This was the first session of four in this day long conference in which we strove to learn more about how to mentor and support the students who visit schools whilst they are on practicum. In this session the aim was to explore some of the recent changes that are impacting on the ways in which pre-service teachers are being asked to record, reflect and respond to their relatively short time in the classroom. These changes not only impact upon the university who are working with these students but also those who will be mentoring and supporting them whilst they work with them at their site.
Jackie Thompson, Director of Professional Experience at Flinders University opened proceedings and lead the conversation on the importance of partnerships between schools and the university. These partnerships, research suggests, are the key to helping students develop a sense of the connection from theory to practice. The idea is that students will learn the theory during their course, but when they come to school on prac. they have the opportunity to contextualise how that looks in the classroom. As a result, all students who work with schools are to see themselves as learners and are expected to listen and respond to feedback from their mentors.
With changes to the ITE (Initial Teacher Educator) course requirements, AITSL now require these partnerships to be formalised. Flinders are looking to strengthen and deepen their partnerships with schools. Currently students are required to complete 15 days prac. in their 2nd year, around a month in 3rd year and then 6 weeks in their final year. The university also runs an internship program. In return, schools who are party to these agreements are offered 50% off Postgrad courses and free PD for teachers (as part of the training and partnership work in relation to the task of mentoring).
All students are now required to keep an eportfolio of their practice (Edufolios would be an obvious choice here) and this needs to be commented on and supported by their mentors. These portfolios will begin at the start of their course and will need to show progress and development throughout their training. The focus is on the impact the ITEs are having on their students. They must demonstrate that their impact is positive. At Flinders university they have developed a rubric which can be used by students and mentor teachers alike to assess their progress towards and beyond the Graduate standard. The extra “career stages” of “Novice” and “Emerging” have been added before Graduate to give students the chance to demonstrate their growth towards the end goal of completing their degree at (or beyond) the graduate standard. These rubrics are being used by mentor teachers to report on the achievement of the students during prac.
As the partnerships are developed new opportunities for the ways in which students evidence this may emerge. These may include having students present to staff on particular areas that they have developed whilst on prac. Students will need to learn how to moderate their own evidence base, looking for gaps and ensuring that they meet every focus area of the seven standards they must meet.
As an ITT educator, it was good to hear the context for the practicum and to understand the shape and expectations of it. I work with the students after they return from their prac and often am party to their stories. It was also good to hear the teachers around me talking about how they would love to learn more about what the pre-service teachers are working on so that they can meet their needs. I have come across the Flinders rubric for the standards before but am left wondering whether it might be wise to consider using some of the same language in the rubrics for the assessments in my own topic. We are all assessing against the same standards after all.
5 years ago I developed a similar rubric for each standard specifically in relation to the numeracy and ICT topics. It’s good to see that something similar has been developed by the early childhood team and that it has been adopted so widely. My goal now is to see how I can continue that by integrating with and discussing this rubric when we talk about practical, school based examples of the use of ICT and the teaching of digital technologies.
I will have to reflect again, later in the year on what this will look like and again, on what the impacts are.