19 April 2006
Standards should guide, not control
Professional standards for teachers should remain at a broad level that guides teachers rather than controls them, according to a paper commissioned by PPTA and NZEI.
The paper, authored by University of Waikato education professor Martin Thrupp, argues that introducing specified professional standards for teachers would undermine teachers’ educational autonomy, intensify their workloads and push them towards taking shortcuts to meet requirements.
It also argues that specified standards are unlikely to be detailed enough to reflect the complexities of teaching, or what is distinctive about New Zealand education policy and practice.
“Authenticity can be expected to be stripped out of the teaching and learning process as teachers ‘jump through the hoops’ of specified standards …teachers will become less able to directly respond to students’ needs.
The paper concludes that generic standards at a broad guidance level are more likely to be successful.
“Generic standards require a higher trust approach to the issue of professional standards but are a sensible response to the paradox that the more managerial and performance pressure is placed on teachers, the less authentic their teaching will become.”
PPTA and NZEI commissioned the paper to inform the debate around professional standards for teachers and teacher education in New Zealand.
PPTA president Debbie Te Whaiti said the paper helped highlight exactly what professional standards do and the impact they can have.
She said there was already a proliferation of measures to monitor teacher performance. These ranged from codes of ethics and conduct through to professional standards in collective agreements and the satisfactory teacher dimensions that beginning teachers have to meet to get full registration.
“It seems clear from this paper that professional standards would work best if they were generic standards, written and understood to guide teachers’ practices and aspirations.”