Learning to play the 'classroom tennis' well: IELTS and international students in teacher education


Wayne Sawyer

Michael Singh

Date Published:

12th April 2010

Teacher education students whose language background is not English (LBOTE) not only need to perform adequately in English for the purposes of their academic study, but also need to be fluent in the public situation of teaching their own classes on practicum and in their future careers. Thus, for these students, the ‘public performance’ of English adds a significant layer of issues to those applying to other cohorts of LBOTE students.

This research sets out to address the question of an appropriate IELTS score for graduate entry teacher education courses through investigating: the extent to which current IELTS scores into graduate entry teacher education courses are considered adequate by the lecturers of such students, by prospective teacher registration authorities and by the students themselves, and, following this, what an appropriate score might be for entry into such courses. 

Academics from four Faculties of Education and one student cohort were interviewed, along with representatives of one state teacher registration authority. A range of language skills for teachers were identified. A key issue for these students in such courses is the potential for language growth in the course itself with a corresponding need to focus on exit abilities as well as entry ability. It is argued therefore on the one hand, that in short graduate entry courses, universities ought to consider setting an entry level corresponding to the requirements of the teacher registration authority. Some interviewees argued, however, that the complex of issues faced by these students – such as familiarisation with Anglophone schooling cultures – makes particularly high IELTS entry scores a distraction from these larger issues. 

There is also a need for universities to value the experiences and funds of knowledge brought by LBOTE students. Ultimately, IELTS entry scores are a function of a Faculty’s ability to provide language support. The nature of such support and of a richer approach to testing is discussed.