality, and improve the induction phase for beginning teachers.
    It recommends a much stronger role for the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership as a national regulator to set the standard expected of courses and their graduates, and enforcing them.
    The report finds that accreditation of courses does not require providers (that is, universities) to present rigorous evidence of the quality of programs and outcomes. It also finds that many courses do not equip pre-service teachers with knowledge and skills necessary to be competent teachers, suggesting that some courses would fail to achieve accreditation were it to be more rigorous.
    The key weakness in the report, however, is its failure to recommend elevating the standards for candidates entering teacher education courses. It is well-known the countries with the best performing education systems almost without exception draw their teachers from the top of the academic distribution. The report confirms that our universities enrol large numbers of students who are low achievers.
    Rather than acknowledging that a certain level of academic competence is necessary to excel at the complex challenge of teaching, the report recommends universities take a “sophisticated approach” to selecting candidates, and provide support to students who may have trouble meeting academic requirements. Who will support them when they start the much more difficult task of teaching in schools is not explained.
    Numerous studies during the past decade in universities in each state and territory have identified low literacy and numeracy skills among undergraduate teacher education students.
    The most recent study was published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education. Brian Moon, a senior lecturer in education at Edith Cowan University, tested several hundred secondary teaching undergraduates on spelling, vocabulary and grammar. The words they were asked to spell or define were relatively common words such as parallel, candid, exaggerate and profession.
    The mean spelling score was eight out of 20. No student spelled all words correctly. The degree of error in many cases was severe. The mean vocabulary score for basic definitions was three out of 10. No student got full marks and more than a dozen got zero.
    Ironically, many students did not correctly define the word pedagogy. Scores for simple punctuation were better, but responses to the sentence construction task were very poor. Not only did students not know the correct grammatical rules, they insisted on the accuracy of nonexistent grammatical rules.
    These are not random people. They are university students. They have spent at least 11 years in full-time education and are in training to teach our children.
    Such tests indicate “serious deficiencies in literacy competence” that, according to Moon, could affect their future teaching effectiveness.
    It is a classic case of the “Peter effect”; just as the apostle Peter could not give to beggars money that he did not have, teachers cannot teach what they do not know.
    Universities offer remediation courses but it is difficult to fathom how low academic aptitude of teacher education students does not affect the rigour of courses and the requirements for graduation.
    In the 2013 Staff in Schools Survey, most principals did not think that beginning teachers were well prepared to teach.
    The report has much in its favour. The response of the government will likely be positive, and the strong credentials of the AITSL board give some confidence this review may succeed where so many have failed.
    By rejecting the elevation of entry standards, they only made their job much harder.
    Jennifer Buckingham is a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies.
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