Breaking the mold – Who’s teaching the Teachers?

It is often said that the new pre-service teachers are coming into the education system with the passion and desire to be fantastic innovative teachers, as we all were when we began our teaching careers. We were fresh, excited and keen to prove our worth. Many of us worked extremely long hours to provide the opportunities for the students that came naturally to the teachers with may more years experience.

When I started teaching back in 2007 I found myself doubting my ability to keep up the motivation to return every day. I soon became exhausted and contacting my university lecturers & colleagues for support. I was wondering how I could ever come into such an important role in society feeling so under prepared. I still reflect upon this when I am working with new teachers. I wonder if they also feel so under prepared.

I was having a conversation about this with a pre-service teacher recently who was on her final placement before graduating. We had worked together for several weeks and developed a great rapport. We were talking about the lecturers at her University and compared them to the Lecturers who were teaching when I went through Uni. Although we studied in different states and about 13 years after my graduation the feeling between us was the same.

“How can anyone know what we need to teach students for their future? Our world is changing too fast and we can only guess what the students’ will need to know and hope the skills of learning to learn are embedded along the way to ensure they can find the most accurate and appropriate information when they need it.” 

The lecturers of today must instill this in pre-service teachers. I have always had the belief that to teach someone you must have a sound grasp of the concept yourself first. Thus, with all due respect and admiration for our universities and the lecturers, I believe we must reinvigorate teaching and learning at the university level by developing more diverse and innovative delivery methods to encompass the modern learner and future students.

I believe that the vast majority of University lecturers for education have not taught at the primary or secondary level for quite some years and have, to some degree misunderstand how current students learn and interact, with each other, their learning, the environment, and their teachers. This is supported in Dan Haesler’s 2011 report quoting Steve Biddulph‘s remarks that

According to a federal government report in 2008, the average age of teachers in Australia is 43. A professor of teacher education at the University of Sydney, Robyn Ewing, believes this is a barrier to the effective use of technology in education.

 My concern is that if so many university lecturers are struggling to bring themselves into the modern day of technology, social networking and learning. How can our pre-service teachers present this and the teach students to learn through the progressive processes of technology, interactive, online networking, world wide collaboration, and filtering accurate information?

Until the change can be made completely and thoroughly at the higher education level, pre-service courses are rewritten to accommodate the new way of learning, and the recognition of need for new teaching methodologies eventuates, we will continue to provide a disservice to our students and young people. I am not saying at all that University lecturers are all behind the times and need to change, just that teaching today is different to teaching 10, 15, 20 years ago. We need to realise technology has a vital role to play in education, for both students and teachers. Innovative university lecturers like Alec Couros who encourage the use of new technologies and social media and networking, is only one such example of many. i’m sure who do integrate these technologies into their courses. The unfortunate fact is that these innovators are few and far between.

It is unfortunate that in our world of networks, connectivity and mobility that students in the primary and secondary environments are restricted to the theory of teaching from decades before.

  • How can we embrace the knowledge of our more senior University lecturers whilst developing innovative teachers and learning in our schools?
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17 thoughts on “Breaking the mold – Who’s teaching the Teachers?

  1. Pingback: The Plan… « Education Technology Innovations

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  3. Love your post Rachel. Glad I read it seeing as I feature in the comments 🙂 I think uni courses ARE changing (slowly) for teachers. The UniSA students we have, have a great first year, practicums are not just time in a class. As a school we provide seminars and demo lessons from 9- recess, debriefing etc then they spend from recess to home in the classroom. When I first started at Flinders back in 1991, it was the first year that turt Teachers’ College merged with the uni so my course was still very practical – got to be in a school and hands on within first three months. I hear now though that teaching is basically an Arts deree til 3rd year when Flinders student finally get to go on prac – have no idea if this is true. At a recent saturday workshop I held for primary school students, we were lucky enough to have a Finders lecturer and 4 uni pre-service teachers attend and the uni students were lamenting that they were not taught how to teach creativity, how to teach at the high levels of Blooms taxonomy. I too would love to be able to “guest” teach at uni….I really enjoy working with our pre-service teachers – always wondered how one got to be a uni lecturer 🙂

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    • Hi Oliver, Thank You for your comments I do agree with your point about leading by example, It would be wonderful if we could take a leaf out of the history books and revisit the teacher training structure of the past where pre-service teachers were educated as to the their classroom management and administrative options and then spent significant time practicing and reflecting on their practical placements. With this structure [which is very simplistic thinking – I know their would be more content than this to cover in a formal setting, I am more indicating the comparison between theoretical training and practical engagement] pre-service teachers could maintain their unbridled interest and innovative thinking when it comes to teaching and technology, to gain the formal instruction and to participate in a much extended shared/supervised teaching placement for 6 months. Upon completion of this placement the pre-service teachers would return to University to reflect and present their teaching and learning practices for evaluation and feedback. This structure would support your thought is also in having a range of delivery from a range of education experts in both formal University environment as well as the steep learning curb of putting the ‘theory as it were’ into practice.

      Thanks again for keeping up this conversation, it’s one we need to have.

      Kind Regards
      Rachael

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    • Hi Louisa,
      Than you for your input and telling me an my readers how your school operates. I do believe there are some early placements in most Uni courses. and this is not entirely the issue at hand here It is more to do with how well today’s university lecturers understand the nature of how students interact with and learn with technologies. Teaching has now become as much a facilitator than a teacher. Our major role is to teach the students how to access and filter the information that is presented to them from the internet and its associated networks. This must also be embraced by university teaching and learning which will replicated when pre-service teachers step into the classroom.

      Thanks again for commenting and sharing your experiences

      Kind Regards
      Rachael

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  5. As a teacher educator and University lecturer I read this post with much interest. I am not convinced the crux of the matter is openness to technology per se. What it is about is teacher educators taking the stance that they are there to facilitate the learning of the students (teachers) and not just to tell them how to teach. After a year in this role it has become apparent to me that there is a real distinction between the ‘academic’ degree or postgrad elements of study (the education) and the school based, practical element (the training). Whilst one is about developing directly applicable skills, the other is about developing thinking and if we can develop teachers who are deep thinkers and learners then they will be capable of achieving much of what you discuss.

    My perception is that many in the teaching profession see University lecturers in ITE as people with long careers who move into their role to ‘tell teachers how to teach like they did’, and hence quickly become out of touch. In my experience this is far from the norm these days, certainly in my institution. I am 27 and don’t pretend to have the years of experience to tell people exactly how to teach (not that I think that is desirable anyway). What I do is make sure I am knowledgeable about research and innovative practice I can use to prompt my students to think and discuss, and continue to develop the way I teach when I am teaching them. It’s not about telling them what good teaching is, it’s about encouraging them to discover this whilst being a good example.

    I have a wide range of colleagues, some of who have many years of classroom experience in school, some like myself who have relatively short careers but much experience of innovation, and others with little or no school classroom experience but a strong research and academic background. I think if my students were taught exclusively by any one of us then certain issues in terms of experience could come into play, but having this range of influences is hugely valuable.

    I have been thinking about these issues a lot recently, thanks for prompting me to think again and I will probably blog my further thoughts soon at http://www.oliverquinlan.com/blog .

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    • Hi Oliver,

      Thanks for sharing your story and giving another perspective. That of a younger educator. I can see your point about diversifying the delivery in regards to lecturers’ experiences and expertise. I agree a mixture of these would be beneficial, just as a student in primary or secondary education would benefit from this diversity in delivery. My point about who delivers is more about the content and preparation for an unknown world. I believe there is so much uncertainty in the world in regards to technology and change that we must teach learners, of all levels from preschool to Doctoral, and encompassing all areas of employment, to be flexible, innovative and able to source information to learn what they need to know at the time of need. Learners must be prepared for this, and if our more senior University lecturers have been removed from pre-Tertiary education, the way younger learners interact and adopt technologies, and innovative learning, the gap will expand and thus the crux of my original post; that this divide must be closed to ensure the best for our future.

      You comments are very thoughtful and raise interesting points, Thanks
      Kind Regards
      Rachael

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      • G’day Rachael and Oliver,

        The point about “uncertainty in the world” is something that drives my thinking. In fact, today I’m finally getting serious about the redesign of the undergraduate pre-service teacher course I teach. “Uncertainty in the world” is going to be a major plank to that re-design.

        As part of that, I’m hoping we can figure out how to properly engage the students in building and engaging with a PLN. Hopefully improving upon the half-hearted efforts of the #pstn project

        Rachael, like you, I think having them form these connections is essential. @coursoa’s example is a good one.

        David.

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  6. As someone new to the teaching teachers gig, I’ve been reflecting on this a bit recently. In summary, I don’t think the university environment is any more conducive to encouraging innovative practices than the school system. Given my background and the course I’m teaching I should be one of the folk leading the charge, but it’s not a straight forward decision. There is much in the University environment that hinders innovation and change. e.g. a law that states we have to provide X hours of face-to-face time in order for overseas students studying on our campuses to meet their visa requirements.

    This is why I’m pessimistic about the TTF work mentioned by teachertech. There was some good stuff done, but it hasn’t changed the University environment..

    That said, there are folk – like Alec – that are doing good stuff. In much the same way that there are folk in schools doing good stuff. But I don’t think either environment is conducive to those folk finding themselves in the majority. In fact, one of the other problems I’m having at the moment is that much of what I have to teach is related to preparing the students to work within (and sometimes subvert) the existing school system. School would be a very different place if you designed it for the 21st century.

    Hence, I’m not convinced that part-time arrangements between school and university is the answer to this problem (though it has other positives). It wouldn’t change the university environment and I’m not sure it would radically change the mindsets of university teachers.

    Now, it’s time to get back to working on that course.

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    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your insights and perspectives. I was one of those students who graduated from your Masters in Ed Tech course 2007-2010. I felt then that the course was a little lacking in the use of networking outside of the LMS access provided by the course. I was not introduced to the possibilities or resources of social media for Professional learning.

      I would love to see more networking built into the training of teachers at all levels and practical activities for placements to be incorporated. To have lecturers understand the importance of these networks is the have the participate in them, this is a challenge within itself. Just as a tweet I saw today


      was questioning the practices of a classroom teacher, there is no way these changes can be made overnight but we certainly must take action and progress a lot faster than what we are, before students begin teaching in our schools.

      Thoughts to be pondered by everyone in Education at all levels. Thanks again for your comments.

      Kind Regards
      Rachael

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  7. The capacity of Higher Educators to be able to facilitate and/or learn in a networked learning environment is something that I’ve been thinking about lately too. I was recently asked whether I thought cMOOCs could function in other disciplines than Education. I said yes, but then focussed my comments on the need to develop the capacity of students to learn in this way. What I missed—and have been regretting since—is exactly what you say above: If the educator is not familiar with how to learn in a network, let alone facilitate it, students are less likely to be exposed to it and become digitally literate. We live in a globalised world where we increasingly interact virtually to collectively solve problems, which makes it all the more critical to be building capacity to do so. As Howard Rheingold says, “the emerging digital divide is between those who know how to use social media for individual advantage and collective action, and those who do not.”

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    • Totally true Alison,
      The biggest issue here is how we move towards bridging the gap. I like the suggestion from Teacher Technologies below about part time positions to ensure university lecturers ‘keep one foot in the door’ of practicing education at the primary and secondary levels.

      Thanks for the comments and your reflections
      Kind Regards
      Rachael

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      • My pleasure—thank you for this post.

        The literature has also suggested that adult education administrators should be ensuring that faculty continue to develop in this respect. I think the responsibility goes both ways.

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  8. Pingback: Breaking the mold – Who’s teaching the Teachers? | Engagement Based Teaching and Learning | Scoop.it

  9. Hey Rachel, great post. Totally agree 🙂 have you read about the work of the national teaching teacher for the future project? It’s aim was to help create opportunities for some
    Of the changes you describe. It’s had a fair bit of impact on how unis are planning for the future. The national professional standards will also help with that.

    I wish there were more part time teaching positions do that I could teach english in a sec school and teach at the uni. I don’t feel out of touch, yet, but I fear that it could happen if I don’t keep one foot in current practice.

    Hopefully social media and the connections that brings will help 🙂 needless to say, those u am working with in ICT and numeracy know that I am teaching them skills for the future not content for the now… If you see what I mean? 😉

    Enjoyed your post 🙂

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    • Thanks TeacherTechnol,

      It is great to hear from the perspective of someone who is in the Uni system and how you manage to keep yourself up to date with all of the current practices.
      I love your idea of more part time teaching positions to enable lecturers the opportunity to ‘keep one foot in the door’.
      I, as a teacher who feels I have something to share to pre-service teachers, would also like the part time option. The follow-on effect of the part time option would give more practicing teacher the opportunity to teach at the higher education level.
      Essentially, we are all working for the same goal of a great education for learners.
      I believe now is the time to begin the change of structure and system to provide the best possible outcomes for an unknown workforce and world -our future.

      Another post on this subject by Warwick Peter-Budge on August, Learning to be a Teacher

      Kind Regards
      Rachael

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