Lifting the quality of initial teacher education provision (ITE)

The Government’s work on lifting the quality of initial teacher education (ITE) has begun with the provision of additional funding to establish a small number of exemplary postgraduate programmes. This provides an opportunity to consider changes in the nature of, and approach to, ITE provision, drawing on both New Zealand and international developments.

A closed tender was issued in June 2013 to providers of ITE for exemplary postgraduate ITE programmes to start in 2014.  The Universities of Auckland, Waikato and Otago have been selected as preferred providers. The new postgraduate programmes feature a significantly different approach to the clinical practice/practicum components of teaching. They will provide a much more integrated and collaborative approach between the ITE provider and the school.

A second tender round is underway to deliver exemplary postgraduate ITE programmes from 2015. This is on track to conclude by December 2013.

The ITE initiative is part of a broader programme of work underway to improve the expertise of graduating teachers and to strengthen their practice. This programme originates from the Government’s Quality Teaching Agenda, a Budget 2013 initiative designed to lift the quality of teaching and strengthen the capability of the schooling workforce.

The Quality Teaching Agenda takes into account the Education Workforce Advisory Group’s 2010 report on ITE. The Government is taking a considered approach to adopting the recommendations of the report, beginning with the introduction of the new postgraduate teaching qualifications. The initiative is being undertaken within the context of the review of the New Zealand Teachers Council. 

More about the new exemplary postgraduate ITE programmes


What are the changes?

The Government is moving towards the introduction of postgraduate qualifications for initial teacher education (ITE), beginning with the provision of additional funding to establish a small number of exemplary postgraduate programmes for the English medium schooling sector.

Two proposals have been selected from a closed tender that was issued to current providers of ITE programmes earlier this year. The successful proposals are each for masters qualifications to be offered from 2014. They are:

  1. The University of Auckland Master of Teaching (Primary); and
  2. A joint programme from the University of Waikato and the University of Otago for a Master of Teaching and Learning, with primary and secondary options. Each University will offer both options and award the qualification independently to their own students.

An identical, second closed tender was issued on 30 September 2013 to ITE providers for programmes expected to start in 2015.

Why are the changes being made?

The purpose of introducing postgraduate qualifications for entry to the teaching profession in New Zealand is to lift the quality of graduating teachers’ practice as part of a broader approach to strengthen the capability of the schooling workforce.

The introduction of postgraduate teaching qualifications is consistent with international moves to lift the quality of teaching and ensure that teachers have the competencies to work effectively in twenty-first century learning environments. Teachers need the right mix of competencies to enable all young people to develop the knowledge, skills and values to be successful in an increasingly complex world.

Joint Ministry of Education and New Zealand Teachers Council research by Kane (Initial Teacher Education Policy and Practice: Final Report, 2005) and Cameron and Baker (Research on Initial Teacher Education in New Zealand: 1993-2004, 2004) identifies two key points of intervention in lifting the quality of ITE provision: the specification of graduate outcomes and the quality of practicum experiences and induction into the profession.  

This research identifies the need to determine and articulate clearly the fundamental goals of ITE. It shows that experiences associated with practicum and induction to the profession are variable and highlights the importance of effective relationships between providers and schools in effective teacher preparation. 

Many providers have already been seeking to introduce postgraduate teaching qualifications.  Government is supporting this with additional funding for exemplary postgraduate programmes to develop our collective knowledge base about effective provision at postgraduate level - the evidence base about effective programmes is not large both internationally and in New Zealand.

What is different about the new postgraduate programmes? How are they “exemplary”?

A key objective of this initiative is to find out what exemplary practice looks like. We have not tried to be prescriptive about that at this point. However, the tender process carried out to select proposals for delivery from 2014 and 2015 required applicants to address a number of essential elements of programme design and implementation. These are considered necessary to achieve the goal of lifting the quality of graduating teachers’ practice as part of a broader approach to strengthen the capability of the schooling workforce. These elements will be the focus of an external evaluation that will run alongside programme delivery. 

The elements successful proposals are expected to demonstrate include:

  • clear articulation of the outcomes that will be demonstrated by graduating teachers and how these differ from the outcomes provided by current ITE programmes. This should include  the cultural responsiveness and agency to achieve equitable outcomes for priority student groups;
  • a significantly different approach to the clinical practice/practicum components of teaching, providing a much more integrated and collaborative approach between the ITE provider and the school; and
  • an approach to building the capability of teacher educators/mentors/coaches so that student teachers have access to high quality teacher education expertise in teacher education institutes, other organisations and schools, or wherever the learning occurs.

Why is government starting with a small number of exemplary programmes?

New Zealand does not have a strong evidence base about the outcomes of particular ITE programmes and levels of qualification.  A phased approach to the introduction of postgraduate qualifications is therefore proposed. The establishment of a small number of exemplary programmes will provide the opportunity to demonstrate exemplary practice, identify the strengths of new approaches and build the national knowledge base about the system conditions needed to support the wider introduction of new postgraduate ITE qualifications.

We know that, increasingly, countries with a record of successful implementation of change (such as Singapore) pilot new approaches first before a full scale up.

Why is the change only for English medium school sector qualifications?

The changes are not aimed at the early childhood and Māori medium sectors at this stage. Officials are in discussion with these sectors about whether postgraduate ITE provision has been identified as a key priority in supporting improvement in the quality of teaching and learning.

Officials will continue to develop advice for Ministers about approaches to lift the quality of ITE provision in the early childhood and Māori medium sectors. This advice will be further informed by the results of a planned formal evaluation of the initial exemplary postgraduate programmes (see more below).

What will the changes achieve?

New postgraduate programmes will enable participants to develop the adaptive expertise necessary to operate effectively in complex teaching and learning contexts. 

ITE will prepare graduates to work effectively with diverse students in culturally responsive ways.  In particular, graduates will be able to work effectively with those students for whom the system is currently not performing, including Māori, Pasifika, students from low socio-economic backgrounds and students with special education needs. 

Provisionally registered/ beginner teachers will be confident, culturally competent and well-prepared. They will be highly valued by schools and will be sought out for their knowledge and skills. 

Two background papers published on a Ministry of Education website (Education Counts), Initial Teacher Education Outcomes (Graeme Aitken, Claire Sinnema and Frauke Meyer, 2013) and Learning to Practise (Helen Timperley, 2013), provide a fuller discussion of the potential nature of the shifts in practice that could contribute to improved teaching and learning. 

Will there be changes to the New Zealand Teachers Council programme approval requirements?

The Ministry of Education intends to focus on clearly articulating the outcomes of ITE and the capability of graduating teachers rather than prescribing specific programme elements. However, programme approval criteria and the Graduating Teacher Standards of the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC) cover the design and delivery components that are critical to ensuring these outcomes are achieved. 

If any changes are made to the requirements for qualifications that lead to teacher registration they will be set out in the NZTC Requirements for ITE Programmes. The amendment and establishment of any new approval criteria will be achieved through a collaborative development process by the NZTC with the sector.

What happens to people studying towards existing qualifications?

There will be no change required for anyone completing a currently approved ITE qualification. 

Current qualifications will remain valid and there is no change to the requirements of those already in the teaching profession.  ITE providers of currently approved bachelor and graduate diploma programmes will continue to offer those and to recruit candidates into them.

What is the demand for these types of qualifications?

The move to postgraduate initial teacher education, for the school sector, was recommended by the Education Workforce Advisory Group. The Group included significant representation from practising school principals – the future employers of graduating teachers. 

Providers have already shown considerable interest in moving to postgraduate level programmes. The University of Auckland (in conjunction with TeachFirst NZ) pilot programme approved for delivery from this year was heavily oversubscribed for student places. We know that the importance of postgraduate qualifications for career advancement is recognised in other professions.  Internationally high expectations in terms of levels of qualification have contributed to the teaching profession being more desirable – Finland and Singapore, for example.  We want a high status profession that attracts the very best graduates and retains them.

The limited exemplary programme initiative will provide an opportunity to test the level of demand before any wider move is made. 

What will be the likely effects on the demand and supply continuum for ITE qualifications in New Zealand?

This initiative is focused on the quality of programmes and not the volume of provision. Providers offering the new exemplary postgraduate programmes must operate within their current EFTS (equivalent full-time student) delivery plans as agreed with the Tertiary Education Commission. The number of students that will be enrolled in the new programmes represents only a small proportion of the total number of students in ITE and so we do not anticipate any significant impact on supply and demand.

Isn’t there a moratorium on new ITE programmes? How does it affect the new postgraduate programmes?

Yes, a moratorium on funding new ITE programmes was established in 2000. It applies to new providers of ITE; new qualifications; and existing qualifications that change significantly in scope or level, offered by existing providers of ITE. Changes to any ITE programmes need to seek exemption from the moratorium from the Minister of Education.

The successful proposals to date have been exempted from the moratorium on the basis that their selection via the tender process indicates they have met the criteria for exemption. 

The moratorium shall remain in place for the foreseeable future. 

How will the quality of the new postgraduate programmes be monitored and evaluated?

The successful proposals are subject to specific conditions around monitoring and reporting by providers. Agencies will consider a range of information including student retention and completion data, stakeholder and advisory group feedback, outcomes of quality assurance activities, results of providers’ own research and evaluation activities and plans for improvement. Providers will be required to keep agencies informed of any substantive changes to programme design and content arising from ongoing review and evaluation activities. 

Providers will also be required to report on specific actions taken to contribute to the knowledge base about effective teaching and teacher education practice, including sharing this knowledge with other providers of ITE.

We will also conduct an external evaluation of the new programmes, aligning with programme start dates in 2014. The evaluation will run for approximately 4 years and will be a major source of evidence about what constitutes exemplary practice in ITE. It will provide an assessment of the effectiveness of these exploratory models to inform further developments of postgraduate provision. We expect to issue a tender for the evaluation by the end of 2013.

What happens next?

The successful providers from the first tender round are preparing to deliver their exemplary postgraduate programmes from 2014. The second tender round is expected to conclude by the end of 2013, with any selected programmes expected to start from 2015. 

The Government will consider early findings from the evaluation of the new programmes before any decisions are taken to expand the introduction of postgraduate level ITE qualifications.

Research and evaluation informing initial teacher education

Dispositions to teach: review and synthesis of current components and applications, and evidence of impact 

The first evaluation report on the first phase of implementation of initial teacher education programmes within the wider Exemplary Post-Graduate Initial Teacher Education initiative includes analysis of the programmes that began in 2014. It is the first in a series of evaluation reports that seek to identify the key features of effective post-graduate initial teacher education linked to outcomes for programme graduates and the students that they will teach

The second evaluation report on the implementation of postgraduate initial teacher education programmes in English medium includes analysis of data and information relating to all of the programmes in the initiative. This report identifies interim outcomes of the programmes for programme graduates, summarises feedback from employers of some of the graduates, and links the findings to key features of the programmes.

Teacher education evaluation early outcomes

Teacher education evaluation integration

Teacher education evaluation shapers and enablers

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