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Universities to raise standards for trainee teachers

Universities will be forced to raise the bar for enrolment in education degrees, and ensure that all graduates know how to teach children to read and write, and how to keep classrooms under control.

All trainee teachers will be taught to use explicit instruction – a practical step-by-step teaching method embraced by some NSW and WA schools and championed by Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson.

The first core content for all teaching degrees – to take effect next year – was released by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership ahead of a meeting of federal, state and territory education ministers in Perth last Friday that established a “quality oversight board’’ for university degrees in teaching.

Alarmed ministers ordered the changes after in one in three students failed to meet baseline standards in last year’s NAPLAN (National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy) tests.

From next year, all universities will have to set the bar higher for entry to teaching degrees, with all non-Indigenous applicants needing to meet English and numeracy standards equivalent to the top 30 per cent of the population.

All non-Indigenous trainee teachers must pass a test known as LANTITE (literacy and numeracy test for initial teacher education students) during the first year of their degree.

Currently, trainee students can wait until the end of a four-year degree to sit the test – with one in 10 failing and unable to work as teachers.

A trial of the LANTITE tests that increased its number of allowed attempts from three to unlimited, among other changes, will finish in August.

Indigenous trainee teachers will be exempted from tough new entry rules for university and be tested on Aboriginal language ability instead, in a bid to bolster the First Nations teaching workforce and address lower rates of school attendance and educational outcomes in many remote Indigenous communities.

New 'core content' for all teaching degrees aim to make new graduates classroom-ready.

“In the case of First Nations language speakers, recognition of First Nations language proficiency by the relevant cultural authority is an acceptable alternative standard,’’ the new AITSL standards state.

“(University) providers must have an established process to confirm recognition of First Nat­ions language proficiency.’’

The new standards will force universities to give “targeted assistance to those who need support to achieve the required standard before graduation’’.

“Providers are also required to support those students who meet First Nations language proficiency to develop their English literacy and numeracy skills,’’ the standards state.

The change comes as ­NAPLAN data reveals Indigenous high school students are only half as likely as non-Indigenous classmates to be reading at the level expected in year 9.

The average Indigenous student in year 9 has the reading ability of a typical Australian student in year 5.

Two-thirds of Indigenous students missed at least a month of school last year, compared with one-third of non-Indigenous students. Nearly half of Indigenous students dropped out of school, compared to three-quarters of other students finishing year 12.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 6.5 per cent of school students, but only 2 per cent of teachers are Indigenous.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said university training of teachers would be improved.

“Too many teachers tell me they didn’t feel prepared when they entered the classroom,’’ he said.

“That’s why we are reforming the degree that student teachers do at uni, to make sure teaching students are taught the fundamentals about how to read and write and how to manage disruptive classrooms.’’

Education Minister Jason Clare wants to improve the quality of teacher training. Picture: NCA Newswire/Lukas Coch

The new AITSL standards will force every university to teach the same “core content’’ in teaching degrees by the end of next year.

The changes will shift teaching practices away from “student-led inquiry’’, and ensure teachers use step-by-step methods known as “explicit instruction’’.

Universities must teach trainees to use “explicit instruction, scaffolding, and clearly structured content that connects new information to prior learning’’.

“The research evidence shows why the use of self-directed approaches as a starting point for novices is ineffective and should be avoided,’’ AITSL standards say.

“[Universities must teach trainees] how to develop and use worked examples for students who are unfamiliar with a subject, followed by more challenging problem-solving activities as students become more familiar with the knowledge of a subject.’’

Trainees must know how to clearly explain to children what they are expected to learn, “chunked into small, manageable tasks with well-defined goals’’.

They must use “worked examples’’ to show children how to complete a task, and test their knowledge with low-key assessments such as quick quizzes or oral questioning.

And they must give children ongoing feedback that is “specific, honest, constructive and clear’’.

A focus on phonics-based reading instruction will show trainee teachers the best ways to teach children to read and write.

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