AAMT submission on Strengthening teacher support

PLEASE NOTE: This submission was prepared to address the theme as defined in this sub-committee’s terms of reference “Strengthening the supply of teachers”. This gives it a somewhat different – and narrower – emphasis than would have been taken had the focus been ‘teacher support’. However, AAMT has addressed issues of teacher support throughout its submissions to the three themes.

1.    Preamble
Beginning teachers of mathematics in primary and secondary schools in 2025 will enter university in 2020 or 2021. They are currently in Year 5 or 6. For nearly half of the next decade those who will become teachers of mathematics are already in university – the rest will pass through university on their way to becoming teachers of mathematics in the decade.
Hence the need for reform is urgent – Australia must do better with young people who are in the ‘system’ now.

2    Direct entrants to teaching (people who go from school to university and into teaching)
The factors that result in a young person deciding to become a teacher of mathematics include:

  • success in mathematics at school
  • a positive self-image as someone who is ‘good at maths’
  • good role models – experiencing good teachers themselves
  • a vision that the career would be rewarding
  • a desire to contribute to the education of young people

Creating the conditions that encourage and enable school students to view teaching mathematics as a worthwhile pathway can, to a very large degree, only be addressed by urgent attention to the second (achievement gaps) and third (numbers of students in senior school mathematics) major issues discussed below.

Turning the intention to being a teacher of mathematics into reality requires:

  • gaining entry to university with a sufficient level of mathematics in their schooling
  • success in the mathematics studied at university
  • success in the mathematics education and general education courses studied at university, including the Practicum components
  • positive reinforcement that it is a rewarding pathway through practicum experiences and other means
  • finding worthwhile employment

Over the next 10 years, Australian universities and teacher employers need to undertake important reforms.

  • Education Faculties should undertake an urgent review and reform of the university education of teachers of mathematics, including entry criteria (especially for primary teachers), curriculum, teaching practices and assessment in mathematics subjects, mathematics education and general education subjects, and teacher practicum
  • Mathematics Faculties should undertake an urgent review of the university education of teachers of mathematics, including curriculum, teaching practices and assessment in mathematics subjects
  • The cycle of short term appointments for early career teachers of mathematics should be replaced by thoughtfully constructed and adequately funded initial career placements that provide stability and predictability.

Some 30% of new teachers leave the profession in the first five years. Reasons for teachers leaving the profession include:

  • uncertain, limited or inappropriate career prospects
  • a sense of not being valued
  • dissatisfaction with the work of teaching mathematics
  • taking a different – and possibly more secure and/or lucrative – career pathway
  • personal reasons

Over the next 10 years, Australia should reduce the attrition of early career teachers of mathematics by at least 50%.

  • The reform to the career structure for teachers of mathematics outlined above is relevant here, and needs to extend for at least the first five years of their career
  • The profession – not employers – should provide early career teachers with mentor support, among a suite of programs that are effective in welcoming early career teachers on mathematics into the mathematics community.

3    Alternate pathways into teaching
In recent years programs such as Teach for Australia and Teach Next have sough to attract high achieving graduates and fast-track them into the classroom through an ‘apprenticeship model’ of teacher education. The numbers of teachers of mathematics in these programs has been and will remain small. Hence these programs are not relevant to considerations of supply of teachers of mathematics.
As alternative pathways into teaching mathematics, however, it may be that some of the approaches can be used in the transformation of teacher education outlined above.

4    Career change entrants into teaching (people with appropriate qualifications with an established career who choose to take up teaching mathematics)
Tapping this pool of prosepective teachers of mathematics has the potential to address shortages in supply in the (relatively) short term. Factors that would make such a career change attractive would include:

  • a positive self-image as someone who is ‘good at maths’
  • a vision that the career would be rewarding
  • a desire to contribute to the education of young people
  • a perception of teaching as a family friendly career

Key among the factors that discourage such a career change are:

  • loss of income whilst obtaining the necessary education qualifications – many of these people would have significant personal financial commitments
  • uncertain, limited or inappropriate career prospects, especially for those who would be giving up an established career

Over the next 10 years, Australia should maximise the appeal and uptake of career change into teaching mathematics by suitably qualified individuals.

  • Aspects of the approaches taken for alternate pathways into teaching may be explicitly adaptable for these career change entrants
  • The restructuring of career structures and the development of a culture of the profession welcoming entrants and associated processes would be appropriate for this group and would serve to address inhibiting factors

 

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