An Excellent Start to an Excellent Career
- Margery Evans, Chief Executive Officer of AITSL, 26 August 2013.
There has been renewed focus of late on the role of universities in recruiting and equipping the next generation of teachers and school leaders.
In a climate where there is much attention on school funding, buildings, resources and curriculum, it is often easy to overlook the single greatest in-school determinant of student success - the performance of the classroom teacher.
At AITSL, our primary focus has been developing a set of professional standards for teachers and for school leaders which articulate, foster and promote excellent practice and appropriate career progression.
Part of creating a professional culture in teaching is sending the message that teaching is demanding, complex work, requiring intellectual capacity, commitment and resilience. We shortchange the profession when we imply that anyone can do this.
Questions around attracting, preparing and retaining excellent teachers have been asked and passionately debated for decades. Consequently there continue to be many initiatives focused on attracting the ‘best and brightest’ to our profession. We know people are drawn to this profession for many reasons, and enter through a variety of pathways. It is important that people who enter teaching have a clear and realistic picture of what is required to succeed as a teacher.
Naturally there are many characteristics that make a great teacher, many of which are difficult to measure as part of traditional entrance requirements. However there are a number of benchmarks that should be established. AITSL has recently published levels of achievement in Year 12 subjects which indicate if someone is likely to have the literacy and numeracy levels to succeed in initial teacher education, and in a teaching career. This gives effect to a commitment made by Education Ministers in 2011 that “entrants to initial teacher education should have levels of personal literacy and numeracy broadly equivalent to the top 30% of the population”.
Of course literacy and numeracy are not the only indicators of a good teacher, and Year 12 results are not the only way of demonstrating it. AITSL is commencing an important project to look at selection into initial teacher education. This will allow us to address some big questions such as what predicts success in a teaching career, and how we can measure some of these factors before people enter initial teacher education. I am excited about getting more precise about this, because I think we need to have high expectations for our new teachers, which reflect the complex nature of this profession.
It would be a mistake to think that people should come into our universities as fully formed teachers – that is what initial teacher education is for. We therefore need to focus on the quality of initial teacher education programs, and on the assessment that gives us confidence graduates are ready to teach. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers describe what graduates should know and be able to do. I am encouraged to see that universities are working to realign their courses, and their assessment, in line with the Standards.
Our students deserve the best teaching, and teaching should be regarded as a profession people aspire to enter. This means we need to be serious about attracting people who will succeed in teaching, preparing them well and supporting them throughout their careers. I am optimistic that the current focus on initial teacher education provides us with an opportunity to do just that.
What do you think are the most important elements of initial teacher education?