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Middle schooling in Tasmania: Teachers’ beliefs about classroom pedagogy

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Abstract

Middle schooling has attracted growing interest and attention in Australia but this has been slow to spread to the island state of Tasmania. The exception is provided by independent schools in Tasmania; some of which have created dedicated middle schools within their larger organisation. This article discusses the findings of a study on middle school teachers’ beliefs about classroom pedagogy in Tasmanian independent schools. Although the participant teachers were highly dedicated and reflective with sophisticated understandings about their specialist subject areas, they lacked the specific knowledge base about young adolescence generally considered to be an essential precursor to the design and implementation of developmentally responsive pedagogies.
... 106). Similarly, Dowden (2012) found that the pedagogical philosophies of teachers at two middle school campuses housed within two independent schools in Tasmania were not informed by specific knowledge about the developmental and educational needs of young adolescents. In addition, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has set challenging accreditation requirements for initial teacher education programs specifically preparing teachers for the middle years by stating that such programs " must fully address the requirements for primary teaching and for secondary teaching in at least one major study or two minor studies in secondary teaching areas " (2011, p. 15). ...
Presentation
The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) mandates that all schools catering for Years 7-10 students must provide high quality schooling tailored to the specific needs of young adolescents, however the well-documented disengagement rates of young people in the 10-15 year age group (Durling, 2007; Gibbs & Poskitt, 2010) viewed in tandem with successive evaluation reports by the Education Review Office (ERO), paint a somewhat different scenario. These negative perspectives raise important questions in relation to the preparedness and capability of middle level teachers to implement the philosophy and intent of the curriculum, with respect to Years 7-10. The aim of the study was to investigate the extent to which Years 7-8 teachers believe they are prepared for teaching young adolescent learners and to explore their philosophy of teaching and learning for the middle years. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six Years 7-8 teachers based in schools drawn from three different school configurations: an intermediate school (Years 7-8), a combined intermediate/high school (Years 7-13), and a full primary school Years 1-8. The data were analysed and discussed according to emergent themes and participants’ voices were integrated, through the use of quotes, to illustrate each theme. Despite evidence of the participating Year 7-8 teachers’ commitment to teaching at this level, the findings revealed their generally superficial knowledge and understanding of the developmental and educational needs of young adolescents and of concomitant pedagogy and practice. This has clear implications for the future provision of initial teacher education and in-service professional learning and development. If the vision, principles, values and key competencies, encapsulated in the NZ curriculum, are to become a reality for young adolescent learners, a more nuanced and coordinated approach to teacher education is imperative.
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