Although many factors influence student outcomes, the biggest in-school influence on this is the quality of teaching that’s done in the classroom.
The man who perhaps champions this point the most is renowned education expert, Professor John Hattie, chair of The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).
Marking National Teacher Certification Month in Sydney, Professor Hattie said AITSL’s new teacher certification system is designed to make “a dramatic difference” as to how the quality of teachers in Australia is perceived.
“We have some stunning teachers and school leaders in this country, but sometimes this gets lost in the distracting debates about the nature of schools,” told The Educator.
Hattie pointed out that while such debates are important, they’re not as important as the expertise of the teachers in Australian schools.
“My fear is that if we don’t recognise, in a dependable way, that excellence, we will continue to slip down the international school rankings,” he said.
“We have an opportunity here to truly make a difference.”
Hattie said there are many benefits that principals can expect out of their highly accomplished and lead teachers to help them in their roles.
“In most schools, there are teachers who could apply and I’m sure would become a highly accomplishing teacher within the system,” he said.
Hattie hopes that principals will see “the incredible value” of these teachers’ expertise in the school, and then use them as part of “the coalition of success” in enhancing the practices of their other teachers.
“We’re not going to solve this one teacher at a time. We need a collective solution and having these highly accomplishing lead teachers working alongside principals is what’s aimed to make a big difference to the quality of schooling,” he said.
‘Myths and distractions about schooling must be avoided’
Hattie said there are many myths and distractions that need to be avoided so that Australian education can refocus on the things that matter most.
He pointed to the ongoing debates around parent choice and the nature of schooling, which he warns is overshadowing the great work being done by high-performing teachers and school leaders.
“We have a massive distraction talking about teaching and how teachers should teach,” he said.
“But if you go and look at the very best teachers, you won’t find many common ways, because the majority of the time it’s about how they think and how they make those moment-to-moment judgements – and they’re very good at that.”
Hattie said a greater conversation needs to be had about the learning that takes place in classrooms, and what it means.
“We [AITSL] go into schools and ask students and teachers ‘what does learning mean to you?’ That’s a much healthier debate,” he said.
“So we have to get away from all the distractions out there about the nature of schools, parent choice and all of those things. What truly matters is not the choice of school but the teacher and the competency that teacher has – and there are so many of those.”
Hattie said there is a misconception that teaching can be enhanced through “surrounding staff with para-professionals”
“Often, this doesn’t make a huge difference to the quality of learning,” he said.
“It is teacher expertise that we have to focus on in a very trusting and dependable way, and say ‘we’re very good at causing learning, so how do we grow that?’ otherwise we’re going to invest all our resources in the things that do the most harm to kids.”