Whenever graduates from teacher education programs are asked to name the most valuable part of their professional preparation, the answer is always the same: "Professional Experience". There is something about being in real classrooms, working beside practising professional educators that adds an edge to beginning teachers' learning that nothing else can match. This is a form of learning where no reference list is needed to show its credibility, and where no academic needs to give voice to the practical relevance of the content of that learning. Its relevance and practicability are immediately established simply by virtue of the location of the learning – in classrooms, early childhood settings or other industry locations.
At QUT's Faculty of Education however, we still see many challenges before us as we strive to forge stronger connections between the learning beginning teachers do on the university campus and in the field. It is not as simple as 'learning theory on campus', then 'applying that theory' in practical ways in the field. Theory is not something abstract, learned by listening passively in a lecture theatre or reading texts on-line. And practice is never as simple as just applying some piece of theoretical knowledge in a problem-free way. Theorising is what teachers do every day. Theory is something we live out in our lives as educators, whether we are working in university classrooms, or in childcare nurseries, or anywhere in between. Our only way of making sense of the very complex realities of professional educational practice is when we think deeply about their meanings and construct our own understandings- drawing on both our personal and professional knowledge. We are never able to apply theory directly; we can only draw from it, piecing our own understandings together as we strive to understand what is going on around us and why.
In this Faculty, we are trying to harness the power of field based learning across the whole of the teacher education program, but to do that, we need to develop new approaches to teaching on campus, as well as new ways to relate to our partner teacher educators located in other learning places, and better strategies to support the professional learning of beginning teachers. In this we are all learners – teacher mentors, university staff, and beginning teachers. We all have much to learn from each other. I hope this Professional Experience is a valuable learning opportunity for us all.
Professional Experience Office
Telephone: +61 7 3138 3467
Fax: +61 7 3138 3049
Level 3, Room 343A, B Block
Faculty of Education
Queensland University of Technology
Victoria Park Road
Kelvin Grove, 4059