Promoting Resilience in Higher Education
Federation University Australia is a regional, multi-sector university with campuses located in Ballarat, Berwick, Gippsland and Horsham in Victoria. The Faculty of Education and Arts offers initial teacher education programs at undergraduate and postgraduate level. The programs span preparation for teaching year levels from Birth to Year 12.
The Master of Teaching (Secondary) program provides initial teacher education for those students who already have an undergraduate degree and wish to become secondary teachers. The Master of Teaching (Secondary) is an accelerated 18 month program and is delivered on-campus in Ballarat and online. The students enrolled in the program come from a diverse range of undergraduate degrees. While there is an online cohort of students this authentic case focuses on a learning and teaching experience conducted with the on-campus Ballarat cohort in 2017.
In 2017 the on-campus Ballarat student cohort is made up of 20 students. The Specialist Teaching Areas within the cohort are Mathematics, General Science, Senior Science, English, Psychology, History, Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE), Languages Other than English (LOTE), Health and Physical Education (HAPE), Business Studies, and Visual Arts.
The context of our authentic case
Preparing PSTs for the gritty reality of schooling
Over the last two years and as part of our partnership with a large mainstream regional secondary college, PSTs in the Master of Teaching (Secondary) program have participated in a new reform initiative in the school related to Values in Action. The school has established weekly Learning Mentor sessions for students at all year levels where there is an explicit focus on understanding and using character strengths to foster learning and build growth mindsets.
PSTs’ first teaching experience occurs in the context of this program. PSTs work in in co-teaching partnerships to plan, teach and evaluate three Values in Action lessons. The experience introduces PSTs, at an early stage in the program, to the complexity of contemporary teaching and schooling in the following ways:
- PSTs work in co-teaching situations where they must negotiate planning and teaching processes;
- PSTs have not established relationships with the students and have only observed them once prior teaching;
- PSTs are working out-of-field teaching values as opposed to the knowledge base they expect to teach when they enter the program;
- PSTs are required to make theory-practice connections and trial core teaching practices and strategies modelled in class;
- PSTs plan each session with a focus on differentiation and must link their decision-making to classroom observations and to the examination of student work samples;
- The Values in Action program is a new initiative in the school which means that PSTs also grapple with diverse attitudes and views (from students, teachers and school leaders) about its purpose and worth;
- While there is a focus on creating a sequence of lessons where connections are made between experiences, PSTs contend with a range of interruptions that are outside of their control.
Surrounding this teaching and learning experience are the concepts and practices we embed in our program. Concurrently, PSTs are learning about the nature of observation and critical attention, practitioner inquiry and reflective practice. They are also equipped with problem solving strategies and are learning about data collection and analysis. Central to all learning is the notion that schooling should be people-centred. PSTs keep a journal where they reflect regularly on their thinking and learning, they engage in collaborative group tasks, and they construct and reconstruct narratives related to their observations and experiences. With the aid of the BRITE modules, they are also learning about resilience in teaching whilst they engage in this challenging school-based experience.