By Helen Dolik
In a milestone for the teaching profession, plans are underway that will significantly change how teachers are educated in the province — and the Ontario College of Teachers is spearheading the way.
Starting in 2015, the teacher education program will double from two to four semesters and provide future teachers with more classroom experience by increasing the practice-teaching time from a minimum of 40 to 80 days. The program will include a sharper focus on equity and diversity; meeting the needs of students with special needs; child, youth and parental mental health issues in relation to teaching; and the use of technology as a teaching tool.
The first cohort will be cut in half from 9,000 to 4,500 students.
Why the change? To equip new teachers for the challenges of the contemporary classroom and to combat the shrinking job market — and a surplus of teachers that has grown steadily since 2005. Plus, the annual College Transition to Teaching survey shows new teachers rank more practical experience in the classroom as the highest priority for change in the way teachers are educated.
“The initial teacher education program is an induction into a 30-year career,” says Michael Salvatori, OCT, the College’s Chief Executive Officer and Registrar. “Teacher candidates are just beginning. We don’t expect them to be fully formed when they start. They are certainly competent and qualified and they will deepen their skills as they move on in their careers.
“You see the seeds in teacher candidates early on, and maybe that’s a good way to look at this. There’s more time for that plant to grow and flourish in the care of professionals at a faculty, whereas more of that happened in schools with nurturing from mentors, from principals when we have a shorter program.”
The College, as the regulatory body for the teaching profession, is responsible for setting qualifications and program requirements for Ontario teachers. It has been working tirelessly with the Ministry of Education and faculties of education to develop a program that will prepare future teachers to help students thrive in the 21st century.
Other professional preparation programs like medicine, dentistry and nursing, Salvatori points out, also have longer professional programs. “I think that members of the public, and parents in particular, will be proud of the fact that teachers who have dedicated five or six years to postsecondary education are now dedicating themselves to children,” he says. “That’s a good sign. When we talk about what’s happening during these four semesters and the experience gained, it’s significant.”
“The College has always had a desire to make the program a little longer,” says Michelle Longlade, OCT, the College’s Director of Standards of Practice and Accreditation. “It’s a response to a need that we have heard from teachers. The College continually looks at improvement for the profession. We’re responding to changes in the environment and in the profession.”
The four-semester program, also commonly referred to as a two-year program, was first envisioned in the Royal Commission on Learning, and was one of the recommendations in its 1995 report For the Love of Learning. A longer initial teacher education was also among the recommendations of the College’s Preparing Teachers for Tomorrow report, released in 2006. The College had consulted extensively with the education sector for the report.
The College’s annual Transition to Teaching study, which surveys new teachers and tracks their experiences, indicated that more practice-teaching time is a high priority. The 2012 survey of first-year teachers continued to provide evidence of the oversupply of teachers, with the unemployment rate rising sharply for the fourth year in a row. More than one-third of 2011 graduates from Ontario faculties and US border colleges who sought teaching jobs were unemployed. “They were actively looking for teaching jobs but could not even find daily supply teaching during the year,” reported the survey.
I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in Grade 2. It’s a passion of mine. I think the expanded program is a great idea because it gives students more experience. I’m excited to see the new courses introduced.
– Kali, Sinclair SS, Whitby
“The calibre of teachers who graduate from the programs that we currently accredit are already top-notch,” says Liz Papadopoulos, OCT, Chair of the College Council. “If you look at test results and data gathered internationally and how Ontario students are measuring up in the world, it’s obvious our students are being taught by quality individuals.
“An extended program can enhance teacher education. I wouldn’t want the new program to create a rift in the profession. Teaching isn’t a profession of competition. It’s a profession built on collaboration and interdependency. The seasoned professional will benefit from being a colleague of a four-semester graduate in the same way that new members of the profession learn from someone who has been in the profession for 30 years.”
The College was the lead partner in Ministry of Education discussions regarding the framework for the program, including duration, content and practice-teaching time. Faculties are looking closely to the College for direction, whether for the development of the programs or approval of new elements. Their programs must meet the new requirements to be accredited by the College.
And just like it does for Additional Qualification courses, the College is developing an accreditation resource guide to help faculties meet the new requirements for the expanded program. It will work with faculties and schools of education to ensure the programs comply with the new elements.
I’ll be graduating and I’ll be pretty young — this gives me another year to mature. It’s an extra year to grow up and get better at what you’re doing. – Jeremy, École secondaire catholique Saint-Charles-Garnier, Whitby
Across Ontario, faculties of education are busy preparing for the new program. The Ontario Association of Deans of Education (OADE) has created a document that outlines the core elements and the related learning outcomes.
“The OADE Learning Outcomes for Teacher Education document and the program framework are closely aligned,” says Fiona Blaikie, dean of the faculty of education at Brock University and OADE chair. “We’re looking forward to enhancing the program for our teacher candidates and the teaching profession. Teachers graduating now are well trained. The extended program will provide teacher candidates the opportunity to engage more deeply and broadly in theory and practice.”
Deani Van Pelt, OCT, the director of teacher education at Redeemer University College, says their program has always incorporated a longer model of teacher education. In fact, the bachelor of education program at the Christian liberal arts and science university is currently three semesters. “We’ve always held a position that the formation of a professional teacher does take longer than eight months and the program has been designed that way,” she says.
The faculty has mapped out the new four-semester program, considering it from educational and student perspectives while maintaining the distinctive strengths of the university and the legacy of the current program.
“I think the expanded program will enhance the qualifications of teachers entering the profession,” says Van Pelt. “They will have had more time to develop and reflect upon their professional identity and to build skills, practices and dispositions based on a more robust foundational knowledge of the profession. We are privileged to have an Ontario College of Teachers. I have a sense that the leadership the College is showing in the province in this particular initiative will have national and even international impact.”
What impact will the changes have on candidates currently enrolled in concurrent programs or multi-session programs at faculties of education?
The College is working on transition provisions for these teacher candidates. It is developing regulations, which when filed, will specify that a person who begins (but has not completed) an Ontario program of professional education on or before August 31, 2015, would be eligible for College registration.
In response to the oversupply of teachers — both the unemployed and underemployed — the first cohort for the new program will be cut in half. Faculties will be admitting approximately 4,500 students in September 2015 as opposed to the current 9,000 spaces allotted to teacher candidates. The first teacher candidates will graduate from the new program in 2017.
“The effect of the program is that there will be no new graduates of consecutive programs in 2016 — there may be some from the concurrent programs,” Longlade says.
The College takes great pride and effort in its accreditation responsibility. It has accredited more than 50 full- and part-time teacher education programs in 18 university faculties of education in Ontario.
College Council member Bill Kirkwood, Chair of the College’s Accreditation Committee, says the committee and the College will have to re-evaluate and revise the accreditation process and adjustments will be required in how accreditation is carried out in the future. He also noted the new program’s increased focus on special education and First Nations, Métis and Inuit traditions, cultures and perspectives. “It provides a broad base of learning for teacher candidates.”
Government policy, advice from education stakeholders, practice in other Canadian jurisdictions and worldwide trends all influence this change. The annual College Transition to Teaching survey shows new teachers are interested in more time for practical teaching experience in their education.
If you’re a member in good standing with the College, there would be no requirement to upgrade to the new program. The College has been working hard to examine other scenarios presented by the new program and its effect on former members, and we will be developing regulations to clarify this over the winter. These will be outlined in future issues of Professionally Speaking.
Additional Qualification courses are enormously popular with our members, and participation reflects their commitment to ongoing learning. In 2012, our members completed 37,626 AQs in Ontario. There are no changes to the current AQ system.
A College member is a College member — the Ontario Certified Teacher (OCT) designation represents having met the certification requirements at a certain time, and there will always be changes to entrance-to-practice requirements.