10 SES 03 A, Learning to Teach: Qualifications and Standards
When Dorothy and the Scarecrow bang on the Tinman in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939), the first remarks they make are “How beautiful. What an echo”! However, the Tinman states that he has no heart and that “No heart. All hollow”. This could stand as a metaphor for the global adoption of professional teaching standards and the ensuing thrust of teacher education to meet these. For decades, debates and decisions about teacher education have been permeated with discourses of accountability and quality. While few would argue against the need for teachers both to be accountable and to be quality educators, the positioning of teachers within the profession is being subtly refashioned by the development of professional teaching standards that define what it means to be a quality teacher.
In Australia, teaching standards have driven the development of teacher education in most States since 2004. These State standards, though State specific, were similar in focus and content and they formed the basis of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers which came into force in 2013. Administered by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), this body states on its website that the standards framework is “a public statement of what constitutes teacher quality. The Standards define the work of teachers and make explicit the elements of high-quality, effective teaching in 21st-century schools, which result in improved educational outcomes for students”. Teacher education programs are accredited through detailed evidence of how these teaching standards are taught, practised and assessed. Furthermore, higher education institutions must demonstrate not only how each standard is addressed, but also how all focus areas within each standard are implemented, thirty seven in total.
The author presents in this paper a discussion of the ways in which the professional teaching standards funnel teaching programs into a mechanistic approach, one that ignores the complexity of teaching and what Fullan (2003) describes as the “moral purpose’ of teaching, a purpose that lies at teaching’s heart. By analysing the discourse of professional teaching standards, not only Australian, but also Asian and European, the author demonstrates that there is an important imperative for further research globally. This research needs to examine the purpose of education through a range of lenses in order to grasp the complexity of teaching and to explore ways in which the ‘heart’ can be returned to the teaching profession.
While this paper is situated predominantly in the Australian context, it addresses the wider global uptake of teaching standards as a measure to improve teacher quality. It argues that what is occurring in the Australian milieu is also occurring in the global context and that teacher education is being strait-jacketed by the rigid requirements of these standards.
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