To inspire and support teachers to expand their knowledge to provide the optimum education for students, a new initiative has been implemented by the Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong (CEDoW) in partnership with the University of Notre Dame, Australia to increase the number of specialist mathematics teachers in the diocese.
According to a report by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI), 76 per cent of students are currently taught by a teacher from out-of-field when it comes to the subject of mathematics, at least once during their first four years of high school. Although the education system relies on passionate teachers who have the ability to teach across multi-disciplines, a drought of teachers equipped to deliver new and revised mathematics curriculum has been highlighted as an issue across various education systems.
This new initiative is re-evaluating how to better support qualified teachers in the primary and secondary streams to complete postgraduate qualifications in mathematics certificate courses, graduate diploma courses and/or at Master’s degree level, and even consider formally changing their teaching speciality. This is an important program, as Australian secondary student numbers are expected to rise over the next few years, with a projected 650,000 extra students by 2026.
“With this research at the forefront of our minds, we knew we needed to do something as a system, and make a long term commitment to help boost our pool of specialist mathematics teachers,” said CEDoW Head of Human Resource Services, Carolyn Hadley. “We looked at what we could do to attract more mathematics teachers, out-of-field teachers and retrain existing teachers and found the bespoke offerings provided by the University of Notre Dame were ideal. We know it’s critical that our teachers are not only knowledgeable and competent but passionate about mathematics.”
As part of the initiative, the University of Notre Dame aims to make its postgraduate studies program – the Graduate Certificate in Mathematics (Secondary) and the Graduate Certificate in Mathematics (Primary) – more attainable. In addition to its usual daytime study program, the university offers twilight sessions held outside work hours for CEDoW teachers. This model allows teachers the ability to manage their study around their work and personal commitments, but still be able to capitalise on face-to-face delivery. Both courses are offered on a part time basis structured around school terms and are held at the Catholic Education Offices in Wollongong and Campbelltown.
“By undertaking these studies, it has shown my students that learning continues throughout your career despite already holding a degree and a job,” said current course participant and St Thomas Aquinas Bowral teacher, Lauren Thorp. “My decision to go back to university has also shown my students that it’s a positive thing to be challenged in learning, especially mathematics.”
Another participant, St John’s Campbelltown Religious Education Coordinator, Kathryn Hampton shared, “I felt that this course would provide me with more theory and pedagogical ideas linked to teaching maths in my classroom - especially delving deeper into challenging maths tasks and how to incorporate them into programming. It’s really challenged me, but I love a good challenge. More importantly, the support and encouragement I receive from the other 13 teachers doing the primary degree has been tremendous. It was a great decision to undertake this degree and I look forward to completing the last two units next year.”
With STEM subjects heralded as key drivers of future innovation and growth, and mathematics foundational across all STEM fields, the capacity of teachers to inspire students to think mathematically and apply critical reasoning to solve real world problems is of vital importance. Plus, for staff members like Jessica Bulger, PDHPE teacher and Pastoral Care Coordinator at John Therry Rosemeadow, it also offers job security.
“I was looking at studying online, however this Graduate Certificate through CEDoW and Notre Dame has provided me with an opportunity to work with a cohort of staff and have a face-to-face lecturer. It has been a very supportive and understanding environment, and the style of study has kept me motivated to keep going.”
For more information about joining these studies, please contact CEDoW’s Leadership and Professional Growth Team Leader, Gayle McMahon, on firstname.lastname@example.org