Accreditation ensures legacy of professionalism

Ontario teachers appear ravenous to expand their learning, and an ever-widening range of accredited teacher education programs is helping them learn - at the speed of change.

by Marilyn A. Laframboise

Ontario students need only look at - and up to - their teachers to see the best evidence of lifelong learning.

Teachers are taking College-accredited Additional Qualification courses in record numbers. People from varied backgrounds turn to teaching as their second or third careers. Teachers are seizing new technologies as a means of engaging their students. And teaching faculties continually push program delivery into new areas.

I, for one, am absolutely delighted.

In the last two years, the number of Additional Qualification courses successfully completed by our members jumped by 44 per cent. There's an urgency to know more, be more. Call it professionalism. Call it living and learning by example. Whatever the motive, the effect is undeniable: teachers and their students benefit.

When the profession opens its doors to those from other fields, we and our students win. Trent, York, Ottawa and Laurentian now offer part-time teacher education programs, enabling participants to complete their Bachelor of Education degree over two or three years or in other non-traditional ways. People who always wanted to teach, but couldn't afford to stop earning, can now enter teaching from other professions - bringing experiences and perspectives that enrich the lives of students and their schools.

Different perspectives can also come from other jurisdictions. In this issue of Professionally Speaking you'll learn about a new partnership program between the Halton District School Board and Australia's Charles Sturt University, which will be offered in Ontario in Primary-Junior teacher education. The program promotes an international exchange of ideas.

You can also read about the integration of computers in teacher education programs at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and at Nipissing University. These programs boost proficiency and confidence among new teachers. Not only do candidates use technology as they learn how to teach, but as learners themselves, they get a direct sense of how their students can, do and will use computers.

It makes good sense that teaching, which must prepare students for life at the speed of change, is also open to changes that enrich its expanding cadre of professionals.

Accreditation - one of the College's most important and unheralded functions - confirms that teacher education programs meet the common requirements for Ontario's teaching professionals.

Our accreditation panels include members from College Council, the profession, the applying faculty of education and the public. Their experience helps to ensure that teacher preparation programs are of the highest quality possible and that accreditation reviews are open, transparent and fair.

Accreditation panels review faculty documents and visit campuses to interview program administrators, faculty members, associated teachers and others. Last year, panels conducted accreditation reviews of 14 pre-service programs. Another eight are in the queue this year.

Each teacher education program is unique. Each has its own focus. But most have common assumptions. They base teaching on research and the profession's ethical and practice standards - theory informs practice and vice-versa. They use real or situational models that are student-centred. They expose candidates to multiple knowledge bases of teaching and learning. And they exist in strong learning communities.

Building a strong foundation in pre-service teacher education is critical to the success of new teachers and to maintaining high standards for the profession. Accreditation helps to ensure that those who enter teaching are highly educated and conduct themselves as professionals.

Distinguished panelists - including the past chair of the Ontario Association of Deans of Education, deans from Canadian universities, community college presidents, classroom teachers, researchers and accreditation experts - have helped to broaden our insights and bring additional integrity to the process.

College members support the work of the faculties by serving on teacher education advisory committees and by serving as associate teachers. Those who serve as associate teachers further reinforce what's taught at the faculties.

As the range of teacher education expands, so do the possibilities for Ontario's teaching professionals.

As they should.