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December 1999

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Members Are Asking For More From
Additional Qualification Courses

Feedback from teachers about the quality of the courses they are paying for is troubling, and the College will follow up on your behalf.

By Margaret Wilson

In September, I wrote about the thousands of Ontario teachers who dedicated significant time over the summer to expanding their knowledge and skill base. The summer institutes were a great success and I know that the sponsors are working to hold them again next summer. Many of you had very positive responses to these focused experiences.

Many other teachers took Additional Qualification (AQ) courses over the summer. Unfortunately, the anecdotal comments we are receiving from members about their AQ experiences, including the principal’s courses, are to put it mildly, mixed. Some are done to a very high standard; others are not.

There appears to be a pervasive misunderstanding among a number of people and institutions at the delivery end of the AQ system of the difference between a program of professional development and a course which is expected to deliver a qualification.

It is part of the College’s mandate to ensure that these courses meet the high expectations of both the teacher qualifications regulation and the salary system that is tied to them. If a course is supposed to result in a "qualification," it should provide a guarantee to students, parents and the profession that the individual teacher has significantly increased knowledge and skill.


The general rubric for AQ courses and the principal’s course is that each part of the course should provide
125 hours of instruction. The expectation is that the instructors have specific expertise in the area of study and a strong theoretical base, since part of the intention is to connect current, relevant theory with sound teaching practice.

The generic specifications for the Honour Specialist courses, for instance, require that candidates study current research in both the content of the subject and in new methods of delivering the curriculum. The course is meant to expand the vision of the teacher through exposure to national and international scholarship in the area and to deepen the capacity to use appropriate methodologies in the classroom.


When courses such as the specialist courses are crammed into a two to three-week time frame – as too many now are – they lose any academic credibility. The time to read widely, discuss what one has read, distill the knowledge into the dreaded essay or apply the knowledge and skills where one’s application may be observed does not exist in a cram course setting. And that is what too many of the courses have become.

When the College receives complaints of teachers in an Honour Specialist course being required to do 20 hours of community service and write 194 individual lesson plans, or when "pub hours" are advertised as part of the hours of instruction for a principal’s course, we must act.


Our job is to ensure that when members pay fees for AQ courses they get an intellectually rigorous and relevant program. We must also ensure that the program is timetabled in such a way that it is possible to meet the high achievement levels implied by the designations awarded on completion.

Many of you are struggling this fall to manage the delivery of the new curriculum. Adequate resources have still not been provided but you are inventing as you go, as teachers always have.

Even though you are busy, we would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the AQ system. If you receive materials from the College, please respond. We are very grateful for the high response rate to our research on the Standards of Practice and the Professional Learning Framework.

As we put the pieces together to try to do our part to support and improve the professional lives of College members, it is imperative that we address the quality agenda in the AQ system. If you have time to write to us about your experiences, please do. If you have specific suggestions for improvement, please write to me or e-mail the College at pad@oct.ca .

In the meantime, keep up the heroic work in implementing curriculum change and serving the children as best you can. I have the greatest admiration for your efforts.