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New teachers rated highly

New teachers rated highly

The Education and Science Select Committee appeared to have before it a report on the quality of beginning teachers that showed most were considered capable and well-prepared by experienced teachers, which it chose not to use, says Dr John Langley, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland.

He was commenting on the release of the select committee’s inquiry into teacher education, and research by the former Auckland College of Education, now the Faculty of Education.

From 1999 the former college surveyed over 600 primary beginning teachers and their tutor teachers in the local area via an annual questionnaire, to evaluate the performance of its graduates. Every year the questionnaires have been supplemented with one-on-one interviews by independent researchers.

Over two years, 1999 and 2000, 95 percent of tutor teachers rated their first-year teachers as ‘capable beginning teachers’ or better. Less than five percent of the tutors rated their beginning teachers as having significant professional development needs and if they did, they believed their needs were being met within the school, says Dr Langley.

The 1999 and 2000 graduates rated themselves as ‘very well prepared’ on a number of dimensions and curriculum areas. The ongoing research confirms these trends.

“This is probably the most comprehensive and longest-running research being done in New Zealand of this type and it is substantially positive about the quality of new teachers,” says Dr Langley.

“However the committee’s guarded comment was: ‘We note no evidence was presented to us to demonstrate a deterioration in the professional standards of beginning teachers’.”

First-year teachers also reported a steep learning curve but in the two years leading to registration, they had moved from being ‘new to savvy teachers,’ making a difference in their classes and contributing across their schools, he says.

“The reason we do this research is to see where we can improve. As you would expect, there are still some significant things we can do as an institution to ease the transition from student to beginning teacher.

“We have responded in various ways to address the culture shock beginning teachers invariably experience, including scheduling teaching experience to give the student teacher maximum exposure to the realities and demands of the classroom. For example, the final seven-week block in the third year is split across the end and beginning of a term, so that students can plan for the demands of a new year and new class.”

The one reference from the research the select committee did use was wrongly attributed to a recent graduate, Dr Langley says. The beginning teacher actually said that ‘It was only after I started teaching that I realised that many of the things I thought unimportant at the time [while a student] are important in the classroom.’

Dr Langley says that a crucial factor in the success of teacher education programmes is the quality of experience and supervision that students get in centres and schools.

“We would like to see greater preparation, status and reward given to those who are associate or supervising teachers. This role is significant and should be both professionally and financially rewarding.”

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