01 SES 07 C, Knowledge and Leadership in Classrooms
Parallel Paper Session
Establishing and maintaining professional standards of teachers is a current issue of international importance and reflects research findings that the single most important factor in student learning is the quality of teaching. Professional standards for teachers inform the design, pedagogy and assessment of initial teacher education (ITE) programs across Australia. Currently, like other countries, Australia uses professional standards to define areas of performance to be assessed during school placements. An associated issue is the quality and consistency of judgments made by those who are the gatekeepers of professional standards, the teachers in schools who mentor, supervise and assess pre-service teachers’ standards of performance.
These teachers-assessors are expected to make judgments on the quality and readiness of new graduates to enter the profession. In order to do this reliably, requires a shared understanding of the professional standards and what they look like in practice. Valid and reliable mentoring and assessment of preservice teachers in school placement contexts requires not only deep understanding of the professional standards but also consensus within the profession regarding the specific types and qualities of performance that count as achieving a particular standard.
Determining whether such consensus exists or can be developed is one focus of the study reported in this paper. The study, a two year nationally funded research study, Project Evidence, worked with experienced supervising teachers across three Australian states to investigate the potential for and developmental processes that lead to consensus and on this basis to develop consistent, explicit descriptions of evidence of achievement of professional standards.
Currently there are no informing inventories to assist individual teachers, therefore, the study set out to provide answers to the following questions that would enable such inventories to be developed:
· How do practising teachers make their judgments about pre-service teachers under their supervision?
· What is the shared knowledge that supervising teachers bring to these judgments?
· How can consistency of judgments be improved across the different stages of pre-service practicum placements?
An additional aim of the project was to evaluate the effectiveness of the research process for teacher professional development. That is, it sought to evaluate changes in: (i) the focus of descriptions of quality performances, (ii) ability to clearly and concisely describe evidence of quality performance relative to professional standards, and (iii) levels of consensus among members of single and multiple communities of practice.
The theoretical framework for this study, ‘communities of practice’, was selected on the understanding that engagement in ‘reflective practice’ is an integral part of professional growth. This approach incorporates four core elements are required for effective professional collaboration and knowledge building:
- knowledge is generated and shared within a social and cultural context (Lave & Wenger 1991; Palinscar, Magnusson, Marano, Ford,& Brown, N. 1998; Barab & Duffy, 2000);
- understanding and experience are in constant interaction (Buysse, Sparkman and Wesley 2003; Francis, Newham & Harkam 2005);
- dissemination of knowledge occurs in practice environments(Lave & Wenger 1991).
- reflection and critical thinking is enabled through interaction (Wenger 1998).
Barab,S.A. & Duffy, T.M. (2000). From practice fields to communities of practice. In D.H.Jonassen and S.M. Land (Eds), Theoretical foundations of learning environments, pp 25-55. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc. Buysse,V., Sparkman,K. & Wesley, P. (2003). Communities of Practice: Connecting What We Know With What We Do. Exceptional Children 69 (3), 263-277. Francis, G., Newham, M., & Harkin, M. (2005). The Australian Government Quality Teacher programme (AGQTP): Cross-sectoral Strategic Plan 2006-2009. Retrieved February 12, 2006 from http://education.qld.gov.au/teaching/development/qtp/docs/ agqtp_2006-2009_cs_strategic_plan.doc Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Palinscar, A.S., Magnusson, S.J., Marano, N., Ford, D., & Brown, N. (1998). Designing a community of practice: Principles and practices of the GIsML community. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14, 5-19. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
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