This chapter considers issues including the status of the teaching profession, attracting talent to teaching, pre-qualification learning and development, post-qualification and in-service learning and development, and the potential impediments to teachers honing their craft, furthering their professionalism, and deploying their skills well.
A student’s teacher will have the greatest impact on a student’s achievement. Dr Peter Goss makes this point starkly when he states:
In the Australian context, a student with a teacher in the top 10 per cent of teachers in the country can achieve in half a year what a student with a bottom 10 per cent teacher achieves in a full year.
Entry into undergraduate study
Given the impact that teachers can have on students’ achievement, the Committee was interested in the university entrance score required for a degree in education. The following table compares the entrance scores for a degree in education with arts and law at a number of universities. Scores are expressed as an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) which is a mark out of 100.
Table 2.1: Comparison of university entrance scores
Source: Universities Admissions Centre, Cut-offs for Main Round offers, 2016-17 admissions
In addition the Committee asked witnesses in Brisbane about the requirements for admission to an undergraduate education course. The Queensland equivalent to the ATAR is the OP (overall position) expressed as a rank between 1 and 25. The OP required was between 9 and 15.
The Committee received evidence to suggest that the university entrance score needed for teaching was more an issue of economics, remuneration and status, than ability. Professor Doune Macdonald Pro Vice-Chancellor, Teaching and Learning, University of Queensland drew these points together when she stated:
Apart from the money, I think there’s a status issue about teaching. We know from some of the international research that where teachers are held in high regard, such as in some of the Scandinavian countries, where they are also well paid, they are attracting some of the highest school leavers in terms of academic entry. There is a mix of factors, but certainly status is another one.
Dr Kenneth Young, Lecturer in Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, argues that a university entrance score is not as important as the personal qualities a student may bring to their teaching course and career:
I’ve seen plenty of people who've come through as an undergraduate student that might have an OP of 15 or 14, and that may not set them in the top percentile, but they bring with them an enormous amount of dedication and the capacity to work professionally and effectively with young people…
Dr Young also outlined the extra developmental/academic barriers that must be cleared by students before they can progress to being teachers:
For the students that are looking for program completion and teacher registration now, everyone has to pass the LAN-type test, which places them in the top 30 per cent for literacy and numeracy in Australia. Coming through QTAC, they now have to do a non-academic performance analysis to see if they're the right sort of person to come into teaching. As of next year, another hoop to jump through is the graduate teacher performance assessment task, and the final placement of their teacher program where they are moderated as to whether they are an appropriate teacher. There are a whole heap of hoops to jump through.
This evidence suggests that, whatever the university entrance score, a teaching degree allows students to learn and grow into the role of a teacher. Suggestions such as ‘raising the university entrance score for teaching’ may not, without a change in remuneration and attitudes to teaching result in better teachers.
The Committee sought more evidence as to how to measure the impact of teachers.
Supporting teachers to understand and measure gain
The evidence above suggests better teachers are ones who have a better impact on their students. This raises the question of how one should measure such impact? The Grattan Institute suggested that teacher impact should be judged by school, cohort and student gain, an issue discussed in the next chapter:
Analysing impact is all about student gain. We shouldn’t judge teacher impact by how much students know, but by how much students have learned.
Ms Julie Sonneman, Fellow, School Education, Grattan Institute, spoke at length about the importance of focussing on ‘student progress in school as opposed to just achievement at a point in time’ and stated that this:
…can help students develop a broader growth mindset and re-enforces the value of effort and persistence, which are shown to be related to later success in life and work.
In addition, Ms Sonneman suggested that:
… a focus on progress measures in school can help improve teaching through the fact that it can help teachers assess the impact of their learning strategies and which are working best.
These considerations beg the question as to how teachers can measure and understand their students’ progress. The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), in focussing on what teachers need day-to-day to measure the gain of their students, stated that:
Australian teachers need to be able to easily access individual and in-time data on the growth of students’ learning if they are to be able to make professional judgements about how best to address student needs. However, the time, capacity and expertise required for teachers to undertake high quality formative assessment is significant. Therefore work is needed to support teachers to quickly and accurately assess student progress at any time, enabling teachers to better measure the impact of their practice. Exploration of a technological solution, together with appropriate implementation support, may be a way to address this. Work in this area will help teachers ensure that every student gains at least one year’s growth for every year of schooling.
Professional development, and time pressures
Dr Goss argues that ‘only the highest-impact (fittest) teaching approaches should survive and spread’.
According to Dr Goss teachers need ‘time, tools and training along with teamwork and trust’.
The Committee received some evidence on the time teachers spend in the classroom and how that time is used and on the importance of professional development for teachers.
Dr Young suggested that the time teachers spend actually teaching is affected by the time they spend dealing with social issues and suggested that half of their time is spent teaching whilst the other half of their time:
… has nothing to do with teaching; it’s about dealing with social issues that are going on at school. It’s student care. It’s a whole range of other things.
In response to the suggestion that schools could perhaps require more social workers to free up teachers’ time, Ms Robyn Anderson, Senior Research Associate, Queensland University of Technology, commented that she had visited a school in Europe where teachers taught and that any other extracurricular activity was carried out by other staff.
Dr Young also expressed the desire for teachers to undertake professional development and the barriers to them doing so:
… teachers are desperate and very willing to do professional development. They will take as much as they can possibly do. I am probably speaking now from a DET point of view, which is the schools that I am most familiar with. Getting release of any kind during the day for a teacher from those schools is basically impossible. So, at the moment, the model probably for most state school teachers is they are doing professional development off their own bat, in their own time, usually at their own cost…
The evidence suggests that better teachers have a higher impact and that this impact is best measured by school, cohort and student gain. Currently the major measurements of student gain in schools are the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).
Action now, classroom ready teachers report
The Committee notes the Action Now, Classroom Ready Teachers - Report of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) which stated that:
The evidence is clear: enhancing the capability of teachers is vital to raising the overall quality of Australia’s school system and lifting student outcomes. Action to improve the quality of teachers in Australian schools must begin when they are first prepared for the profession.
The report made the following key findings of fact:
National standards are weakly applied – the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Professional Standards) and the Accreditation of Initial Teacher Education Programs in Australia: Standards and Procedures provide a strong foundation for quality assurance and improvement to initial teacher education. However, they are not being effectively applied and implementation timeframes are too slow.
Need to lift public confidence in initial teacher education – Australians are not confident that all entrants to initial teacher education are the best fit for teaching. This includes the balance of academic skills and personal characteristics needed to be suitable for teaching.
Evidence of poor practice in a number of programs – Not all initial teacher education programs are equipping graduates with the content knowledge, evidence-based teaching strategies and skills they need to respond to different student learning needs.
Insufficient integration of teacher education providers with schools and systems – Providers, school systems and schools are not effectively working together in the development of new teachers. This is particularly evident in the professional experience component of initial teacher education, which is critical for the translation of theory into practice.
Inadequate application of standards – Initial teacher education providers are not rigorously or consistently assessing the classroom readiness of their pre-service teachers against the Professional Standards.
Insufficient professional support for beginning teachers – Not all graduate teachers are adequately supported once they enter the profession. This means a number of beginning teachers do not reach their full potential, and some may choose to leave the profession.
Gaps in crucial information, including workforce data – Useful information on the effectiveness of initial teacher education and students entering and graduating from initial teacher education is lacking. This hinders both continuous improvement, and workforce planning, including the ability to address shortages in specialist subject areas.
The Committee feels that the report Action Now, Classroom Ready Teachers provides important recommendations in relation to bettering teacher quality and therefore adopts the following recommendations from that report:
Standards for the quality of initial teacher education be set high, programs rigorously assessed and requirements made transparent.
The Australian Government acts on the sense of urgency to immediately commence implementing actions to lift the quality of initial teacher education.
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership be reconstituted to undertake a stronger role to ensure high standards of initial teacher education in Australia.
The Australian Government establish a national initial teacher education regulator through a reconstituted Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to overhaul and manage the accreditation of initial teacher education programs, and work with the states and territories to ensure rigorous accreditation processes operate effectively with teacher registration.
Initial accreditation of programs requires higher education providers to demonstrate that their programs have evidence-based pedagogical approaches, effective integration of professional experience, rigorous and iterative assessment of pre-service teachers throughout their education, and final assessments that ensure pre-service teachers are classroom ready. Higher education providers provide a set of measures that assess the effectiveness of their programs in achieving successful graduate outcomes.
Higher education providers use the national literacy and numeracy test to demonstrate that all pre-service teachers are within the top 30 per cent of the population in personal literacy and numeracy.
Higher education providers equip pre-service teachers with data collection and analysis skills to assess the learning needs of all students.
Higher education providers equip all primary and secondary pre-service teachers with a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of teaching literacy and numeracy.
Higher education providers equip all primary pre-service teachers with at least one subject specialisation, prioritising science, mathematics or a language. Providers publish specialisations available and numbers of graduates from these programs.
Higher education providers deliver integrated and structured professional experience throughout initial teacher education programs through formalised partnership agreements with schools.
The Committee largely adopts these recommendations.
In relation to professional development the Committee notes that this needs to be a recognised part of a teacher’s role. An atmosphere in which time taken for professional development is seen as just as important as actual teaching time should be fostered in schools. Time should be dedicated for teachers to undertake courses in professional development.
The Committee is swayed by evidence that there needs to be more opportunity for teachers to undertake professional development, to hone their craft, and to better prepare to practice it. The Committee is also persuaded that there should be more social support/social workers in schools so teachers can get on and teach.
The committee acknowledges the importance of raising the status of the teaching profession in attracting the best possible people to it. This means valuing the work that teachers do, ensuring teachers’ remuneration reflects the value placed on education, freeing teachers up to allow them to focus on teaching, and acknowledging outstanding teachers.
Having regard to the evidence above the Committee makes the following recommendations. The Committee notes that the majority of recommendations in the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling report (2011) are reflected in this report.
The Committee recommends that standards for the quality of initial teacher education be set high, programs rigorously assessed and requirements made transparent.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government immediately commence implementing the recommendations made herein that are directed to lifting the quality of initial teacher education.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership be reconstituted to undertake a stronger role to ensure high standards of initial teacher education in Australia.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a national initial teacher education regulator through a reconstituted Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to overhaul and manage the accreditation of initial teacher education programs, and work with the states and territories to ensure rigorous accreditation processes operate effectively with teacher registration.
The Committee recommends that in accrediting programs, higher education providers be required to be able to demonstrate that their programs have evidence-based pedagogical approaches, effective integration of professional experience, rigorous and iterative assessment of pre-service teachers throughout their education, and final assessments that ensure pre-service teachers are classroom ready.
The Committee recommends that Higher Education providers:
use the national literacy and numeracy test to demonstrate that all pre-service teachers are within the top 30 per cent of the population in personal literacy and numeracy by the conclusion of their pre-service study; and
equip pre-service teachers with the training necessary to work within teams that assess the learning needs of all students.
The Committee acknowledges the non-teaching demands on teachers’ time, and, with a view to enabling teachers to devote their time to honing and practising their profession and craft, and planning to do same, recommends that the Australian Government, through COAG:
support and implement a policy to provide more youth workers, social workers and other professionals with specialist experience in supporting young people to transition and/or social support in schools; and
work to ensure that teachers have reasonable opportunities within working hours for ongoing professional development, and planning.
The Committee recommends that initial teacher education be updated on an ongoing basis through continuing professional development, to ensure that teachers are trained in best-practice approaches and up-to-date thinking. To facilitate this, the Committee recommends that:
stakeholders including parents’ groups, education unions, industry, government, VET providers and universities be engaged in setting requirements for continuing professional development; and
teachers be given such workload relief as is necessary to make more thorough ongoing development possible.
Acknowledging the importance of raising the status of the teaching profession, the Committee recommends that:
teachers’ working conditions and pay be sufficient to both attract and retain good teachers; and
consideration be given to ensuring both opportunities for professional development and career paths.