What makes a good teacher - Theory or Practice?

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With a change of government in Australia we now in the process of determining what influences may now come into play at the political level that will have profound =influences on the way we work over the next few years. Christopher Pyne the new Federal Minister of Education is driven by his desire to improve teacher standards and who would disagree with this admirable ambition. But how does he intend to do this? Christopher Pyne believes that most teacher training institutions are too theoretical. He starts," I want teachers to have better experience in the classroom rather than universities and I want it to be less theoretical". He is reflecting what many beginning teachers say when they almost universally comment that their training bore little resemblance to the role of a teacher let alone the daily student interactions that are an essential part of a teachers day. There is certainly more to teaching than you can learn in a lecture theatre at university.

Will a well qualified graduate put front of a class be successful provided they have that seemingly unquantifiable ability to teach. If they don't have this 'inate' ability can they be trained to be successful. I would hope the answer is yes. All teachers can learn to be better teachers. Teaching does not have to be overly complicated but learning is extremely complicated and people can get better at it, this applies to teachers and their students.

In a recent issue of Professional Educator Jefferson Kinsman from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education suggests that more theory is needed, but theory about building community, relationships and social capital. This 'pedagogical' theory is in addition to the discipline and methodology based theory that also underpins good practice.

In talking about teachers he states: " I find that success comes if they reinterpret their role as the manager of a community", he writes. "The emergence of a community within a classroom occurs when students become active and responsible sharers of the available resources. "this is dependent on the use of teaching methods that reflect the primacy of social interaction, intercultural interface and communal orientation. To put it another way, a community is likely to emerge in a classroom where a teacher actively fosters constructive social agency.

Teachers need the appropriate blend of theory and practice if they are to be the best they can be and to have careers highlighted by continuous improvement.

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