A new teacher training programme has been developed by Teach First and The University of Auckland that will see graduates undertake a six-week course over the summer holidays and then placed in schools to do the rest of their training in-the-job.
Those chosen for the scheme are being touted as the creme-de-la-creme graduates who received top honours, and the goal is to get them trained and ready and out teaching as soon as possible.
But even that is being questioned: “The PPTA has found the current proposal is in breach of both the State Sector Act and the Education Act; there is no evidence that entrants to the Teach First Course will be “brighter” than entrants to more conventional New Zealand pre-service secondary courses” PPTA Source
Now, I am not opposed to fast tracking per se. If this or any other course is based on sound ideas and proves to work, then great.
But I do have some questions…
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Why is it assumed that if a graduate got top honours they will automatically be a good teacher? Many brilliant teachers didn’t get fabulous undergraduate degrees, but man, they do know how to teach.
- Why is it that the teachers trained on these schemes are only sent to low decile schools? The argument that they need great teachers doesn’t sit well with me because there is nothing to say the people on this scheme will be any different to those coming out of a one-year or three-year course.
- How will the trainees be supported once in work? Just how will it work? Because the reality is they will “responsible for the learning of anything up to 100 challenging adolescents after only six weeks of preparation” Source
- Will this scheme undermine other (longer) courses and those training on them? Assuming the fast-tracked teachers are paid while they effectively train on the job, how will that affect uptake and morale on the full time courses that people are paying to undertake?
- Who is doing the mentoring? There is an implication that the schools these fast-trackers will be sent to are short of good, high level teachers. If that is true, just who is going to be mentoring them? And will there be a selection of different mentors, so the student sees a variety of teaching styles and gets a broad understanding of different practices?
- Does this course have a knock on effect of further demeaning teachers in the eyes of the public? Will people believe that just about anyone can teach if you can do the job after just six weeks of training? Or maybe people will assume all teachers arrive under-prepared, especially if they are in a low decile school.
So many questions.
CLASS CONTACT TIME
I found the following quotes interesting to compare:
“A year-long course has a lot of non-contact time, when trainees are out in schools.”
University of Auckland’s dean of education, Graeme Aitken. Source
“Trainee teachers in proper teacher education spend large blocks of practicum time in classes where they gain invaluable teaching experience. These fast track programmes won’t even touch the sides, particularly as they’ll be held over summer when there are no children in schools to teach.”
NZEI President Ian Leckie. Source
I know what Mr Aiken means, and I’m not being facetious, but surely the contact time in schools matters hugely? Surely being able to train in the field then go back are read more theory/discuss with peers, then go back into the field and evolve your learning and your skills is a good model. And that’s the very bit that’s being cut out here.
As one commentator said “Learning the theory is all very well but until you’ve stood in front of a class and had to manage 30 different sets of behaviour you have no idea how you will cope. For that shock to come when the school, and its students, are stuck with you for two years is dreadful.”
The argument is that the scheme is being used to attract people into those subjects with largest shortages. But many factors feed into that shortage – poor work conditions, stress, and low wages being key. These are in no way addressed by the scheme and so fast-tracked teachers will most likely drop out at roughly the same rate as other teaching graduates.
It’s questionable whether fast-tracking is actually effective in keeping teachers into the classroom. “Almost half the first participants in a similar scheme in Australia are no longer teaching after two years.” “This high dropout rate mirrors that of programmes with the same features in the United States” NZ Herald 11.6.12 (link below)
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Why do we actually have a shortage of teachers? Will this course train teachers well? Will it serve the students of those trainees well?
Keep your eyes peeled about this one… it might work, it might not, but it’s going to be a very interesting experiment one way or another.