University of Melbourne Magazine

Pathway to the top of the class

  • Melbourne Graduate School of Education alumnus Matthew McDonald

    Melbourne Graduate School of Education alumnus Matthew McDonald.

    Matthew McDonald is one of a new breed of data-savvy school teachers, whose expertise has been honed by a teaching degree ranked as one of the world’s best.

    He is an alumnus of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE), which recently won global recognition for its ground-breaking approach to teacher training.

    “You hear a lot of teachers bag their teacher training course because it didn’t prepare them well for the reality of the classroom,” McDonald  says. “But my course overall has been very useful. We had inspirational lecturers and tutors and everything had a practical application, it wasn’t just theory.

    “We spent three days a week at university and two days a week in a school placement, with block placements on top of that. It meant you could take an idea from what you were learning at university and try it immediately at your school placement … It meant you were never operating in a vacuum.”

    McDonald is in his third year as an English and history teacher at St Leonard’s College, Brighton. Last year he was nominated for a National Excellence in Teaching Award and has taken on the role of student debating co-ordinator at the school.

    His stellar academic record as a high school student and then as a graduate of the University of Melbourne, earning an arts law degree with honours in 2010, is typical of the high calibre but diverse backgrounds of graduates who apply to enter the Graduate School’s Master of Teaching program.

    Demand for places is outstripping supply, and in February the Graduate School was recognised as one of the world’s best education faculties. It was ranked second in the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject.

    In the same month, the Graduate School’s reputation for pioneering a more rigorous model of teacher training led the Federal Government to appoint the school’s Dean, Professor Field Rickards, to an expert panel responsible for reviewing Australia’s beleaguered teacher education system.

    The system has been regularly criticised in teacher surveys and several studies for producing graduates ill-equipped to handle the demands of classroom teaching. One-year diploma courses, very low tertiary scores for entrance into some courses, weak links between theory and practice and not enough practical teacher training in classrooms were listed as the main flaws of many courses run by universities nationwide.