Practical experience is crucial for improving teachers’ confidence

First published in EducationHQ

By Janet Fellowes, co-author with Grace Oakley of Language, Literacy and Early Childhood Education (OUP) and previous Senior Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University. A new edition of Language, Literacy and Early Childhood Education is due to publish in September 2019.

Classroom and student management is extremely important to student learning and it stands to reason that classrooms in which student disturbances are frequent or inadequately managed will shape the quality of the learning that takes place for all students. Indeed, quality education requires quality teachers, who are equipped with the means to maximise students’ on-task behaviour and minimise their misbehaviour.

Furthermore, being unable to effectively manage the multiple demands of the classroom has significant consequences for teachers. Disrupted classroom environments and the strain of dealing with them can negatively influence teachers’ self-efficacy and significantly compromise their well-being.

With this in mind, the recently released report from the OECD, Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), reveals some concerning data about Australian teachers’ sense of preparedness to manage their classrooms and students’ behaviour.

The report revealed that Australian teachers felt underprepared when it came to classroom management and behaviours compared with other educators around the world, with only 45 per cent feeling prepared for classroom and student management.

The classroom is a multifaceted and demanding workplace and is becoming increasingly so.  The changing landscape of Australian society, thus classrooms, means that it might be time to review the training provided to pre-service and in-service teachers and to ensure they are prepared with what they need to know and do to meet the increasingly diverse challenges they encounter.

Classroom management training programs for pre-service teachers should be designed to be extensive with a strong practical component.  Evidence-based preventive strategies and a continuum of corrective and mediation strategies for dealing with student behaviour need to be not only learnt and understood, but also, importantly, they need to be practically and skilfully implemented. Pre-service teachers require experience in responding to a range of classroom scenarios relevant to their future teaching environments.  They need experience in acting upon the challenges of the types of classrooms in which they are likely to be assigned as new graduates. 

Another area of consideration concerns the experience of transitioning from being a pre-service teacher to working as a newly graduated teacher in an Australian school.  It might be useful for the first year of employment as a teacher to be deemed a formal stage of teacher training, somewhat like an apprenticeship. It could be a time when, among other things, beginning teachers learn to employ their theoretical knowledge within a practical context and in relation to immediate needs.

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