New CIS report shows need for reform in teacher education

The conclusion of today’s Centre for Independent Studies report on initial teacher education (ITE) is that there is need for reform in teacher education courses.

The report, ‘Failing to Teach the Teacher’, assesses 90 Bachelor of Education mathematics units in 31 universities and finds that ‘there is virtually no evidence of ITE where explicit instruction is clearly emphasised’.

In fact, 27 of the 31 universities clearly emphasise constructivist approaches to teaching maths.

This is despite clear evidence on explicit instruction being the most effective teaching approach. PISA data shows 15-year-old students whose teachers largely use explicit instruction, with some student-led inquiry learning, were 10 months ahead of the average student. Students taught using exclusively constructivist or student-led approaches were almost two years behind the average.

What is taught in teacher education courses has consequences for what happens in our classrooms.

Australian 15-year-old students are now 14 months behind in mathematics where they were in the year 2000, and three years behind their peers in Singapore.

The conclusions of this latest report on maths teacher education support similar findings from Dr Jennifer Buckingham’s review of reading courses in 2019. She examined the content of 116 literacy units in 66 degrees offered by 38 different universities.

Only 16 per cent of the units mentioned phonics, and just 8 per cent mentioned explicit teaching. This is a shameful rejection of the best evidence we have on the effective teaching of reading.

National Reading Inquiries in the United States in 2000, in the United Kingdom in 2006 and our own in 2005 all concluded that phonemic teaching practices are essential to children learning to read.

Yet, we know phonics and explicit instruction are not used in all Australian schools.

Tragically, 50,000 Australian children graduate primary school every year unable to read at a basic level.

The Morrison Government will take strong action to change this.

Teacher education faculties that are not adequately preparing student teachers to become effective classroom teachers using evidence-based practices should not be in the business of teacher education.

If necessary, the Government will use the full leverage of the $760 million it provides to education faculties to insist that evidence-based practices are taught.

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