Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Shadowing, "The Most Valuable Thing You Can Do": Threading Informal Classroom Experiences into Secondary Pre- Service Teacher Education

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Shadowing, "The Most Valuable Thing You Can Do": Threading Informal Classroom Experiences into Secondary Pre- Service Teacher Education

Article excerpt


This article describes a venture that arose out of an exciting opportunity for a partnership between a regional university's school of education and an exceptional local high school in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. It presents the findings of a continuous program of 'shadowing' by pre-service teachers of mentor teachers in schools throughout the university teaching session, and the authors' and students' experiences and reflections around this very successful program.

Reform, reformulation, and change are constant features of schools and learning across the globe, more so than ever since the beginning of the 21st century. Innovative schools and schools of education are at the cutting edge of these processes. The discourse surrounding these changes and challenges has seen a renewed focus not only on how students learn today (21st century learners), but also on how the design of learning environments and their associated resources might effect improved learning outcomes (21st century learning spaces). Young people are growing up in a different world to that of previous generations, and as education has moved to meet the needs of students growing up in the digital age and Internet culture, teaching practices have had to change.

Darling-Hammond (2006) has asserted what successful teachers need to know is "... invisible to lay observers, leading to the view that teaching requires little formal study and to frequent disdain for teacher education programs. The weakness of traditional program models that are collections of largely unrelated courses reinforce this low regard" (p. 300).

This could be said of many teacher education programs where rather than having evolved as integrated curricula, the individual units of work have developed more along the lines of individualised 'cottage industries' reflecting the skills, interests, and professional gaze of narrowly-focussed co-ordinators. For a long time little change occurred in their curriculum from one year to the next. However, the assumption underlying the 21st century learner/learning mantra is that learning programs and learning spaces need to adapt and change to cater for today's students' learning needs, contexts, experiences, styles, and tools, and to assist them to become "effective, powerful, lifelong learners" (Lara & Malveaux, 2002, p. 505). Darling-Hammond (2006) summed this up as a "spectacular array of things that teachers should know and be able to do in their work" (p. 300), which for teachers and teacher educators alike constitutes the daunting reality confronting them on a daily basis.

The world is a different place for teachers who may have trained a number of years ago, and many recognize the need to update their thinking and skills in response to the needs and demands of the learners in their learning spaces. A lot is expected of teachers, most especially in the context of the 'crowded' curriculum in terms of understanding their students' learning styles and diverse backgrounds. Both education theory and practice are provoked and contextualized by "creative and radical re-imaginings ... in a new age of digital culture, [and] global networks" (Green, 2003, as cited in Perillo & Mulcahy, 2009, pp. 137-138). A significant challenge for teacher educators is to design and provide pre-service teacher education programs that assist teachers to understand a wide variety of students' cultural contexts, and the needs and strengths of an increasingly diverse range of students in an equally increasingly complex classroom (Darling-Hammond, 2006 p. 302).

Designers and managers of education courses must be able to respond to these changes, challenges, and complexities in the delivery of pre-service teacher education programs. Moreover they should regard their role as being one that fosters and promotes adaptability and flexibility in the teams that deliver these programs. Darling-Hammond (2006) asserted that "the enterprise of teaching must venture out further and further from the university and engage ever more closely with schools in a mutual transformation agenda" (p. …

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