Theory and Practice: The Context of Partnerships in Teacher Education

  • John KennyEmail author
  • Mellita Jones
  • Christopher Speldewinde


Due to more accountability for funding and demands of employers for more “work-ready” graduates, the provision of more authentic learning experiences is gaining attention in a range of professions other than teaching and raising questions about the effectiveness of university learning. The literature on Work Integrated Learning (WIL) indicates many of the issues and proposed solutions are common across disciplines and are related to funding and policy changes in the higher education sector. There are common calls for university programmes to be better integrated with authentic work-based experiences and the establishment of learning partnerships with employers to facilitate improved learning outcomes. These criticisms are evident in initial teacher education, through demands for universities to produce more “classroom ready” beginning teachers. The problem stems from the separation of the theory of teaching, as covered at university, and the practice of teaching in real classroom settings. Much of the research has suggested more effective learning for pre-service teachers can best achieved by integrating university studies with the authentic learning in schools through the practicum experience. Partnerships between university and schools have been recommended as an essential element to ensure this nexus between the theory and practice of teaching. Effective partnerships would aide in establishing and maintaining the relationships necessary to improve the quality of initial teacher education. The STEPS Project is a response of a group of science teacher educators operating in this reality who have embedded school-based learning into their primary science education units to provide their pre-service teachers with authentic science teaching experiences. WIL literature suggests the issues of authentic learning and the partnerships necessary to support it are common across many disciplines, which implies that the lessons from STEPS Project may be applicable to other curriculum areas within teacher education and to a range of other professions.


Partnerships School-based Teacher education Theory–practice nexus 


  1. ACDE. (2002). Setting firm foundations: Financing higher education. Australian Council of Deans of Education Inc. Submission to the Department of Education, Science and Training. Accessed September 1, 2006.
  2. ACEN. (2015). National strategy in work integrated learning in University Education. Australian Collaborative Education Network. Retrieved September 2015 from:
  3. AITSL. (2017). Accreditation of initial teacher education programs. Guideline: Primary Specialisation (Program Standard 4.4). Melbourne: Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. Available online from:
  4. Argyris, C., & Schon, D. (1996). Organizational learning II: Theory, method, and practice. New York: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  5. AVCC. (2004). Laying the Foundations, AVCC Submission to the Review of the Indexation of University Funding. Australian Vice Chancellors Committee (AVCC). Accessed September 1, 2006.
  6. Bell, K., Tanner, J., Rutty, J., Astley-Pepper, M., & Hall, R. (2015). Successful partnerships with third sector organisations to enhance the healthcare student experience: A partnership evaluation. Nurse Education Today, 35(3), 530–534.
  7. Bradley Report Discussion Paper. (2008). Review of Higher Education. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. (Retrieved online May 2009 from:
  8. Crisan, C., & Rodd, M. (2011). Teachers of mathematics to mathematics teachers. In C. Smith (Ed.), Proceedings of the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics. 31(3), 29–34.Google Scholar
  9. Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Teaching quality and student achievement: A review of state policy evidence. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8(1). Retrieved from
  10. Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Constructing 21st century teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 57(3), 300–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Darling-Hammond, L., & Lieberman, A. (Eds.). (2012). Teacher education around the world: Changing policies and practices. Oxon, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Dalmau, M. C. & Guõjónsdóttir, H. (2002). Framing professional discourse with teachers. Professional Working Theory. In J. Loughran & T. Russell (Eds.), Improving teacher education practices through self-study. London: Routledge-Falmer.Google Scholar
  13. Ducharme, E. R., & Ducharme, M. K. (1996). Needed research in Teacher Education. In J. Sikula. T. J. Buttery & E. Guyton (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Teacher Education (2nd ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Goodrum, D., Hackling, M., & Rennie, L. (2001). The status and Quality of teaching and learning of science in Australian schools. Canberra: Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.Google Scholar
  15. Grushka, K., Hinde McLeod, J., & Reynolds, R. (2005). Reflecting upon reflection: Theory and practice in one Australian university teacher education program. Reflective Practice, 6(2), 239–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hobbs, L. (2013). Teaching out-of-field as a boundary-crossing event: Factors shaping teacher identity. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 11(2), 271–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Vocational Training. (2007). Top of the class. Report on the inquiry into teacher education. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  18. Howitt, C. (2007). Pre-service elementary teachers’ perceptions of factors in an Holistic methods course influencing their confidence in teaching science. Research In Science Education, 37(1), 41–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ingvarson, L., Beavis, A., Elliott, A. & Kleinhenz, E. (2004). Pre-service teacher education in Australia: A mapping of selection procedures, course structure and content, and accreditation practices. Report prepared for the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs Taskforce on Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership, Canberra.Google Scholar
  20. Ingvarson, L., Reid, K., Buckley, S., Kleinhenz, E., Masters, G. & Rowley, G. (2014), Best practice teacher education programs and Australia’s own programs, Australian Council for Educational Research. Available online from
  21. Jones, M. M. (2008). Collaborative partnerships: A model for science teacher education and professional development. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 33(3), 61–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kenny, J. D. (2009). Managing a modern university: Is it time for a rethink? Higher Education Research and Development, 28(6), 629–642. ISSN 0729-4360.
  23. Kenny, J. (2010). Preparing primary teachers to teach primary science: A partnership based approach. International Journal of Science Education, 32(10), 1267–1288. Scholar
  24. Kenny, J. (2012). University-school partnerships: Pre-service and in-service teachers working together to teach primary science, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(3). Article 6. ISSN 1835-517X.Google Scholar
  25. Kenny, J., Hobbs, L., Speldewinde, C., Jones, M., Campbell, C., Gilbert, A., et al. (2015). Establishing school university partnerships to teach science—Does what worked for us work for you? In J. Lavonen K. Juuti J. Lampiselkä A. Uitto & K. Hahl (Eds.), Electronic Proceedings of the ESERA 2015 Conference. Science education research: Engaging learners for a sustainable future, Part 13 (co-ed. M. Evagorou & M. Michelini, (pp. 2029–2040). Helsinki, Finland: University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-951-51-1541-6.Google Scholar
  26. Kenny, J. & Hobbs, L. (2016). Designing, evaluating and researching the effectiveness of professional learning for teachers teaching “out of field”. Paper presented at European Educational Research Association (ECER) Conference, Dublin, 2016. Available online from
  27. Korthagen, F. (2001). Teacher education: a problematic enterprise in linking practice and theory: the pedagogy of realistic teacher education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.Google Scholar
  28. Kruger, T., Davies, A., Eckersley, B., Newell, F., & Cherednichenko, B. (2009). Effective and sustainable university-school partnerships. Beyond determined efforts of inspired individuals. Canberra: Teaching Australia. [Electronic version]. Retrieved from
  29. Louden, W. (2008). 101 Damnations: The persistence of criticism and the absence of evidence about teacher education in Australia. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 14(4), 357–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Louden, B. (2014). The conversation: Teach for Australia: A small part of the solution to a serious problem, August 7, 2014.
  31. Loughran, J. (2002). Effective reflective practice: in search of meaning in learning about teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(1), 33–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lyons, T. (2006). The puzzle of falling enrolments in physics and chemistry courses: Putting some pieces together. Research In Science Education, 36(3), 285–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. MacBeath, J. (2012). Teacher training, education or learning by doing in the UK. In L. Darling-Hammond & A. Liberman (Eds.), Teacher education around the world: Changing policies and practices (pp. 66–80). Oxon, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Marginson, S., Tytler, R., Freeman, B., & Roberts, K. (2013). STEM: Country comparisons: International comparisons of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Melbourne, Vic: Final report Australian Council of Learned Academies.Google Scholar
  35. Marginson, S. & Considine, M. (2000). The Enterprise University. Power, governance and reinvention in Australia. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. McCaleb, J., Borko, H., & Arends, R. (1992). Reflection, research and repertoire in the masters certification program at the University of Maryland. In L. Valli (Ed.), Reflection in teacher education (pp. 40–64). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  37. McIntyre, D. J., Byrd, D. M., & Fox, S. M. (1996). Field and Laboratory Experiences. In J. Sikula T. J. Buttery & E. Guyton, E. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Teacher Education (2nd ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.Google Scholar
  38. Miller, L., Mixer, S., Lindley, L., Fornehed, M., Niederhauser, V., Barnes, L., (2015). Using partnerships to advance nursing practice and education: the precious prints project. Journal of Professional Nursing, 31(1): 50–56.Google Scholar
  39. Mulholland, J., & Wallace, J. (2003). Crossing borders: learning and teaching primary science in the pre-service to in-service transition. International Journal of Science Education, 25(7), 879–898.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Office of the Chief Scientist. (2014). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Australia’s future. Canberra: Australian Government.Google Scholar
  41. Oliver, B. (2015). Redefining graduate employability and work-integrated learning: Proposals for effective higher education in disrupted economies. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 6(1), 56–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Parliament of Victoria, Education and Training Committee. (2005). Step up, step in, step out. Report on the suitability of pre-service teacher training in Victoria. Melbourne: Victorian Government Printer.Google Scholar
  43. Patrick, C., Peach, D., & Pocknee, C. (2009). The WIL (Work Integrated Learning) report: A national scoping study, Australian Teaching and Learning Council.Google Scholar
  44. Peach, D., Cates, C., Jones, J., Lechleiter, H. & Ilg, B. (2011). Responding to rapid change in higher education: enabling university departments responsible for work related programs through boundary spanning. Journal of Cooperative Education and Internships, 45(1), 94–106. Accessed online from:
  45. Rossner, P. & Commins, D. (2012), Defining ‘Enduring Partnerships’: can a well-worn path be an effective, sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship? Queensland College of Teachers.Google Scholar
  46. Schӧn, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner. London: Temple Smith.Google Scholar
  47. Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. TEMAG. (2014). Action now: Classroom ready teachers. Report of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (Retrieved from
  49. TEQSA. (2016). Work Integrated Learning Guidance Note. The Tertiary Education Quality an Standards Agency (TEQSA). Available online from
  50. Tytler, R. (2007). Re-imagining science education: engaging students in science for Australia’s future. Australian Education Review 51, Australian Council for Educational Research. Retrieved from
  51. Ure, C., Gough, A., & Newton, R. (2009). Practicum partnerships: exploring models of practicum organisation in teacher education for a standards-based profession, Australian Learning and Teaching Council, viewed 28 March 2017,
  52. Weldon, P. R. (2015). Policy Insights: The teacher workforce in Australia: supply, demand and data issues. Melbourne: Australian Council for Education research (ACER).Google Scholar
  53. Weldon, P. R. (2016). Policy Insights: Out of field teaching in Australian Secondary Schools. Australian Council for Education research (ACER).Google Scholar
  54. Weldon, P., McKenzie, P., Kleinhenz, E., & Reid, K. (2013). Teach for Australia Pathway: Evaluation Report Phase 3 of 3. Melbourne: ACER.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Kenny
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mellita Jones
    • 2
  • Christopher Speldewinde
    • 3
  1. 1.University of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Catholic UniversityBallaratAustralia
  3. 3.Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

Personalised recommendations