Switching tack with prac ensures students can graduate

Studying from home, Griffith Master of Teaching students Hayley Mapri, Ashleigh Gurney and Julie Aus collaborate on a video resource that will enable them to graduate despite COVID-19

Newly developed online learning and teaching models will ensureMaster of Teaching studentsgraduate as ‘classroom ready’ despite schools being unable to offer traditional professional placement experience.

Professor Donna Pendergast

Dean and Head of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, Professor Donna Pendergast has led a team of education experts to develop new authentic models of learning and teaching that will enable 200 Masters of Education students at six Queensland universities to participate in a viable alternative to pre-service placement.

“We moved quickly to create an alternative critical task for graduating pre-service teachers, which enables them to demonstrate that they’re ready to be employed as a teacher,” Professor Pendergast, who is also Chair, Queensland Council of Deans of Education, said.

“Otherwise, they may have experienced a six-month delay to completing their program.

Hayley Mapri preparing education materials at home

“Our students have been preparing educational materials that are placed online for use by teachers, parents and older students around the state who have had to pivot quickly and deliver schooling at home.

“This includes lesson scripting and audio lesson recordings across the curriculum areas of English, Maths and Science.

“The second part of this critical task will be working in groups to prepare video lessons, the best of which are being selected for broadcast via one of the TV networks the Department of Education has established a relationship with to deliver the learning@home initiative.

“These activities are ensuring the initial teacher education students meet the Australian professional standards for teachers, despite not being able to teach in a face-to-face setting for their final placement.”

Professor Pendergast says this opportunity ensures these graduating preservice teachers are well equipped to teach in what will increasingly be the ‘new normal’.

“As any parent will tell you right now, there have been rapidly changing practices in schools and I suspect that things won’t return to exactly as they were before COVID-19,” she said.

“I foresee these types of experiences as becoming an ongoing feature of preservice practice in the future, and we will take learnings from this rapid response to the current situation to develop sustainable models for future graduating classes.

“The adaptability and agility our students have demonstrated will be a great asset in their careers.”

Hayley Mapri and daughter Indi (currently being home-schooled), Ashleigh Gurney and Julie Aus meet virtually to prepare resources for use by teachers during COVID-19

Hayley Mapri is one of 113 Griffith preservice teachers who will finish their Masters in the next few months, thanks to the newly developed online teaching models.

“I’ve always had an office job and found when my eldest son was in prep and Grade 1, I loved helping out in the classroom and found myself wanting to stay the entire day,” she said.

“People have always told me that I was born to be a teacher but going back to studying after starting a family and taking on a mortgage was a big deal. The opportunity for redundancy came up with my workplace, so I thought, if I don’t do it now I’ll never do it. I’m so glad I did.”

Hayley admits she became a little worried when she realized COVID-19 might delay her studies.

“My concern was that I wouldn’t get to graduate in time to teach in term 3 because, like most Masters students, we’ve got commitments and have either dropped down to part-time work or stopped work completely, so I needed to get back out there and start working more consistent hours,” the mother of two said.

“We were told by Griffith, ‘don’t worry, we’re doing everything we can so that you can graduate’. That’s all I needed to hear.

“The staff at Griffith have been absolutely amazing and have put in so much effort behind the scenes. I think what they’ve organised is fantastic and I’m really excited for it.

“I’ve been given Prep in my group, and I’m really keen to get in there and make fun, valuable videos for the kids and the parents.”

Hayley said if some of the video resources she’s working on with other Griffith Masters students are screened on free-to-air television, it would be the icing on the cake.

“I would love that. What a thing to have to show your kids and your grandkids, or your class once we’re out there in the real world.”

Like everyone, she’s looking forward to life after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“As a parent trying to juggle life, studying and home schooling I certainly hope schools are back for term three but also as a teacher, I want to get out there and start teaching.”