Forty years ago this month I completed my initial education degree at James Cook University. The value of education was instilled in me and my eight siblings by our parents, both of whom, due to circumstances of the time, did not attend secondary school. However, they recognised its importance in enhancing life opportunities and we were all encouraged to pursue our education goals. What has underpinned my whole career is a commitment both to expanding my own learning, and to facilitating learning to enhance life opportunities for others.
I was the first in my family to attain a university degree, and subsequent to that degree I worked in many roles in schools, and for almost thirty years in teacher education. My ongoing commitment to my own learning saw me engaged in further part-time university study for a decade, with an additional two years as a full-time student completing honours and doctoral studies.
What an honour it is then, at this stage of my career, to be able to contribute to the mission of the Queensland College of Teachers and its work in enhancing the professionalisation of teaching and raising the status of our profession. Research consistently affirms the key role of teachers in student learning outcomes.
It is hard to identify only one key challenge for the work of teachers into the future; however, the rapid nature of digital change and its impact on curriculum, the technology of teaching, and future work opportunities for our students would have to be top of mind. Humans have always had to adapt to technological change, but the speed required for adaptation is accelerating. Current technologies now change accepted ways of doing things within decades, not over decades. In 1962, as a Year 1 student, my technology was a tablet-sized piece of slate, and writing with a slate pencil was erased with a sponge; Year 1 students today are using a similar sized tablet but with far more advanced capability!
Similarly, when I began my doctoral studies in 1984, I was writing to a very unstable and very vulnerable (in Queensland summers) black floppy disk. We have progressed through a more stable and smaller-sized floppy disk, through to USB sticks with ever increasing storage capacity, and now to the “cloud” being used for data storage and transfer. Certainly this development would not have been envisaged by most of us only three decades ago.
Another related area which I believe is critical is the embedding of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers into teachers’ ways of being. The context of the standards is essentially the indisputable role of teachers in student outcomes. They provide a framework for both teacher accountability and teacher professional development, and will surely contribute to a greater public confidence in the profession.
As Chair of the Queensland College of Teachers Board I have committed to writing a regular blog for you, the teachers of Queensland. I will work to develop thoughtful pieces which will be brief, but will also provide a stimulus to you engaging in reflective and innovative practice which will not only enhance your own roles, but also facilitate fruitful outcomes for your students and the learning organisations in which you work. I welcome both feedback and suggestions for future blogs.
Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton
Queensland College of Teachers Board