10 SES 08 A, Research in Teacher Education: Cultures and Methodologies
In Australia, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has responsibility for setting standards for teachers at all levels of responsibility. AITSL ensures that pre-service teachers (PSTs) are able to connect theory and practice in their coursework and practical experiences, and works with regulatory authorities in Australian states and territories to ensure that Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programs are accredited with teaching performance assessments within them (AITSL, 2018).
Every ITE program must include a Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA) to demonstrate that graduating teachers are ‘classroom ready’ (Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group, 2014). The Assessment for Graduate Teaching (AfGT) is the teaching performance assessment that that has been developed by a Consortium of twelve Australian universities led by the University of Melbourne.
Setting standards for teaching, as Darling-Hammond (2017, p. 296) noted, “has had growing currency around the world”, with countries conducting research to learn from each other (for instance, European Commission, 2013; Schleicher, 2011). European Union member states, rather than having specific standards that PSTs must achieve prior to graduation, are encouraged to follow the Common European principles for teacher competences and qualifications (European Commission, 2010). Three broad competences for school teachers are described in this document—working with others, working with knowledge, technology and information, and working with and in society—which contrasts with AITSL’s thirty-seven Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (also referred to as the Graduate Standards) arranged around three dimensions: professional knowledge, professional practice and professional engagement (AITSL, 2018).
The AfGT instrument was developed ‘from the ground up’ by initial teacher educators to ensure applicability across diverse settings, different levels of programs (bachelor and masters) and different modes of delivery (face-to-face, online and blended). The AfGT enables PSTs to demonstrate the impact of their teaching on student learning through the processes of planning, teaching, assessing and evaluating. The instrument is being implemented in ITE programs across the Consortium and accompanies the traditional evaluation reports written by mentor teachers. The AfGT is a summative, capstone teaching performance assessment, and a national research activity. Whereas the AfGT is a compulsory assessment component of ITE programs in the Consortium, participation in the research component of the AfGT is voluntary.
The research project involves pre-service teachers, children/school students, mentor teachers, teachers who coordinate professional experience in schools, school principals, university personnel who coordinate professional experience, and initial teacher educators who support PSTs through the AfGT and who assess submitted AfGT work. Participation requirements vary according to roles. For example, PSTs’ involvement incorporates the provision of their AfGT data to the research group, as well as providing feedback after undertaking the AfGT.
The aims of the AfGT research project are:
- To research the efficacy of the design of the AfGT, which is intended to enable Australian pre-service teachers to meet the Australian Professional Standards for Graduate Teachers.
- To research the implementation and assessment of the AfGT in practice in diverse contexts, and to consider the roles of all groups of participants.
In this presentation we report on the impact that the AfGT has had on those involved in initial teacher education: initial teacher educators, placement staff, school-based staff, and pre-service teachers. Data from evaluations of the implementation of the AfGT across two years are considered in this presentation.
The AfGT is a ‘game changer’ for initial teacher education as well as the professional learning of in-service teachers. Future research will concentrate on the ‘throughlines’ between PSTs’ performance on entry to their program of study, their performance on the AfGT to their employment and beyond, and the impact they make on school students’ learning.
This study is situated within a constructivist / interpretivist paradigm using a mixed-methods Descriptive Approach with the intention to systematically provide a picture of “what is going on” at a specific point in time regarding a particular issue (Baran, 2016). The types of data collection in the study include surveys, interviews and focus group discussions. Approval to conduct this research has been gained from the relevant ethics committee from each of the Consortium’s member universities, as well as the respective Departments of Education in each state and territory, and the Catholic Education Office in many jurisdictions. The research utilises a combination of 'Opt-In' and 'Opt-Out' protocols. School principals are invited to provide consent for the school to participate in the research by opting in. Parents/guardians and their child are invited to participate in the research by opting-in. All other participants are invited to participate in the research component but will demonstrate their intention to opt-out using the relevant Opt-Out Consent Form. This method is used to efficiently manage the broad scale recruitment of participants into this project. Information is provided to the potential participant regarding the research and their involvement via a plain language statement, and their participation is presumed unless they take action to decline to participate. In this presentation we report on participants’ responses to the following questions: How were the placements in which the AfGT have been implemented been different to previous placement experiences? What were the strengths of the AfGT? What issues arose in the implementation of the AfGT?
The research reveals that for PSTs there was a sense that aspects of their teaching assisted them to make clearer links than in the past between the content they were teaching and how they were assessing their students’ work. Some PSTs and school-based staff also noted how the AfGT was having a positive impact on experienced teachers within schools. The main issues arising from this research include the realisation that normalisation of teaching performance assessments is required by employers and regulatory authorities to increase understandings of their purpose and that all TPAs have been evaluated with the same rigour. Significant challenges also exist for initial teacher educators involved in program development to ensure that PSTs have opportunities in their programs to adequately address all of the Graduate Standards. Notably, school-based personnel are also learning professionally about the link between theory and practice as a consequence of having PSTs undertaking the AfGT. Participants commented upon the complexity of introducing an assessment of classroom readiness at the end of programs of study that were developed prior to the need for teaching performance assessments. The mismatch between preparing graduate teachers according to their university’s ideology or historically-driven practices (Sarakinioti & Tsatsaroni, 2015) and a TPA that focusses on nationally-developed teaching standards, remains a point of tension. In addition to the implementation challenges of introducing a new way of assessing PSTs’ readiness to teach, school-based personnel pointed to equity issues associated with different universities having different expectations in their TPAs. Challenges exist for the continuous improvement and the ongoing fidelity of the AfGT instrument across all sites, program types and delivery modes. The role of education research therefore becomes integral in the process of ensuring the validity and reliability of the AfGT in a future that is both unknown and uncertain.
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2018). Accreditation of initial teacher education programs in Australia. AITSL Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/tools-resources/resource/accreditation-of-initial-teacher-education-programs-in-australia---standards-and-procedures. Baran, M. L. (2016). It is all in the design: Creating the foundations of a mixed methods research study. In M. L. Baran & J. E. Jones (Eds.), Mixed methods research for improved scientific study (pp. 66-78). Hershey: PA: IGI Global. Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Teacher education around the world: What can we learn from international practice? European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(3), 291-309. doi:10.1080/02619768.2017.1315399 European Commission. (2010). Common European principles for teacher competences and qualifications. Director-General for Education and Culture Retrieved from http://docs.china-europa-forum.net/doc_48.pdf. European Commission. (2013). Supporting teacher educators for better learning outcomes. Brussels: European Commission Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/assets/eac/education/policy/school/doc/support-teacher-educators_en.pdf. Sarakinioti, A., & Tsatsaroni, A. (2015). European education policy initiatives and teacher education curriculum reforms in Greece. Education Inquiry, 6(3). doi:10.3402/edui.v6.28421 Schleicher, A. (2011). Building a high-quality teaching profession: Lessons from around the world. OECD Publishing Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264113046-en. Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group. (2014). Action now: Classroom ready teachers. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Department of Education.
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