Authentic partnerships across the profession to develop consistent quality graduates

This article first appeared in the NZ Principals' Federation magazine, written by Teaching Council General Manager Pauline Barnes.

Initial Teacher Education (ITE) is one thing that most people in the sector have an opinion on, and rightly so. How we recruit, select and prepare teachers will shape our future profession, our education system and our communities.

Back in July 2015, the then newly-appointed Board of the Education Council (the Council) decided it would begin a strategic conversation with the profession on ITE and developing professional leadership. The Board was tasked with lifting the status of the profession – and it wanted to do this in a coherent way, building the future of ITE alongside professional learning for existing teachers as well as developing leadership. Though there were lots of views about ITE programmes and graduates there was very little information available about ITE programme performance here in NZ and abroad.

The Council began by meeting with the profession and other key stakeholders to get a good understanding of the breadth of perspectives on what we would need to put in place to develop future-orientated initial teacher education. The result of this first phase of discussion was a discussion paper, “Strategic options for developing future orientated initial teacher education”, released in July 2016. The paper made recommendations about:

  • standards and consistency of graduates
  • design of ITE programmes
  • expectations for entry to an ITE programme
  • managing ITE graduates from graduation through to their first full practicing certificates
  • managing the supply of new graduates
  • funding programmes; and
  • the network of ITE providers.

Since then, the focus of the Council’s work has been on the first phase of the change: setting the standards for ITE qualifications and rethinking how the Council should approve and review future ITE programmes so there is transparency and consistency in the quality of graduates.

Practitioners have told us how important it is that beginning teachers are able to teach on their first day, whilst at the same time recognising that they are embarking on a career-long learning journey. So, we want student teachers to be well prepared and supported to meet the Standards for the Teaching Profession (Standards) and live up to the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code), though they will have been doing that in a supported environment, before they graduate. ITE providers need to be able to give confidence that their graduates have the teaching knowledge, skills and professional attitudes to provide quality education for learners and can adapt their practice to different contexts and new situations as their experience grows.

Each learner has an entitlement to teaching of the quality required by the Standards, regardless of whether they are taught by a new graduate or an experienced teacher. The beginning teacher will need to be supported as they begin their ongoing development journey as a teacher, but expectations of the quality of their work should be no different than expectations for experienced teachers. To adopt a different position would be to suggest that learners should expect to receive an inferior experience with beginning teachers.

It follows, therefore, that Council decisions about approving ITE programmes are best made using evidence about the quality of assessments used to determine graduates’ achievement of the Standards. Last year, the Council commissioned Dr Graeme Aitken to lead the development of an assessment framework, along with a small expert working group and the ITE providers. This approach laid out in this framework will provide much more confidence that when students graduate, they have been assessed on the things that matter.

It is proposed that in future, approval panels looking at new ITE programmes will focus more discussion on:

  • Contextualisation Identifying the values, ideas and philosophies that underpin and shape the programme, and how they influence the positioning and interpretation of the Standards
  • Coverage with Rigour Demonstrating how the focus of assessment fully covers all aspects of the standard
  • Variety Describing the variety of assessment opportunities, approaches and modes used across the programme, and how judgements against the Standards will draw on multiple sources of evidence and take account of situations student teachers have not directly experienced
  • Diversity Explaining how the different contexts of teaching are reflected in the assessment programme, and how student teachers’ capability will be assessed with diverse learners, in different educational settings, and across various curriculum contexts relevant to the sector - acknowledging that direct experience of the full range of diversity is not possible.
  • Partnership Explaining how practitioners are involved in assessment design and processes; explaining the approach to reaching consensus, and how student teachers are encouraged to recognise and act on their own and others’ assessment of progress towards the Standards.
  • Readiness Explaining the assessment of student teachers’ progress on key teaching tasks, and their ability to perform these with independence at graduation; the approach to identifying sector-specific key teaching tasks and their connection to the Standards and the practicum report; the moderation processes to optimise trust in the assessment of key teaching tasks.
  • Complexity A description of the capstone assessment (see below) that all student teachers need to complete towards the end of their programme, based on an authentic practice situation.

There are a few significant changes that I want to talk about in a bit more detail. One is authentic partnerships with practitioners. The new requirements seek to enable authentic and sustained partnerships between ITE providers and schools and centres. Many of you will already be engaged with an ITE provider in some way, and many relationships are already strong and productive. However, the Council believes that if we are going to have the best possible graduates, practitioners need to be involved in the design, delivery and assessment of programmes as genuine partners. The evidence around what makes a programme successful points to this element as being critical. Of course, a requirement on paper isn’t going to forge a relationship of trust. But the profession’s voice has been clear throughout this engagement that preparing teachers is a professional responsibility and now is the time to make this work. The requirements suggest areas where the provider is expected to be working with practitioners:

  • overall programme structure
  • designing professional experience placements
  • delivering professional experience placements
  • identifying the key teaching tasks for a programme
  • developing the capstone or final integrative assessment, and ideally the associated assessment of students
  • programme review and ongoing improvements
  • national moderation of provider judgements that their graduates are ready to teach.

Adding the requirements for a capstone assessment is new. A capstone assessment is a final integrative experience that aims to assess the full integration of the students’ learning during their programme and their ability to access and integrate multiple sources of knowledge and skill to address problems of practice. As part of this process students will also be able to explain the connections of their actions and decisions across the Standards. This assessment will be attached to credits, so that we don’t end up in a situation where students have passed individuals papers in their programme but can’t pull it all together. We would expect practitioners to be part of assessing a capstone.

Another new requirement is to design and assess key teaching tasks that graduates would be able to perform independently at graduation. These tasks will be different if you are teaching in ECE to what they will be for a new entrant teacher or a year six teacher. They are likely to be more detailed and context specific than practices assessed as part of meeting the Standards. So, for example, a key teaching task might be that a teacher is able to do a running record. These tasks could be developed with the partner schools for a programme. The Council is also considering the development of a “base-set” of key teaching tasks for ITE programmes.

Though the proposed changes described in this article are just a part of a much bigger system change, I’m sure you will see the potential for gaining transparency and consistency across the system. The Council is committed to creating a learning-system approach to implementing and developing ITE approvals. Other key areas for development include introducing national moderation processes for assessment against the Standards; the cycle of review and monitoring of programmes including information about graduates’ success; and more flexibility in the design of programme structures to help us attract a more diverse future workforce. It is by creating multiple feedback loops and collaborative relationships right across the profession that we will be able to make progress in this complex area of change.

The Council expects to publish the new programme requirements in March. If you want to know more, or be more involved, you can see regular updates and resources here. Council staff members would be pleased to talk to any regular meeting of pleased to talk to any regular meeting of principals in your area. Feel free to contact me at pauline.barnes@educationcouncil.org.nz

 

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