Western transforms Teacher Education program

By: Gerry Rucchin
October 25, 2019

The Faculty of Education has revised its Teacher Education program to a pass/fail system.

The program update allows teacher candidates to focus their efforts on developing the knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies needed to seamlessly enter the profession and become capable professionals.

The revised program will move students away from focusing on what grade they received in a course to focusing on how their learning will help them work effectively with students.

“Our goal is to ensure teacher candidates have the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to engage successfully in their professional practice when they leave our program,” said Acting Dean of the Faculty of Education, Professor Kathryn Hibbert. “We want our teacher candidates to bring a rich assessment mindset to their practice with their students that they have worked with in their own teacher preparation program.”

The updated program also aligns with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s professional assessment practices. When teacher candidates graduate, the Ministry of Education provides a New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) to help teachers continue their professional learning and growth.

Once the NTIP program is completed, continuous learning for teachers is expected. All teachers are required to complete an Annual Learning Plan.

The revised program also strengthens Western Education’s strong relationships with Boards of Education. Under the updated program, Experienced Master Teacher Mentors will liaise with course instructors and students to ensure teacher candidates’ needs are met with responsive and flexible teaching, said Hibbert. Currently, approximately 60 mentors, who bring a wealth of diverse teaching experiences, are liaising with course instructors, the Teacher Education office and the field as they work with teacher candidates in small groups of 12. Under their guidance, teacher candidates will maintain a Professional Practice Record, where they will digitally document their progress across the entire program. This approach aligns with the practicum component of the Teacher Education program where teacher candidates go into schools to develop their skills under the supervision of an Associate Teacher.

Professor Hibbert led a Teacher Education Design Team that reviewed the Teacher Education program over the past year. They reviewed curriculum, conducted student and instructor focus groups, reviewed current literature in teacher education and consulted with stakeholders in the teaching profession. The team concluded the current grading system didn’t align with the practice of assessing teacher’s professional competence in the profession.

Under the new program, instructors will design appropriate pedagogical practices for each course. A clear ‘single point’ rubric will define what’s required to pass. In Ontario schools, assessment and evaluation is based on both content standards and performance standards. Developing professionalism across all aspects of the curriculum will constitute a significant assessment outcome across the program, said Hibbert.

In addition to internal assessments, annual external assessments of each Professional Practice Record, with the support and input from Learning Supervisors, Principals and Superintendents will occur. 

“This collaborative approach ensures the program can more nimbly plan supplementary professional sessions each year to address the needs of an information rich, and ever-changing world,” said Hibbert.

Academic standards in the new program remain rigorous. Students need a 76 per cent average to ‘pass’ the program.

Western University’s Senate and the Ontario College of Teachers have approved the change.

The new program goes into effect September 2020.