There have been more than 100 reports critiquing teacher education in Australia since the 1970s.
These reports led to new tests and more accountability standards and measures of teacher behaviours.
Today we have a regulated profession that has not changed the content of what is taught as much as developed a tick box compliance process.
We need a major revamp of teacher education from the inside out that actually changes the model to provide all children with the education that is right for them.
The implications for schooling, teaching and teacher education
When I was in school in the 1960s and 1970s, teachers had one lesson plan, one textbook, one chalkboard, one pedagogical approach, one style of desk and one discipline strategy for the whole class.
My classmates and I were expected to adjust to the teacher and the plan.
“Differentiation” at that time meant that the taller students typically sat in the back of the classroom while those who had trouble seeing the chalkboard were moved closer to the front. Those students caught being “naughty” sat next to the teacher’s desk.
This was assembly-line education. Many of us did quite well. Some of us dropped in. Some of us dropped out. It was understood that if you worked hard after you left school, even if you dropped out, you could anticipate a pretty good job in the mill, the mine or the plant.
Teacher education grew out of these assumptions of “training” for the assembly line in a two dimensional (2D -“sit and git”) education world.
But for too long schools have been places young people go to watch their teachers work.
They have relied on a deficit model of learning and teaching. They have emphasised conformity rather than personalisation. And today, in many parts of the world, they still mirror factories while the 3D printer is replacing the assembly line.
Scientists are now aware of at least ten dimensions that we must comprehend in a very dynamic, collaborative, global innovation age.
Although many of us performed well in the 2D model, those who were unable to adapt to it have very little to do today.
Many jobs available in the past for those who did not finish school have been outsourced or automated, and more will be in the near future.
We cannot afford economically or morally to continue a 2D mentality for schooling.
Five new frameworks to drive the reframing of teacher education
Current standards across Australia and the world are remarkably the same. They are really organisers of evidence that new teachers and their programs must assemble inside these agreed-upon categories.
Unfortunately they are built on and support a model of learning and teaching that is nearly obsolete.
We actually have very little evidence that graduates of teacher education programs use what is taught to them three years into their teaching. This has to change.
In response, academics and educators across Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Canada, the UK and US have devised five new guiding questions or frameworks for teacher education. They help create a global conversation to benchmark teacher education internationally rather than in individual states or nations.
Where do children live?
The context and environment in which children live is paramount to their success as learners in formal school settings. Mostly middle class new teachers often lack deep understandings of culture, family, diversity and community dynamics. The most innovative teacher preparation programs embed direct community and family involvement early into their education.
How and when do children learn?
The work in neuroscience, psychology, indigenous cultures, the arts, technologies, equity, learning differences etc, is all forming a new transdisciplinary area of “learning sciences”.
We have just begun to understand learning and its many forms and contexts in light of new innovations. Most of the new learning from brain research, including the recent knowledge about toxic stress, adolescent development, the importance of physical movement, creativity, and the impact of technologies has not yet made its way to teacher preparation.
What should children know and be able to do as a result of schooling?
In the past 20 years, schools have often been pressured to become testing centres rather than leaning centres. To be successful in the innovation age, young people need exposure to a dynamic curriculum that helps them master traditional literacy and numeracy skills inside of an engaging problem-solving environment that focuses on students finding their passion, developing critical thinking, enables creativity, and fosters their innate curiosity for learning.
Teacher education should go way beyond the syllabus for each country and foster the newest and best thinking about knowing and doing in a global context. Students in Sydney are not only in competition with students in Brisbane and Perth, but also with students in Mumbai, Shanghai and Boston.
Why is equity such a vital component for the common good?
A focus on equity is paramount to overcoming injustice, providing social cohesion, improving living standards and protecting democracy. Most teacher education programs currently isolate equity issues inside of introductory courses rather than wrap learning with equity throughout their program designs.
Most of the pedagogies taught are about “fixing” student deficits rather than building upon the amazing capacity and evolving cognitive capacity of every child.
Who am I as a learning and equity leader?
Who teachers are and how they behave is one of the most underrated competencies of learning to teach. Caring, flexibility, resilience, respecting diversity, overcoming inequities, advocating for children, leadership and positively communicating with colleagues and parents are all as vital as content knowledge and pedagogical prowess.
Many new teachers are strong in content, but the social aspect of their job may not be developed. It is possible for someone to meet the current standards but fail children.
These frameworks might be the grounding across the various standards in states and nations to guide learning and equity and to build a sound way forward with the world’s best experts informing the process.
This article was first published in The Conversation.