Teacher professional standards ‘ignored’ by expert panel – paper

Teacher professional standards ‘ignored’ by expert panel – paper

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers have been ignored by the Teacher Education Expert Panel and must be addressed, according to a new paper that calls for a new set of evidence-based standards.

The paper, released by the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) today, warns teacher standards are out of step with what works in teaching and learning, causing confusion among educators.

“Rather than exemplifying best practice, they are ambiguous and vague, inviting a breadth of unhelpful interpretations,” Rebecca Birch, Director of Research and Practice at a K-12 independent school in Sydney, said.

Birch said while the expert panel recommended reforms to Initial Teacher Education core content in its Strong Beginnings report to align it more closely with best practice, these efforts will not be successful unless standards are also brought into line.

The CIS paper recommends amending standards to focus on core content, integrating essential teacher competencies, conducting rigorous factor and value-added analysis on new standards, and developing national professional learning guidelines with effective staffing and funding case studies.

Birch also makes the case for professional development to be aligned to new standards to drive teaching quality at all career stages.

“Professional standards can and should help define what the profession values. These standards can be better leveraged to define, reflect and foster quality teaching practice,” Birch said.

“A new set of standards grounded in empirical evidence would provide a more detailed and comprehensive framework for teacher professionalism and — by aligning closely with evidence-based practices and emphasising specific competencies — elevate teaching quality across all career stages.”

A separate report published by the CIS in 2023 said the education sector needs a sustained shakeup as to who provides teacher training, how they provide it, how it is regulated, and how performance is incentivised.

“It’s clear we have a quality problem in teacher training, and that starts with our teacher trainers,” CIS program director Glenn Fahey said.

“For too long, quality of training has been left to chance, leaving many new teachers short-changed.”

Speaking on the recommendations of the latest paper by the CIS, Birch emphasised the importance of aligning core content to clear professional standards, combined with effective models of professional development to improve the capacity of all teachers at scale.

“In doing this, existing standards can go from being a document only referenced by those seeking accreditation at certain career stages to a live and active vision of teacher professionalism.”

New standards will improve support for school leaders

Birch said the Refined Standards will provide clarity about where leaders should be putting their professional learning resources to lift student outcomes.

“Without this clarity, schools and systems can be prone to fads and competing priorities,” Birch said in an interview with The Educator following the release of the paper.

“A more coherent set of Standards will help leaders to align their professional learning with the kinds of practices that result in optimal student outcomes – and disregard the ones that don’t.”

Birch noted that revised Standards will also improve support for early career and preservice teachers, enabling them to see results and hopefully remain in the profession.

“In a teacher shortage, we need to do everything we can to ensure our new teachers are well prepared, and this includes mentoring,” she said.

“Without shared knowledge of what effective practice entails, it will be very tricky in coming years to effectively support new teachers who have benefited from the core content. Leaders can’t afford to ignore retention as a key staffing strategy.”