Give Teachers More Credit

I have spent today at a planning summit, organised jointly by the Australian Bureau of Statistics(ABS)  and the Statistical Society of Australia Inc (SSAI), the stated purpose being “To identify one or more promising avenues to address the professional development needs of teachers who will be teaching the statistical content of the Australian Curriculum”

I was the only practicing teacher there…and that was by good fortune rather than by design.

There were representatives from the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT), VCAA, AMSI, ESA, ACARA, NSW Board of Education, tertiary mathematics lecturers and various other acronyms. But no teachers. So no ‘teacher voice’. And to the group’s credit, it was recognised at the end of the day that this might have been a mistake.

Many present seemed to assume knowledge of what ‘the professional needs of teachers’ were. I made the point that teachers’ prior knowledge in this area, just like any authentic learning, needed to be determined and activated.

At the risk of never being invited (accidentally or otherwise) to one of these events ever again, I have to say that I was taken aback by a number of comments openly stated which were not caught, criticised and cauterised. The extent to which these comments were ‘accepted’ is of greater concern to me. How often have these been expressed in similar forums? We all know how certain expressed attitudes become impressed in people’s consciousness merely due to the number of times they get repeated. And a certain level of authority afforded to them as a result.

What were these comments?

(1) A child’s mind is like a clean slate and it is important that teachers don’t put the wrong stuff onto the slate. I don’t think any child, no matter how young, comes into the classroom without experiences and beliefs already in place. It is the teacher’s job to determine what these are, whether they are valid conceptions or misconceptions and how to intervene in meaningful ways to redirect understanding and improve learning. There is an element of underlying distrust here – can we trust the teachers to do ‘the right thing’?

(2) Teachers don’t want to do professional development unless it is tied to their professional accountability. Nothing to do with wanting to do a better job with learning for their students. Nothing to do with the fact that a large amount of PD is precisely what keeps teachers away from it – that it actually doesn’t address their needs, it addresses what other people believed their needs to be.

(3) We (the non-teachers) are the converted (to the right way of thinking) and the teachers are the non-converted. Having teachers at such meetings as today’s would not be productive because of this. The implication, of course, is that the non-teachers know better about what is required for teachers’ professional development.

An interesting day, but also a disturbing one.

Please, please…be aware of opportunities to have a say and express your views. Have a voice.

 

 

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About Linda

I have been involved in secondary mathematics education in Victoria, Australia for over 25 years.
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