As you may (or may not) know, one of the many and varied roles of the New Zealand Teachers Council is to approve and review all Initial Teacher Education programmes. It was during my first council meeting where a number of the new Masters ITE programmes were being approved that the question came to me (once again): Are the Graduating Teacher Standards future focused enough?? The reason I asked myself and others this, is that I felt the courses we were looking at could have offered more. It wasn't that they weren't rigorous and well thought out, it was just that they felt lacking, particularly in the 'future-focused skills' area. When I voiced these concerns the response I got was, that we couldn't demand the courses to include anything that wasn't demanded in the graduating teacher standards. On reading the standards more closely I am not so sure. Surely if you take the second point of Standard One "have pedagogical content knowledge appropriate to the learners and learning areas of their programme" and place this statement into a 21st century context aren't we demanding that courses provide them with the appropriate pedagogical content of the 21st century? Or are these standards too open to interpretation? Does one person's view of 'appropriate pedagogical content' vary so greatly that it in a sense becomes redundant? I can of course understand why the standards were written this way, anything too specific would become outdated within a heartbeat. But that said, is there something more we need to add?
I realise my ability to influence these discussions might be hampered by the fact that NZTC is now in it's twilight hours as we stare down the barrel of EDUCANZ taking over, still, no harm in trying.
So if the Graduating Teacher Standards in their present state are not (in my opinion) ensuring we have cutting edge, future-focused ITE programmes, what needs to change? Or is it not the place of the standards to determine this, it actually the providers themselves? My opinion is it probably a combination of the two. Firstly, you would hope that providers would take it upon themselves to ensure their courses were as future-focused as possible, I mean that is what they are preparing teachers for isn't it. Surely the courses wouldn't be designed to maintain the status quo? It's possible that our desire to base all practice on a strong evidence base is going to limit innovation in these courses. If you are only willing to offer what has proven to work in the past, then surely we have an issue. In terms of the graduating teacher standards changing, I think it is less about change and more about providing a current and future focused appendices to support the standards. This could be a document that gets reviewed annually, informed by what is being seen during ERO reports and areas that need focused on right now (I apologise if this doc already exists and I just don't know about it...). In a way I'd liken it to how I imagine the WOF system works (or seems to work from the outside), the same things might be on the list each year, but you get the sense they have another list somewhere that gives them an area to focus on, because current stats suggest it is an area that needs addressing. Wouldn't it be great if we had a group of innovators, risk takers and trail-blazers who helped to inform this secondary list of requirements. Recommended foci might include ensuring that every new teacher has researched how a range of IT interventions might best be used to support effective pedagogies. That all new teachers know how to make the most of a BYOD classroom environment. All new teachers would begin their career well versed in the work of Rachel Bolstad and Jane Gilbert, with Sue McDowall, Ally Bull, Sally Boyd and Rosemary Hipkins and the paper Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective and understand why we must prepare our students for the 'knowledge age' and prepare them for being increasing self-directed and self-reliant. And the likes of Professor Welby Ings might encourage teachers to value creative expression over rote learned "Excellence".
Maybe if we provided these annually updated insights into what our Graduating Teacher Standards look like in our current and future contexts we could make them available to all teachers, to provide an innovative and future-focused support document for our Registered Teacher Criteria as well. Then, taking it a step further, why don't we use these innovative, future focused, status quo challenging ideas as a basis for free online MOOCs available to all educators that could share their learning through an online teacher community (surely NZTC...or EDUCANZ and N4L's Pond could nail this one) and learning reflections could be make up part of a teachers online portfolio for appraisal. Okay. Now I'm getting sidetracked. But you get my gist, graduating teacher standards (and maybe even RTCs) are not enough in isolation to ensure that all ITE programmes are producing not only competent teachers, but innovative and future-focused educators as well.
The graduating teacher standards as the exist at present are below. Have a read and let me know what you think.
Future-focused or protecting the status quo?
Graduating Teacher Standards: Aotearoa New Zealand
These standards recognise that the Treaty of Waitangi extends equal status and rights to Māori and Pākehā alike.
Graduates entering the profession will understand the critical role teachers play in enabling the educational achievement of all learners.
Standard One: Graduating Teachers know what to teach
- have content knowledge appropriate to the learners and learning areas of their programme
- have pedagogical content knowledge appropriate to the learners and learning areas of their programme
- have knowledge of the relevant curriculum documents of Aotearoa New Zealand.
- have content and pedagogical content knowledge for supporting English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners to succeed in the curriculum
- have knowledge of a range of relevant theories and research about pedagogy, human development and learning.
- have knowledge of a range of relevant theories, principles and purposes of assessment and evaluation.
- know how to develop metacognitive strategies of diverse learners.
- know how to select curriculum content appropriate to the learners and the learning context.
- have an understanding of the complex influences that personal, social, and cultural factors may have on teachers and learners.
- have knowledge of tikanga and te reo Māori to work effectively within the bicultural contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.
- have an understanding of education within the bicultural, multicultural, social, political, economic and historical contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Standard Four: Graduating Teachers use professional knowledge to plan for a safe, high quality teaching and learning environment
- draw upon content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge when planning, teaching and evaluating.
- use and sequence a range of learning experiences to influence and promote learner achievement.
- demonstrate high expectations of all learners, focus on learning and recognise and value diversity.
- demonstrate proficiency in oral and written language (Māori and/or English), in numeracy and in ICT relevant to their professional role.
- use te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi appropriately in their practice.
- demonstrate commitment to and strategies for promoting and nurturing the physical and emotional safety of learners.
- Standard Five: Graduating Teachers use evidence to promote learning
- systematically and critically engage with evidence to reflect on and refine their practice.
- gather, analyse and use assessment information to improve learning and inform planning.
- know how to communicate assessment information appropriately to learners, their parents/caregivers and staff.
Standard Six: Graduating Teachers develop positive relationships with learners and the members of learning communities
- recognise how differing values and beliefs may impact on learners and their learning.
- have the knowledge and dispositions to work effectively with colleagues, parents/caregivers,
- families/whānau and communities.
- build effective relationships with their learners.
- promote a learning culture which engages diverse learners effectively.
- demonstrate respect for te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in their practice.
- uphold the New Zealand Teachers Council Code of Ethics/Ngā Tikanga Matatika.
- have knowledge and understanding of the ethical, professional and legal responsibilities of teachers.
- work co-operatively with those who share responsibility for the learning and wellbeing of learners.
- are able to articulate and justify an emerging personal, professional philosophy of teaching and learning.