NSW Professional Teaching Standards in Teaching Practice

The NSW teaching standards are of significant importance in teaching practice. With meetings and teaching practice as the context for my observations, I noticed that teachers in their activities often fail to conform to the teaching standards, and that leads to decreasing the quality of their work. While reading and studying scholarly articles as the additional sources for the observation, I found that meeting the NSW teaching standards is beneficial not only for the teachers and schools but also increases the overall performance of students thus entailing positive shifts in the development of the whole nation as the level of erudition increases.

There have been concerns about the quality of Australia’s teacher, school, and student performance. I have often been a witness to the consequences of low teaching standards that resulted in the oversupply of teachers. Unfortunately, quantity does not mean quality, and in some fields of education, it was practically impossible to find the one with deep knowledge of the subject. Low teaching standards led to the decrease of the overall performance of schools and students thus emerged the necessity to reorganise the system of education.

Since the time of the introduction of government initiatives in the sphere and teaching standards, I witnessed the improvement in teacher and student performance. With the national programmes in the field of education, teachers became motivated to upgrade their skills and provide the best quality teaching services. What is more, high standards for entry into teaching practice improved the overall performance as increased the level of the initial teachers’ knowledge and professionalism. Together with the improvement of the quality of teaching, there was notable progress in the student performance as they are expected to have deeper knowledge and to obtain the desired degree.

The idea of implementing teaching standards in the educating practices became popular in the last decade of the preceding century. The primary objective of the potential governmental programmes was to “improve educational performance of educational systems and … practices of teachers in the classrooms” (Sachs, 2003, p. 175). In Australia, since 2007, the government introduced numerous initiatives such as “national testing and reporting of student achievement, national professional standards for teachers, a national curriculum, national accreditation of teacher education courses and a national framework for teacher development and performance” (Dinham, 2013, p. 91) among the governmental initiatives. The reason to launch them was lying in the growing concerns that Australia’s performance of teachers, students and schools was low as compared to the international standards.

One of the most fundamental initiatives is the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers or simply the Standards formerly National Professional Standards for Teachers. Highlighting that teachers are responsible for the youngers’ successful future lives by providing them with the best quality teaching services, the Standards preach that the teachers’ performance is the only factor influencing the performance of the students (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2011, p. 1). Standards are the framework for understanding the quality of teacher effectiveness and achievement of professional goals as well as are a blueprint for raising the status of the teacher’s profession assuring that the teachers “demonstrate appropriate levels of professional knowledge, professional practice, and professional engagement” (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2011, p. 2). They are postulated as follows:

  1. know students and how they learn;
  2. know content and how to teach it;
  3. plan for and implement effective teaching and learning;
  4. create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments;
  5. assess, provide feedback and report on student learning;
  6. engage in professional learning;
  7. engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community. (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2011, p. 5)

The NSW Teaching Standards provide clear instructions for those who want to teach people at every stage of building a career from graduate to becoming a lead colleague with all seven standards broken down into three domains that were mentioned above – knowledge, practice, and engagement. However, there are some limitations to them. First, they are only valid in the case of the teacher’s skills, knowledge, and experience and, second, it is complicated to define the required level of skills, values, and experience as they are discipline-specific, i.e. the range of knowledge varies depending on the discipline, so the teachers of physics, literature and biology require different skills (Howie, 2006, p. 71). Together with defining the steps to becoming a highly professional teacher and improving overall teacher performance, the Standards are the source of setting a particular type of teacher identity (Mulcahy, 2011, p. 95) preaching that a teacher is a set of certain characteristics.

Nevertheless, the NSW Teaching Standards are postulated to be a guarantee of quality and professionalism the real-life shows that there are certain difficulties in bringing them to complete functioning. First of all, in Australia, teacher education is, in most cases, undergraduate. That means that the standards of entry for teaching practice are low so that everyone who finished the undergraduate professional programme has the right to teach. Even though the Standards accept undergraduates and define the necessary set of skills necessary to get to teaching practice, very often graduates do not demonstrate the desire to move forward in developing and improving thus becoming a barrier to the increase of the overall teacher effectiveness. Moreover, the quality of such undergraduate programmes is variable (Dinham, 2013, p. 99-100) so there is no guarantee that the graduate has a necessary level of knowledge. Thus, derives the need for establishing a minimum standard for entry.

Even though there are certain difficulties in implementing the NSW Teaching Standards as the unique guideline for activities, the initiative has significant potential in improving the positive shift in teaching practice as the teachers are motivated to develop as professionals. So, it is an effective tool for improving general teacher, school and student performance but they should not be presented as the governmental regulatory framework. Instead, the Standards should evoke the teachers’ desire to become better, deepen their knowledge, and develop new skills (Sachs, 2003, p. 185). What is also of significant importance is bearing in mind that making a teacher want to improve their effectiveness will take time and so will the change in the teaching practice.

The observation of the NSW Teaching Standards was of extreme importance to understanding how to improve and upgrade my skills on a way to becoming a professional in teaching. Achieving objectives in building a career is an intricate process with many difficulties, but the Standards provide the necessary tips so that it becomes easier to climb the ranks.

There are many ways in which I can apply the NSW Teaching Standards in my professional life and in improving my performance as a teacher. For example, in the classroom, I will use different strategies to teach my students based on the social, ethnic, educational, and linguistic background of the class. According to Standard 1, I should know my students and how they learn, so, it might be beneficial to spend some of the time getting to know them better so that I know what strategy to use in teaching. As teacher Standard 2, I should know my subject and know how to teach the content. That means that it is important not only to gain new knowledge in my sphere of practice but also in teaching strategies and the ways to present the materials.

Together with knowing my students and content, I need to develop the skills of planning and implementing new strategies into the learning process, so it will be useful to deepen the experiences in communication strategies. As a professional, in compliance with Standards 3 and 4, I should not only provide my students with the information but also create and support a unique environment in the classroom so that they are interested in the way I teach them. For this purpose, I will consider the implementation of the newest technologies in the learning process and make it interactive by maintaining a constant dialogue between the class and me.

Moreover, I will assess the students’ learning properly and timely and use a combination of different strategies to develop an effective feedback mechanism so that the students know that I am interested in the improvement of their performance and always ready to listen to their suggestions and inquiries on how to better the learning process and the results of our cooperation. To my mind, I should not ignore this standard because it will add to understanding my students and getting to know how they study. What is more, it will help define what are the difficulties they face and how to overcome them.

I believe that to become a professional I need to communicate not only with my class but also with my colleagues because they might be willing to share their experience in improving the effectiveness of teaching. I think that I will try to create and maintain an atmosphere of trust and integrity in the working place so that teachers will have the desire to think about improving the overall performance together. It will become an empowering experience because establishing a system of effective and open communication in the working place is one of the most important keys to success as the colleagues might share the newly gained knowledge on teaching ad communicating strategies.

Even though it is important to associate with the students and my colleagues, I should also remember coming into contact with the students’ parents or carers. It is one more step forward to knowing and understanding my class and developing a system of reporting on the results of the learning activities. I believe that it is useful to arrange the teacher-parent meetings on a timely basis so that there is a possibility to create an environment of trust and heartedness between the parents in me.

Finally, I realize that carrying out all of the mentioned above steps is a durable and complicated process, but I do believe that it is possible if I follow the NSW Teaching Standards. Moreover, it is extremely important to let my colleagues know about the significance of the Standards so that together we may initiate positive changes in the teaching practice and improve the performance of Australia’s teachers, schools, and students.

References

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2011). Australian professional standards for teachers. Carlton South, Australia: Education Services Australia.

Dinham, S. (2013). The quality teaching movement in Australia encounters difficult terrain: A personal perspective. Australian Journal of Education, 57(2), 91-106.

Howie, M. (2006). Some reflections on quality teaching, teaching standards, professional learning and teacher accreditation. English in Australia, 41(2), 69-72.

Mulcahy, D. (2011). Assembling the ‘accomplished’ teacher: The performativity and politics of professional teaching standards. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(1), 94-113.

Sachs, J. (2003). Teacher professional standards: Controlling or developing Teaching? Teachers and Teaching, 9(2), 175-186.