The rollout of new requirements for how tertiary education providers design and deliver teacher education programmes is the result of a massive joint effort of the Teaching Council, universities, wānanga, polytechnics, PTEs, teachers, educational leaders and experts.

Six months since launching the new Initial Teacher Education (ITE) requirements has seen a flurry of activity as teacher education providers revamp their programmes.

To date, nine new programmes have been approved across three providers. This includes a one-year Graduate Diploma which means teachers engaging in this programme will be in schools as early as 2021 but a majority will be in schools, kura and centres from 2025 onwards.

The new requirements will see student teachers spending more time in classrooms and early childhood centres on placement, further development of the use of te reo and tikanga Māori and include a distinct focus on supporting teachers to meet the diverse needs of learners.

The requirements spell out the process for approval, monitoring and review of programmes. The Teaching Council set up the approval panels that do this.

Recently, articles have been circulating in the media about the need to “completely overhaul teacher training” to produce teachers better able to teach children and young people with dyslexia.

A direct quote from one article reads “[teachers] do the best they can with the knowledge that they’ve been taught and been given, and that knowledge that they’ve been given in wrong.”

In some ways, this goes to the heart of the new requirements.

The somewhat cliched proverb “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” paints a useful image here.

Teaching Council general manager Pauline Barnes says it is crucial for teacher graduates to have the knowledge and skills to adapt their practice with new knowledge, current research and teaching strategies throughout their career.

For this reason, a key focus of the requirements has been ensuring teacher education programmes strengthen their integration of research and practice, she adds.

Teacher Education Forum of Aotearoa and Associate Dean of Teacher Education at the University of Otago Alex Gunn says you can’t anticipate the context a graduate will enter.

“So, thinking you can fill a student teacher’s head with everything they may need before getting into teaching is a myth.

“Graduates need to be able to access, interpret, and use information to adapt teaching in-situ.”

She says these are generic and transferable skills that teachers can use to adapt to the diversity of learners they go on to teach.

Pro-Vice Chancellor College of Education, Health & Human Development at University of Canterbury Letitia Hochstrasser Fickel says the new requirements explicitly frame the shared professional expectations that all educator promote inclusive practice to support the needs and abilities of all learners.

“Graduate teachers need to have the knowledge and skills to continuously learn and adapt their practice and teaching strategies in response to their students’ strengths and needs – and to draw on current research throughout their careers.”

Teacher education programmes therefore expect students to inquire into authentic problems of practice, which invariably means looking at teaching and learning for diverse learning needs, in light of latest research and best practice.

The assessment framework that requires graduating teachers to meet the Standards for the Teaching Profession (in a supported environment) ensures they are given explicit guidance and feedback and access to research and current practice.

Exposure to latest research is also assured through ITE approval panels who will test:

  • how relevant research has informed programme elements
  • how the programme will prepare graduates to with the knowledge, skills and teaching strategies to teach in inclusive ways
  • whether the programme will enable graduates to identify and respond to learners with diverse and additional learning needs
  • whether the programme will enable graduates to identify and respond appropriately to the additional learning and behavioral needs of learners with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

While the Council does not expect that ITE programmes will address all possible teaching and learning contexts, there is an emphasis in the new requirements on dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism spectrum disorders, which was in direct response to the recommendation from the 2016 Select Committee Inquiry into the identification and support for learners with the significant challenges of dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders in primary and secondary schools.

All ITE programmes must be approved by the Teaching Council’s ITE approval panels under the new requirements by 1 January 2022.