Teaching Hub Solution

Tuesday, 29 Nov 2022

Education has been featured in the Australian media recently as part of the great skills shortage debate. In August, Australia’s Education Ministers met with a selection of teachers, school leaders, and other education experts from a variety of sectors at Parliament House to prioritise actions to address the issue of teacher demand, supply and retention. A variety of strategies were discussed from fast-tracking teaching degrees to accelerating visa approval processes for international teachers. While it is recognised that a multitude of solutions will be required to support the teacher supply shortfall, I believe more attention should be paid to the domestic education market and to the training process itself. 

Many regions around Australia are developing an industry model that has been a key training philosophy for hundreds of years: the Master-Apprentice Model. Traditionally used for teaching practical trades, modern apprenticeship models now range from craft to high status in professional practices such as engineering, law, accounting, architecture, and management consulting. The Clinical Model is not too dissimilar to the Master-Apprentice Model and provides structured student nursing opportunities and experiences with professional registered nurses. In some states, the graduate nurse is also partnered with a registered nurse for orientation and induction processes. 

In education theory, these methods of on-the-job learning are defined as Situated Learning Theory. Some innovative school districts, clusters of schools and associations have started to utilise this theory to adapt Clinical or Master-Apprentice Models to their own specific needs. On the North Coast of NSW, Bishop Druitt College with the leadership of the Association of Independent Schools NSW and a small group of lead schools together with a local university have developed a three-year trial pilot program called the North Coast Teaching Hub to address the teacher shortage in the region. This exciting initiative gathers together two experienced teachers (Mentor Teachers), two student teachers (Trainee Teachers), and a school hub leader per school to create a structure to build teacher skills that will equip and support our next generations of teachers. The model also aims to employ the Trainee Teacher as a Teaching Assistant throughout the process. One of the limitations of the current process is the financial sacrifice of studying and this model is one of the first to address this real life issue. The mentoring experiences, tertiary study, real-life Teacher Assistant experiences and hub support model are all purposefully designed to establish an atmosphere and a set of experiences that will equip the Trainee Teachers to seamlessly enter the profession. 

The North Coast Teaching Hub is also aiming at retaining local talent in our community without losing them to the larger urban centres. Trainee Teachers can also remain connected to their social and family structures. The professional growth of the Mentor Teachers is another expected benefit of this pilot program and could see classroom teachers build a portfolio of evidence that can support their own application for Lead or Highly Accomplished Teachers, which is a nationally recognised evidence-based promotion in teacher accreditation. Another benefit of this model is to connect tertiary educators and researchers directly to schools. Principals of the selected schools can see benefit in this process by giving university lecturers and researchers regular access to the everyday processes of the teaching profession and to create action research opportunities with the host schools.

Nick Johnstone