The Pre-Service Country Teaching Mapping Project
The following article is adapted from the Executive Summary of the report Pre-Service Country Teaching In Australia: What’s Happening – What Needs to Happen? produced by the Rural Education Forum Australia (REFA) August 2005.
Issues associated with the preparation of teachers for country schools have a long history which is illustrated by reference to two major national reports. In 1987, the Commonwealth Schools Commission presented a report to the then Minister for Employment, Education and Training, the Hon JS Dawkins, entitled Schooling in Rural Australia. Well over a decade later, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) initiated a national inquiry into rural and remote education in Australia in 1999.
Both of these major reports emphasised the necessity of pre-service teacher education programs that provide significant opportunities for teachers to receive education that will prepare them for teaching in rural and remote areas. In essence, the preparation of teachers for country schools is part of the challenge of attracting and retaining professionals to other-than-metropolitan locations.
In 2004 the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training funded the Rural Education Forum Australia (REFA) to map the range of pre-service country teaching programs currently available in Australian teacher education courses, with specific reference to professional experience and practicum placement. This work took place through the Pre-Service Country Teaching Mapping Project. Its purpose was to establish, through point-in-time (November and December 2004) quantitative and qualitative information collection, what was happening and what the issues were in relation to pre-service country teaching placements in Australia. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Education, Science and Training.
Conduct of the project
The research, report writing and management of the pre-service country teaching mapping project was undertaken by the Executive Officer of REFA, R John Halsey.
A reference group and a working group were established to assist shape the nature of project, including providing feedback on progressive drafts and communications and links with organisations and experts in the field of teacher preparation.
All communications with the providers of teacher education for the distribution and return of surveys was through the executive office of the Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE).
The interviews with representatives of government and non-government school providers were negotiated in writing, by phone, or both in the first instance, contacting the respective chief executive or equivalent.
The Report lists the membership of the reference group and the working group, and the schools and faculties of teacher education that participated in the project.
The Pre-Service Country Teaching Mapping Project comprised three main data and information sources:
The heart of the mapping report is the survey results from the 23 teacher education schools and faculties (out of a total of 46) around Australia that accepted the invitation to participate.
The cost pressures of rural placements for pre-service teachers and for the providing institutions are the most significant issues affecting the ready availability of high quality pre-service country teaching placements.
The results of the pre-service country teaching mapping project demonstrate that there is a substantial base of good practice in the area of country pre-service teaching placements. This augers well for developing ways and means of expanding the availability and attractiveness of pre-service country teaching, and for significantly decreasing the sense of struggle that many experience when participating in a country teaching pre-service placement under arrangements as reported.
Policy framing recommendations
The recommendations in this category focus on creating policy orientations for expanding support for pre-service country teacher placement programs.
1. That universities and other providers of teacher education programs be strongly encouraged to develop policies to increase significantly the number of pre-service country teaching placements arranged and taken annually.
2. That choice for individuals and institutions is used as a key value for guiding decisions about the provision of, and participation in, pre-service country teaching.
3. That resources for pre-service country teaching placements are based on the actual costs for students, universities, schools and communities, and that the data required for determining costs is regularly monitored and assessed.
4. That cooperation and collaboration between and among pre-service teachers, universities, participating schools and communities are necessary, but not sufficient requirements in themselves, for achieving increases in the size, scope and quality of pre-service country teaching placement programs.
The recommendations in this category focus on changes to key operational aspects of pre-service country teaching placement programs.
1. That pre-service country teaching placement programs be strongly encouraged wherever and whenever possible to place students in groups or clusters of schools, or place at least two students at a site, for example one coming from a mainly metropolitan background and one from a mainly rural background.
2. That metropolitan universities and key stakeholders be strongly encouraged, and provided with incentives, to progressively and significantly increase the proportion of their teacher education cohort that participates in a country pre-service placement.
3. That procedures for schools to notify teacher educators of their willingness to participate in pre-service country teaching placement programs be reviewed and, where required, modified to ensure that the site pool includes all schools that have the human and other resources required for participation in placement programs.
4. That further research be conducted into the funding of pre-service country teaching placements and that the terms of reference for the research include:
Background to REFA
REFA was formed in 2002. It developed from Roundtables co-hosted by the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association and the National Farmers’ Federation, in response to the HREOC National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education initiated in February 1999.
Its vision is quality education and training outcomes in rural and remote areas so that individuals, families and communities can develop their full potential in the social, economic, political and cultural life of the nation.
REFA works with its member groups, departments of education in all States, Territories and the Commonwealth, and other service and private sector providers, to identify and progress issues that will improve opportunities for country children and families.