Teacher-mentoring course begins in schools

1 September 2011

Professional Experience Director, Associate Professor Di Bloomfield, left, with mentoring lecturer Nicole Hart, centre, and deputy principal of Beverly Hills Girls High School, Julie Grimshaw.

Giving experienced teachers the skills to mentor new teachers is the aim of a course being taught onsite for the first time at Beverly Hills Girls High School by the University of Sydney.

All students wanting to become qualified teachers are required to do a 'prac' or period of professional experience in a school, which is then assessed by the teachers within the school.

"Qualified teachers need a range of skills to be able to pass on what they know and to mentor the 'prac' students and early career teachers placed in their schools," said Dr Tony Loughland, Associate Dean of Professional Learning from the University's Faculty of Education and Social Work.

"Teachers excel at educating their students but mentoring someone who is starting out on their teaching careers requires a related but different approach. The mentoring course focuses on building mentoring and coaching skills within the context of mentoring a student teacher from the University of Sydney," he said.

There are currently 220 'prac' students from the University of Sydney completing their first five week professional experience, including seven at Beverly Hills Girls High School from the University of Sydney's Masters of Teaching course.

"Just part of the challenge for the teachers looking after these student teachers is the difference in their backgrounds - some of the student teachers are mature age students who have made the switch to teaching after careers in other professions while others have come straight from university," Dr Loughland said.

Beverly Hills Girls High School this year became a Centre of Excellence under the federal government's National Partnership Program. This means the school acts as a central hub for the South-West Sydney area and shares its learning programs with all the schools in the surrounding areas, including Liverpool Girls and Campbelltown High School for Performing Arts.

The mentoring course at Beverly Hills, which starts this week, will be attended by 11 teachers from the school who will be joined by teachers from Concord High School and Canterbury Boys High School.

"The deputy principal of Beverly Hills Girls will be one of the staff members on this course which speaks volumes about the school's commitment to continual professional development and giving aspiring teachers the best possible experience on their way to becoming fully-qualified teachers," Dr Tony Loughland said.

Colin Skene, principal of Beverly Hills Girls High said, "The school is proud to host this team of dedicated South-Western Sydney teachers to train as mentors to ensure our next generation of teachers are supported and nurtured to become the quality practitioners of the future."

The University's Faculty of Education and Social Work is currently conducting a variety of in-school programs for professional teacher development including courses on literacy, digital learning, children's literature, grammar and writing and programming for different learning needs. The mentoring program is the vanguard of this suite of in-school programs.