Actioning university community engagement: leadership, mentoring and professional communities

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Hudson, P & Hudson, S 2011, 'Actioning university community engagement: leadership, mentoring and professional communities' in M Creamer, D Whitton, N Butrous, S Kilpatrick, P Viljoen & B Cherednichenko (eds), 2011 AUCEA Conference Proceedings: Next Steps: Building a new engagement Agenda, Sydney, NSW, 11-13 July, AUCEA, Sydney, NSW, pp. 35-36. ISBN: 9780980361087


This presentation focuses on actioning university-community engagement through a Department of Employment, Education and Work Relations (DEEWR) grant. The project associated with this grant is titled Teacher Education Done Differently (TEDD) and it is currently in its third and final year of operation. TEDD aims to facilitate benefits for all partners (i.e., teachers, school executives, students, preservice teachers, university staff, and education departments). This project aims to facilitate understandings and skills on advancing mentoring and teaching practices for preservice teachers. The initial problem forging the way towards devising the grant application was that Australia has produced many reform recommendations (Bradley, Noonan, Nugent, & Scales, 2008; Commonwealth of Australia, 2007; House of Representatives Standing Committee on Educational and Vocational Training [HRSCEVT], 2007; Masters, 2009) claiming that teaching and teacher education must change to improve educational opportunities. We will talk about and discuss the process of establishing universitycommunity relationships within this grant and the leadership that was required to bring together a workable university-community partnership. We initially investigate leadership theories such as Avolio and Bass (2002) full range leadership theory and lead to discussing other educators (Gronn, 2000; Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2001) to posit that distributed leadership has the potential for influencing educational change. Our study shows how moving away from “professional development” to professional learning (Easton, 2008) plays a role in partnership arrangements. We also show that leadership practices were used to build a learning community by establishing goals for team learning, building a shared vision, and a system approach for achieving the goals (e.g., see Senge, 1990). During the TEDD project, we established professional learning communities (PLCs) that provided forums for key stakeholders to interact and learn about how to create educational change. We will talk about various Australian universities who have taken part in this project as partners in PLCs, particularly for establishing a Mentoring for Effective Teaching (MET) program. The research shows (Hudson, 2010) that mentoring by teachers in schools with their preservice teachers (mentees) is varied in both quality and quantity. The MET program aimed to address the reviews into teaching and teacher education by partnering with key stakeholders who could enact these changes. Setting up specific PLCs assisted these professionals to learn from each other through their varied skills towards developing “more effective ways of doing things” (Roberts & Pruitt, 2003, p. 3). The DEEWR grant provided the resources and expertise to design and facilitate the MET program. It has now an ongoing effect where there are more than 500 MET facilitators trained to further provide professional learning within schools. This had an exponential effect. For example, one MET facilitator Deputy Principal conducted this two-day 2 voluntary program with 18 teachers over a weekend. At the conclusion of the program she stated, “I am so proud of my teachers - they were engaged and enthusiastic the whole time. I truly believe this program has had an impact on the way teachers will mentor preservice teachers in the future. It also had the added benefit of encouraging them to reflect on their own practices”. They have now established their own mentoring PLC within the school where staff meet once a month to advance their mentoring (and teaching) practices aligned with current reform recommendations. There needs to be supportive conditions for establishing and maintaining a PLC through collaborative pooling of knowledge and resources to present ways for ensuring the learning community prospers in visionary directions (Clarke, 2009). Each PLC has specific discourses to assist in ways of working (Wenger, 1998) and these discourses can be toolkits to categorise particular identities. When we analysed how these leadership roles were pivotal for establishing, facilitating, and advancing PLCs with purposeful endeavours (Clarke, 2009; Stevens, 2007), we also recognised that mentoring was a form of leadership (e.g., Tillman, 2000). Similar to leadership practices within other settings (e.g., Hudson, Craig, & Hudson, 2007), the mentor as leader would: project visionary goals for the mentee, motivate the mentee to achieve high standards, promote collaborative team efforts, communicate a clear commitment to education, and most importantly, distribute leadership to the mentee.