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Standards in teacher education
10-09-2013, 09:40 AM
Post: #1
Standards in teacher education
I can't begin to describe the layers of personal/professional meaning inherent in those pages prepared for AITSL. We'd been working as a team of teacher educators and practising teachers for a year, designing a new Master of Teaching (Secondary) program. We began with the question: what sort of teachers do we want our graduates to be? and from there we debated, shared values, tried to articulate core beliefs, dredged back through experience and imagined possible futures. On the walls of the Red Room were our ideas and hopes laid bare; seemingly simple statements on coloured Post-its that we clustered together and rearranged as our thinking shifted. Through a series of difficult and stimulating conversations, we eventually produced a set of core principles that would underpin curriculum and program design. We are researching the process of designing curriculum in the context of teacher education and the tapes of those initial conversations go on for hours.
When I met with R in the conference room at VIT, at the table where panels meet and clarify views around what's acceptable and what's not, I wondered how our messy, rich understandings and experience would transfer to the AITSL standards and the clean, white boxes made for framing bodies of evidence. We sat talking, two small grey creatures overlooking Docklands and the sprawling western suburbs of Melbourne and I knew then that we'd moved way beyond the standards into territory that no one expected us to inhabit. In developing a new program we had seized an opportunity to transform our practice; to think hard about the knowledge and skills required for teaching in contemporary schools; and to not be constrained by government policy. Our new program has a focus on ethics and inquiry. Our students will grapple with fundamental questions related to the purposes of education, to the nature of thinking and learning and to issues impacting on young people in contemporary communities. Our students will work in professional learning communities with educational mentors so that there is a focus on making meaningful connections across the program (we want to dispense with the practice of fragmenting bodies of knowledge into compartments that make transfer of knowledge and skills difficult). Research methodologies and ways of thinking underlie all aspects of the program; school partnerships and an emphasis on creating alternative spaces for professional learning feature in every course; a focus on engaging young people in learning, particularly those from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds is dominant. When I sat down with the paper work, to show evidence of our compliance, I saw that the features of our program that we were most proud of didn’t fit. No one was requiring transformation. The standards are base-line.
The standards are also dangerous.
During the accreditation phase the word 'demonstrate' became a sticking point; the expectation that all PSTs show required knowledge. The only way that this can be done is through assessment. Summative assessment. We have always tried to avoid assessment tasks which ask PSTs to spit back predetermined bodies of knowledge. I’ll use one of our tasks as an example; an experience we have designed with a partner school. The PSTs run focus group interviews with young people from a school setting which are aimed to reveal the sorts of things that matter to kids; the social and personal concerns they have. The PSTs use the interviews to identify questions, they conduct research around those questions and then organise a full day conference where they run workshops for the students. We call it a ‘festival’ with a focus on what matters to young people. In the design and running of workshops the PSTs also demonstrate what they know about learning and teaching. There are multiple opportunities for thinking and action in a task like this. And sitting at the core is building the capacity to listen to kids. Tasks like this don't sit easily amongst linear, constraining standards. Tasks like this open up possibilities in flexible and responsive ways and they build capacities important to teaching: empathy, inter-dependence, listening, creativity, accountability, organisation, leadership to name a few. Importantly, tasks like this show how important it is to celebrate learning in ways that are inclusive and foster active participation. Because tasks like these can’t be used to show evidence that particular bodies of knowledge are not developed in all students, they are under threat. In an attempt to gain accreditation easily, I wonder whether an indirect outcome of a process which rigidly requires compliance to standards, will be a return to essay questions. I am troubled by the thought that this process of compliance will make transformation impossible.
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10-10-2013, 02:41 PM
Post: #2
RE: Standards in teacher education
(10-09-2013 09:40 AM)amanda mcgraw Wrote:  I can't begin to describe the layers of personal/professional meaning inherent in those pages prepared for AITSL. We'd been working as a team of teacher educators and practising teachers for a year, designing a new Master of Teaching (Secondary) program. We began with the question: what sort of teachers do we want our graduates to be? and from there we debated, shared values, tried to articulate core beliefs, dredged back through experience and imagined possible futures. On the walls of the Red Room were our ideas and hopes laid bare; seemingly simple statements on coloured Post-its that we clustered together and rearranged as our thinking shifted. Through a series of difficult and stimulating conversations, we eventually produced a set of core principles that would underpin curriculum and program design. We are researching the process of designing curriculum in the context of teacher education and the tapes of those initial conversations go on for hours.
When I met with R in the conference room at VIT, at the table where panels meet and clarify views around what's acceptable and what's not, I wondered how our messy, rich understandings and experience would transfer to the AITSL standards and the clean, white boxes made for framing bodies of evidence. We sat talking, two small grey creatures overlooking Docklands and the sprawling western suburbs of Melbourne and I knew then that we'd moved way beyond the standards into territory that no one expected us to inhabit. In developing a new program we had seized an opportunity to transform our practice; to think hard about the knowledge and skills required for teaching in contemporary schools; and to not be constrained by government policy. Our new program has a focus on ethics and inquiry. Our students will grapple with fundamental questions related to the purposes of education, to the nature of thinking and learning and to issues impacting on young people in contemporary communities. Our students will work in professional learning communities with educational mentors so that there is a focus on making meaningful connections across the program (we want to dispense with the practice of fragmenting bodies of knowledge into compartments that make transfer of knowledge and skills difficult). Research methodologies and ways of thinking underlie all aspects of the program; school partnerships and an emphasis on creating alternative spaces for professional learning feature in every course; a focus on engaging young people in learning, particularly those from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds is dominant. When I sat down with the paper work, to show evidence of our compliance, I saw that the features of our program that we were most proud of didn’t fit. No one was requiring transformation. The standards are base-line.
The standards are also dangerous.
During the accreditation phase the word 'demonstrate' became a sticking point; the expectation that all PSTs show required knowledge. The only way that this can be done is through assessment. Summative assessment. We have always tried to avoid assessment tasks which ask PSTs to spit back predetermined bodies of knowledge. I’ll use one of our tasks as an example; an experience we have designed with a partner school. The PSTs run focus group interviews with young people from a school setting which are aimed to reveal the sorts of things that matter to kids; the social and personal concerns they have. The PSTs use the interviews to identify questions, they conduct research around those questions and then organise a full day conference where they run workshops for the students. We call it a ‘festival’ with a focus on what matters to young people. In the design and running of workshops the PSTs also demonstrate what they know about learning and teaching. There are multiple opportunities for thinking and action in a task like this. And sitting at the core is building the capacity to listen to kids. Tasks like this don't sit easily amongst linear, constraining standards. Tasks like this open up possibilities in flexible and responsive ways and they build capacities important to teaching: empathy, inter-dependence, listening, creativity, accountability, organisation, leadership to name a few. Importantly, tasks like this show how important it is to celebrate learning in ways that are inclusive and foster active participation. Because tasks like these can’t be used to show evidence that particular bodies of knowledge are not developed in all students, they are under threat. In an attempt to gain accreditation easily, I wonder whether an indirect outcome of a process which rigidly requires compliance to standards, will be a return to essay questions. I am troubled by the thought that this process of compliance will make transformation impossible.


Thanks for this, Amanda. When I was at Monash, we shifted away from any notion of the formal essay as somehow privileged when it comes to embodying knowledge. Storytelling or a combination of storytelling and argument seemed to provide a better vehicle for preservice teachers to come to grips with the complexities of their professional practice. Graham and Scott are continuing with this practice, as Graham has shown in essays that he has coauthored with me on the role of narrative in professional learning.

You've prompted me to think about the power that statutory authorities like VIT and AITSL now have over teacher education programs. It is as though knowledge is to be found in the reified performance indicators that comprise the standards, rather than in the work that teacher educators in partnership with teachers have developed and continue to develop through partnerships of the kind that you describe. VIT should be beginning with the knowledge and experience of people like you, and not positioning you in such a way that you must give an account of yourself to an anonymous external authority that is at a remove from the rich professional contexts in which operate everyday.

Having said that, I do feel that the old model of teacher education (university classes combined with practicum) needs to be reviewed. As everyone who works in teacher education knows, resources have been cut back to a point where it is impossible to sustain programs in the way that we were once able to do. When I started as an English Method lecturer in 1992, I was able to visit my English method students 3 and sometimes 4 times a year – a privileged position that enabled me to benefit from the conversations my students offered me on the basis of their continuing professional learning and experiences in a range of school settings. On many occasions, I also found myself talking with very knowledgable and experienced supervising teachers, who shared with me a commitment to supporting student teachers as new members of the profession. Such opportunities for professional learning on the part of teacher educators no longer appear to exist, at least in the institutions at which I have worked. Indeed, when John Yandell visited Australia earlier this year, I was very envious of the experiences he recounted while he was visiting his students on teaching rounds in London schools. Such visits are opportunities for rich professional conversations that are of benefit to both student teachers and teacher educators.

Yet we need to think outside the square as far as teacher education is concerned - something that you are obviously doing with respect to the initiative you describe. Teachers and teacher educators need to articulate a vision of what initial tecaher education offers beginning teachers. Otherwise governments will step in and (arrogantly and ignorantly) locate initial teacher education in schools, as though teaching is simply a matter of tips and tricks, without any need to engage in continuing reflection and to grapple with the complexities of professional practice within a theoretical framework.
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11-26-2013, 11:00 AM
Post: #3
RE: Standards in teacher education
(10-09-2013 09:40 AM)amanda mcgraw Wrote:  I can't begin to describe the layers of personal/professional meaning inherent in those pages prepared for AITSL. We'd been working as a team of teacher educators and practising teachers for a year, designing a new Master of Teaching (Secondary) program. We began with the question: what sort of teachers do we want our graduates to be? and from there we debated, shared values, tried to articulate core beliefs, dredged back through experience and imagined possible futures. On the walls of the Red Room were our ideas and hopes laid bare; seemingly simple statements on coloured Post-its that we clustered together and rearranged as our thinking shifted. Through a series of difficult and stimulating conversations, we eventually produced a set of core principles that would underpin curriculum and program design. We are researching the process of designing curriculum in the context of teacher education and the tapes of those initial conversations go on for hours.
When I met with R in the conference room at VIT, at the table where panels meet and clarify views around what's acceptable and what's not, I wondered how our messy, rich understandings and experience would transfer to the AITSL standards and the clean, white boxes made for framing bodies of evidence. We sat talking, two small grey creatures overlooking Docklands and the sprawling western suburbs of Melbourne and I knew then that we'd moved way beyond the standards into territory that no one expected us to inhabit. In developing a new program we had seized an opportunity to transform our practice; to think hard about the knowledge and skills required for teaching in contemporary schools; and to not be constrained by government policy. Our new program has a focus on ethics and inquiry. Our students will grapple with fundamental questions related to the purposes of education, to the nature of thinking and learning and to issues impacting on young people in contemporary communities. Our students will work in professional learning communities with educational mentors so that there is a focus on making meaningful connections across the program (we want to dispense with the practice of fragmenting bodies of knowledge into compartments that make transfer of knowledge and skills difficult). Research methodologies and ways of thinking underlie all aspects of the program; school partnerships and an emphasis on creating alternative spaces for professional learning feature in every course; a focus on engaging young people in learning, particularly those from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds is dominant. When I sat down with the paper work, to show evidence of our compliance, I saw that the features of our program that we were most proud of didn’t fit. No one was requiring transformation. The standards are base-line.
The standards are also dangerous.
During the accreditation phase the word 'demonstrate' became a sticking point; the expectation that all PSTs show required knowledge. The only way that this can be done is through assessment. Summative assessment. We have always tried to avoid assessment tasks which ask PSTs to spit back predetermined bodies of knowledge. I’ll use one of our tasks as an example; an experience we have designed with a partner school. The PSTs run focus group interviews with young people from a school setting which are aimed to reveal the sorts of things that matter to kids; the social and personal concerns they have. The PSTs use the interviews to identify questions, they conduct research around those questions and then organise a full day conference where they run workshops for the students. We call it a ‘festival’ with a focus on what matters to young people. In the design and running of workshops the PSTs also demonstrate what they know about learning and teaching. There are multiple opportunities for thinking and action in a task like this. And sitting at the core is building the capacity to listen to kids. Tasks like this don't sit easily amongst linear, constraining standards. Tasks like this open up possibilities in flexible and responsive ways and they build capacities important to teaching: empathy, inter-dependence, listening, creativity, accountability, organisation, leadership to name a few. Importantly, tasks like this show how important it is to celebrate learning in ways that are inclusive and foster active participation. Because tasks like these can’t be used to show evidence that particular bodies of knowledge are not developed in all students, they are under threat. In an attempt to gain accreditation easily, I wonder whether an indirect outcome of a process which rigidly requires compliance to standards, will be a return to essay questions. I am troubled by the thought that this process of compliance will make transformation impossible.

(10-09-2013 09:40 AM)amanda mcgraw Wrote:  I can't begin to describe the layers of personal/professional meaning inherent in those pages prepared for AITSL. We'd been working as a team of teacher educators and practising teachers for a year, designing a new Master of Teaching (Secondary) program. We began with the question: what sort of teachers do we want our graduates to be? and from there we debated, shared values, tried to articulate core beliefs, dredged back through experience and imagined possible futures. On the walls of the Red Room were our ideas and hopes laid bare; seemingly simple statements on coloured Post-its that we clustered together and rearranged as our thinking shifted. Through a series of difficult and stimulating conversations, we eventually produced a set of core principles that would underpin curriculum and program design. We are researching the process of designing curriculum in the context of teacher education and the tapes of those initial conversations go on for hours.
When I met with R in the conference room at VIT, at the table where panels meet and clarify views around what's acceptable and what's not, I wondered how our messy, rich understandings and experience would transfer to the AITSL standards and the clean, white boxes made for framing bodies of evidence. We sat talking, two small grey creatures overlooking Docklands and the sprawling western suburbs of Melbourne and I knew then that we'd moved way beyond the standards into territory that no one expected us to inhabit. In developing a new program we had seized an opportunity to transform our practice; to think hard about the knowledge and skills required for teaching in contemporary schools; and to not be constrained by government policy. Our new program has a focus on ethics and inquiry. Our students will grapple with fundamental questions related to the purposes of education, to the nature of thinking and learning and to issues impacting on young people in contemporary communities. Our students will work in professional learning communities with educational mentors so that there is a focus on making meaningful connections across the program (we want to dispense with the practice of fragmenting bodies of knowledge into compartments that make transfer of knowledge and skills difficult). Research methodologies and ways of thinking underlie all aspects of the program; school partnerships and an emphasis on creating alternative spaces for professional learning feature in every course; a focus on engaging young people in learning, particularly those from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds is dominant. When I sat down with the paper work, to show evidence of our compliance, I saw that the features of our program that we were most proud of didn’t fit. No one was requiring transformation. The standards are base-line.
The standards are also dangerous.
During the accreditation phase the word 'demonstrate' became a sticking point; the expectation that all PSTs show required knowledge. The only way that this can be done is through assessment. Summative assessment. We have always tried to avoid assessment tasks which ask PSTs to spit back predetermined bodies of knowledge. I’ll use one of our tasks as an example; an experience we have designed with a partner school. The PSTs run focus group interviews with young people from a school setting which are aimed to reveal the sorts of things that matter to kids; the social and personal concerns they have. The PSTs use the interviews to identify questions, they conduct research around those questions and then organise a full day conference where they run workshops for the students. We call it a ‘festival’ with a focus on what matters to young people. In the design and running of workshops the PSTs also demonstrate what they know about learning and teaching. There are multiple opportunities for thinking and action in a task like this. And sitting at the core is building the capacity to listen to kids. Tasks like this don't sit easily amongst linear, constraining standards. Tasks like this open up possibilities in flexible and responsive ways and they build capacities important to teaching: empathy, inter-dependence, listening, creativity, accountability, organisation, leadership to name a few. Importantly, tasks like this show how important it is to celebrate learning in ways that are inclusive and foster active participation. Because tasks like these can’t be used to show evidence that particular bodies of knowledge are not developed in all students, they are under threat. In an attempt to gain accreditation easily, I wonder whether an indirect outcome of a process which rigidly requires compliance to standards, will be a return to essay questions. I am troubled by the thought that this process of compliance will make transformation impossible.

That's funny- I got so lost in re-reading Amanda's post, and imagining I was either helping faciliate the wonderful festival, as a teacher educator, or I was a pre-service teacher doing it, that I just got all excited and hit "post" without writing anything. Sorry- please delete, moderators! How wonderful it is when you discover an idea puts you in that space of Czikszentmihalyi's flow, where you get lost in the delight of imagining teaching and learning, in the professional imagination, I guess- this highlights for me how rarely I experience this when reading mandated curriculum documents, and what an important part of the pleasure of our work this imagining is.

It's the kind of thing that happens at VATE conferences, when you get that oh, oh, I'm going to do that, I can do that, that will be great feeling, and you just can't wait to get back to the classroom. I don't think pleasure and delight get talked about nearly enough- when we are creating our own profession through language, we are also building the professions our students and children will enter. It would be so great if joy could be big in teaching! Actually, I did go to a job interview the other day, and the principal asked me to describe what a passionate English teacher looks like- it was a fun question!
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