Pilot process was an important leadup to accreditation regulation

The accreditation regulation announced in December formalizes a process that has been five years in the design. Current teacher education program providers are positive about the process and see real benefits for teacher candidates and new providers.

By Lois Browne

The authority to accredit teacher education programs, which was granted to the College in December 2002, did not come without a lot of hard work and effort on the part of the College, the faculties of education and other stakeholders, says College Registrar Joe Atkinson.

"A number of faculty of education deans played a major role in helping us develop a process that could be incorporated into a regulation," says Atkinson. "Their co-operation was essential in helping us develop a workable, effective accreditation process."

Regulation 347/02, Accreditation of Teacher Education Programs came into effect December 12, 2002. The regulation allows the College to launch the next cycle of reviews of current teacher education programs and begin initial accreditation of new teacher education programs. The College now also has the authority to accredit the more than 200 Additional Qualification (AQ) courses and programs that thousands of Ontario teachers take every year to enhance their expertise.

"The regulation is an improvement over the framework we were in."
- Allen Pearson

Soon after it was established in 1996, the College struck agreements with the Ontario Association of Deans of Education (OADE) and the Ontario faculties of education to launch a three-year pilot project to design an accreditation process.

Accreditation panels comprised of College members at large, university nominees and Council members conducted a review of each teacher education program and made recommendations for improvement.

Dual Purpose

The pilot project had a dual purpose, says Cecilia Reynolds of the Dean's Office in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT) who helped organize the pilot project-both to develop and to implement. "That's always an onerous process," says Reynolds. "It's one thing to develop policy but it's a whole other thing to implement it and get it running smoothly."

"The regulation is an improvement over the framework we were in," says Allen Pearson, dean of the faculty of education at the University of Western Ontario (UWO). "The greatest strength of the accreditation process is simply in terms of public accountability. It's our peers, both academically and professionally, evaluating the program and being able to report to the public and potential students that the program meetsstandards set by the College."

Pearson says that the process had benefits for the faculty members at UWO who had an opportunity to work together to reflect on the process and the teacher education program. "There was a bit of a sense of a renewal for the faculty to go through the process,"he says.

The value of having a pilot process can be seen in the kinds of changes that were made to the first draft of the regulation.

Concerns Reflected

Michael Manley-Casimir, dean of the faculty of education at Brock University, chaired the group of faculty of education deans that provided feedback on the regulation. He says that a number of the deans' concerns are reflected in the final version of the regulation.

The deans suggested changes to the appeal mechanism in cases where accreditation is not fully granted, said Manley-Casimir. "Personally I'm pleased with that. The regulation also incorporates our concerns that panel decisions be evidence-based. The panel should have to provide facts on which their judgements are based so that a faculty that does not receive accreditation has some basis for responding."

"accreditation... a safeguard to the teacher candidates and to the general public"
- Cecelia Reynolds

Brock's own accreditation experience, says Manley-Casimir, took a lot of preparation. But, he adds, "I think it was of real benefit to the faculty."

"The College's standards of practice, which guided the accreditation process, and our own internal documents about the nature of a teacher and what characteristics one would expect an educated teacher to have, were quite compatible. So in some sense the process confirmed for us that we were doing a reasonably good job in preparing teachers. There were some things we needed to improve and I think that advice was useful. Generally it was a useful exercise."

Good Timing

All three university deans agree that the regulation comes at an opportune time. The provincial government is expanding the number and kinds of organizations that may offer pre-service and in-service teacher education programs.

"Bringing new institutions on board without some external scrutiny would be problematic for the teacher candidate," says Reynolds. "The University of Toronto's program is a very old program so there are a lot of both internal and external elements that speak to the quality for a candidate who wants to come here. But if someone is considering a new program, how are they going to know the quality is there without a tried and true program?"

"The fact that these programs have been scrutinized by this external accreditation body is a benefit to the new institutions and it's a safeguard to the teacher candidates and to the general public because it means the teachers coming out of these new programs will be up to the standards that have been set by the College."

A copy of the final report of the pilot project is available on the Ontario College of Teachers web site at www.oct.ca 4 Professional Affairs 4 Accreditation 4 A Final Report-Initial Accreditation Reviews-1997-2000. A copy of the Accreditation Regulation 347/02, Accreditation of Teacher Education Programs and other education-related legislation can also be accessed through the College web site.

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