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Inside Teaching : April 2011
inside teaching | April 2011 PROFESSION 20 in providing feedback and coaching. The main responsibility of mentor teachers is to help PiTE students integrate their theoretical studies with the world of the classroom. Mentor teachers meet regularly throughout the year to build shared expectations, a collective capacity to teach about teaching and a framework for quality assurance. They’ve used the meetings to plan teaching about teaching with responsibility gradually shifting to the PiTE students. As America’s NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel observed, ‘Currently there is not a large research base on what makes clinical preparation effective’; nor, as Linda Darling- Hammond and John Bransford note in Preparing Teachers for a Changing World, is there ‘widespread agreement on the expected design, duration, or intensity of...field experiences.’ Given the relative dearth of research on or agreement about the practicum, we wanted our PiTE pre-service teachers and mentor teachers to focus their shared learning on how to make the work of teaching visible and uncover the factors underlying classroom practices. Schools as centres for excellence While experienced and skilled mentors are critical to the success of the partnership, we’ve also seen in the past two years the importance of the whole school to the program. PiTE pre-service teachers are based in specifically limited teaching schools identified as centres for excellence. These, located in low-SES, harder-to-staff areas, are schools where the whole staff supports pre-service teachers and takes an open-door, team- inquiry approach to improving teaching. This model, as Rosie Le Cornu notes in ‘Changing roles, relationships and responsibilities in changing times,’ has the advantage of locating a core of teaching staff and pre- service teachers together in a professional learning community. It’s an approach that enables closer supervision and support for pre-service teachers, a stronger support structure for the DoE teaching staff and a more reliable approach to quality assurance. Principals According to Tony Kruger and co., the school principal is the partnership linchpin. With that in mind, Verrati, Levine and Turner argue for more deliberate principal involvement in pre-service education. Their research indicates that, typically, principals don’t work directly with pre-service teachers, despite their best intentions, citing lack of time as the main reason. The research by Verrati and co. also reveals that principals lack clarity about what they might contribute. They tend to support THE WHOLE STAFF SUPPORTS PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS AND TAKES AN OPEN-DOOR, TEAM- INQUIRY APPROACH TO IMPROVING TEACHING.