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Issues In Educational Research, Vol 14, 2004
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Technology teacher education: Alternative pathways established in response to issues of supply and demand in NSW

Rachael Cornius-Randall
Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga
Teacher shortages have encouraged initiatives to tailor training programs to meet the demand in both past, current and future contexts. Such programs have been streamlined to ensure a rapid response to shortages, in addition to also drawing participants from non-traditional groups as a source of potential educators. Within teacher education, recent developments have explored online and other forms of distance education, problem solving methodology and increased site based workplace learning opportunities. The Accelerated Teacher Training Program (ATTP) currently offered at Charles Sturt University is based on an innovative model which combines aspects of best practices to deliver an innovative, effective and quality course. This program forms part of an initiative of the NSW Department of Education and Training to meet the demand for more Technology and Applied Studies (TAS) teachers. This paper will review literature surrounding the issue of teacher supply and demand and how the current climate has lead to the development of innovative alternative teacher education pathways within New South Wales.


Introduction

For decades the technology education profession has been concerned with how it will address the increased demand for technology teachers. This concern has now escalated to an overwhelming level of seriousness as the issue of demand far outweighs the current and projected under-supply of qualified and competent educators within this field. Put simply, the demand for technologically literate and skilled technology teachers has outpaced the supply. Without appropriate strategic planning to counteract this crisis at a local, national and international level we will continue to face the prospect of having classes without the presence of qualified teachers appropriate to key learning areas (KLA) and a decline in the overall standard of the teaching profession.

Pendergast (2001) refers to the current teacher shortage crisis as a phenomenon that not only is worldwide but is expected to intensify before it improves. A series of reports on teacher supply and demand also predict that the worst Australian teacher shortage crisis is looming (Preston, 1998; SEETR, 1998; Pendergast, Reynolds & Crane, 2000; Ramsey, 2000; AEU, 2001).

At a time where there is an increased K-12 population, an insufficient supply of graduates (Pendergast, 2001) from technology teacher education programs; the rapid rise of retiring teachers; and the loss of 'pools' of reserves of teachers seeking re-entry (Preston, 1998); the demand for teachers is rising, greatly accelerating the gap between supply and demand. The number of additional teachers needed in Australian classrooms has been projected to rise from 4,700 in the year 2000 to around 7,000 in 2003 (Preston, 1997, p.1). This projection is further emphasised when the Daily Telegraph reports that "by 2005 we expect demand for teachers to outstrip supply by 35 per cent" (The Daily Telegraph, 9 October 2002, p.25). A MCEETYA report (MCEETYA, 1998, p.38) and a recent report on initial and continuing teacher education (MACQT, 1999, p.56) both confirm these trends.

Quality teacher education requires that current intakes reflect the current demand through a proactive approach. We need to support current traditional programs of study whilst looking for alternate pathways into the profession. By engaging in this, we as educators are providing many opportunities for an array of students to enter the profession, and in turn provide our future generations with quality teaching, learning and life experiences. A fundamental shift in our thinking is needed when planning future undergraduate programs to secure a high quality teaching force equipped to meet the many and varied challenges of contemporary and future schooling. The NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) have supported this by taking an innovative approach to teacher recruitment. This approach has seen the Department implement a number of initiatives to promote teaching as a valuable career choice and to encourage undergraduate students to choose the public education system as a viable means of employment.

Green, Randall & Francis (2002) reported one recent initiative was to call for proposals for an Accelerated Teacher Training Program (ATTP) to commence in 2001. Charles Sturt University (CSU) and Newcastle University responded with programs designed to address the state's significant teacher shortage in technology education. The essence of the CSU program was to offer a viable alternative second career pathway into the teaching profession, which addressed teacher shortages in geographical areas of NSW where the demand was greatest. DET advertised places in the ATTP to encourage applicants with an industry background to apply and guaranteed them a departmental teaching position on graduation. The criteria for entry included applicants having recent and substantial design and industry experience, demonstrated mastery of specific design and technology content and evidence of a commitment to continuous lifelong learning - all of which are clearly valuable for technology teachers.

Literature review

In conceptualising what an alternative program might involve, a range of literature was explored. The paper begins by providing a brief background to technology teacher education in NSW and continues to discuss traditional and alternative pathways that are currently available to undergraduates. The review will highlight recent changes that have occurred as a result of the current status of supply and demand within NSW. Deficits in the literature will be articulated and will show why this inquiry was necessary to fill a gap in current research relating to technology teacher education.

Historical developments in New South Wales

Since the late 1970s the most common program design in NSW and across much of Australia has been four-year integrated Bachelor of Education degrees. According to Gibson and Barlow (2001) prior to this, three year integrated diplomas and two year integrated certificate programs were offered in the college of advanced education (CAE) sector. Smaller numbers of trained technology teachers were also prepared through undergraduate and graduate diploma programs offered by university and CAE sectors.

Teachers who have had their initial training in the areas of home economics and industrial arts are presently teaching the majority of technology subjects delivered in Australian secondary schools. Fritz (1998) believes this is true of all English speaking countries. These teachers bring to the subject a laudable expertise in teaching practical skills, which they gained through partaking in what is commonly known as a traditional program of undergraduate study - integrated B Ed courses.

In 1999, six tertiary institutions within NSW offered traditional four-year integrated B Ed programs of study offering students a range of specialisations from technology subject areas in the TAS key learning area (KLA). Some programs focus on design education or design and technology competency, whilst others provided means for students to follow design and technology and study majors and minors in elective technology areas such as food, textiles, engineering science, computing studies, and technics.

Due to low enrolments in technology education courses during the 1980s and the early 1990s, faculties of education looked hard at the cost of delivery of such programs and began to seek alternatives. These alternatives are imperative if growth within the profession is to be promoted, as many integrated B Ed programs without this vision have been discontinued. Fritz (1998) supported such views when she attributed the reason behind the closure of the traditional B Ed (TAS) course at the University of Sydney to be directly to low enrolments, decreasing levels of financial and equipment support, a reliance on part time staff and the ever increasing cost of delivery. The University of Sydney is not an isolated example as similar integrated courses have been discontinued at the University of Western Sydney; the Australian Catholic University and Newcastle University.

These closures were not necessarily problematic as the discontinued courses have subsequently been replaced with alternative models that satisfy the needs of the marketplace. The response has fallen into two categories, the first being the double degree, for example the B Teach/BA composite course offered by the Australian Catholic University. This includes major and minor studies in technology with a final year of education subjects only. The second response involves the return of TAFE in the late 1990s as a provider of practical courses articulated with university based technology teacher education programs. Gibson and Barlow (2001) point out that both Newcastle and Sydney Teachers Colleges used TAFE links for skills based courses in their manual arts teacher training programs in the 1940s and 1950s.

CSU (Wagga Wagga campus) has been offering a 4-year course since 1997, that has strong collaboration with TAFE in the delivery of its workshop based courses within the program. The University of Sydney's current course design has students completing a large component of their degree at a local TAFE. This collaboration enables dual use of high cost facilities associated with delivery of practical components required by courses of this nature. According to Gibson and Barlow (2001), the Australian Catholic University, Southern Cross University and the University of Western Sydney are also delivering courses involving TAFE articulation. "This collaboration between TAFE and universities in the development and delivery of technology teacher education programs holds much potential. TAFE is well placed to provide industry specific training in industry standard facilities to meet industry requirements. This can provide VET credentials for technology teachers to meet the growing demand for VET in schools, as well as the technical skills base needed for technology subjects" (DET, 2000, p. 2).

Current developments in New South Wales

Not all teachers engage in traditional education programs before entering the classroom; many are undertaking alternative pathways with great speed and ultimately success. Reichardt (2001) believes alternative approaches are intended to increase the number and quality of teachers by attracting new teachers from non-traditional sources, such as mid-career changes and recent graduates who did not go through traditional teacher education programs and who can provide new ideas, perspectives and skills. Preston (2002) highlights that the work and life experience of this increasing proportion of non-traditional student teachers can provide a rich resource for teacher education programs as well as the future teaching profession. Additionally Feistritzer (2000) found that the best alternative pathways provide opportunities for people from various educational backgrounds and walks of life to become teachers. She refers to groups including people from the military, industry, retirees and former teachers who want to upgrade their credentials or change their area of teaching specialisation.

Similarly, Ritz (1999) indicates that it is beneficial to go to new populations for recruitment. Within NSW there has been a substantial increase in the proportion of mature age initial teacher education commencers from a decade ago. In 1990, 80 per cent were under 25 years of age, and only 14 per cent were aged 30 and over. In 2001, around two thirds of commencing teacher education students were under 26, and around 25 per cent were aged over 30 (Preston, 2002, p.39). Ritz (1999) indicates that there are many adults who are seeking career changes. To attract these individuals, collaborative working relationships with local departments of education need to be established and fostered if alternative programs are to be secured.

In 1996 the Department of Education and Training (DET) in cooperation with the University of Sydney, began retraining qualified graduate teachers to become technology teachers. The teachers came from diverse backgrounds and had teaching expertise in areas such as visual arts, social sciences and primary education. The program was delivered in a concentrated full time mode over six months, which was then followed by a period of in-service mentoring (DET, 2000, p.3). In July, 2003 this program was resurrected by the DET, with the University of Sydney delivering a similar program design over six months full time duration. In late 1997 the DET negotiated with the University of Newcastle to develop a program to retrain workers made redundant through the restructuring of BHP into technology teachers. This program built on the workers prior skills, knowledge and industry experience and allowed the university to provide credit points as recognition of prior learning (RPL) undertaken by the workers earlier. The program was an integrated B Ed degree and included two periods of practicum and a ten-week internship (DET, 2000, p.2). "This initiative received strong support from industry, the teaching profession, the local community and from the schools to which graduates were appointed" (Preston, 2002, p.12).

The Accelerated Teacher Training Program (ATTP) delivered at CSU, in learning from precedents and incorporating best practice elements existing in technology teacher preparation heralds one of the most significant changes to occur within the Australian teaching profession, while being both market driven and strategically designed (Green, Randall & Francis, 2002). The program was developed to meet the under-supply of TAS teachers within rural, remote and "difficult to staff" departmental districts of NSW (Vinson, 2002, p.6-7). Applicants with a strong industry background were targeted to guarantee the quality of their practical knowledge and skills relative to the TAS KLA. This also gave the course designers flexibility in preparing the program as they could allow for the accreditation of student's prior skill based knowledge. This in turn reduced the time successful applicants would spend engaged in formal university study to two years. Feistritzer (2000) verifies that such programs have positive outcomes, as in her view good alternative teacher education programs are always market driven and tailor made. She also reports that these programs need to be designed specifically to meet the demand for teachers in geographical areas and in subject areas where the demand for teachers is great, in addition to meeting the preparation needs of individuals who already have experience in other occupations.

Green, Randall & Francis (2002) indicate the key elements of the program to be the rigorous process of RPL resulting in an accelerated program of study; an amalgamate of pedagogical course work with site based practical training and work with mentor teachers in schools. The course work is delivered in an ingenious way that makes use of a mixed mode approach that allows for flexibility, whilst more importantly catering for the learning needs of each individual student. Students from all over NSW are engaged in distance education interspersed with comprehensive residential schools, with an emphasis on extended in-school experiences. In the final semester of the program the ATTP cohort is actively participating in an innovative approach combining problem based situated learning with collaborative teaching and mentoring by online university tutors and in-school mentors. Basinger (2000) gives recognition to programs being of a high quality when designed in this way.

When there is a desire by educational authorities to meet an immediate staffing need, shorter duration courses have been developed. All three NSW technology teacher training courses have been specially developed to be of shorter duration to meet this need. Gibson and Barlow (2001) correctly recognise that these programs may be heavily reliant on DET financial support and therefore produce technology teachers for that particular education system. Freistritzer (2000) also acknowledges that most alternative programs are collaborative efforts among state departments of education and universities. Gibson and Barlow (2001) critique these programs for their transient nature and the belief that at best they provide only an interim supply pool, even though the total output from specially developed programs has increased by close to 40 per cent between 1997 and 1999.

Conclusion

It is evident that there will always be conflicting philosophies associated with issues surrounding technology teacher education and the mode of delivery that is deemed acceptable. Some will always give credence to the conventional integrated model being best practice (Pendergast, Reynolds & Crane, 2000), whilst others will continue to think laterally and invest energy into the delivery of alternative programs (Green, Randall & Francis, 2002). Regardless of the view held, the notion that both traditional and alternative teacher education programs should meet the same principles of quality and rigor, when associated with design and technological education, is the common theme that must always be aligned with both.

If traditional programs are not adequately producing teachers qualified to meet the academic needs of our students, nor the supply and demand issues of NSW, then no one can dispute that it may be time to complement or even replace the current educational systems with alternative programs. The process of educational change required for this to occur is complex and involves the intermingling of a wide range of influences for it to be successful. McGee (1995) suggests that account must be taken of ideological, political, social, philosophical, economic, and other concerns and viewpoints present at the time of change. The importance of each of these individual influences will vary from time to time, but with regard to technology teacher education in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it would appear that the political agenda of the government of the time was the prime motivation behind all of the changes. McGee (1995) continues to point out that the educational innovations prior to 1990 were not in tune with the desires of students, parents, or employers and that as a result they did not achieve the expected results. This is precisely why future technology teacher education programs need to be market driven, tailor made and job specific so as to meet the preparation needs of prospective technology educators, who increasingly appear to be of a mature age.

Although there is literature to support the need for educational change, we must keep in mind that alternative pathways can not become a band-aid for technology teacher education, resulting in graduates who are trained in a KLA yet have limited pedagogical rigor being thrown into educational environments where they fortuitously attempt to transfer knowledge and skills to students. Programs of this nature should provide teachers with adequate training in appropriate content areas; rigorous curriculum in human growth and development; principles of teaching and learning; instructional strategies; classroom management; curriculum development and integration; be aware of appropriate technological applications; have substantial, supervised and supportive practicum experiences, and a strong pedagogical base; whilst meeting the state and national standards that are required of all teacher education programs.

Alternative programs are imperative to the future of technology teacher education as traditional methods are failing to meet the demands of both learners and society. These demands stem from the exponential growth of society that now requires much more rapid changes than evolutionary methods have traditionally provided. Program leaders in secondary and higher education need to make rapid changes and extensive modifications to existing traditional programs in response to these changes, if there is to be a future in technology education.

Discussion: Future developments

It is evident that there is a need for more research studies to focus on technology teacher education and particularly the long term viability of alternative pathways established in response to issues of supply and demand. To date the research on technology teacher education has been chronological with authors articulating the particular program structure and the framework that students work through to ensure their graduating status. Much can be learnt from studies of this nature, yet few provided any insight into programs of an alternative design. The few studies that have been conducted provide an overview of the structure and purpose of the program yet, generally failed to provide an in depth picture of the reality of programs of this design or the experiences of the participants.

Consequently countless avenues for additional research on technology teacher education can take place, that over time may develop and cover a complementary and broad range of research material. There is a need for a study which focuses more on the 'lived experiences' of students undertaking traditional and alternative programs of study, in order to explain and describe participant's perspectives regarding the many facets of their personal study context. Some variables may include the structure, content, and methods of delivery or staff expertise. Attention to the realities of mid-career changers' lives needs to be examined. For example it may be necessary to modify education requirements as by mid-career many adults have financial obligations that make it difficult for them to go through an education program without also having an adequate source of income - paid internships or other supports could make the critical difference for many. Further, as no study has been conducted over an extended practicum/internship in either a rural and/or urban context, it is timely to conduct a study that concentrates on participants' attitudes toward and perceptions of their experiences and how effective the program was in providing support for them. It may be interesting to track a number of students from their initial practicum experience into their first year of teaching and beyond to see how they develop and progress. Much research has been undertaken that suggests the first five years of teaching is when a high proportion of practitioners leave the profession; undertaking such research may highlight the reasoning behind such decisions. A comparison with students who have undertaken a more traditional education pathway would add another valuable dimension to the study. The innovative nature of the ATTP is an area of increasing interest. A research endeavor focused on the possible impact of this program on the participants, their own work as beginning teachers and/or their roles within the profession at large would be of great value and appeal. The outcomes of such studies through application to authentic ed ucational contexts have implications for pre-service teachers, tertiary educators and professionals concerned with the preparation and overall development of beginning teachers.

Whilst this list is not exhaustive, it certainly supports the view that there is a need to continue to develop so that knowledge is expanded and expertise is established in a field that continues to be both exciting and challenging.

The purpose of this paper was to review literature relating to technology teacher education in NSW and how issues of supply and demand have resulted in the development of alternative pathways to education. While the teacher shortage is a powerful motivator to produce more technology teachers quickly, we must not sacrifice the education of our children to expediency. Whichever path is chosen - alternative or traditional - it is clear that the comprehensive education of our future technology teachers should always be at the forefront of any decisions relating to program design and ultimate delivery. Learning to teach is not easy and the education of future technology teachers will always take time, effort and passion from those involved whether you prefer to accelerate or not.

References

Australian Education Union (2001). Teacher Supply and Demand in the States and Territories. http://www.aeufederal.org.au/Publications/TeacherSupplyDemand.pdf

Basinger, J. (2000). Colleges widen alternate routes to teacher certification. Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 14, 2000: Washington.

Department of Education & Training (2000). New pathways to technology teaching. Curriculum Support Directorate, 5(3), DET: NSW.

Feistritzer, C.E. (2000). In Basinger, J., Colleges widen alternate routes to teacher certification. Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 14, 2000: Washington.

Fritz, A. (1998). Schooling in science and technology: Is it a case of neglect? [URL not found 12 Aug 2004] http://www.atse.org.au/publications/seminar/content-1998p2.htm

Gibson, J. & Barlow, J. (2001). NSW technology teacher education: Y2K a time for optimism? ACET: Melbourne.

Green, A., Randall, R. & Francis, R. (2002). Industry into teaching: An alternative model. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 32(1), 23-33. [see also http://www.atea.schools.net.au/papers/2002/AnnetteGreen.pdf]

McGee, C. (1995). Ideological influences on curriculum and teachers. Waikato Journal of Education, 1, 29-44.

Ministerial Advisory Council on the Quality of Teaching. (1999). Report identifiying the challenges: Initial and continuing teacher education for the 21st century. NSW DET: Sydney.

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (1998). Draft school teacher demand and supply: Primary and secondary. MCEETYA: Carlton South.

Pendergast, D., Reynolds, J. & Crane, J. (2000). Home economics teacher supply and demand to 2003 - projections, implications and issues. Journal of the Home Economics Institute of Australia, 7(3), 1-41.

Pendergast, D. (2001). Virginal Mothers, Groovy Chicks & Blokey Blokes: Re-thinking Home Economics (and) Teaching Bodies. Australian Academic Press Pty Ltd: Brisbane.

Preston, B. (1997). Teacher supply and demand to 2003: Projections, implications and issues. Australian Council of Deans of Education: Canberra.

Preston, B. (1998). Teacher supply and demand to 2004: Projections, implications and issues. Australian Council of Deans of Education: Canberra.

Preston, B. (2002). Vocational learning teacher education: Building the Profession to support vocational learning. Enterprise and Career Education Foundation.

Ramsey, G. (2000). Quality Matters: Revitalising teaching: Critical times, critical choices. Report to the Review of Teacher Education, New South Wales. http://www.det.nsw.edu.au/teachrev/reports/index.htm

Reichardt, R. (2001). Towards a comprehensive approach to teacher quality. http://www.mcrel.org/topics/productDetail.asp?productID=114

Ritz, J. (1999). Addressing the shortage of technology education teaching professionals. The Technology Teacher, Sept 1999: USA.

Senate Employment, Education and Training References Committee (1998). A Class Act: Inquiring into the status of the profession. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra.

Vinson, T. (2002). An inquiry into the provision of education in NSW. Chapter 11 of the 3rd report. http://pub-ed-inquiry.org/reports/final_reports/04/Chapter11.html

Author: Rachael Cornius-Randall is currently Lecturer, Technology and Applied Studies in the School of Education at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga Campus. She is involved in many areas of curriculum development, more recently being an integral part of the development of multiple NSW technology syllabuses and associated text books supporting their implementation. At present her interests have shifted from the development phase of these syllabuses to strategies and support mechanisms for implementation. Rachael is active in many professional associations and is currently assisting in the organisation of several state and national technology conferences. She is well known within the profession as a dedicated advocate of technology education and is about to commence her PhD within this field. Her current research interests focus on curriculum development, authentic pedagogy and contemporary approaches to technology education. Email: rrandall@csu.edu.au

Please cite as: Cornius-Randall, R. (2004). Technology teacher education: Alternative pathways established in response to issues of supply and demand in NSW. Issues In Educational Research, 14(1), 59-68. http://www.iier.org.au//iier14/cornius-randall.html


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