Extra class skills training for new teachers advised

Kerri Carr

Early career teachers should continue to engage in professional learning about classroom management and students with special education needs while working towards Proficient Teacher accreditation, a Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards report recommends.

The report notes initial teacher education university programs “cannot prepare a student with all of the knowledge and skills they require to cater for the diverse range of students with special needs and behaviour challenges they will encounter when they enter classrooms”.

Federation Research Officer Mary Fogarty said a 2014 Australian Institute for Teaching and School Learning report notes principals report graduates lack sufficient preparation in skills such as managing classroom activities and understanding differences among students.

The BOSTES report also states: “It is to be recognised that the specialist knowledge to cater for more complex special education and/or classroom management issues generally rests with teachers who have obtained postgraduate qualifications in special education and/or classroom/behaviour management.

Dr Fogarty said a November 2014 OECD Teaching and Learning in Schools (TALIS) international survey noted that in Australia nearly half of all teachers work in schools where there is a need for teachers of students with special needs and need for more support staff. The same OECD survey revealed that Australia was one of three countries (along with Brazil and Estonia) where 10 per cent or more of teachers work in schools where verbal abuse of staff occurs at least weekly. (The OECD average was 3 per cent.)

“The TALIS survey also noted that new teachers assume virtually the same teaching responsibilities as more experienced teachers but they report that they often lack the necessary classroom management skills for effective teaching and learning,” Dr Fogarty said.

“Their classrooms often have insufficient time devoted to teaching and learning and poor disciplinary climate.”

Among a range of recommendations on the content of initial teacher education courses the BOSTES report notes universities should ensure each student undertakes practicum experience that includes attention to and reporting on, classroom management plus attention to programming for students with special education needs.

“An ongoing need recognised in the OECD TALIS survey is the recognition that more ongoing professional development courses need to be offered to teachers in their first years of teaching in the areas of classroom management,” Dr Fogarty said.

“The survey revealed Australian teachers reported spending fewer days than average engaging in professional development in the past 12 months. One-third of new teachers reported that they had a high level of need for professional development for effectively addressing student discipline and behaviour problems.

“Importantly, the OECD report found new teachers considered their professional development to have a large impact on their development as a teacher.”

The BOSTES report is a response to issues raised in the DEC’s Great Teaching, Inspired Learning document. It reports on initial teacher preparation in classroom management and students with special education needs.

“Given that a significant number of teachers who resign during their first four years of service cite behaviour management issues as the main reason for their resignation the BOSTES report is timely,” Dr Fogarty said.

Federation’s Centre for Professional Learning offers a range of classroom management and special education courses.