The Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group was set up by the Australian Government in 2014 to make recommendations on how initial teacher education in Australia could be improved to better prepare new teachers and provide them with the practical skills needed to teach in a classroom. 

The report TEMAG delivered in 2014, Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers, is now considered a turning point in driving recent improvements to teaching quality in Australia. 

‘TEMAG’ has become shorthand for describing the work going on behind the scenes and across Australia to implement the Action Now recommendations with the aim of raising the bar in teacher education – changes that are now starting to have a real impact on the quality of teachers coming through Australia's higher education system.

Why is teacher quality important?

Professor John Hattie, the Chair of AITSL, is often heard saying “research shows that the quality of the teacher is the single greatest in-school influence on student achievement.”

Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director of Education and Skills, has said “the highest performing education systems in PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) tend to systematically prioritise the quality of teachers.”

The future of the profession depends on initial teacher education programs selecting, preparing and graduating teachers who are ready to succeed in the classroom and who will have a positive impact on student learning. 

What did the TEMAG report say?

TEMAG found “… a high degree of variability in the quality of practice across initial teacher education in Australia”, and significant differences in the level of preparation of beginning teachers entering our schools.

It said that improving teaching quality is a national issue needing a coordinated response — across states and territories, accrediting bodies, deans of education, academics, principals, teachers and parents.

TEMAG made 38 recommendations across five main themes

  • Stronger quality assurance of teacher education courses
  • Rigorous selection for entry to teacher education courses
  • Improved professional experience
  • Robust assessment of graduates
  • National research and workforce planning capabilities

What's happened since 2014?

The majority of the recommendations have been included in revisions to the Accreditation of Initial Teacher Education in Australia: Standards and Procedures which were agreed by all Education Ministers in December 2015 – less than 12 months after the TEMAG report was released. 

A report card on progress was released last year, and this article provides more detail about actions under each of these five TEMAG themes.

1. Stronger quality assurance of teacher education courses

Why does it matter?

TEMAG found that program accreditation across Australia was inconsistent, leading to varying levels of teacher preparation upon graduation.

Stronger quality assurance of teacher education courses will ensure national consistency and rigour of program accreditation and help ensure that every graduating teacher has the best opportunity to develop the knowledge and practical skills needed for the classroom.

What’s happened so far?

AITSL has worked with state and territory regulatory authorities to strengthen the assessment of teacher education programs.

Teacher education providers must now show, over time, that their programs are based on evidence about what teaching practices get the best outcomes for beginning teachers and the students they go on to teach. To gain program accreditation higher education providers must show how pre-service teachers have met the Australian Graduate Teacher Standards.  As the program matures and more information is available, they must also demonstrate that their graduates are classroom ready and having a positive impact on student learning.

All teacher education programs in Australia have now submitted applications for accreditation against the new requirements and have been assessed by the state and territory regulatory authorities.

2. More rigorous selection for entry to teacher education courses.

Why does it matter?

Greater transparency and rigour in the selection of entrants into teacher education programs will lift the calibre of entrants and the quality of teachers in Australia.

It’s important that beginning teachers possess the skills and characteristics of effective teachers. The role of a teacher comes with high expectations from day one, with the profession placing unique responsibilities on their shoulders for the learning and safety outcomes of their students.

What’s happened so far?

Research has shown that the best and most effective teachers possess a range of qualities that include both academic ability and the personal characteristics needed to engage students. There has been progress in this area, and the revised standards and procedures build on this and provide more sophisticated and transparent approaches to select entrants into teacher education. 

AITSL offers guidance to providers meet program standards related to the academic and non-academic selection. 

Importantly, teachers must possess strong literacy and numeracy skills (in the top 30 per cent of the population) to foster the development of these skills in their students. All teacher education students must now pass a national test before graduation to demonstrate they have these skills. 

3. Improved and structured practical experience for teacher education students

Why does it matter?

Pre-service teachers identify that in-school experience is one of the most valuable experiences of their teacher education program. The recommendations aim to ensure teachers are given opportunities to connect what they learn at university with real-world practice, with the aim of increasing their confidence and improving their skills prior to starting teaching.

What’s happened so far?

Through the new accreditation standards, the requirements for high quality professional experience have been enhanced, and include the need for providers to have partnership agreements in place, improved communication channels and professional learning opportunities for supervising teachers.

AITSL has developed a number of tools and resources related to professional experience and university/school partnerships. For example, as a teacher you may be required to supervise a pre-service teacher. AITSL has developed the following online training to assist

What next?

School-university partnerships will continue to be a major focus of all those who have a stake in these critical reforms to ensure our new teachers are well prepared. AITSL is consulting with ITE providers and other key stakeholders to capture their views on the benefits and issues in the school-university domain. Outcomes from these consultations will be published on the AITSL website in coming months.

The consultations will help inform an upcoming TEMAG forum facilitated by AITSL. The forum will bring together ITE providers and other education leaders to discuss reform progress, including how the requirements for a TPA relate to current processes for professional experience assessments. It will also be an opportunity to collectively identify improvements within school–university partnerships that support student teacher preparation.  

4. Robust assessment of graduates

Why does it matter?

We all need to have confidence that teaching graduates have been rigorously assessed throughout their course and that beginning teachers are ready for the realities of the classroom.

What’s happened so far?

One of the most significant reforms under TEMAG has been the introduction of the Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA). This is a new requirement for all pre-service teachers to successfully complete a valid and reliable assessment of teaching performance (against the requirements of the Graduate Teacher Standards). Previously only a small number of teacher education programs had this kind of assessment in place.

It is useful to know that the TPA does not replace other requirements of the program.

The TPA is undertaken by a pre-service teacher in the final year of study and is a new requirement for graduation. Supervising teachers may often be involved in this assessment of students as part of the final placement, but responsibility for the assessment rests with the higher education (ITE) provider. 

While ITE providers may use any TPA that meets the standards, AITSL has supported the development of two robust TPAs through a grants program. This has provided models for further development of TPAs in Australia.

AITSL has also established a TPA expert advisory group to assist providers in meeting the validity and reliability requirements of their assessment tool.

5. National research and workforce planning

Why does it matter?

We need reliable research into teacher education effectiveness in Australia and to build a comprehensive picture of the teaching workforce. Data will ensure we can better support the profession and inform future planning and investment decisions.

What’s happened so far?

AITSL is implementing the Australian Teacher Workforce Data(ATWD) which aims to connect teacher workforce data from every state and territory around Australia. The ATWD will assist in better matching supply and demand in the teaching workforce.

It will provide nationally consistent data on how many teachers are graduating, how many get jobs, their professional development and whether or not they stay in the profession. 

A key feature of the revised standards and procedures is the collection, analysis and interpretation of data to inform the evaluation of teacher education and demonstrate their effectiveness in producing classroom ready graduates.

Read more about ATWD in the latest edition of eNews.

Published Wednesday 30 May 2018