Monday, January 11, 2016

Making Teaching More Professional

In "Teachers are leaving the profession – here’s how to make them stay" (The Conversation, argues that attrition rates for school teachers are "worryingly high", but then contradicts this by saying attrition rates "aren’t necessarily higher than rates in other professions". This later point is supported by estimates that 80% of teaching graduates register as teachers. This is a high retention rate, compared to professions such as the law, where only about half go on to practice.

McKinnon comments that "the Commonwealth contributes around A$40,000 to train one future teacher in a four year undergraduate degree". An alternative approach, I suggest, is for students to undertake a degree in the subject area they are to teach (at their own expense) and then a diploma or masters in teaching (with possible subsidies as an incentive). As an example, the University of Canberra (UC) and the Australian National University (ANU) offer a vertical double degree for science teaching, with a a Bachelor of Science (BSc) from ANU and Master of Teaching (MTeach) from UC.

McKinnon suggests that more teachers will be needed, as student numbers increase, or class sizes will increase. However, there is little evidence to suggest that large classes adversely impact student learning. Also the idea of a "class" is being rendered obsolete by technology. Within ten years, I suggest, students will undertake most of their formal academic education on-line. Teachers will be needed to guide the students, particularly younger students, but will not teach in the old fashioned "chalk and talk" sense.

McKinnon points out specialist teacher shortages in regional and remote areas, but offers no solution. Team teaching, with a local generalist teacher and an on-line specialist teacher, is already used for this in some parts of Australia. I suggest this is likely to become the norm nationwide, within ten years.

McKinnon  suggests teachers do need support and mentoring, but does not suggest how to provide this. I suggest this is something which should be to from the profession, not imposed by an employer, or government. Professional bodies have a key role in professional development. As an example, I am a member of the Australian Computer Society which has a mentoring scheme, professional development scheme (with free activities for members and an on-line system to track your CPD hours) and on-line postgraduate courses. The IEEE, which I am also a member of, has a new on-line system for collaborating with peers. Such systems are not cheap or easy to develop (even for technical societies with high membership fees). Teachers should take the initiative to introduce such schemes, rather than leave it to government and employers.

Also, I suggest, teachers can be trained to deal with issues of excessive administrative, teaching, pastoral care and extra curricula activities. We need to train teachers to be professionals who prioritize the use of their time. Teachers can learn to use time saving techniques, including on-line administration, teaching and assessment tools, to cut down some of the burden.

Teachers need to learn that standing in front of the class talking is not the most important, or most productive, use of their time, nor is manually marking tests on paper, or writing copious comments on assignments. These are bad habits which teachers need to learn to break: they may make the teachers and parents feel good, but they do not provide students with the best education. More importantly, teachers need the training to be confident in make and defend decisions as to what is worth doing and what is not.

No comments:

Post a Comment