The University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education has a series of Dean’s Lectures and I attended one on January 30 to hear Linda Darling Hammond speak on the title of this post.
She started by asking “Why is there so much attention to teacher education reform?” and her belief is that the mission of 21st century teaching is different to what was before. It’s no longer good enough for teachers to ‘know their content’ and deliver it. It’s more of a co-learning role now where teachers, and their students, are expected to be on learning journeys, where teachers should know about learning and how to better engender that learning in their students.
“Why has it been problematic?”
1. Lack of:
- clear standards of practice
- links to professional development
2. Little attention to student learning
3. Unwieldy processes for making decisions
“How we might make matters worse”
1. focus evaluation entirely after entry to teaching
2. creating systems that focus on ranking teachers versus improving teaching
3. making decisions substantially based on value-added test scores
4. putting all of the weight on school principals
5. designing systems that cannot be implemented
“What do effective teachers know and do?”
- engage students in active learning that builds on what is known about their prior learning
- create intellectually ambitious tasks
- use a variety of teaching strategies
- assess student learning to adapt teaching to student needs
- create effective scaffolds and supports for language and content learning
- provide clear standards, constant feedback and opportunities for revising work
- develop and effectively manage a collaborative classroom in which all students have membership
Darling Hammond made the point that the above listed qualities of what effective teaching looks like are all embedded in the AITSL standards for the performance and development of Australian teachers.
So, if we now know what effective teachers need to be able to do and know, how do we develop teachers to reach these standards of practice?
Darling Hammond made the point that systems created for such a purpose need to combine evaluation with the creation of a standards-based teacher development process, and that this process should be educative (not punitive). And that this MUST (her emphasis, based on the research evidence) be concomitant with the training and development of the leadership group (otherwise the professional learning of teachers will go nowhere).
Within the development process should be opportunities to show integrated evidence of:
- professional contributions
- student learning
Multiple measures are required to reflect practice. Lesson observations used as part of the evidence platform need to be standards-based and performed by experts who have been trained in evaluation and ideally in the same content area.
What is your school doing in relation to the professional learning of all who work within it? One of the biggest dangers I see is that of too broad a palette. Look again at that list of what makes an effective teacher. Is the professional learning program at your school aimed at these elements of practice?