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Several new and unique postgraduate programmes developed by the University of Otago’s College of Education in consultation with teachers, principals and teaching sector groups are set to benefit teachers worldwide.

College of Education Postgraduate Coordinator Dr David Berg says the new programmes are aimed at helping teachers build their careers and improve their professional practice in key curriculum, leadership and classroom learning areas.

Dr Berg attributes the College’s success in developing the new courses – which include a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, and Master of Education and Learning – to its lecturers’ extensive practical experience of teaching, assessment, curriculum development and leadership, in schools and ECE centres.

“Our team’s applied research complements their real-life experience, and we combine both to support teachers. We also appreciate the importance of collaboration and our strong links with schools have supported an ongoing discussion between the sector and the College have hugely enhanced our approach to professional learning for teachers.”

This dialogue was the basis for a College review into how its postgraduate programmes could best serve teachers, schools and the children they taught.

The resulting consultation with teachers and educational leaders featured some frank discussion, but feedback showed ECE, primary and secondary teachers often lamented the lack of time for their own learning and development, he says.

“Others shared concerns about a lack of provision for, and the relevance of, professional development and learning opportunities, including postgraduate study. One principal summed up the opinions of many when she simply asked us to ‘help teachers make a difference’.”

The new programmes’ flexibility shows they have been designed for working professionals, and busy teachers can start by signing up for one or two papers and build up over time to complete master’s or doctorate qualifications.

Papers are taught over the Internet without the need to respond in ‘real time’.

“While the majority of students are New Zealand-based, this means location is not a barrier, a fact illustrated by this year’s students, who can be found in places as diverse as the Northern Norway, China, Chile, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia,” Dr Berg says.

College of Education Dean Professor Ross Notman is delighted with the new approach to teachers’ professional learning which he says offer teachers a great opportunity to gain a targeted professional qualification, and to build on their teaching skills in their workplace.

“I see the link between master’s study, reflective thinking and practical application as a major strength of the new degree.

“We have benefitted enormously from the conversations we have had with our colleagues in schools and centres, and their feedback has been vital in ensuring the new programmes are relevant, responsive, and achievable. As a result we are already seeing considerable interest from both New Zealand and overseas teachers.”

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