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Developing the Professional

In recent months I've become more convinced we are finally backing up the discussion around the role of teachers from one of trade to one of craft; from one that is a job, to one that is truly a profession...with some serious action.

I know we all work on the assumption that we are all professionals, but to those who honestly reflect on past performance, behavior and attitudes that might at best be an optimistic view. I like Richard Elmore's thinking in his comments that "education is a profession without a practice"...there is absence of a clear body of knowledge and a clear body of practice.

The foundation for any profession must therefore be its core knowledge, learnings and wisdom. Our challenge has always been not just how we can agree on that as a body of knowledge, as Elmore outlines, but more significantly, how that can be best shared across the diversity of people who wish to learn apply it to their practice.

If a doctor can now perform an appendectomy through keyhole surgery rather than opening up someone's abdomen, then there is a willingness, almost an urgency to share that knowledge; if a dentist can now insert implants rather than provide false teeth, the same applies. However if we improve the process of young people learning to read, a very different approach is taken. ..and to be sure, being literate impacts far more significantly on life's chances than having your own teeth!

Now not for one minute am I suggesting both the cause and solution to this dilemma is simple, but fundamental to addressing it is the shift to a culture across the teaching community that sees the need to continually reflect on our practice as embedded into our role as a professional.

This underpins the very notion of the de-privatisation of our practice; its suggests that we have a professional responsibility to always be asking, "how can I improve my teaching?", and it implies that we will do so collegially, with the support of others, including the pedagogical leaders who will become the agents of wisdom sharing. These are an emerging new breed of school Principals who, freed from the burdens of administration through the increasing effective use of technology, are see that they will have an increasingly important role overseeing the quality of the actual learning experiences of their students, through the coaching and mentorship of a team of high quality teachers.

Yes, of course there are, sadly, some industrial issues to be overcome in many places, but from what I have seen in places like Victoria, Australia through what their State Ministry of Ed call their Performance and Development culture we are heading in the right direction. They have also just introduced a common instructional framework and language that has been adopted across 1700+ schools, and I have witnessed a fresh enthusiasm among teachers in many of their schools for the notion of Triads, or regular teacher observations as a mechanism to improve their practice.

..oh, and by the way, yes, that does all imply that this emerging pedagogical leadership will see technology embedded practice as offering significant learning advantages to students across all aspects of the school experience. It also suggests that the knowledge required to leverage it will not come from one or two courses we sign up for every year, but rather from the continuous, iterative, and diverse learning experiences we will seek daily as professionals.

As always, I'm very interested in your thoughts...
November 11th, 2009 @ 1:02PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment