Award for Programs that Enhance Learning - 2010
Beyond institutional walls: Community engagement in secondary teacher education
Educational Partnerships and Collaborations with Other Organisations
The University of Western Sydney is located in one of Australia’s most culturally diverse areas, containing many of the most disadvantaged communities. Improving educational outcomes is central to the UWS commitment to our community and underpins our partnership approach to teacher education. All students in our graduate entry secondary teacher education program complete two conventional discipline-based block practicum in schools (Professional Experience 1 and 2), AND in Professional Experience 3 (PE3), they complete an additional 60 hours of volunteer work in a service learning context directly addressing social disadvantage and equity.
PE3 is unique to UWS and provides pre-service teachers with opportunities to acquire dispositions and skills that directly enhance their efficacy as teachers and their commitment to educational outcomes for students with diverse backgrounds and complex needs. Multiple PE3 strands have evolved with community partners enabling the program to be responsive to emerging needs, flexible enough to invite approaches from new partners and well regarded. Partners include large organisations from government departments, through NGOS and the not-for-profit sector to small schools and other educational sites. Pre-service teachers select from a range of partnership strands or design an original project to meet an identified need. New strands and partnerships have emerged from these student-initiated projects. Pre-service teachers critically reflect on their experiences and expectations using PE3 to both extend and critique their learning in other parts of the course. Geographically, the scope of PE3 incorporates international, rural and remote partner placements and urban placements in Greater Western Sydney. Most members of the secondary teaching team in the School of Education are involved as strand leaders.
PE3 has existed in its current form as a large program with multiple community partners organised around a suite of discrete strands since 2005. Through collaborations, the number of strands have increased over this time, as have the related training components delivered by academics and community partners. The PE3 program and its strands have received various a number of awards and grants. Although its focus on educational success with young people in partner organisations is not explicitly directed towards higher education access, PE3 meets many of the conditions for success identified in the DEEWR Report Interventions early in school as a means to improve higher education outcomes for disadvantaged (particularly low SES) students (Gale et al., 2010) and the ALTC Report Engaging with Learning: Understanding the impact of practice-based learning exchanges (Barraket et al., 2009).