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Educating, not drowning


Research to improve swimming teacher training aims to tackle the grim global drowning statistics.

While drowning deaths overall continue to decline in Australia, there is only so much that stricter pool fencing and more vigilant supervision can do.

At the end of the day, kids needs to know how to swim and how to save themselves in the water. That comes down to education.

A new research collaboration between ECU and AUSTSWIM is focused on enhancing the effectiveness of swimming and water safety training through the better education of trainers.

AUSTSWIM is a leading national and international provider of swimming and water safety training courses.

Drawing on ‘quality of teaching’ pedagogy, this project is all-encompassing and is having immediate real-world impact in Australia and overseas.

‘We’re looking to change the drowning statistics’

Professorial Research Fellow Dawn Penney, who leads the research, said the project reflects AUSTSWIM’S recognition of the need to strengthen the training of teachers and quality assurance (QA) systems.

“The focus of the research is to help AUSTSWIM achieve excellence in their training of teachers of swimming and water safety,” Professor Penney says.

“AUSTSWIM understands that parents who entrust their children’s tuition to an AUSTSWIM-licensed teacher expect the highest level of quality.

“This project is designed to help ensure that expectation is consistently met.

“If we’re looking to change the drowning statistics, quality education is an important issue, and ensuring that starts with teacher training.”

There were 800 drowning incidents (fatal and non-fatal) in 2017/18, according to Royal Surf Life Saving Australia.

Global reach

AUSTSWIM has more than 34,000 active registered swimming teachers nationally and overseas, adding 8000 new teachers annually.

It is the only aquatic organisation worldwide accredited against the highest ISO accreditation benchmark.

With up to 50,000 active AUSTSWIM‑registered teachers expected over the next three years, maintaining QA through the growth is critically important, according to AUSTSWIM General Manager of Education and Communication Craig Halliday.

“To run a decentralised model for remote, regional and international courses when you’re not in the same building, we need to develop best‑practice systems,” he says.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership standards underpin the research.

‘These changes are not just tweaks’

Early findings reveal that more pre-course training would ensure participants attend the two‑day intensive course better prepared.

“It would enable a shift in emphasis from getting through content to how to teach it, how to relate to different learners, what is involved in quality assessment and so on,” Professor Penney explains.

She adds that participants need more time to explore real-life contexts and how best to manage specific situations.

Work was recently completed to address possible solutions, following surveys, interviews and focus groups with teachers and stakeholders.

“The changes are not tweaks but significant updates that include changing the way AUSTSWIM presenter training operates,” Professor Penney says.

“The presenters are teacher educators and are setting the standards and expectations – so we needed to evaluate AUSTSWIM’s teacher education courses to get the presenter training right.”

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