101 Damnations: The Persistence of Criticism and The Absence of Evidence about Teacher Education in Australia

Aug. 28, 2008

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 14, No. 4, August 2008, 357–368 

There have been 101 government inquiries of one sort or another into Australian teacher education since 1979. Most have presumed or documented concerns about the performance of teacher education. These studies have confirmed is that the formation of teachers is a complex and long-term process. Differences in student intake characteristics are important; there are structural and substantive differences among programs; and program benefits may be washed out by the absence of mentoring or by school complexity in the early career years. The measurement of program outcomes is also complex. Programs vary in terms of new graduates' classroom performance - graduates from the best programs show more of the skills they have been prepared to apply than graduates of other programs - and in terms of growth in student achievement attributable to the new graduate, over and above the impact of student demographics and family home background.

However, there has been surprisingly little impact from the reports of these many inquiries. They have not - so far - increased the relatively low level of consequential regulation on Australian teacher education; nor have they arrested the long run of declining government funding. This article argues that in the absence of compelling evidence of differential effects of well- or poorly-organized programs, or well- or poorly-funded programs, there is no likely end to the stream of reports and no reasonable hope of restoration of adequate funding. The article argues that compelling evidence would need to disaggregate the impact of student intake, teacher education program and school context characteristics on subsequent teacher performance and student achievement.

Updated: Feb. 16, 2009