Sub Title: We must not sacrifice teacher self-reflection and ‘safe’ learning to the god of performativity
In an article on this blog a few weeks ago I warned about the important difference between the work that the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) is doing to develop high quality and useful tools to support teacher initiated professional learning, development, peer mentoring and coaching and what Bill Gates would like to do with such tools.
Bill Gates met with the PM yesterday and will be watched by millions on QandA tonight. If he talks about his TEDX message about the value of videos of teachers in classrooms, student feedback instruments, portfolios of teachers work, walkthroughs or other tools for ‘measuring’ or ‘ judging’ teacher performance for rewards or for compulsory performance review processes, think about what he is actually saying.
He is saying that the best way to improve teacher quality and drive improved teacher performance is to test it/ assess it/ judge it/ weigh it. Does this ring any bells?
Now I ask everyone to think about this sort of policy approach from the point of view of a newish teacher. Would you improve more in a system a) that encourages a pro-active teacher initiated approach to professional development with high levels of peer collaboration, opportunities for self reflection and peer discussion on problems and areas for development using the latest high quality support tools, or b) in a system that used all these same tools to measure you – where every measurement was recorded in a performance grading process?. Would you be enthusiastic about using video of your teaching or a student feedback survey on your semester project in order to reflect and hone your professional craft if you knew it could then be taken and used for formal performance assessment process which go into your records for all time?
Its a no brainer. If you want to built the professional knowledge and skills of teachers then work with them, support them, give them a ‘safe place’ where development needs can be acknowledged along with high quality frameworks to support this.
There will always be a small proportion who will not rise to the challenge – who are probably in the wrong profession but lets not design a performance improvement framework around ‘weeding out the bad’. This lowest common denominator approach sabotages the very goals of improvement. The best way to manage this problem is to focus on school leadership.
Tony Mackay Chair of AITSL wrote about this here, rather more tactfully and only recently
Australia is not a basket case in school reform. We have achieved something no other nation has so comprehensively managed: Australia is one of the first countries in the world to have a national set of professional standards to improve teaching in schools.
Others have tried to develop national standards and failed. We have done it, getting the education sector – federal, state and territory governments, universities, non-government schools, employer groups and unions – to reach agreement on an end-to-end system for teacher quality.
No other country possesses an exactly equivalent body to AITSL. Every few weeks the institute receives inquiries from overseas governments and education authorities wanting to know how Australia managed to get agreement on national standards from so many disparate groups involved in schooling. They have come from as far afield as the New York City school system, the Canadian province of British Columbia, Scotland, the Middle East and elsewhere.
So how did AITSL achieve what has eluded our overseas colleagues? We …. learnt from [others] mistakes. …
Mandated standards will never work unless you get school systems and teachers on board to make them work. So we listened to teachers and school leaders. We set up a comprehensive national network of advisory groups, public seminars, forums and focus groups. We involved 6000 teachers and school principals in helping us shape the standards.
Undermine this at your peril.