A Head Start on Teacher Professional Learning through Alumni Mentorship

Abstract

Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) is a forerunner in initial teacher education through the launch of its double-degree programmme in English language & literature and English language teaching (ELT) in 2005. This collaborative venture between the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences has nurtured new generations of primary and secondary teachers of English since its first batch of graduates in 2009. However, as the success of the programme gained recognition by the University Grants Committee (UGC), incongruities in teaching and learning have been identified in its five-year academic structure since 2012, and in the doubling of the provision of double-degree places in 2016. Such incongruities include the increasing diversity of Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) graduates with a weak orientation to teaching, theory-practice dichotomy as a long-standing concern for teacher preparation, and aspiring HKBU students’ lack of symbolic capital in identity construction. The transition of initial teacher education from an elite system to a mass system needs to be addressed, if HKBU is to achieve its declared graduate attributes (citizenship, knowledge, learning, skills, creativity, communication and teamwork), as well as its goal of becoming a regional leader in whole person education (vision 2020).

Education serves intellectual, social, political and economic purposes. One of the fundamental assumptions of schooling is to prepare young people to meet labour market needs in the hyper-competitive global sphere. With the recognition of teachers as the most important factor in raising educational standards, teacher preparation through five-year double bachelor’s degree programmes (in a major subject and the teaching of the relevant subject) should be given top priority in educational policy agendas, if Hong Kong is to continue to merit one of the world’s best school systems (Barber & Mourshed, 2007). The everyday challenges that classroom teachers face within the complexity of their own institutional contexts need to be placed at the forefront of initial teacher preparation. To extend support to HKBU’s culture of sharing and continuous effort to improve teaching and learning (Wong et al.,2016), the establishment of a community of practice (CoP) premised on a social theory of teacher professional learning through alumni mentoring and advising may be timely.