Why your registration as a teacher is valuable


Last week we celebrated World Teachers’ Day. The Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) was at the forefront, promoting and celebrating Queensland teachers through publishing stories of more than 200 nominees in the 10th year of the Excellence in Teaching Awards. Finalists were celebrated in a ceremony held within view of Brisbane’s Story Bridge, which had been lit up to celebrate the occasion. This is but one example of the QCT’s commitment to providing Queensland teachers with much more than a registration framework. Queensland led the nation in developing a system for the registration of teachers in the early 1970s (the remainder of the country has since followed). While for many teachers, paying an annual registration fee is their only point of connection with the state regulator, the QCT, there is much more to be gained from this relationship.

Registration is one of the key mechanisms which can assure the professional standing and quality of a profession. It is underpinned by clear expectations of what is required to become a teacher, and what standards must be met by all teachers. The registration system ensures that only appropriately qualified and suitable people are employed as teachers, thereby protecting educational standards and student safety, and upholding the reputation of the profession. In addition, all teachers can be confident that their peers are also endorsed by the same high-standard registration processes, providing a high degree of confidence in their profession.

From 2011, the national registration framework embedded the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) within registration requirements. The Teacher Standards guide and strengthen the quality of teaching and provide a framework for career progression and ongoing professional learning. The APST are complementary to registration processes.

In Queensland, the QCT regards registration as the doorway to our profession, the beginning to a teacher’s professional teaching journey. What is vital about the work of your QCT is the commitment to ensuring that the profession remains standards-based, that students are protected, and that the integrity of the teaching profession is maintained. QCT staff work to maintain the highest standards – in initial teacher education program accreditation, in maintenance and support of the teacher standards, and in enabling all education stakeholders to have confidence of the suitability and quality of their teachers.

The College actively engages in a number of activities to promote and showcase excellence in the teaching profession in Queensland (for example, the QCT Excellence in Teaching Awards, and the INSTEAMO photo and video competition). In addition, the QCT operates as a neutral body working in productive and respectful collaboration with all stakeholders – employing bodies, unions, parent and principal partners, and higher education institutions. Its focus in these relationships is on the excellence of the teaching profession and working with all partners to achieve this.

The QCT publishes a regular e-newsletter to keep you informed, and its website provides access to a range of resources to enhance teaching and learning and assist teachers in interpretation of the APST. It also provides links to resources from other stakeholders.

The QCT is acknowledged as a national leader in evidence-based contribution to national policy discussions around child safety, teacher professional boundaries, and promoting the profession. I have cited QCT reports in earlier blogs (see references below again). Expertise of QCT staff is regularly sought by other state (and international) regulatory bodies.

Your QCT ensures that the teaching profession in Queensland is continually held in high esteem. The QCT works to maintain standards through promoting the code of ethics and investigating practice and conduct matters. In each of these roles, it works for you, the teachers of Queensland – to provide ongoing confidence in all facets of the profession.

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton
Chair of QCT Board

QCT reports and commissioned research

Bahr, N., Graham, A., Ferreira, J., Lloyd, M., & Waters, R. (2018). Promotion of the teaching profession in Queensland. Bilinga: Southern Cross University. Prepared for Queensland College of Teachers.

Queensland College of Teachers. (2013). Attrition of recent Queensland graduate teachers. Author.

Wyatt-Smith, C., Du Plessis, A., Hand, K., Wang, J., Alexander, C., & Colbert, P. (2017). Why choose teaching? A matter of choice: Evidence from the field. A report prepared for the Queensland College of Teachers. Brisbane, Queensland: Learning Sciences Institute Australia.

 

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Top of the Class: Maintaining the teaching passion


(And some words about a teacher who inspired me: Jim Gall)

My two previous blogs have focused on the significant work intensification and changing employment practices which are contributors to a decline in teacher satisfaction and morale, and a concomitant increase in teachers’ levels of  stress and rates of leaving the profession. Responses from teachers to these blogs have been unanimous in reporting on the difficulties of administrative and data-driven burdens which are often carried at the expense of time given to teaching students and obtaining the best learning outcomes for each one. These reports are also confirmed in a recent opinion piece by Nan Bahr, Donna Pendergast, and Jo-Anne Ferreira (https://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?tag=nan-bahr) who, in rejecting the negative claims about teachers of many commentators, noted that “Australian teachers are doing well. They are not under-qualified and they are certainly not under-educated, as some media stories would have you believe. They are doing an admirable job managing exhausting workloads and constantly changing government policies and processes.”

Teachers often have to respond to negative and deficit-focussed language.  Their work is highly scrutinised and teachers are often criticised, in particular when test scores are perceived as inadequate.

Many of the teachers responding to my previous blogs also reiterated why they became teachers – to support the learning of their students. Teaching is a profession which calls to the heart of an individual.  Almost to a person, teachers describe their motivation to teach as related to helping children, or changing the world through teaching children, or to give back what was received from their own teachers. Similarly, to a person, everybody can recall at least one teacher who had a considerable positive influence on them, who changed their lives, recognised them, and gave them hope.

The residual of what are often noisy and ill-informed critiques is that society has been distracted from affirming the essence of good education: the devoted professional teacher.  We need to reclaim the stories of our teachers and return their value to individual teachers, the teaching profession, and to society.

As World Teachers’ Day draws closer, it’s important to think about how we can best acknowledge and celebrate the work and achievements of teachers in a genuine way. Never forgetting their role in our lives, and telling them how important they are, is just one of the ways we can do this. One of the things I am often amazed about is the unintended consequences of our being on others. Teachers often learn, sometimes years later, about how something we did or said influenced someone.

For me, that teacher was Jim Gall.

In this blog I want to celebrate Jim as a teacher who has served the profession and the students of Queensland for 57 years. Imagine 25 full school auditoriums– that is at least the number of Queenslanders whose lives have been directly impacted by this teacher.

Jim grew up in Windorah, in the Channel Country in Western Queensland. A country boy at heart, he left Windorah to attend the closest school, a Toowoomba boarding school, and could only go home three times a year.  He obtained a State Government scholarship for his senior schooling and his one year of teacher training, prior to beginning teaching in 1960. He subsequently completed an Education degree, an Arts degree, a Diploma in School Administration, and a Masters in Curriculum, all as an external student. He held various senior leadership positions including Acting Principal, Deputy Principal, Head of Maths Department and Sports Master, but was always drawn to the role of classroom teacher, in particular in Senior Maths and Science.

He was a part of many changes in education during his 57 years in the profession. Beginning as a primary teacher, he transferred to secondary schools in 1964 when Year 8 was incorporated into high schools. Subsequently he saw Year 7 transfer to secondary schools in 2015. He saw external exams move to school-based assessment (in the early 1970’s) and will see the return of external exams in Queensland.

Over the years, this maths guru has seen the progression from ink wells and slates to calculators and computers. Throughout his career, he engaged in many strategies to enhance learning opportunities for students, inside and outside the classroom. In one of his first schools he sourced kits from America and built scientific calculators so students could access them at half the store price. He introduced new curriculum into schools and devised innovative timetabling strategies to increase the availability of subjects, and therefore opportunities, for students. Jim also enjoyed mentoring beginning teachers, sharing some of his own professional learning over many years.

Jim retired from full time teaching (for the second or third time) at the end of 2017. While continuing to enjoy teaching students, he noted an increasing frustration (his own and that of his colleagues) with the amount of non-teaching that was required to be done in the classroom. In addition, noting the extensive extra-curricular activity which was embraced by teachers in his early years, and which enabled teachers to get to know their students in a more holistic way, he commented that increasing expectations for documentation and reporting meant that teachers could find it challenging to find the time and opportunity to do this.

However, Jim remains passionate about getting the best out of, and for, his students 57 years after he first walked into his own classroom. I asked him what aspects of teaching encouraged him to stay in the profession. He emphasised how much he enjoyed teaching young people – “It really gives me a buzz when you see the lights come on in a student’s eyes showing that they understand what you are talking about. It makes them feel good, it makes me feel good, and it gives the student confidence to continue learning. These ‘lights turning on’ moments are what makes it all worthwhile. You teach to get these moments. Students really appreciate a teacher who takes the extra time to get these moments.”

So why Jim Gall? Jim taught me Maths 1 in 1972-1973 at North Mackay State High School. Admittedly it was a small school in those days – my Year 12 class only had 23 students – and I also must admit I was not one of his best Maths students – but 44 years on, Jim was able to recall many aspects of our classrooms during those years.

After my Education degree, I undertook a degree in psychology. I very specifically remember wanting to tell Jim Gall, my Senior Maths teacher, the year I received a grade of 7 (the top grade) in my second-year statistics subject. I knew he would have been proud (and probably even pleasantly surprised).

It was an honour to speak at Jim’s final school assembly farewell in December 2017, to thank him for his contribution to my life, and to so many lives. His contribution to teaching far exceeds longevity – his work right through to his final classes demonstrated passion for, and commitment to, learning outcomes for his students. … “I take composite 11/12 Maths C and just got my results back from the panel,” he wrote in an email. “They agreed to my submission with 4 VHAs, 2 HAs and 3 SAs in a class of 9 Year 12s.  I was pretty pleased with that. I have always tried to do my best for the kids, the school and the parents and that is the satisfaction and reward.”

Jim is remarkable in many ways – indeed, I believe he has had a courageous career.  Despite system and organisational challenges, increasing workloads, and contextual changes, he has maintained for 57 years his passion for teaching young people to be the best they can be.

I chose to finish my blog series on teacher well-being with this positive story. I hope it encourages teachers to revisit their reasons for choosing the profession, and for those who may be struggling, that it provides encouragement to rekindle the joy of teaching.

I wish all teachers a celebratory World Teachers’ Day.

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton
Chair of QCT Board

Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Enhancing teacher well-being: Individual and system strategies


Teacher wellbeing: individual and system strategies

Teacher well-being — individual and system strategies

My previous blog provided evidence that teachers’ well-being is subject to ongoing challenge from many areas. While we all have a role in maintaining our health, I remain adamant that it is not the individual’s sole responsibility to manage their well-being: employing organisations at all levels of leadership need to be active in developing supportive workplace practices.

Increasing reports of teacher stress have prompted a range of interventions for both individuals and systems. The Education Review held a Managing Student and Staff Well-being in Schools seminar earlier this year. Speakers included teachers and principals who shared their advice with respect to prioritising their mental health. A former principal emphasised that teacher well-being is a systemic not an individual problem; however, she urged teachers to engage in self-support strategies. Suggestions included:
– maintaining physical well-being;
– setting work/life boundaries (e.g., no answering emails on weekends);
– making to-do lists; and
– fostering small, positive habits, such as walking a dog each day.

Other speakers at the Education Review conference commented on the importance of belonging, autonomy and competence, and adaptability as key focal points in driving well-being. As teaching is inherently relational (I emphasised this when noting that AI will not replace teachers), a sense of belonging is essential to well-being, with studies demonstrating that connected teachers are more motivated, committed to their jobs, and have a greater sense of personal well-being. Developing positive, supportive networks is important to everyone, and can be particularly crucial to individual well-being in stressful environments.

Teachers report that external demands often affect autonomy and self-belief in their competence. Bahr, Graham, Ferreira, Lloyd and Waters (2018) noted that many teachers do not feel valued and commented on the negative impact of public opinion on teachers’ self-efficacy and well-being. Positive support networks and engaging in mindfulness are useful strategies. Resilience training to facilitate adaptability was suggested by another speaker at the conference. Another speaker emphasised the crucial role of sleep in fostering well-being and advised teachers to check in on their own sleep health.

The literature review on teacher well-being by Acton and Glasgow (2015) highlighted the following key strategies for schools and employing authorities in providing support to teachers:
– provision of additional training in effective emotional coping strategies to raise the awareness of the role of emotions in teaching and help support teachers to implement practices that develop and maintain well-being; and
– development and maintenance of positive professional relationships, including those with colleagues and within the broader school community.

These authors noted that although external systemic requirements (often politically and socially driven) provide challenging contexts, it is vital that these are adapted within local school contexts.

Acton and Glasgow acknowledged that despite pressure on schools from increasingly competitive external sources, proactive school leaders need to prioritise well-being, establish school relationships which include professional trust and respect, and support professional and emotional aspects of teachers’ work. That is, school leaders need to provide a multifaceted approach which facilitates teacher well-being in the multiple domains of emotions, relationships, and professional accomplishment.

To this end, the LeadingWell Queensland (leadingwellqld.com.au) website provides a range of resources to assist the development of positive and supportive workplace cultures. Importantly, the resources on this website focus on positive mental health, emphasising the importance of enhancing each individual’s potential to cope with life stresses, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to her or his community. In addition, they provide a comprehensive approach to creating and maintaining a mentally healthy workplace by targeting many levels of a workplace including systems, policies, processes, culture and leadership.

Teachers and schools operate within numerous and increasingly changing systems, personal and professional, each with ongoing external threats and challenges. All elements of the system need to work in concert to continue to listen and act to ensure the ongoing well-being of its teachers, who are, in addition, key players in the well-being and productive outcomes of their students.

Paradoxically, the relational nature of teaching means this facet is also a contributor to well-being challenges for teachers.  Commitment to their students means teachers often find it difficult to switch off from the caring function – it is important to remember that it is okay to take time out, and it is not selfish to take time to look after the self.

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton
Chair of QCT Board

Additional Reading

Acton, R., & Glasgow, P. (2015). Teacher wellbeing in neoliberal context: A review of the literature. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 40 (8), 99-114.

Bahr, N., Graham, A., Ferreira, J., Lloyd, M., & Waters, R. (2018). Promotion of the teaching profession in Queensland. Bilinga: Southern Cross University. Prepared for Queensland College of Teachers.

Posted in Support, Systems, Teaching, Wellbeing | 1 Comment

Teacher well-being – what the evidence shows


Following the mid-year break, it is worth reflecting on an issue that dominated the media during the break period, that of teacher well-being. Why is teacher reported stress increasing?

During the previous few weeks, a Sydney private school principal asked parents to cease harassment of his teachers, and considerable media attention focused on the book Teacher, by Gabbie Stroud, which chronicles the daily challenges of the author’s time as a teacher. The challenges of the teaching profession and the resultant attrition from the teaching workforce have dominated the literature for a number of years.  However, anecdotal reports continue to emphasise the unique rewards associated with being a teacher.

Teacher attrition is attributed to well-being, however, the definition of well-being itself is not straightforward. A literature review conducted by Acton and Glasgow (2015) concluded that well-being is informed by factors including: individual (a need for autonomy and a sense of competence, positive attitude, work-life balance, capacity for emotional intelligence); relational (e.g., quality of student and staff relationships, connectedness and belonging in the workplace); and contextual (e.g., work intensification and policy change).

A number of reports provide evidence of the contextual factors. A 2017 Australian study of the effectiveness of teacher education and early career teachers (Mayer et al.), acknowledged the challenging career patterns for beginning teachers with multiple short-term contracts and job insecurity. The study found teachers’ decisions to remain in teaching are linked to a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, including “their capacity to make a difference and effectively contribute to students’ learning, the enjoyment of teaching and working with children, developing new teaching and leadership skills etc. In addition to these intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, there are certain conditions of work that make the everyday experience of teaching enjoyable or not”.

Evidence of increasing stress in the profession is provided in Monash University’s Australian Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey, which suggests a lack of job security in teaching contracts, restrictions in teacher autonomy, and limited mentoring opportunities contribute to this situation. A recent study of promoting the teaching profession, commissioned by the Queensland College of Teachers (Bahr, Graham, Ferreira, Lloyd & Waters, 2018), identified “adverse perceptions of task demands (working conditions) that are instrumental in teacher turnover and attrition. These include: workload (the number of annual working hours), likelihood of working in disruptive classrooms, and availability of support staff”. Sources of teacher stress cited include: overcrowded classrooms, an emphasis on testing, restrictions on curriculum, multiple extracurricular and administrative demands and additional stresses of teaching subjects for which the teachers had no specialised background.

A Facebook page specifically developed for teachers to share workplace concerns and strategies, Minds Wide Open, posts reports about significant increases in teachers’ working hours, additional emphases on compliance and demands as contributors to the decline in teacher well-being and morale. These anecdotal reports are supported by qualitative data from a recent research project, Teaching and Learning – Review of Workload, commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation and undertaken by Sydney University Business School and School of Education and Social Work. This study confirmed there was “a surprising uniformity in responses in relation to high hours of work and administrative sources of workload”, even accounting for school size, type and diversity. The project reported an increase in workload over the past five years, which when coupled with perceived conflicting demands contributed to low morale or stress.

Despite these negative data, the NSW study also concluded that teachers are happy to work long hours if they understand and appreciate the value of the work, noting that increased administration and perceived extraneous policy requirements do not fit this category. It is also positive that in Queensland, many teacher organisations are attending to workload and well-being issues and each main employing authority has significant well-being support infrastructure. An awareness of the profession’s challenges also means that teachers are alert to supporting their own and their colleagues’ journeys.

Job satisfaction, positive or negative, is connected to staying or leaving a job in any profession. There is a wealth of evidence which suggests that significant work intensification and changing employment practices are contributing to a decline in teacher satisfaction. In my next blog I will discuss some well-being management suggestions from a range of practitioners, many of them teachers. I would also be very interested to hear of any effective strategies that you, your colleagues, or your schools are using.

I want to be clear it is not the individual’s sole responsibility to manage their well-being: employing organisations at all levels of leadership need to be active in developing supportive workplace practices. Therefore, in my next blog I will focus on both individual and systemic strategies. I look forward to receiving your suggestions to include.

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton
Chair of QCT Board

 

Additional Reading

Acton, R., & Glasgow, P. (2015). Teacher wellbeing in neoliberal context” A review of the literature. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 40 (8), 99-114.

Bahr, N., Graham, A., Ferreira, J., Lloyd, M., & Waters, R. (2018). Promotion of the teaching profession in Queensland. Bilinga: Southern Cross University. Prepared for Queensland College of Teachers.

Mayer, D., Dixon, M., Kline, J., Kostogriz, A., Moss, J., Rowan, L., Walker-Gibbs, B., & White, S. (2017). Studying the effectiveness of teacher education: Early career teachers in diverse settings. Singapore: Springer Nature.

Posted in Support, Systems, Wellbeing | 24 Comments

Individualising Learning


Is technology the answer to individualised learning?

Is technology the answer to maximise individualised learning? How can teachers and school systems collaborate to enhance professional learning opportunities to build teacher skills in this area?

Discussions in government reports and online posts have again raised the challenge of individualised learning in classrooms. The Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, Through Growth to Achievement (the Gonski Report), was released in March this year. A major recommendation of this report was to tailor the curriculum to individual learning needs to better enable individual student learning growth. The report recommended that rather than prescribing yearly targets, the curriculum should be used as “a roadmap of long-term learning progress”, commenting that “learning progressions that enable teachers to focus on the learning readiness and individual progress of students need to become the new benchmark for monitoring success”.

Teachers’ responses to these suggestions range from “I am doing this” to “How? I am already so busy!”. Technology is often seen as a way to multiply the number of “teachers” in the classroom! However, simply adding devices to classrooms does not individualise learning. Technology doesn’t replace teaching. It can, however, be an important pedagogical tool in project-based learning, formative assessments and reviewing student data, providing a powerful asset to support data-driven learning. In an earlier blog, I emphasised the potential for AI as a teaching assistant.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Anna Kinnane, Manager (Digital Strategies) at the QCT, commented that “Too often the conversation regarding technology use in teaching and learning centres on technology. What is central to the conversation is teacher quality”. The post attracted many responses, each of which emphasised that technology on its own does not make the difference, what is vital are the pedagogical skills of teachers and their expertise in using technology effectively for teaching and learning.

Integrating technology into a pedagogy designed to maximise the learning growth of every student every year, as recommended in the Gonski Report, represents a significant shift in thinking about the teaching-learning process, including planning and assessment.  Specific changes required include starting with each student and creating multi-streamed lessons for each class. Effective interventions for each student need to be developed and regular formative assessment needs to be conducted and plans nuanced on the basis of the data. The Gonski Report refers to this process as tailored teaching.

The challenge for teachers, schools and systems is to ensure appropriate, and sustained, professional learning is available and that teachers are freed to access it. The shift required in order to realise the outcomes outlined in the Gonski Report requires all partners in the student’s learning to be working collaboratively. The Report emphasises the following strategies as necessary to support this change: “

  • embedding professional collaboration as a necessity in everyday teaching practice;
  • developing a formative assessment tool that measures individual student growth and enables teachers to assess where individual students are on the various learning progressions, monitor student progress against expected outcomes and tailor teaching practices to maximise student learning growth; and
  • providing a professional learning environment to enable, support and improve teaching practice that promotes individual student learning growth.”

Systems need to develop appropriate professional learning opportunities and ensure that teachers have access to these – free from the demands of day-to-day practice. The Gonski Report cited research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicating that on average, Australian teachers spend less time on professional learning than teachers across other OECD countries. The responsibility to change this rests with systems and with teachers. Reflective practice and professional learning need to become a priority, so facilitating time for engaging in this practice will need to occur.

Many teachers have expressed the view that these suggestions are fine in theory but difficult in practice. Certainly, individual schools will encourage the approach more than others. It must be a priority that new approaches to professional learning enhance the pedagogical skills of teachers to ensure all students are maximally ready for our ever-changing world. As teachers, we too need to continue to enhance our own skills and performance.

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton
Chair of QCT Board

Posted in Digital Technology, Systems, Teaching, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

AR technology enabling learning in leaps and bounds


AR Image from Froggipedia

Pic: Froggipedia

It is no surprise to anyone that technology has influenced and transformed learning. The ubiquitous nature of digital technologies resulting from digitisation and wireless networking means that teachers and students of all ages and abilities can learn anytime, anywhere. Schools are increasingly using technology such as online collaboration tools, multimedia tools, web conferencing software and Apps to enable students and teachers to work together and learn more effectively and efficiently.

Technology advances so rapidly and relentlessly it can sometimes be quite a challenge to keep up to date with the latest educational tools or applications. However, the key to determining the suitability of a new tool or digital innovation in learning and teaching is simply apply the relevance test. Does this tool or innovation support students to develop and consolidate curriculum concepts? Does this tool or innovation offer authentic learning experiences related to a curriculum goal or task? How is it relevant? Some digital tools or Apps are lots of fun to use and play with but offer no real connection to the curriculum.

An exciting form of digital innovation to enter the educational landscape is Augmented Reality. This innovative technology can be relevant across a wide range of curriculum and learning areas. Augmented Reality is the technique of adding computer graphics to a user’s view of the physical world. It is sometimes referred to as ‘mixed reality’ and is different to virtual environments. In a Virtual Reality (VR) environment, the real world is obscured and the user is immersed in a fully digital experience. Augmented Reality (AR) overlays digital information on real world objects via the use of the camera on a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet. The most familiar educational uses of AR have been when three dimensional images, video, audio or text are prompted to appear by a printed image or code.  The game Pokemon Go is an example of AR. Through AR, any graphic seen on a computer screen can be extracted and superimposed onto a real-world environment.

How exciting to be able to examine an anatomical model from all angles? Look no further than Froggipedia. This interactive App enables students to explore and discover the life cycle and intricate anatomical details of a frog. No longer do biology teachers need to use real frogs to help students observe and learn about the anatomical features of this animal. AR technology provides students with a unique learning experience where they can move and manipulate the frog. They can observe and follow the life cycle of the frog viewing its metamorphoses from tadpole to a fully-grown frog and using their fingers or pen, students can dissect the frog and examine the various organ systems.

What an exciting innovation that offers today’s students with a fully immersive, real and relevant learning experience.

Anna Kinnane
Manager (Digital Strategies) Queensland College of Teachers

Posted in Augmented Reality, Digital Technology | Leave a comment

What can systems do to empower teachers


What can systems do to empower teachers?

All parts of the education system interact

We need to remind policymakers of the importance of education, and the essential role of teachers in the lives of individuals, and ipso facto in the social, economic and political well-being of our countries. The Australian Government Productivity Commission (2017) report emphasised that point, noting that as the “system designer and primary funder and supplier of formal education, governments have to change what they do” (p. 88). Darling-Hammond and colleagues (2017) suggest that “[a] system framework recognizes that societies can support effective teaching in part by constructing attractive teaching careers, selecting talented individuals, ensuring they are well prepared, and developing career pathways that foster ongoing learning experiences for teachers” (p. 21).

All teachers are crucial advocates for the teaching profession; however, education systems also have an important responsibility. A systems view emphasises that all parts of the education system interact – no one part can effect change on its own. This view was also emphasised in an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 1 May, by David Gonski, the author of the Through Growth to Achievement report on advancing Australian education systems, in his comment that “[s]chools and education authorities should provide high-quality and appropriate professional learning for their teachers”. Gonski further emphasised the need for systems to commit to supporting continuous improvement for teachers, especially in the beginning of their careers, in addition to ensuring clear career professional pathways within the teaching profession.

In taking a systems view, we need to ensure all systems (including initial teacher education providers, employing authorities, and individual schools) involved in developing a productive teaching workforce, identified as part of the national teaching reforms in the April blog, work together to this end. All systems need to empower teachers through demonstrating that they value their professional development at all phases of their career.  Talented and passionate individuals must form the basis of recruitment into the profession. These individuals need to undertake high quality initial teacher education programs which are accredited against rigorous guidelines, closely monitored and carefully moderated. Professional experience in schools needs to be undertaken under the supervision of experienced teachers who supervise preservice teachers completing the Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment (GTPA) to demonstrate their classroom readiness.   Early career teachers then need intensive induction, mentoring, and collaborative professional development opportunities in order to develop in the profession.

Throughout Australia, our system of employing teachers places these processes in danger. The QCT (2013) report noted that too many early career teachers were employed in short-term contract and casual positions, and therefore do not receive the adequate induction and mentoring so critical in the early years. Too often these are the teachers who leave the profession because of this lack of support. The Senate Inquiry into Teaching and Learning (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013) reported that it is talented teachers who leave the profession more than less talented teachers. In order to retain teachers and reduce attrition, the QCT report identified a number of system strategies, including:

  • structured induction
  • mentoring by trained mentors who have been given sufficient time to undertake this role
  • reduced workloads
  • not being placed in difficult locations, and/or allocated challenging classes and
  • a collegial supportive school environment.

As noted in previous blogs, the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers demonstrate a professional pathway for teachers and provide a framework for career enhancing professional development.

In closing this discussion, I note that a study reported in the New York Times on March 18 documented the impact on employee well-being and productivity through a demonstration of employee value in terms of providing stable and consistent hours of work. While in an unrelated sector, this study emphasised that treating people (teachers) as valuable members of the company (education system), instead of as interchangeable parts, can improve student outcomes. All employing systems need to take note.

Further reading

Commonwealth of Australia. (2013). Teaching and learning – maximising our investment in Australian schools. Author.

Darling-Hammond, L., Burns, D., Campbell, C., Goodwin, A. Lin, Hammerness, K., Low, E. L., McIntyre, A., Sato, M., & Zeichner, K. (2017). Empowered educators: How high-performing systems shape teaching quality around the world. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Productivity Commission. (2017). Shifting the Dial: 5 Year Productivity Review, Report No. 84. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Queensland College of Teachers. (2013). Attrition of recent Queensland graduate teachers. Author.

AI_blog_Wendy

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton Chair of QCT Board

Posted in Beginning Teaching, Continuing Professional Development, Systems, Teaching | 1 Comment