World network of teacher educators meets at UNE

Published 23 April 2008

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A four-day international seminar at the University of New England is nurturing professional links between teacher educators from 26 countries.

“It’s a kind of renewal,” said one of the keynote speakers, Professor Hsun-Fung Kitty Kao from Tamkang University in Taiwan, pointing out that the unconventional structure of the seminar encouraged “collegiality and professional contact”.

The 28th Annual Seminar of the International Society for Teacher Education (ISTE) began on the evening of Sunday 20 April with a dinner at which UNE’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, welcomed the 130 participants to the University, and it will continue until this evening (Thursday 24 April). The countries represented by the participants include Uganda, Kiribati, Bhutan, Kuwait, East Timor, Brazil, Chile, South Africa and the United States.

Following the unconventional format of the ISTE seminar, each of the participants comes armed with a short paper on their own research, and discusses the paper with a group of about 12 fellow participants who have all read and reflected on it before the discussion. “This approach facilitates mutual academic support, networking, and the international sharing of ideas and projects,” said John Maurer, an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at UNE and a co-convener of the seminar. “While the papers cover a wide range of research projects and reflect a wide range of educational and cultural settings, they are all aimed at improving teacher education,” said the other co-convener, Warren Halloway – an Honorary Fellow in UNE’s School of Education.

Professor Kao said that the basic issues facing teacher educators were common to all countries, and concerned not only the preparation of high-quality teachers, but the government and community support of those teachers – and their professional development – throughout their careers.

Among the participants are nine fourth-year education students at UNE who have worked throughout their undergraduate program towards this opportunity to present a research paper in an international forum, and who are now interested in the possibility of a postgraduate research degree.

Eighteen of the overseas participants – six from Bhutan, six from Vietnam, four from Papua New Guinea and two from East  Timor – are teacher educators who are visiting UNE for a month as recipients of Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) Scholarships sponsored by AusAID. Their seminar papers concern projects that they have developed during their time at UNE, and that they will put into practice in their workplaces after their return home.

Professor Kao is one of three keynote speakers at the seminar; the other two are Professor Jim Greenberg from the University of Maryland, USA, and Associate Professor Debra Panizzon from Flinders University in South Australia. Dr Panizzon discussed the results of several research projects conducted by UNE’s School of Education and the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR) during her time as a UNE academic and Deputy Director of SiMERR. She explained that the findings had been used to identify a number of issues and challenges facing teacher educators in ensuring that their programs meet the needs of future teachers. One of these issues, for example, was the need for teachers of the middle years in secondary schools to have a proper balance of teaching skills and subject knowledge in order to give students the best possible grounding for their senior years of schooling.

The ISTE Seminars for 2009, 2010 and 2011 will be in Utah (USA), Brazil and Norway respectively.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Warren Halloway and Associate Professor Debra Panizzon displayed here expands to include John Maurer.