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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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A residency approach to teacher education

Tim McDonald
Associate Professor Tim McDonald is Director of the Teacher Residency Program at Edith Cowan University. Email: t.mcdonald@ecu.edu.au

Next year the School of Education at Edith Cowan University (ECU) will pilot a Teacher Residency Program for graduate teacher education students, as an innovative means to recruit, prepare and retain quality teachers. The Teacher Residency Program is based on a medical model that pairs university coursework with extended periods of school placement or 'clinical' experience. As such it aligns with the Western Australian Department of Education and Training's (DET) move toward the development of Training Schools, as partnerships between systems, schools and universities. The pilot will be supported by $930,000 in funding from the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

There has been much public concern about the quality of teacher education in Australia. The 2007 Top of the Class report notes that there have been 101 reviews into teacher education since 1979. While these reviews highlight the importance of teacher education to the community and economy, they also document the declining numbers entering teaching and the scepticism of many practising teachers regarding the impact of their own teacher education experience. The Teacher Residency Program is a response to these challenges, designed to appeal to prospective teachers and to help overcome the shortfall in teacher numbers widely predicted to emerge over the next few years.

Implementation in schools

The Teacher Residency Program will allow participating schools and teachers to work alongside university staff in determining what aspiring teachers need to know and experience. Much of the course content will be delivered on school sites, with the rest run on the university campus in the style of a summer or winter school, or online. In 2010, ECU expects to partner with up to 10 Training Schools. The number of Training Schools is expected to grow as demand for places increases and, by 2011, ECU expects to partner with up to 20 schools.

There will be 8–12 pre-service teacher residents per school. Residents will be required to meet regularly with peers at other participating schools for academic tutorials: to facilitate these meetings entire clusters of schools are likely to be involved in the Teacher Residency Program, although some K–12 schools may be large enough to form tutorial-size groups on their own.

Residents will work in one school for Terms 1 and 2 and then in a second school in Terms 3 and 4, providing a year of clinical experience. The residents will be based at the training school two days per week. Taking on classroom teaching roles under supervision, residents will practise what they are being taught, reflect, test out new learning and improve their skills as effective teachers, while at the same time offering extra teaching resources to the school. During the residency period they will also complete university coursework aligned with their placement.

Each resident will have a school-based mentor for their two terms at the site. Residents will meet with their mentor once a week to discuss, review and assess progress, examining student work, observation notes, and individual and school achievement data. The mentor will be appointed from within the school's existing staff, selected by ECU and fully endorsed by the school leadership team.

Coordination of the mentors and residents at each school will be undertaken by a part-time Site Director: a senior member of the school's staff with a proven record of effective teaching. The Site Director will also be involved in school cluster meetings.

The Site Director and mentors will receive professional development from university staff to prepare them for their roles, and the Site Director will offer school-based guidance to the mentors. The professional learning of all participants is likely to be enhanced through their participation in the learning community expected to emerge among residents, mentor teachers, Site Directors and ECU staff within the school and the wider cluster. 

Site Directors and mentors will receive credit toward post-graduate qualifications at ECU in fields such as Graduate Certificates in Professional Learning or a Masters program.

The residents' blocks of professional practice will be graded with consensus assessment determined by mentors and university colleagues, as in the on-campus course. As well as course grades, there will be performance-based assessments grounded in actual classroom experiences. One opportunity for such assessment could be in lesson design: after studying the theory of lesson design, the resident would compile a lesson, teach it, review it with their mentor, improve it and bring learning back for discussion at the university. 

Considerations in selecting participating schools

In selecting schools for participation in the pilot, consideration will be given to the alignment of the school's philosophy and ethos with that of the Teacher Residency Program and the School of Education, the types and number of special programs and research activity taking place in the school, the capacity to identify and provide appropriately skilled mentor teachers, and the capacity to provide a skilled Site Director. ECU will also consider the school's commitment to release mentors and the Site Director for professional development, its ability to provide adequate professional space for residents, the size of student enrolment, and the historical level of difficulty in staffing the school. ECU is looking to focus the program mainly, though not exclusively, in low socioeconomic status areas.

Student selection

A feature of the model is the change it introduces to student recruitment practices. At present, candidates for teacher education courses in Western Australia apply through the Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC) and are accepted on a grade point average plus CV and a two-page supportive document. For the current program, however, applicants will apply directly to the university. In this way ECU aims to develop a richer profile and understanding of the candidate's suitability for teaching and their adaptability of learning style to the professional environment. 

In addition to meeting the usual selection criteria, applicants will attend a panel interview, participate in a group problem-solving activity, and participate in a lesson-/school-based activity.

Evaluation of the students

ECU will evaluate residents by means of formal observations of their teaching, portfolios they create during and after the training period, their records of planning and student performance, their lesson plans, and their reflective journals of lessons to future direct student learning and professional development. Assessors will also examine transcripts and other documentation concerning selected meetings with mentors, records of interviews and focus group discussions with principals, mentors, teacher educators, Site Directors, and other residents.

The assessment of teachers' school readiness will cover their content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge including awareness of learners and their characteristics, skills in management and organisation, and their knowledge of curriculum, educational context, educational philosophies, and teachers' tools of the trade.


The Teacher Residency Program is designed to create a more authentic setting for pre-service education and to provide a greater integration of theory and practice. The initiative will help to develop a generation of teachers who are school-ready from day one and have the capacity to enhance the academic and social abilities of all students they teach. 


Subject Headings

Teacher training
Western Australia (WA)
Educational planning