Plot your course

11th January 2008 at 00:00
Student geography teachers need to be better prepared by their universities, according to new research which calls for changes in initial teacher education as a whole.

Strathclyde University researcher Ashley Reid, co-ordinator of the postgraduate diploma geography course, based her findings on feedback from 25 probationers and 23 mentors. She looked at how well prepared students were for their probationary year and beyond.

There was "strong evidence" that the postgraduate geography course did equip students to meet the demands of their probationary year, and that mentors felt students were well prepared to teach geography. But the constraints of rushing through a course in one year was a frequent cause of complaint. Students said they had not had opportunities to teach certain topics while on placement or probation.

There was little evidence of students engaging critically with content - they just wanted to know what they had to teach and how to teach it. They also wanted more continuing professional development relating to their subject.

Classroom management, differentiation and inclusion were identified as weaknesses. These areas need to be addressed early on in the course and revisited.

A "more coherent and progressive" programme of CPD is required, according to Miss Reid, while a two-year course would provide a "much more solid foundation" for new teachers.

Universities, local authorities and schools must work together better "to provide a more coherent, relevant and practical programme of professional development that is matched to students' needs".

Although the research focused on geography, Miss Reid said the findings may be helpful to course co-ordinators in general.

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