I was invited to present some ideas to the Education Policy Forum in Christchurch yesterday – hosted by the National Party, and attended by Education Minister, Anne Tolley and several members of the government’s education select committee – along with a range of people from across the education spectrum. It was an interesting day, with a focus in the morning on teacher education, and in the afternoon on the use of ICT in education. (My presentation on this is included above.)
Both sessions consisted of presentations made by invited guests, with discussion following among the wider audience. As anticipated, the issues resulted in lots of vigorous discussion and debate – from which it is hoped the members of the select committee will be able to distill some thoughts to inform the policy process.
I found the discussion on teacher education really interesting. With a background as a teacher educator, I have an understanding of most of the issues – but found the lack of agreement on what the issues are, and the debate around some of the fundamental understandings of what teacher education is or should be confirming that not a lot has changed in the years I was involved.
Four points of view emerged – Kevin Knight, director at the NZ Graduate School of Education, began things with a well researched and coherent view of the history of approaches to teacher education, putting the case for the particular approach embraced by his organisation, a competency-based approach that focuses on training teachers to enter the classroom fully equipped to manage their class from day one on the job. This approach was reinforced by Ashley Bras, a year two teacher from Burnside High School who was trained through that process. In response senior staff from the University of Canterbury’s teacher education area argued for the importance of research, and the preparation of teachers as researchers and reflective practitioners. Tony Gilliland, a secondary principal from Hokitika offered a third perspective, arguing from his position as the principal of a rural secondary school, where access to professional support for young teachers is more difficult, for more funding and support for schools internally to do this task – both for pre-service teachers in training, and for young teachers in their first and second years of teaching. Tony’s view is that teachers are born, not made, and that the biggest issue is at the time of appointment in being able to recruit and select high quality candidates for positions.
Not a lot was resolved on the day (and not intended to be either I imagine), however, it was easy to see that this topic is one that desperately needs a lot more debate and discussion within this area – something that I’m sure will continue to happen through the consultation process on the Ministry of Education’s discussion document created after receiving an independent report on how to attract, train and retain high quality teachers.