TEACHER training courses are failing to offer explicit strategies for handling difficult classroom behaviour and students with disabilities, leading to an influx of graduates booking professional development help in their first jobs to make up the gap, an audit has found.
The NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards’ independent review of university initial teacher education programs found there was a “clear intent” to link theory with practice but this was not in itself enough to fully prepare graduates for life in the classroom.
The third audit in a series of groundbreaking studies of how universities are delivering teacher training courses says there is merit in bringing in experienced teachers to help with coursework training.
“It is highly unlikely that graduating teachers can be prepared with sufficient knowledge to cater for all of the students with special needs they will encounter in their first classrooms,” it says.
In regard to classroom management more broadly, the review says “providers should ensure that the principles of classroom management, which include preventive and educative approaches, are explicitly and systematically embedded within curriculum method studies and be able to identify where this occurs”.
Australian Council of Deans of Education president Tania Aspland said BoSTES was in the wrong by chasing a false balance of class-management strategies.
“This is why they are wrong at BoSTES. It’s not that explicit teaching isn’t useful. It is.
“But we give pre-service teachers the full repertoire of teaching strategies,” Professor Aspland told The Australian.
“Those statements are very dangerous. We can really only teach people the basic principles of how to assess and intervene and how to look at the evidence you get.
“You can’t teach strategies for everything, but you can teach the principles.”
Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership chairman John Hattie said the issue of “theory versus practice is not a helpful dichotomy”.
“The key is providing evidence that the integration of the two leads to the teacher candidate having an impact on students,” he said.
Association for Children with a Disability chief executive Elizabeth McGarry said only one teaching degree in Victoria, out of 49, mandated a subject on inclusive or special needs education.
“There are subjects that are electives but this just means students can choose to avoid them altogether,” she said.
The latest findings back previous calls by BoSTES for universities to be more involved in arranging and supervising preservice teachers on mandatory practicum placements during which classroom management habits can be properly assessed.
BoSTES president Tom Alegounarias said this was an area in which the board wanted to “work with teachers and teacher educators to develop support that everyone agrees is needed”.