Monday, June 1, 2020

Teach Our Teachers to Teach Online and Prepare for a Second Career

In a recent article by Stephanie Garoni and Jo Lampert  asks if school teachers and their educators are ready for the effects from COVID-19 yet to come (COVID-19 is impacting on our teacher workforce. Are we ready for the mostly bad (but some good) effects?, Edu Research Matters, 1 June 2020). It is unfortunate that our school teachers have experienced so much stress recently with adapting to teaching online. However, I suggest teacher educators have failed their students by not preparing them for teaching in today's world. We need to change what and how school and university teachers teach. The changes to schools will not be as great as the rationalization being forced on the Higher Educaiton system over the next three years, due to a loss in student fees.

Online learning has grown in schools but teachers have not been given the training to do this well. This is not just about using particular software, it is about being able to shape the expectations of students, and their parents, as to the role of the teacher in education. This also involves taking a professional attitude to workloads, where the teacher decides how to best use the limited time they are paid to work, rather than trying to meet impossible deadlines.

Teaching online is fundamentally the same as in a classroom, but if you do not have the techniques and discipline to do it efficiently, the workload and stress can kill you.

Like many in the workforce, teachers are being asked to work on shorter contracts. This requires teachers to be trained in how to work in this environment. It would also be useful to suggest to teachers during their training they obtain qualifications in another discipline, so they have options if teaching does not suit them. It should be assumed a teacher will teach for a few years, before moving to another career.

Unfortunately most Australian universities and academics failed to take reasonable steps to implement an online learning contingency despite the likelihood students could suddenly be unable to get to class. They also became overdependent on a few sources of international students for revenue.  However, this should not cause a teacher shortage. The shift to online learning has been sudden, but worked well. The smaller number of universities which emerge from the coming rationalization will be able to support teacher training.

The chnage to online learning and rationalization of the Australian Higher education system is a good opportunity to think about what and how teachers are trained.  I suggest this aim to give each teacher qualifications in two disciplines: teaching and another field in which they could be employed. Obviously teachers should be mostly trained online, with time previously spent in unproductive lectures freed up for the practical experience of teaching.

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