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March 1999

Cover Story
New Standards of Practice

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New Standards of Practice Put Ontario Teachers at the Forefront of the Profession

By Denys Gigučre

Ontario teachers are among the first in the world to take concrete steps to clearly define the standards of practice for their profession. On December 10, the College’s Council approved in principle the first-ever Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession.

"For the first time in Ontario, the teaching profession has standards of practice that define what it really means to be a teacher," said College Chair Donna Marie Kennedy. "Teachers and members of the public – together – helped develop the standards, which resulted in a thorough understanding of what makes the profession unique, challenging and rewarding."

Council’s approval means that the College can now undertake a further validation process that will include consultation with College members and over 2,500 stakeholders and other members of the public. The process will include member information sessions, consultation through Professionally Speaking, updates and comments on the College’s web site, as well as validation through implementation case studies.

"As a self-governing body for the teaching profession, the College must be able to articulate what the profession is about – something that has never been done before in Ontario," said College Registrar Margaret Wilson.

Purpose of Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession

  • Focus on the responsibility of the teaching profession to enhance student learning
  • Provide a common understanding of what makes teaching a unique profession
  • Clarify the knowledge, skills and values that define the profession
  • Provide the basis for ongoing personal and professional growth and the accreditation of learning programs
  • Represent the aspirations and goals of the teaching profession
  • Enhance the dignity of the teaching profession
  • Recognize the contribution of the teaching profession to Ontario society
  • Help the College fulfill its mandate to govern the practice of teaching in the public interest

"Members of the teaching profession and the public now have a common understanding of the values, skills and knowledge that make teaching a profession like no other."

The five themes highlighted in the standards include a commitment to student learning, professional knowledge, teaching practice, leadership and community and ongoing professional learning.

"The standards are not meant as an individual evaluation measure for teacher performance – a responsibility of school boards under the Education Act and its Regulation 298," Wilson pointed out. "School boards and other employers in the field of education may wish to use them, however, in reviewing their own performance appraisal system."


The Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession stem from national and international research on professional standards, and almost two years of wide-ranging consultation with members of the College, the public and a broad range of community and interest groups. Some of the research was conducted as an on-line discussion on the College’s web site.

"We contacted hundreds of educational organizations and jurisdictions – including employers and universities – and received responses from all over the world, including Scotland, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, New Zealand and the United States," said Linda Grant, manager of the College’s Standards of Practice and Education Unit. "We then focused the development of our standards around the common themes that we identified and adapted them to Ontario’s education system. The teachers’ knowledge base and commitment to students ranked highest almost consistently around the world."

One focus for the research was the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a U.S. organization founded in 1987 to enhance the respect and recognition of the teaching profession through the establishment of professional standards. The board evaluates teachers on a voluntary basis and provides certification that complements state licensing. Its professional standards include a commitment to students and their learning; the knowledge of the subjects and how to teach them; the responsibility to manage and monitor student learning; thinking systematically about the practice of teaching and learning from experience; and being part of learning communities.

New South Wales in Australia focuses on seven standards that teachers must meet – mastery of the content and discourse of their discipline; commitment to students and their holistic development; expertise in the art and science of teaching; accomplishment in assessing and reporting the learning outcomes of their students; management of the classroom and other teaching sites in exemplary ways; embodiment of the qualities of the educated person and exemplary citizen that they seek to inspire in students; and leadership in learning communities.


The General Teaching Council for Scotland also has a list of competencies required of new teachers. The core competencies – like those in many other jurisdictions – refer not only to practical skills but also to knowledge, understanding, critical thinking and positive attitudes. They include competencies relating to the subject and content of teaching; competencies relating to the classroom, which include communication and methodology; class management; assessment; competencies relating to the school, which include an understanding of the school system and communicating with parents; and competencies relating to professionalism, focusing on fairness, co-operation and commitment to the community, among others.

"The perception of the teaching profession in Norway was very inspirational," says Grant. "Norway does not have a list of standards, but defines teaching in a way that values the knowledge, experience and individuality of every teacher. Good teachers have a sure grasp of the material, know how to convey it to kindle curiosity, ignite interest and win respect for the subject. And they respect learners for who they are, their eagerness to learn, their need to be challenged and uplifted, and their desire to test their powers. Good teachers inspire and inform."

The College also reviewed the standards of practice of a number of states in the U.S., including the Arizona Department of Education’s standards for teachers and school administrators. The Arizona standards for teachers are curriculum-focused and supported by performance criteria. The standards encompass designing and planning instruction; creating and maintaining a learning climate; implementing and managing instruction; assessing learning and communicating results; collaborating with colleagues, parents and others; demonstrating content knowledge; demonstrating professional knowledge; and implementing special education components.

Arizona school administrators must meet five specific professional standards, namely facilitating the development, articulation, implementation and management of an organization’s mission statement; facilitating the success of all students by understanding, responding to and influencing social, cultural and legal aspects of the community; implementing positive and proactive communications strategies for effective parent, community and school involvement; managing services, programs, operation and resources; and advocating and sustaining curricular and instructional programs to promote the success of students.

The U.K. Teacher Training Agency is another organization that captured the interest of the research team. The agency’s goal is to ensure that all those training to be teachers are guaranteed professional preparation to give them the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to be effective teachers.

The British agency developed standards that are different for new teachers and those who have the "Qualified Teacher Status" and include curriculum-oriented requirements.

Requirements for new teachers focus on entry and selection requirements, course coverage and length and quality assurance requirements, which include that new trainees be given clear roles and responsibilities and opportunities to observe good teachers and work alongside them.

The "Qualified Teacher Status" is required of all teachers working in a school and is considered a National Professional Qualification. It includes standards like maintaining discipline, teaching and assessing effectively, fostering enthusiasm and motivation, engaging in professional development, and for all new teachers, having a sound knowledge of information technology.


The research finally included a review of the standards of other self-regulating professions in Ontario – nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and social workers among others. Knowledge base, quality assurance, communication, accountability and adherence to legislative requirements are, in broad terms, reflected in the standards of most self-regulating professions studied.

Clarice West-Hobbs is chair of the Standards of Practice and Education Committee that directed the development of the standards. She stresses that, "Ontario teachers are among the first in the world to be involved first-hand in the development of their own standards. In a number of jurisdictions where standards apply to the teaching profession – like some states in the U.S. and Australia – teachers have not been as actively involved as here.

"The standards in other jurisdictions often serve purposes that are quite different from ours, like performance evaluation or measures of achievement of specific curriculum objectives. Our standards are descriptors of what makes the teaching profession a unique professional experience and are meant to be a cornerstone of teacher professional learning and growth."


The standards will be used to accredit, develop and improve professional learning programs and experiences for future and current teachers, principals and supervisory officials.

"They will be a foundation for professional learning accredited by the Ontario College of Teachers. The College must ensure that the professional learning programs it accredits address the professional growth needs of members from the time they prepare to enter the profession to the time they retire," said West-Hobbs.

"Members of the profession and the public, will be assured in the future that professional learning programs are closely linked to what teachers do and that every certification course in the province supports the standards of practice for the profession."

The College anticipates that the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession will also be incorporated into the discipline and fitness to practise processes. The Professional Misconduct Regulation that supports the two processes includes a section that deals specifically with failing to maintain the standards of the profession.

Council approved the standards of practice in principle and provided members of the College and the public an opportunity to comment further on them. The deadline for comments is April 30. You will find a full copy of the standards in the pullout section of this magazine.

The College expects the final version of the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession to be considered by Council in the fall of 1999.