From the VP: Our jobs, our choices
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 7, 27 September 2019, page no. 9
Many of you (but not all) will remember the days of “outcomes-based education”, particularly during the 1990s. Curriculum “experts” were brought in by the department and regions to assist teachers in planning units according to outcomes.
I attended a planning meeting where my colleagues talked about doing a particular unit - one they had done many times before. These teachers knew their students well, and they knew this unit would engage those students. But the teachers were told by the curriculum “experts”: “You are not to do that unit anymore, because the outcomes do not fit that topic.”
I know that my colleagues planned a unit that did meet the needs of their students, using the outcomes-based approach, and that the students would access the skills and content associated with the method. At that time, a multi-disciplinary cross-curricular unit could still meet the needs of students.
Yet their professional judgement about curriculum was overridden by an apparent systemic demand for “accountability” and “transparency”.
Now, I don’t have a problem with transparency or accountability to a point. What I do have a problem with is when extreme levels of accountability and transparency affect the way we do our jobs to suit our teaching style and the learning needs of the students within our care.
Every region now is driven by a pedagogical framework that tries to define how we do our jobs on a day-to-day basis. For example, in FNQ and CQ the framework has focused on explicit instruction. Of course, these pedagogical frameworks have their place. They can provide support for students with the introduction of new content - but there are many other high-yield strategies that also support student learning, engagement and achievement. These include: self and peer coaching and assessment; collaboration and group work; an ability to listen actively and provide and receive feedback from classmates and teachers; and an inquiry-based approach to learning.
Similarly, C2C is a useful tool to support the implementation of units and ACARA content statements. But is it the only way? We know it isn’t.
When education processes become mandated, the system is providing direction for the sake of the system itself. This top-down approach undermines the professional work we do in choosing a variety of effective pedagogical practices to best meet the learning needs and interests of our students.
Ultimately, despite all the seemingly endless education “renewal”, our job remains the same. It is to plan, teach, assess and report for the students in our classrooms and schools. I can safely say, THAT is the job we signed up to last year, five years ago, 15 years ago, 25 years ago. A lot has changed in that time, with much of it being for the better. But for all that, a lot has stayed the same.
Our job description is also replicated in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. It is to plan, teach, assess and report at all four career stages: graduate, proficient, highly accomplished and lead teacher, although the level of complexity is obviously different.
Teaching is about a balance of all these things.
But we have to ask ourselves – have systemic demands tipped the balance from professionalism to managerialism? Has self-regulation been overshadowed by compliance?
Together as teachers, reclaiming the joy and wonder of our profession is the key to the love of learning we all have. And that can only happen when we are freed from procedural interference and can exercise true professional autonomy.