Teachers are the catalysts for change. They stimulate minds, trigger innovative thinking and promote creativity. All essential components for adapting to a continually evolving world.
Education is foundational to every issue facing the world and should address how people cope and adjust to change as technology advances and many jobs become obsolete.
“The understanding of how people learn and adapt to change over time should be the fundamental interest of an education faculty,” said Professor Geoff Riordan, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education at UC.For most people, ‘education’ evokes an image of children learning in a school, and a Faculty of Education is presumed to be only concerned about training teachers. While true to some extent, fundamentally Education Faculties and academics focus on learning and change wherever it occurs: in schools, universities, organisations, families, in sporting and social clubs, and in communities. Learning and change are fundamental to the human experience and it is both a function of individuals and groups.
“Our research has taken place in hospitals in Canberra, amongst farmers in Pakistan, practicing teachers in Indonesia, medical practitioners in the Pacific Islands and women running small businesses in the villages of Papua New Guinea; but what has been central to all these projects is that they have focused on how people learn and respond to change over time,” said Geoff.
This is the backdrop to the Faculty of Education’s vision to reclaim its position as a leading education faculty in Australia.
“We have a responsibility to help student teachers move beyond the necessary requirement of enjoying working with young people into a lifelong commitment to helping people learn. Teachers are experts in learning and the social, emotional and cognitive development of young people.
“We want to partner with our graduates to provide professional learning and postgraduate research and coursework programs to help them develop their professional expertise throughout their career” he said.
While quality research plays an integral part in leading an innovative faculty, building partnerships that encourage involvement in education programs are also a priority.
This prompted the formulation of the Faculty’s hybrid model of teacher training and development – the UC Affiliated Schools Program. The Program is a collaboration between UC and the ACT Government. It is designed to shape and enhance teacher learning and development in the ACT, by building teacher capability and a skilled teacher workforce that will equip school students for the future.
“For a school or university to serve its students well, it cannot exist in isolation. Through this program our students will learn about teaching in partner schools with expert teachers. In return, those teachers will be engaged in postgraduate courses and professional development opportunities with us. Importantly, teachers and university academics will engage in research projects that will inform teaching practice and improved student learning outcomes,” said Geoff.
The program is collaborative by design. It has the potential to entrench solid working foundations that will equip teachers to adapt to a changing educational environment; undertake research that will enhance learning for the future and bridge the perceived divide between schools and the university by eliminating the ‘them and us’ scenario.Continued education is the key to the program and Geoff would like to see more teachers take the opportunity to complete their Masters degrees, a core component of the Affiliated Schools Program. This will help promote improved pathways to professional accreditation and progression in a school environment.
“It is a fantastic model but our vision for the faculty extends beyond this program,” Geoff said.
With the curriculum change well underway, additional resources on board to handle the Affiliated Schools Program and the recruitment of highly qualified and skilled staff, Geoff believes that the faculty will realise the potential of its research program and effectively implement a comprehensive clinical teacher education program that will take its graduates to new heights.
“We are passionate about inspiring lifelong learning and embedding excellence into the fabric of all our programs that can motivate teachers of today and tomorrow; and most importantly in reestablishing the teaching profession as one of stature and high regard.
“Afterall, a teacher’s work is important,” concluded Geoff.
Words by Andy Visser