I wondered what my Twitter followers might think of the idea of requiring those educating trainee teachers to have recent and relevant classroom experience themselves:
They overwhelmingly supported it. Some, in the comments, noted that Australian teacher training graduates still seem to be taught about learning styles, despite this concept being a myth.
This chimes with my own experience of interviewing graduates who all seem to have been told things that are demonstrably wrong and skewed toward the constructivist / progressivist agenda. We don’t hold it against them, but we do then have to work to dismantle some misconceptions.
Some suggested my idea would be impractical and would lead to a discontinuity of teaching for the students involved. And yet we manage school placements for trainees just fine, so I don’t see the problem. Others pointed out that there are people in Australian universities who primarily teach trainee teachers and who have never held teacher accreditation. My plan would present these folks with a problem, I suppose.
Clearly, teachers can benefit from hearing from non-teacher experts in areas such as psychology and speech pathology. It would be perverse to insist these folks gain a teaching qualification and that’s why I restricted my proposition to only those who primarily teach trainee teachers.
Even so, is my idea still just an elaborate ad hominem argument? Surely, it doesn’t matter whether the people educating our new cohort of teachers have recent teaching experience, what matters is whether they are right or wrong or effective or not. Right?
At one level, yes. But this is an argument about the probability of teacher educators coming to an informed view. Despite both groups being overwhelmingly left-of-centre politically, there are areas of palpable disagreement between the bulk of teachers and the bulk of teacher educators, at least if responses on social media are anything to go by. Teachers are wary of teacher educators trying to build coalitions with activists to oppose school exclusions, for instance, and they tend to respond positively to my arguments about differentiation, whereas teacher educators do not.
I put this down to a difference in disconfirmation. The ideas about teaching that are espoused by teacher educators do not have to butt up against reality. Teacher trainers can hold forth on approaches that are quite misconceived without receiving that feedback. Teachers, when they try these ideas out, find they don’t work. The result is a mix of self-blame and pragmatic compromise that is absent from the ideological safe space of university education faculties.
So, the purpose of teaching placements for teacher educators would be to provide a bit of a reality check.
Nevertheless, there are other possible solutions to the problem. As some mentioned on the thread, there is a strong argument for requiring teachers to have a degree in a relevant subject but then providing all or almost all of their teacher education on a paid school placement. Such schemes already exist and could replace the traditional system. I am open to that.
What’s clear is that we are failing many of our graduate teachers at present and we need to do something.