The School of Education at RMIT is among the first benefactors of a $1.6 million Department of Education initiative designed to forge stronger partnerships between universities and schools. The North Melbourne Teaching Academy for Professional Practice, aligned with RMIT, industry leaders and partner schools, is set to begin classes later this year.
A major focus at the new Academy will be the provision of practical classroom experience for pre-service teachers. Mentoring by practising teachers will be encouraged, with much of the course provided by school staff. The move is a radical shift from the usual practice of university tutors providing the full curriculum of both theoretical knowledge and practical application.
A need to improve trainee teacher outcomes
In fact, the Professional Experience: Connected Classrooms course will be taught by primary school teachers. The move makes sense, especially when we compare teaching to many other occupations where mentorships, internships, apprenticeships and understudying are seen as the ideal means to gain experience in ones chosen field of employment.
The inadequate scholastic attainments of some Australian graduate teachers have been under the spotlight for some time. Many people are surprised and alarmed at the number of new teachers who have not reached desirable levels in core subjects such as maths and English: a scenario the North Melbourne Teaching Academy aims to reverse. According to project manager, Dr Cathy Jordan, the new course syllabus will help improve outcomes.
“The recent release of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report places greater accountability on teacher education providers… they need to be able to demonstrate that graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills to teach in schools,” Dr Jordan said.
New Academies at major universities
The RMIT Academy will provide the opportunity for 220 Bachelor of Education students to take up placements in partner schools. RMIT is not the only university involved in the project – according to a statement issued last year by Minister for Education, Martin Dixon, funding is going to many other Victorian tertiary institutions including La Trobe University, Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, who are ready to establish similar programmes. In all, 12 Teaching Academies of Professional Practice are being established in partnership with their own group of schools.
In his statement, Dixon outlined his support for the new academies, saying “These academies will strengthen school-university partnerships… Current teachers will improve their own skills when they mentor others, and universities gain insights which will lead to enhanced course delivery.”