For many teaching graduates, the gap between what you learn in class and the reality of the job can be a shock.
There are a lot of important theoretical frameworks for education out there. Yet as many new teachers discover, when you’re dealing with a class of small, individual humans there’s no substitute for experience.
As opposed to ‘theory based learning,’ practice-based learning requires the learner to learn and apply theory in an actual work environment, from the very beginning.
Practice-based learning is more than ‘learn the theory then go to work.’
With practice-based learning, you combine theory and work experience with a strategic, reflective process throughout the duration of your learning. You don’t just learn the theory first, then jump into the classroom and apply it afterward.
You implement the theory in the classroom as you learn it, assess its effectiveness and revisit your initial framework according to what’s useful in reality.
The end goal is to become a self-sufficient professional who has the capacity to develop, measure, redesign and grow your own practise over time. Tim Moss, Program Director for Torrens Education, explains:
“We don’t think it’s ideal for those seeking further qualifications in Education to have to work through the dense theoretical material before they get to what it means for them. So, our courses are about learning through practice and finding the theory that helps to explain or understand what happens, when we make changes to what we do and how we do it.
That means graduates of our courses finish with more than just ideas about what they’d like to do with their learning; they also finish with portfolios that demonstrate their capacity to apply their learning, and to actually make changes, improve their practice, and analyze the results.”
Here are 3 reasons why a practice-based learning model is great for educators.
1. You get to know yourself as a professional (and a person) on a deeper level.
Everyone who is just starting out as an educator has their own ideas of how they’d like to teach. Often, the reality of the class will challenge your ideas about teaching and about who you are.
Your capability as a teacher depends on having a strong understanding of yourself as a person. You need to be able to monitor your own responses to your students and to the class environment, reflect on it and alter it accordingly.
If you’re studying a practice-based education course, you’re given the opportunity and framework to learn how to self-assess, during your first experiences in the classroom.
2. You have support as you start out in a classroom.
For a lot of teaching graduates, the first six weeks in the classroom are the most difficult, and it’s not made easier by a lack of support. If you’re studying under a practice-based model, you spend your first weeks in the classroom under the guidance and supervision of your own teachers. You can return from a day on the job and debrief with your lecturers, ask for advice, and reflect on what you’ve learned together as a group.
3. Practice-based teaching courses are relevant and responsive.
No matter how universal a theoretical framework may seem, no classroom or teacher is the same. What works in one setting may not be appropriate for another. Because practice-based teaching is built around a constant feedback loop, the content of your course responds to the reality of the classroom.
If a particular approach doesn’t work in class, you have the opportunity to come back to your course content, analyse what you’ve learned, and figure out new strategies more relevant. You don’t emerge from teaching school stuck with a pedagogy that doesn’t match your working experience.
“The people who best understand what a particular school needs or might be able to create, are the teachers who are most familiar with that setting because they are there every day!” – Tim Moss