Want teachers want

I’ve been waving the flag for some time about teacher performance and how the profession is addressing (or not addressing) this issue.

If you haven’t already done so, download the Grattan Institute’s report What teachers Want: Better teacher management by Ben Jensen.  It cites OECD figures in which 63% of Australian teachers believe evaluation of their work is undertaken for no other reason than to fufil administrative requirements and has little impact on their day to day practice.

Disappointing as this is, at least there is recognition that the work of teachers needs to be appropriately assessed.   While we already have measures in NSW for teacher accreditation, are there sufficient mechanisms in place to address under-performing teachers?

Recently, the draft national standards for teachers was released for feedback.  Academics have already raised concerns that the proposed standards are not evidence-based; grounded in contemporary theory or reflective of the complex nature of teaching (Education Review, May 2010).

We need to look very closely at the work of teachers; what are the industrial, ideological or cultural barriers to improving teacher quality?  Who is responsible for evaluating teacher performance?  And if teachers don’t meet the minimum standards, what happens next?

Any attempt to raise the status of the teaching profession must begin with changing the culture and focus within learning environments. I also believe that improving teacher quality is inextricably linked to the quality of school leaders (read SMH Opinion on the importance of school leadership).

In his report, Dr Jensen concludes that school principals should be given greater responsibility to evaluate and address teacher practice and be given the broad resources and support to do this.

We are in dire need of new models of teaching that have their roots in a deep understanding of both the nature of life and learning in today’s world. Looking at improving teaching requires us not only to look at the ways we evaluate good teaching but how we develop new models of teaching that reflect today’s world.  Unfortunately our existing models are cemented in an industrial model of  teaching that is process driven.

Someone reminded me that no teacher goes to work every day to do a bad job.  What teachers want and need is continuous feedback, recognition and the opportunities to develop their skills in order to move from not so good to great.


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