Teaching excellent teachers with excellent teaching

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DJ Christopher Pyne mixing it up like its Stereos.

Christopher Pyne makes an excellent point in an argument with limited defined terms…

We, in Australia, really should aim have the best teacher education in the World. What bothers me about the articulation of this education review, is that it is said hand-in-hand with measurements of teacher quality that are largely arbitrary. Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne is hoping to make education degrees less “faddish” and “ideological”, while inciting concern by saying that his “instinct is that the more a teacher is in the classroom learning on the job about how to teach people how to count and to read, the better”. If you are trying to get the best out of educational change, the terms of the “battle” need to be much clearer than this.

What is the point of school education? Is it just so that students can read and write? What will this review actually aim to change teacher training towards? Aiming to get “better” is not really aiming for anything…

If the review’s ultimate goals are aiming for higher scores in literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN), or PISA test,  as is consistently espoused, then we are missing a great opportunity to enhance the standard of our education system. With that rhetoric, we cause division that means valuable goals such as a more practical, classroom experience-based approach that has less theory, are left unheard in the crash of criticism that teachers’ ATAR scores are too low and their training does not carry sufficient rigour.

”And there is evidence that our teacher education system is not up to scratch. We are not attracting the top students into teacher courses as we once did, courses are too theoretical, ideological and faddish, not based on the evidence of what works in teaching important subjects like literacy. Standards are too low at some education institutions – everyone passes.”

The reality is this:

  • that teacher training should always aim to be improved,
  • that teacher training is, more or less, not practical,
  • that university opportunities should be taught with a student-centred view, and,
  • that review of practice for teachers and teacher trainers is not given enough value

I believe that the outcome of the review should be very simple, and does not required sweeping changes to entry requirements; there should be a structure in place that guarantees that every learning opportunity that occurs in teacher training (and subsequently in classes) is purposeful, researched, and reviewed for its success. Leaving a long-term, sustainable model of reform that improves education.

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PS: After further consideration and discussion with some teaching peers, friends who are parents, and listening to interviews of Christopher Pyne, it appears the terms of the debate in his framework are very firmly set. The purpose of education is to be able to read and write better…

Interestingly, this goes against everything that we (teachers) and my friends who are parents, believe is the purpose of education.

This leaves me wondering though… Does Christopher Pyne “get it” and we don’t? Because we are the products of the education system (K-tertiary) that he is deriding, perhaps we are in fact the problem.

PPS: Nope, scrap that. I work with 150 kids every day and can see that it is possible to achieve extremely well in life, as well as achieve well in reading, writing and times tables (and every other learning area that has been forgotten), and have a damn good time while you’re doing it.

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