For more than a decade,
teacher candidates in one of our Queen's University concurrent programs
have constructed personal professional portfolios. Several years ago they
asked that their portfolios be evaluated.
Initially, I resisted, feeling that evaluation might restrict creativity
and individuality. However, the candidates insisted that they needed a
deeper quality of feedback than they received through formative evaluation.
They needed to know what aspects of the portfolio needed work and what
kind of work was necessary. It became apparent that this was not just
about the portfolio. It was about their own construction of themselves
face it. When the College of Teachers first published the Standards
of Practice for the Teaching Profession in 1999, many of us rolled
our eyes, feeling this was just another directive for which we would
I already knew about professional standards in other English-speaking
countries. These range from the National Standards in the UK to
those of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
in the U.S. These standards all focus on professional skills and
knowledge of students
knowledge of content and curriculum
respect for diversity
meaningful applications of knowledge
multiple paths to knowledge
collaboration with colleagues.
the similarity of existing standards, I assumed that Ontariostandards
would not differ very much.
Certainly, the professional knowledge dimensions listed are clearly
articulated in the professional knowledge and teaching practices
sections of the Ontario standards. However,I was yet to discover
that these and other sections of the Ontario standards of practice
could be powerful, supporting my teaching in ways I had not considered."
a rubric for this evaluation, it became clear that creativity could co-exist
with shared expectations and rigour. However, a second dilemma emerged-multiple
and sometimes conflicting notions of best practices. How was I to assess
a candidate's teaching practices that ran counter to my own values?
For instance, an issue in classroom management might focus on how to deal
with class absence for non-medical reasons such as religious observances,
cultural days or family events not observed by the majority of the class.
Although there is certainly educational literature that supports an inclusionary
position on this, it was possible for candidates to find literature that
supported approaches unsympathetic to non-medical absences.
I suddenly realized how value-laden my own teaching beliefs were and was
at a loss as to how to proceed. How could I defend my viewpoint, which
honoured student diversity, without being accused of trying to sway student
thinking to my belief system?
A Commitment To
The Ontario College of
Teachers Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession provided exactly
what I needed-an articulation of values. Three of the five principles at
the beginning of the standards speak explicitly to values.
"The standards of practice are reflective of the beliefs and values
expressed by the participants in the development process."
"The standards of practice recognize and value diversity in teaching."
"The standards of practice are based on the premises that personal
and professional growth is a developmental process and that teachers move
through a variety of career and life stages."
The value of respect for diversity is expressed throughout the standards,
with specific statements in four different sections: Commitment to Students
and Student Learning; Professional Knowledge; Teaching Practice; and Leadership
and Community. Clearly, respect for many cultural heritages with accommodation
of absence for cultural days was a value supported by the professional educators
Without feeling vulnerable to attacks that I was brainwashing candidates
to my own beliefs, I could now insist on classroom management strategies
that respected the heritage of students.
Other aspects of the standards resonated with my own values: building trust
with students, parents and the community; reaching out to diverse local
communities and inviting them to share their knowledge and skills; providing
innovation through shared problem-solving; acting both as team leaders and
The different categories of our portfolio assessment rubric are now infused
with the standards of practice. The categories of our portfolio correspond
to dimensions of teaching-the kinds of professional knowledge and skill
found in many teaching standards worldwide. The difference is that those
practices are now imbued with the Ontario College of Teachers standards
of practice. Thus, it is not just "a purposeful learning environment,"
as the U.K. standards say. Rather, it is "classroom management strategies
that support learning and respect the dignity of students" that we
seek in Ontario.
We use the standards to determine the degree of accomplishment in each teaching
dimension, exactly as the value-laden word "standard" applies.
For instance, under the Classroom Management dimension, three different
standards have direct application: commitment to students and student learning;
professional knowledge; and ongoing professional learning. Our rubric explicitly
Teaching And Learning
Infusing the dimensions
of teaching with the standards of practice has had a profound impact on
improving student learning and teaching.
As teachers, we can refer to the portfolio rubric to judge whether we
are incorporating all that we should in our teaching and whether our emphases
reflect our professional values. We can identify elements of the dimensions
of teaching that we have been glossing over and other elements on which
we've been spending too much time.
The rubric has also enabled us to critique those expectations and values.
We can then choose to include additional skills or content. The difference
is that, with articulated standards, we can do this consciously, as critical
practitioners, examining our own practices and those of our institutions.
The rubric also enables teacher candidates to become critical practitioners,
reflecting on and examining both the standards of practice and the dimensions
of teaching as they assemble their portfolios. For instance, they now
have a description of what constitutes exemplary planning or classroom
management from the point of view of the College of Teachers, their professional
body. Having that description enables them to critique their classroom
management practices - and to critique the standards.
The difference between
using a standardized test and using professional standards to demonstrate
practice and identify areas for professional learning is profound. When
professional teaching portfolios are structured with professional standards
infused into all teaching and learning dimensions and used for accountability,
several things happen:
consistency, rigour and excellence are promoted in the daily practices
of all schools
teachers reflect on their own practices in relation to shared standards
teachers identify their own areas for future professional learning which
can then be integrated with school and board priorities and ministry expectations.
With this kind of portfolio demonstration, teachers are able to use a
mechanism that allows for a rich authentic appraisal of their practice
in a context of professional values and expectations. Their professionalism
is celebrated, excellence is promoted and continual learning becomes an
integral part of ongoing professional reflection.
The key to all of this, however, is using the standards of practice to
build and then evaluate the portfolio. The standards are what guide decision-making,
maintain rigour and integrity, and ensure that shared values continue
to guide teaching practice.
It is my hope that use of this type of portfolio will receive strong consideration
in provincial deliberations about teacher performance appraisal.
Our students, parents, and teachers will be better served if we do.
Concurrent Program Rubric for the Classroom Management section of
the professional portfolio, demonstrating the
infusion of the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession
to Students and Student Learning
of care and commitment: demonstrates concern for student character,
peer relationships and personal aspirations; reinforces the rights
and responsibilities students have as citizens.
for student learning: develops programs for students that incorporate
a knowledge and understanding of human development and learning
and respectful treatment: accommodates the differences in students
and respects theirdiversity; helps students to connect learning
to their own life experiences and spiritual and cultural understandings.
as individuals and as contributing members of society: encourages
students to become active, inquisitive and discerning citizens;
creates opportunities for students to understand, facilitate and
respond to change; engages students in activities that encourage
diverse approaches and solutions but also reinforce the social
responsibilities students have as citizens.
in becoming lifelong learners: encourages students to know about,
reflect on and monitor their own learning.
of teaching practice: establishes classroom management strategies
that support learning and respect the dignity of students.
practice: reflects on practice and learns from experience; draws
on various forms of educational research to improve practice.
- Belief statement
is cursory or superficial.
data of students are based on generalized behaviour or are not
- Plans to
meet individual needs are inconsistent re working from student
some commitment to students and student learning:
safe and supportive learningenvironment
care and commitment tostudents
students equitably and respectfully
with knowledge of background and culture of students
to the special needs of students.
- Some classroom
management approaches merely punish students rather than supporting
students in learning to make responsible decisions.
an early stage of identification of strategies which work for
the teacher candidate.
artifacts are not sufficient to produce a cohesive picture of
the candidate's future classroom.
artifacts do not clearly link classroom management approaches
and classroom organization to student learning and to teaching
on practice is sparse or superficial.
terminology is sparse or used inappropriately.
- Belief statement
reflects commitment to students and awareness of maintaining positive
classroom tone which supports student learning.
data of students are dated and particularized.
- Plans to
meet individual needs are consistentreworking from student strengths.
considerable commitment to students and student learning re the
standards of practice listed in Level 2.
ability to make insightful observations of students.
understanding of the needs of individual students through appropriate
awareness of multiple positive classroom management approaches.
artifacts combine to produce a clear picture of the candidate's
artifacts clearly link classroom management approaches and classroom
organization to student learning and teaching practice and to
student responsibility for their own behaviour and learning.
on practice is thoughtful and addresses significant issues.
vocabulary demonstrates some knowledge of classroom management
approaches and classroom organization which promote equitable
and respectful treatment and a positive learning environment.
includes one or more of the following:
data of students are dated and particularly well chosen to reveal
significant learning achievement and needs.
- Plans to
meet individual needs show insight.
enhanced commitment to students and student learning re the standards
of practice listed in Level 2.
structures/organization are used to support students as positive
decision-makers and enhance learning.
on learning from practice in practicum placements is insightful.
terminology demonstrates enhanced understanding of approaches
which promote apositive learning environment.
Portfolios are not assessed at Level 1.