Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

Leading Change in Teacher Education in Australia through University-School Partnerships

Academic journal article European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, The

Leading Change in Teacher Education in Australia through University-School Partnerships

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The need for comprehensive reform across the tertiary education and training sector has been highlighted in recent government reviews of higher education in Australia. With the release of the Bradley Review of Higher Education (2008) in Australia, the sector entered a new stage of significant change as universities positioned themselves for ongoing growth over the coming years. This provided the impetus for universities to develop new initiatives and form partnerships with schools, corporations, community organisations and members of the wider community. Holland and Ramaley (2008) provide a rationale for the change:

Our educational institutions are beginning to work together and interact in different ways, both internally and externally, to create research and educational environments that are easy to traverse and responsive to the changing knowledge and skill needs of a global, multidisciplinary, collaborative, and evolving community landscape in order to address the challenges of life in the regions we serve (Holland & Ramaley, 2008, p.33).

The Review also recommended a 'less prescriptive regulation' with 'more opportunity for higher education institutions to develop their own character' (Davis, 2010). Consequently, universities have sought to develop new initiatives and equity pathways to widen participation and respond more actively to changing government agendas.

The effectiveness of teacher education institutions to prepare pre-service teachers for future learning environments has been a central focus for discussion for some time. There has been acknowledgement of the need for teacher education programs to be revitalised through the adoption of innovative approaches that better prepare pre-service teachers for schools of the 21st Century (Brown et al. 2002; ACDE 2004). Research related to the nature of quality curricula, teaching, learning, and pedagogy (Gale & Densmore, 2003; Biggs & Tang, 2007; Spencer, Riddle & Knewstubb, 2012) and an emphasis on the facets of process-learning, including community-based learning, problem-based learning, collaborative and network-based learning, have also increased the pressure for change. Ongoing Commonwealth and state enquiries or initiatives in Australia (Ramsey, 2000; MCEETYA, 2003; Commonwealth Parliamentary Standing Committee's Inquiry into Teacher Education 2005) and the recently introduced National Framework of Professional Standards for Teachers (MCEECDYA, 2011) and Teacher Quality Framework have increased the scrutiny of teacher education programs and provided further impetus for change.

Traditional approaches have usually offered university teacher education courses in isolation from schools and have been constructed around professional experiences related to observation, teaching practice and reflection. For many pre-service teachers the practicum is the first opportunity to re-enter the classroom after completing their school studies. In contrast, the immersion of graduates, some of whom have had careers outside teaching, in the Down South initiative is designed to enhance their understanding of educational theories, philosophies, professional performance and effective learning strategies within an authentic learning environment. As pre-service teachers, they are able to engage within their future professional environment in ways that are more likely to encourage greater confidence, judgment and wisdom. Through the development of a deeper appreciation of the context and practice of the teaching profession, direct interactions and dialogue with staffand college students, the pre-service teachers are more likely to develop a stronger sense of professional identity, not previously expected until late in their early years of teaching in schools.

2. Purpose of the study

This study aims to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of one university-school partnership between a multi-campus Australian university and a large Catholic secondary college situated in Canberra, Australia. …

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