Turns out the classroom is the best place for teachers to learn

Christian schools adopt an innovative way forward for teacher training

A experiment that started in regional schools, to train teachers locally in the classroom, has been adopted by a group of  big-city schools convinced that it will produce better teachers.

The Teaching School’s Alliance Sydney (TSAS) has been established by Blue Mountains Grammar School, St Andrew’s Cathedral School, The Scots College, Inaburra School and William Clarke College. The Alliance will partner with Australia’s largest Protestant – affiliated tertiary provider, Alphacrucis College, to deliver the degree program. This amounts to an extraordinary example of  co-operation across Christian groups in the area of professional training with three of the schools being Anglican, Scots is Presbyterian, Inaburra is Baptist and Alphacrucis is Pentecostal.

The trainee teachers will be working in the schools with students for their entire tertiary education.

“There are excellent teachers graduating from universities across Australia and we work hard to attract them to Scots, says Dr Ian Lambert, Principal of The Scots College, Sydney. “But, on the whole, we have noticed that teaching graduates are not as ‘classroom ready’ as they could be. One reason is that they have not had sufficient exposure to the day-to-day realities of teaching such as interaction with parents, problem-solving and student conflict resolution. With this pilot, we will put into action much of the research from around the world that shows the clinical training model overcomes many of the limitations of the dominant existing model. Scots will still recruit graduates as we always have, and we will continue working hard to attract the best candidates we can, but this model is an additional source of candidates who we will know extremely well by the time they graduate.”

Trainee teachers will enter into a four-year undergraduate or two-year postgraduate degree program with a big difference: the trainee teachers will be working in the schools with students for their entire tertiary education.

TSAS follows on the success of the The Teaching School based on campuses at the St Philip’s Christian Schools  in Newcastle, Cessnock, Gosford and Port Stephens which provided students with the unique opportunity of being professionally mentored by a Master Teacher within the Schools. Alphacrucis lecturers came on site, rather than the trainees having to go to them.

The four schools that have signed on to Teaching School’s Alliance Sydney believe this new program will be best practice. While the traditional university-based programs have expanded their classroom practice sessions, this turns the training process on its head with classroom experience being the focus of the trainee teachers timetable.

Trainees will be paid one day a week as teaching assistants and their training will be subsidised. They will emerge with degrees from Alphacrucis. The schools involved form a  ‘Teaching School Hub’. Each Hub will assess applicants on the basis of “proven volunteerism”, “ethos alignment”, EQ, IQ and appropriate academic standards.

Alphacrucis’ liaison for the Alliance, Dr David Hastie, Associate Dean of Education said that the ‘Hub model’ of teacher training provides significant benefits to the schools as well as the trainee teachers. “The clinical training approach embedded in the model has proven to be effective across the globe, but this Hub model adapts it for our unique Australia education context. The model provides professional and contextual preparation with a wealth of experience in curriculum development, assessment, small group teaching, parent interaction, problem-solving and conflict resolution.”

The academic program includes a mixture of local face-to-face intensives, mentor training, and online coursework . A significant point of difference from existing models is that the training follows the rhythms of the school calendar rather than the traditional university calendar. This means that trainee teachers are receiving 40 weeks of training each year rather than the common university calendar of two 13-week semesters.

Full and part scholarships are available to prospective trainees.