Yes, it’s been a long time in between posts (don’t ask – it has been a very difficult year)
As we come to a time of the year in the Southern Hemisphere when many schools are assessing their teaching needs for the next academic year and teachers in independent and the Catholic sector are moving schools, my thoughts turn to what we should be asking for and looking for in the teachers we hire.
In Charlotte Danielson’s article A Framework for Learning To Teach, published in Educational Leadership in 2009, she writes:
Teacher recruitment and hiring is an often-overlooked opportunity to promote teacher learning. Indeed, it is usually regarded as a purely administrative function. However, when teachers participate in different parts of the process, the new hires enter an environment in which they have already earned the acceptance of their colleagues. In addition, to effectively question candidates about their skills and expertise, those colleagues will have had to think deeply about the qualities of teaching they most value.
She goes on to suggest that the questions prospective ‘hires’ (don’t really like that descriptor) are asked should be taken from her Framework for Teaching which includes the domains:
Domain 1: Planning and Preparation
1a: Demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy
1b: Demonstrating knowledge of students
1c: Setting instructional outcomes
1d: Demonstrating knowledge of resources
1e: Designing coherent instruction
1f: Designing student assessments
Domain 2: Classroom Environment
2a: Creating an environment of respect and rapport
2b: Establishing a culture for learning
2c: Managing classroom procedures
2d: Managing student behavior
2e: Organizing physical space
Domain 3: Instruction
3a: Communicating with students
3b: Using questioning and discussion techniques
3c: Engaging students in learning
3d: Using assessment in instruction
3e: Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness
Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities
4a: Reflecting on teaching
4b: Maintaining accurate records
4c: Communicating with families
4d: Participating in a professional community
4e: Growing and developing professionally
4f: Showing professionalism
We could certainly create something similar using the proposed National Professional Standards for Teachers that have been produced by AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership). The domains that encompass these standards are Professional knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement. Within each standard are the levels of achievement: graduate, proficient, highly accomplished and lead. Wouldn’t it be an excellent professional learning exercise to ask candidates to refer to these standards before coming to the interview and then talk about where they see themselves in each standard and provide evidence (not necessarily concrete, physical artefects of this…could be verbal descriptions of what they’ve done) of their capacity or practice in these?
And, of course, it is not only the candidates who have to think deeply about the qualities of teaching they most value, those who prepare the questions have to do so as well. On the website of the Scottish Education Authority, The Journey to Excellence, there are a number of terrific ‘School Improvement Guides’ that list characteristics of schools that are ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. One of these, Leading Learning, says that, in excellent schools: “Leaders ensure that the learning and teaching policy is a core school policy and is referred to in all relevant documentation”. I hope that ‘relevant school documentation’ would include the questions used to interview prospective new teachers. Is your school’s learning and teaching policy reflected in your interview questions?
The same document indicates that “Leaders ensure that learning and teaching are prioritised as the school’s core business. The school improvement plan focuses clearly on key priorities which will have a positive impact on learners’ experiences”. Is it obvious from your school’s interview questions that its key priorities are those that positively impact on students’ learning experiences?
Is there a consistency in your school between the teaching and learning policy, the methods used to evaluate teachers, the processes used to determine financial and other priorities and the hiring of new teachers?
David Perkins, in his 1993 article Creating a Culture of Thinking in Educational Leadership, says that:
“….People acquire dispositions all the time, through enculturation…we work..in settings where certain values and practices are honoured. We learn, by osmosis as it were, to honour them too.We absorb a culture because we encounter exemplars”