In 1994 the staff of the Faculty of Education at Edith Cowan University, Bunbury Campus and several local primary schools developed a collaborative problem-solving model for preservice teacher education. The aim of the project is to allow teacher education students to work in schools for longer periods than is currently the case and deliver part of their program in the school setting, addressing real educational problems with the guidance of university staff and school personnel. SBTE rests on the assumption that more time spent in schools will lead to better outcomes for student teachers, classroom teachers and university staff. This work in progress sets out to investigate the extent to which this assumption matches the lived experience of those people involved. It will examine several themes emerging from this study to date: (1) The importance of understanding the broader social, economic and political context in which teachers, students and university staff operate; (2) The changing power relations between schools and universities; (3) The qualitative aspects of supervision by both school-based and university-based staff; and (4) The desirability of moving toward 'critically reflective' practice in a whole-school setting.
In response to these criticisms school-based teacher education has gained momentum as a more desirable model of teacher education. The Discipline Review of Teacher Education in Mathematics and Science (DEET, 1992) the Ebbeck Report (1990), Teacher Quality (School Council, 1989), Australia's Teachers: An Agenda for the Next Decade (Schools Council, 1990), and the more recent Ministerial Statement Teaching Counts (1993, p.7) all argue that effective teacher education courses depend on a strong partnership between universities and schools. As a result, Government education policy is committed to the reform of teacher education. As teacher educators working in this reform context we find ourselves caught between two conflicting tendencies. On the other hand, the government's reform agenda presents many positive moments and possibilities. It offers university staff and teachers working in collaboration the opportunity to bring about fundamental change to teacher education and school level practices. On the other hand, the current debate has a negative and more sinister agenda in terms of the desire of governments to reduce expenditure and to emphasise the training and technical aspects of teaching practice. We are very aware that the current drive to restructure teacher education is a part of a much larger political, economic and cultural struggle to redefine the character of Australian society (Marginson, 1993; Frankel, 1992).
A general dissatisfaction with the technical training emphasis in current teaching practicum contributed to our decision to explore the possibilities of School-based Teacher Education. In addition, our close working relationship with many local primary schools in the Bunbury North and South Districts provided a further incentive to develop closer links with teachers interested in school level change.
The analysis presented here is by no means exhaustive. At this stage of our research we simply want to offer a sample of the sorts of issues, concerns and problems that seem to be emerging from various individual biographies. It is our hope that the ideas presented in this brief summary will stimulate comment and further dialogue.
In the end eight students were selected to spend all of semester 1 1994 in two schools. The students were required to have a sound academic record and a grade of "Highly Satisfactory" on their fourth practice, as we did not feel it was fair to place any additional pressure on students who might be considered at risk. Additional selection factors operated according to the particular contexts, for example, one school required that students be sympathetic to its Catholic ethos, while the other needed students who were willing to work in multi-age, junior primary classrooms.
Both schools were in favour of School-based Teacher Education in principle, but both were also involved in specific school reform and could see the advantages of having student teachers in the school to work with and support the teachers in the process of change. We were confident that our new approach could achieve this, and at the same time offer our students a better and more "authentic" practicum experience.
University assignments were modified so that the students were able to take advantage of the classroom contexts in which they were working. Case studies, programmes and resource packages to address particular needs were the focus of student assignments and assessment. Once again, these were open to negotiation to a far greater extent than in the normal programme.
Action research is characterised as systematic inquiry that is collective, collaborative, self-reflective, critical, and undertaken by the participants of the inquiry. The goals of such research are the understanding of practice and the articulation of a rationale or philosophy of practice in order to improve that practice (1990, p.148).Student teachers, classroom teachers and university staff used a combination of oral stories and written reflections to construct their own biographies. We felt that oral stories would provide an important dimension to the investigation by providing public discussion of what was primarily personal and private. Personal biography enables people to identify what is important to them and this is quite different from examining the 'real' world of people with a preconceived set of questions with inbuilt answers already assumed or predicted. It allowed us to uncover the insiders' view of their own experiences.
Written reflections provided another important means of revealing the nature of individual experience. In this case some of the participants reflected on what happened to them during the day. Writing a personalised narrative of what happened allowed the participants to organise an account of their teaching in a way that was crucial to finding and speaking their own voices (Smyth, 1992; Tripp, 1993; Elliott, 1991; and Gitlin et.al. 1992).
It is interesting that all participants said or implied that they would choose to undertake SBTE again - under the right circumstances. Our next task is to develop a clear, detailed and responsive picture of what those circumstances might be.
Department of Employment, Education and Training (1993). Teaching Counts. A Ministerial Statement by the Honourable K C Beazley, Minister for Employment, Education and Training. Canberra: AGPS.
Ebbeck, F. (1990). Teacher Education in Australia. A report to the Australian Education Council by an AEC Working Party. Canberra: AGPS.
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Gitlin, A. et.al. (1992). Teachers' Voices for Educational Change: An Introduction to Educative Research. New York: Teachers College Press.
Grenfell, M. (1992). School-based Teacher Education. Education Australia, 17, 18-19.
Marginson, S. (1993). Education and Public Policy in Australia. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.
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Schools Council, National Board of Employment, Education and Training (1990). Australia's Teachers: An Agenda for the Next Decade. Canberra: AGPS.
Smyth, J (1989). Developing and sustaining critical reflection in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 40(2), 2-9.
Tripp, D. (1993). Critical Incidents in Teaching: The Development of Professional Judgement. London: Routledge.
|Please cite as: Down, B., Hogan, C. and Madigan, R. (1995). School-based teacher education: The lived experience of students, teachers and university staff. In Summers, L. (Ed), A Focus on Learning, p62-66. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Edith Cowan University, February 1995. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1995/down.html|