Opportunities to develop teaching expertise have never been more important with the increased pressure on primary and secondary teachers to deliver education that is culturally significant, technologically relevant and ethically and sustainably responsible.
The first cohort of English specialist teachers completing The University of Western Australia's new Master degree in Curriculum Studies say further study has given them the edge in being able to deliver a new way of teaching under the Australian Curriculum.
Lisa Meads, of Chisholm Catholic College in Bedford, is one of 10 specialist English teachers who are looking to the course to help address the requirements of the Australian Curriculum as well as the new National Professional Standards for Teachers.
"I had always wanted to do my Masters degree," Ms Meads said. "With the current changes to the curriculum and the importance of using technology in the classroom, it seemed like a wise choice."
The English teachers also welcomed the opportunity to re-engage with their home discipline.
"So much has changed since the early '90s," Maggie McPhee, of Perth College said.
"I had not been in that conversation for nearly 30 years since doing my BA - I have learnt about distant reading and eco-criticism, which are relatively new approaches in studying literature," Selby Pritchard, from Swan View Senior High School, said.
The award-winning writer and internationally acclaimed inaugural chair of Australian Literature, Winthrop Professor Philip Mead, is mentoring the group.
"Philip is such a calm and reassuring presence in the class, it has been a great way to start the program," Paula Beck, of the English Teachers' Association of WA, said.
"He has been an excellent guide, expanding on our understandings and providing much needed direction, encouragement and support throughout the course," Sheila Lea, of the Schools of Isolated and Distance Education, said.
WA Teachers are in the midst of major changes to the way schools and curricula are structured. From 2015, Year Seven will become part of the secondary school system, which will require a fundamental shift of teachers into secondary education.
On top of the change to the school structure, the new Australian Curriculum progressively rolled out in all subject areas requires wide-ranging adjustments and for teachers to be able to effectively incorporate information and communication technologies into teaching.
After one semester the Masters students were feeling more confident and better equipped to meet the challenges of teaching in WA's new education environment.
"It has renewed my passion for literature and given me an opportunity to engage with aspects of the Australian Curriculum in ways I had not considered before," said Melanie Wilson of Ashdale Secondary College. "For example, I've read some young adult novels with an Asian setting as part of my major assignment which has given me a better sense of how to address the 'Australia's Engagement with Asia' aspect of the curriculum."
The UWA Master of Curriculum Studies is also offered for History and Geography teachers, with more specialisations anticipated in the future.
Dean and Winthrop Professor Helen Wildy (Graduate School of Education) (+61 8) 6488 1709
Winthrop Professor Philip Mead (School of Humanities) (+61 8) 6488 2434
Aleta Johnston (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 7797 / (+61 4) 31 514 677