Growing from Strength to Strength – Teacher Education Flourishing through Third Space Partnerships

Case Studies


University of Wollongong



Model/s of WIL activity:

  • Industry/community based placement
  • Site visits

Level the activity is delivered:

Through an individual unit/course of study

Growing from Strength to Strength – Teacher Education Flourishing through Third Space Partnerships 

Successful partnerships and beyond: co-designing WILfor pre-service teachers that meaningfully engage all stakeholders.

The aim of this stand-alone WIL subject is to build preservice teachers’ (PSTs) confidence and self-efficacy ahead of their professional WIL that commences at the end of the semester. Over the course of a 13-week subject, PSTs spend 15 hours (5-3 hour sessions) in situ at a local public school participating in a one-hour mini lecture (expanding on content from the large on campus lecture), one-hour tutorial, and one-hour in classroom settings, connecting theory to practice. This unique approach provides a valuable opportunity for PSTs to connect content and theory to vibrant and active classroom environments.

Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation

2011 – present (11 years).

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

EDPD202 is a core second year subject in the suite of pedagogy subjects in the Bachelor of Primary Education degree. The subject is aptly called, “Teacher as a Managing Professional” with learning goals that include including programming strategies, collaborating, communicating, and critical reflection, and organising, planning and assessing and evaluating teaching and learning. These outcomes are best met in the context of a primary school. In response to these outcomes, EDPD202 has been developed as a unique third space opportunity that draws on local primary school teachers’ experience, together with university educators’ expertise to provide PSTs a subject built on the foundations of WIL. The subject has been purposefully co-designed incorporating authentic face-to-face school-based learning opportunities. In collaboration with practicing classroom teachers, PSTs create lesson plans designed for a variety of learners, teach those lessons, receive engaged feedback, and discuss professional learning goals. Assessment tasks for the subject directly align to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and are co-designed to purposely, meaningfully and intentionally integrate theory with practice. In an effort to grow stakeholder involvement, the university educator created a three-day workshop for interested teachers at the partnering primary schools. Education Experts Mentoring Preservice Australian Teachers Holistically (EMPATH) encouraged classroom teachers at the school to become a part of the teaching and evaluation team for the university subject. This decade-long sustained, collaborative approach partnering university educators and primary school teachers continues to be an ongoing success and influences other academics and subject coordinators to engage in similar partnerships.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

Many stakeholders benefit from co-designed efforts to engage PSTs in meaningful learning experiences. The benefactors go beyond the PSTs and include primary school teachers, administrators, and the entire community. The thriving collaborative partnership in the third space includes synergies between UOW colleagues specialising in a variety of disciplines (pedagogy, learning analytics and technology enhanced learning) who explore the ongoing design iterations of the subject. It provides primary school teachers with opportunities to engage in their own professional learning and re-invigorates day-to-day classroom activities. Children and parents are provided with extra support and fresh educators that enhance the learning experience.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

In alignment with the co-design, development, and sustainability of EDPD202, ongoing consideration in the evaluation of student success on all levels was paramount. While the subject garnered extraordinarily positive student evaluations, we continued to seek ways to increase student centred and driven evaluation. The expertise of the UOW Learning Analytics (LA) unit was harnessed to measure ongoing student-centred improvements. Using the Knowledge Based Survey (KBS) approach (Nuhfer & Knipp, 2003), students rated their confidence of the subject learning outcomes before the subject commenced. In this way, content could be tailored to the self-identified needs of each cohort. At the end of each semester, the KBS was delivered again to measure the growth of students’ self-efficacy in content knowledge. This approach was further refined in subsequent years administering KBS at the beginning of each individual unit to produce more detailed data. Considering student feedback, the subject was further transformed from a face-to-face only delivery to a blended approach. Content was delivered through 6 online asynchronous slow-release modules which consisted of academic readings, followed by a short quiz; a video (featuring local schoolteachers, principals, and UOW academics); and a formal quiz worth 5% each. The inclusion of UOW LA team to the third space made a significant contribution to improving the delivery of EDPD202 and resulted in successful publications reflecting this work (Eady et al., 2022). Students also acknowledged the meaningful connection between learning and evaluation, “The online modules were consolidated by the hands-on class time at the demonstration class” PST, 2018.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

Historically, classroom teachers have played an important role in teacher education, opening their classrooms, and sharing their expertise with PSTs. EDPD202 co-design has given these expert stakeholders a voice in the creation of content to guide future classroom teachers. In EDPD202, they collaborate with university educators bringing relevant, lived experience. This results in a pattern of sharing, learning, applying, and reflecting between various university staff, schoolteachers, administration, school children, and parents. One principal stated, “we are proud of our continued partnership and look forward to continuing to work together for our students, schoolteachers and future leaders” (Alison Rourke, 2021).

How is the WIL activity integrated into curricula? Include how it incorporates the preparation, implementation and reflection/debriefing phases of WIL.

WIL is not simply integrated into the curricula; WIL is the curricula. Everything in EDPD202 is purposefully designed with WIL pedagogy at the core. Online asynchronous components incorporate industry leaders’ expertise. Pertinent scholarly resources encourage critical reflection in developing professional learning goals and actions taken in the school environment. In fact, the LA unit component of our work is our own version of WIL, stepping outside of our comfort zone into another’s workplace to understand their view of the work that we do. EDPD202 stakeholders collaborate to future-proof our PSTs and prepare them to be the best professional educators.

Describe how the case study is informed by relevant theoretical or empirical literature, research and/or scholarship.

Recently, there has been a strong focus towards focussing on integrating theory and practice (Lozano et al., 2017). More specifically, the foci that are stressed are active learning pedagogies, and the creation and sustainment of partnerships with industry and community (Lozano et al., 2017; Green et al., 2020). Integrating theory and practice within initial teacher education (ITE) is not only an effective way to incorporate real world experience for pre services teachers, but it has been seen to increase their engagement in their teacher education journey and beyond (Cattaneo, 2017).


 Eady, M. J., Green, C. A., Fulcher, D., & Boniface, T. (2022). Using learning analytics to redesign core pedagogy subjects: A case in point. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 46(2), 246-257.

Green, C. A., Tindall-Ford, S. K., & Eady, M. J. (2020). School-university partnerships in Australia: A systematic literature review. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 48(4), 403-435.

Lozano, R., Merrill, M. Y., Sammalisto, K., Ceulemans, K., & Lozano, F. J. (2017). Connecting competences and pedagogical approaches for sustainable development in higher education: A literature review and framework proposal. Sustainability, 9(10), 1889.

Nuhfer, E. B., & Knipp, D. (2003). The Knowledge Survey: A Tool for All Reasons. To Improve the Academy, 21, 59-78.

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

EDPD202 will continue to evolve and strengthen through the collection of data from the multitude of voices that collaborate in this subject. We intend to continue to share how sustained and successful partnerships in students learning translates to student’s professional self-efficacy as they travel their journey to graduation and transition into their professional role. We will continue to disseminate our findings to fellow staff members, school communities and the wider field of education through publications, conferences, and workshops, with ongoing enthusiasm to grow our community of practice and invite others to take part and become advocates for WIL.


Case Study Leader

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Associate Professor Michelle J. Eady

University of Wollongong