Two senior teacher education academics have slammed Canberra’s policy-setting Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group and the work of oversight agency, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership for, “an obsession with standardisation,” “silence” on the need for teachers to be research literate and for ignoring the profession’s concerns.
Martin Mills (University of Queensland) and Merrilyn Goos (now University of Limerick, ex UoQ) warn; “it appears that governments want teachers to be proficient in analysing data that relate to academic outcomes, and principally academic outcomes on standardised tests, both national and international. The perverse effects of such a focus, for example, the thinning down of, pedagogies the narrowing of curriculum options, high suspension rates etc., have been well documented.”
They argue the government’s approach is based on; “antiquated notions of teaching as an occupation where expertise depends on a set of skills and knowledge that is easily defined and measured rather than as an intellectual activity where complex decisions are made on the basis of subject knowledge, teaching practice, and educational theory in relation to the students in the teacher’s classroom,”
And Mills and Goos specifically question the emphasis on “classroom readiness.”
“We are not suggesting that teacher education does not need to reform or that the various programs throughout Australia currently prepare teachers to walk into any classroom, in any location, conditions or situation, in which they might find themselves when they first begin their careers. However, we would argue that a standardised notion of classroom readiness being articulated through the particular recommendations being taken up by government will also not adequately prepare pre-service teachers for the diversity of experiences they are likely to face in Australia.”
They also suggest the official position ignores the key requirement for teachers to be researchers; “we propose that supporting teacher adaptability, especially in relation to supporting the most highly marginalised students within a school, requires enabling teachers to become competent consumers of research, to use this research to apply it to their own contexts and to delve deeper into that context through sound research skills.”
And if universities accept people not suited to teaching, well whose fault is that?
“While entry requirements for initial teacher education are set by universities, these requirements are influenced not so much by trends in workforce supply and demand or by academic prerequisites considered necessary for successful university study, but by financial considerations in maximising enrolments. A measure forced on universities by reduced government funding.”