New course to train teachers to engage disadvantaged youth

Wednesday 15 December 2010

New course to train teachers to engage disadvantaged youth

How do teachers inspire disengaged school students to continue with their education? It’s an age old question which may have a solution thanks to a new course being offered at La Trobe University from 2011.

The Bachelor of Community Outreach is a teaching degree which also offers a new set of ‘outreach’ skills. It’s expected that this will help equip educators with the skills needed to retain and inspire students who might ordinarily be overlooked and start building University aspirations from primary school.

La Trobe University’s Dean of Education Professor Lorraine Ling said this course was developed in response to a gap she recognised during her work with schools in the Northern Melbourne region.

‘It struck me how much more could be achieved for students if teachers understood how to better collaborate with social workers,  occupational therapists and other type of para-professionals worked when helping ‘at- risk’ young people.’

‘They often fall through the cracks and it could be because there isn’t a whole lot of coordination. For example, the teacher doesn’t know what their social worker is doing, and the social worker doesn’t know that the occupational therapist is doing, and none of them know what the psychologist is doing, so I believe there is a need for professionals- like teachers- to be trained to join these dots,’ she said. 

‘This would result in a coordinated, holistic approach rather than several professionals all coming in from different directions.’

New teachers will graduate with the understanding, experience, knowledge and the skills to teach disengaged students.

They will be skilled to either teach in a classroom or to move into some community outreach or community education in alternative settings- like after school homework clubs, youth detention centres, indigenous communities or working with youth in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres.

Professor Ling says there has been a tremendous policy push from Federal and State Governments to try to raise school participation rates of low socio-economic-status (SES) students within the community in both primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

She says to achieve this, the way those young people are taught is critical.

‘We have to engage them and the way to do that may not be through traditional approaches, and might mean adopting approaches that are not necessarily classroom based.’

Raelene Reece, Senior Curriculum Development Manager at La Trobe agrees with Professor Ling.

 ‘I think this is one of the reasons why this course focuses on training people to teach prep to 12 is because you need to get to these students early if you are going to nurture them though.’ 

Currently the Department of Education at the State and Federal level and TAFE is looking to develop partnerships with high schools to help build these aspirations.

For more information about this course please contact Raelene Reece on 9479 1858 or email