The Teaching Profession Needs to Work Together to Improve Professional Learning
The College is caught in a debilitating confrontation between the teacher federations and the government over professional learning. For its part, the College has attempted a balanced and principled approach in the midst of competing interests.

By Joe Atkinson

Two years ago, at her request, the College advised former Minister of Education Janet Ecker about the government’s teacher testing plans. Our recommendations — developed through extensive consultation with the profession and the public — included a language proficiency requirement, an entry to the profession requirement, a standard performance appraisal system and a two-year induction program. We also made extensive recommendations regarding the ongoing professional learning of teachers.

The College did not recommend linking professional learning to teacher certification.

Our advice and our recommendations were widely embraced and endorsed by the profession and its partners, including the teacher federations. It is acknowledged that the advice from the College and its partners played a major role in convincing the government to abandon a program based upon written tests in favour of a program with professional learning as its base.

Sure, the Professional Learning Program is not what we recommended but it’s a far cry from the written re-certification examination originally proposed by former Premier Harris. The current political action campaigns on the part of the federations neither recognizes nor acknowledges this important fact.

I understand and share the disappointment that the College and its education partners have been unable to convince the government to adopt our collective advice. But I find it difficult to understand why this disappointment has been turned into political action campaigns that target the College, hurting College members and student teachers.


Over the last months, we have seen a campaign aimed at denying teacher candidates the practice teaching experience they need to be certified, threatening their ability to earn a living in their chosen profession.

We have seen respected longtime providers of professional courses that are popular with thousands of teachers pressured very hard to withdraw from the field under the threat of boycott.

We have seen campaigns that have driven up the College’s administrative costs, which are borne by all College members.

We have seen advertisers pressured to withdraw their advertising from Professionally Speaking — ads that have gone a long way to reduce the costs of the College publication, which are again borne by all College members.

I understand political action campaigns. During my many years as a federation staff officer, I assisted with the planning of a number of them. However, when we were upset with a government action, we targetted the government — not our teacher colleagues and faculty students.

The government’s program is not what we recommended. However, the College acknowledges the legal right of the government to set public policy and, now set, the implementation of this policy has been mandated by legislation to the College.


And, just as we did with the teacher qualifying test, outlined in the column by Chair Larry Capstick, the College will continue to work with its partners and the government to have the legislation modified to better reflect a program more acceptable to College members while at the same time serving the public interest.

Teachers remain wholeheartedly committed to lifelong professional learning. We know from experience and from the letters received at the College that the great majority of teachers are dedicated to staying up to date in their professional knowledge and practices.

Legislation around professional learning, for better or worse, is now in place. It seems to me that we as individual College members are all capable of making informed, educated and professional judgements about how we will approach our professional learning within the context of this legislation. This in no way denies our collective efforts to change the legislation.

Let’s not give anyone the opportunity to say teachers oppose ongoing professional learning. Instead, we should be working together to ensure that what we’re doing works for every member of the profession.

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