Qualifications review generates positive dialogue

The first phase in a review of teacher qualifications is complete – having engaged a cross-section of College members in a discussion about the future of how teachers learn to teach.

by Doug Wilson

This month College Council will review preliminary findings from the first phase of our Teachers' Qualifications Review (TQR). The report captures input from province-wide consultations on the strengths of Ontario's pre-service programs and ways to enhance the knowledge and skills of the profession's newest members.

Teachers' education occurs on a continuum that begins with an initial teacher education program and continues with ongoing professional development. The College's review reflects this continuum.

Following a review of initial teacher education, we will examine continuing education, including Additional Qualifications, qualifications for principals and supervisory officers, and specific programs in technological studies, Native teacher education and teachers of the deaf.

An external advisory committee, with members drawn from federations, principals' associations and other stakeholder groups has provided invaluable counsel on the process and tools we use to gather data. The resulting open, transparent process has created a comfortable means to invite people to share their insights. The process is also based on solid research that examines and analyzes what is happening globally in teacher preparation. I see this as a template for future College consultations in the sector.

Input from the review will help College Council decide on its recommendations to the Ministry of Education regarding regulatory changes. But just as importantly the review has triggered a cascading dialogue among Ontario educators.

"We were looking for conversation, not consensus."

We've held eight well-attended English-language sessions in London, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Windsor, and three more in French in Toronto, Ottawa and Sudbury. We've met with local representatives of federations, principals' groups, supervisory officers, associate teachers, recent faculty graduates, trustees, local faculty of education representatives and members from the aboriginal community and community organizations such as LASI World Skills. Council members attending sessions took the opportunity to exchange views with members.

College staff identified potential areas for discussion, but participants managed the process through self-directed inquiry. We were looking for conversation, not consensus.

Questions were clustered in four areas: the content of initial teacher education programs, their length (including the practicum and its structure), their structure, prerequisites and co-requisites. In other words, what do programs contain, how are they delivered, and what's required to get in?

TQR's forward-leaning process doesn't dwell on where we've been but where, as a profession, we need to go.

Society expects more from schools and students today than ever before. It expects students to master literacy, numeracy and technological skills at a high level. It expects them to access and assess information from many sources and to integrate and apply new knowledge.

Students today need to multitask and think in interdisciplinary ways, and they must think critically, creatively and intuitively. They need to know who they are as individuals and as part of a multicultural collective.

"The demands on teachers have changed. So must their preparation."

As educators, we're fond of saying to students that learning never stops. It must be lifelong – and they must be ever engaged in new learning pursuits and experiences. The same goes for Ontario's teachers.

We need reflective, adaptive teachers – people who are team players and multi-dimensional instructors. Today's teachers must be aware of established and emerging learning theories and apply them. They must respect and respond to diverse needs – modifying instruction, programs and assessment as they go. They need to use emerging technology to support time-tested methodologies.

Changes in teacher qualifications must keep pace with the expectations we have for today's students.

The demands on teachers have changed. So must their preparation.