A new program is giving pre-service teachers at Charles Darwin University (CDU) a chance to gain practical experience and Northern Territory schools much-needed support in the classroom.
Dr Gavin Morris, Lecturer in Education and coordinator of this program, identified a gap in schools needing extra help in the classroom and pre-service teachers wanting to gain classroom experience during their studies.
“The teaching placements for pre-service teachers can be quite formal and stressful, whereas being a volunteer in the classroom can be a more relaxing way for them to work with students,” Dr Morris said.
The program started with a partnership between CDU and Parap Primary School in Term 4 last year, where four pre-service teachers went into classroom to support teachers.
“The feedback from the school and teachers has been great. Volunteers support individual students and group activities, and they can practise developing professional relationships,” Dr Morris said.
“It is a win-win situation as schools get more support and pre-service teachers gain valuable experience.”
A Year 3 teacher from Parap Primary School said the growth of these volunteer pre-service teachers were evident.
“They enjoyed their time, brought wonderful energy and enthusiasm. It gave them a different perspective to the realities of teaching.”
In a few months’ time, the program has grown to have 38 participants and 11 primary schools around Darwin onboard.
Dr Morris has also found that the program has led to more placement opportunities for pre-service teachers at CDU.
“Schools that were hesitant about taking in pre-service teachers on placement are now happy to mentor them. It has been a real game changer for pre-service teachers,” he said.
Dr Morris is working with Dr Claire Bartlett and Janine Matheson from the College of Indigenous Futures, Education and Arts to develop more proactive strategies and offer strength-based immersive experience for students.
“We are hoping to get more stakeholders involved to extend this program to early childhood centres and secondary schools,” he said.
“The program is particularly beneficial for international students who undertake professional experience placements in classrooms that are outside of their own language and culture.”
As a coordinator of the Master of Teaching course and a chair of the Darwin Regional School Council, Dr Morris helps advocate for the need of regional schools.
“We need to provide teachers with more resources and prepare pre-service teachers for placements and employment in the Northern Territory. The volunteering program is an important part of this,” he said.