What teachers know and do is the most
important influence on what students learn.
The need to attract and retain high-quality
teachers is widely recognised. Debate
about the need to reform career structures
for teachers has been going on for many
years. The time is ripe for action.
Of all the options available to policy
makers seeking to improve student learning
outcomes, the most effective are those
that invest in teacher knowledge and skill.
For this reason, professional development
is moving to centre stage.
The professional development research
indicates that teacher effectiveness is
not a fixed thing. Student achievement
can climb significantly in schools and
school systems that support effective
There are many individually effective
professional development programs and
activities operating at school and system
levels, but the overall pattern of provision
is brief, fragmentary and rarely sequential.
The capacity of the profession to engage
most of its members in effective modes
of professional learning over the long
term is weak.
We need to build capacity for learning,
not only at teacher, school and system
levels, but also at the level of the profession.
The profession is ready and able to undertake
Policies are needed that will support
the profession in building a national
framework for continuing learning, from
registration to advanced certification,
guided by professional standards and assessments,
and supported by career paths that recognise
the central importance of teachers' knowledge
and skill to successful learning outcomes
for students in our schools.
Performance assessment for certification
would serve the important psychological
function of providing teachers with professional
recognition based on rigorous assessment
of the quality of their practice by respected,
expert, trained peers.
A national effort to build a performance-based
professional certification system is required.
Standards and certification might be the
responsibility of a professional body,
for example, but they will only serve
their purpose effectively if governments,
employing authorities and teacher unions
provide support and recognition for professional
learning toward those standards. I believe
we are close to creating a national alliance
of interested parties who could make a
standards-based professional learning
system a reality.
A national certification body for teachers
should have one core function; to provide
a system of standards and assessments
that is credible to all parties, including
the public, governments, education authorities
This would require the establishment
of a new independent, expert national
body with the sole function of providing
an advanced certification function. No
existing body has the capacity or acceptability
across the professional educational community,
to undertake the role of a national professional
certification body for teachers. Any serious
attempt to introduce and operate a professional
certification system will depend of the
creation of an entirely new kind of body
in Australian education.
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