The QUTeach@Redcliffe program
The article has been prepared from extracts of an evaluation of the QUTeach program written by Dr Barbara Rissman, and from other material provided by the Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology.
The QUTeach@Redcliffe program enables senior secondary students from a disadvantaged region of Queensland to commence teacher education degrees while completing school. Introduced in mid-2008, QUTeach is a collaboration between Queensland University of Technology and Queensland’s Bays Cluster of State High Schools. It is currently in pilot form.
The program emerged as the result of equity concerns in relation to students who face barriers to university entrance, in terms of social, racial or financial disadvantage. It was also motivated by a desire to generate a stream of new teachers who come from the region and understand its circumstances, and who can relate well to the school students they teach.
Rather than learning as individuals on a university campus, students in the program are taught as a class so that they can learn from one another as well as from their instructors. The classes are conducted two evenings per week on the premises of Redcliffe State High School, which is more familiar and easier to access than the university campus. However, the students also attend the QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus one or two days each semester to familiarise themselves with the university environment and participate in lectures on campus.
Operation of the program
Students participating in the QUTeach program undertake either three or four units of the QUT first year teacher education course. Those who successfully complete two units are guaranteed a place at QUT at the end of Year 12. The units they complete during school represent nearly one semester of university coursework. Students are also eligible for up to eight credit points toward their Queensland Certificate of Education.
The pilot began in mid-2008 with 25 Year 12 students enrolled. From Semester 1 2009, the program was extended to Year 11 students, with 2009 total enrolments comprising 20 Year 11 and 17 Year 12 students. To take part in the program students must have achieved a B in English, and need to have obtained approval from their school principal and from a parent or guardian. Staff at Redcliffe High School process student applications and select candidates for participation in the program.
QUTeach participants have access to the same resources as QUT university students, including Blackboard software for course communications, and the university library and electronic information databases. They receive an academic statement at the end of each semester. Classes are led by tutors, qualified teachers employed by Education Queensland. The tutors work with university staff and are chosen because of their ability to connect with, guide and encourage students, work with university academics and have life experience relevant to the unit. The tutors receive specific training from QUT academic staff, who also provide assistance by presenting lectures and assisting in conducting tutorials.
QUTeach is funded by the QUT Faculty of Education, which covers the students’ program fees. It also receives financial support from Education Queensland, which covers the salary costs of the participating teachers. The pilot program aligns closely with the Australian Government’s agenda for transforming Australia’s higher education system, which is outlined in the Review of Australian Higher Education Report.
The program has so far been a considerable success. Of the 25 Year 12 students enrolled in the original 2008 intake, 15 graduated in October 2009 with automatic tertiary entry to QUT. In addition, Redcliffe High School was last year awarded the $50,000 Schools First Local Impact Award by National Australia Bank (NAB) in recognition of its work in relation to QUTeach.
Evaluation of the program
An evaluation of the project, commissioned by the Queensland University of Technology and undertaken by Dr Barbara Rissman, has recently been completed. The evaluation comprised semi-structured individual interviews with four school and three university staff. Seven focus group interviews were conducted with 26 students and seven parents.
The teachers believed that the delivery of tutorials on the school campus rather than at university had been an advantage to the students. They reported that participation in university-level classes had improved students’ skills in writing, referencing, and paraphrasing, and that these skills had transferred effectively across a range of school subjects. They also felt that participation in the program had been a maturing experience for the students.
Most of the students were very positive about their participation in the pilot, noting that the small class sizes allowed opportunities for one-on-one interaction with the tutor, as well as opportunities to ask questions, and to engage in peer discussion. The Year 12 students believed that QUTeach was inspiring them to work harder and manage time better, and was creating or introducing them to other post-school options. They felt that the program was helping with their future course selections, and had given them more confidence about completing a university degree. At a practical level, the participating students appreciated have an opportunity for earlier graduation from university, and were also grateful for the financial support they received.
The students commented on the demanding nature of the program, but for the most part accepted these challenges. They appreciated the fact that the course was delivered on a school site, which they found more convenient and less intimidating than the university environment. The interviewed parents indicated that while they had been initially pessimistic about the program, they became more enthusiastic as they witnessed the opportunities it had offered their children.
As a result of participants’ feedback, additional supports have been put in place for students. For example, when it was found that the participants did not concentrate well during lectures delivered in electronic format, a revised format was introduced, with a mix of lecture and tutorial styles. The tutors are offering students specific help in understanding academic terminology and processes, particularly in relation to assignment topics, marking criteria, and referencing protocols. Librarians at Kelvin Grove campus have introduced the students to the library and its collections, including electronic information databases, which they had not used before.
The findings from this evaluation demonstrate that the program has benefited all those involved. The students have demonstrated improvements in their academic and personal skills, while their parents have taken pride in their children’s achievements and in the possibility of further tertiary study. School staff have received training and experience in delivering, assessing and moderating university units, and the program tutors have been afforded greater insight into university processes. The university staff have received valuable information about typical school and classroom operations, and they have received feedback about the use of technologies at school level, as well as about effective learning and teaching approaches for younger student groups.
Subject HeadingsTransitions in schooling
Senior secondary education