6-Week Teacher Training Course

11 Jun

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.”

DROPPING OUT

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.

Sources:

http://www.ppta.org.nz/index.php/communities/president-page/1880-herald-cone-fasttrack

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10780706

http://www.3news.co.nz/Fast-track-teaching-scheme-to-launch/tabid/423/articleID/240237/Default.aspx

http://teu.ac.nz/2011/04/minister-supports-six-week-teacher-training-course/

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/72703/six-weeks-training-envisaged-for-new-teachers

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10780326

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7 Responses to “6-Week Teacher Training Course”

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  2. Jo January 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    I’ve been teaching for 12 years in Whangarei. In my experience the perception that low decile schools struggle to attract quality teachers is fortunately incorrect.

  3. emmalord June 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    I think I can answer some of these questions. I applied for Teach First and didn’t get in, despite making it to the top 14 in the country and having two years experience teaching English as a second language.
    - These are not ‘just’ top graduates. They must pass strict criteria across a range of competencies, particularly leadership and engagement.
    - Before they even begin the course, they are required to volunteer their time to observe teachers in a range of schools.
    - Then they have the six week intensive course – which can include evenings.
    - When they are placed in schools, they have a reduced teaching schedule to allow them to adjust and continue to study for 2 more years (to get the qualification usually gained in one year)
    - They have two mentors: one from the university of Auckland education facility, who will visit them regularly in schools to assess, evaluate and help them identify areas they need to work on. The other is from the school. It’s true that I don’t know about the selection process for these mentors, but considering the intensive assessments for the students themselves, I can only hope the mentors are assessed just as strictly.
    -This is effectively an apprenticeship scheme, something which I personally believe should have been implemented for teaching years ago.
    - These teachers are sent only to low decile schools because the aim of Teach First NZ, and the international organisation Teach For All is to end educational inequality. Low decile schools do not attract the best teachers. Unfortunately I don’t know where to look to find sources to back up this statement, but I know they are out there.
    - The reports I have seen (again, sorry, I don’t have the time or resources to list the sources here) suggest that Teach First participants have a higher retention rate than the majority of new teachers in low decile schools.
    - In addition, when these teachers leave the teaching profession, they have the leadership skills, passion and experience gained through their work with low socio-economic demographics, and take that into their original fields – science, business, law, and so on. The majority of leaders in these areas have no experience of low-decile schools, so providing leaders who do can change the way society thinks about education.

    Yes, there are still questions. I am passionate about teaching, so even though I didn’t get into Teach First, I will pay my way through my teaching diploma (now with no student allowance thanks to the new budget, despite the fact that I paid my way through undergrad with no students allowance because my parents earned a few dollars over the threshold). This will be at a personal cost of over $10,000 to me. I do not currently feel any resentment to the Teach First participants, because I know they have a tough road ahead of them, and I know they have earned their right to be part of the programme. Maybe when I am still paying off my loan in a hundred years’ time I will resent them.

    The programme has been accepted by the Council. I don’t know a lot about that, but I must trust that the Council has assessed fairly that this programme will produce at least adequate, if not great teachers.

    As Flo says, “it might work, it might not, but it’s going to be a very interesting experiment one way or another.”

    • Flo June 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      Thank you Emma – that’s actually more information than I’ve been able to track down, and is in many ways reassuring. If the support is good, the training is all still there, and there is the chance to work in other decile schools throughout the training, it might stand a good chance. I hope it is well done and well resources and that the children are served well.
      Also, I hope you have a good time during your training. Good luck and enjoy :)

  4. nova June 12, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    I think the hugely ironic thing is that these “super teachers” are going to be mentored in the workforce by teachers who often don’t have post-grad with honors qualifications. So already they’re implicitly admitting that lesser qualified teachers with experience know better. Repeat practicums with ongoing review & development is by far the most sensible, and I believe beneficial, method. If only for the children involved’s sake, I think it is good for trainee teachers to have some ‘on the job’ practice, and then leave the poor kids alone for a little while they work on what they need to improve! This 6 week scheme is turning children into guinea pigs.. Perhaps if the 6-weekers were put into an apprentice type situation, assisting the class teacher for the first year it might work well, but assuming full control, even with mentorship, is lunacy.

  5. Flo June 12, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    http://www.teacherscouncil.govt.nz/te/itefinal.stm#11
    Thanks to Ken for providing the link to the Teachers Council guidelines. makes interesting reading, especially the bit that says:
    Range of practicum placements
    “Student teachers must experience practicum placements across a range of socioeconomic, cultural and (ECE/school) learner age settings.”

  6. Ken June 12, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    Fortunately we have the NZ Teachers Council which is required by law to formally approve all teacher education programmes that lead to registration as a teacher. Unless they get crippled by this government, they should be able to ensure that this proposal does not go ahead unlss it meets the sriteria set by the Council.

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