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September 1998

Ontario's Teachers

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Front Page

First three Ontario universities in pilot project accredited.

By Rick Chambers, Lise Presseault
and Laura Sheehan

The single most important indicator of children’s learning is the ability of the teacher," Linda Darling-Hammond of Columbia University said recently. "We used to think that student success was based solely on student ability. Now we know that successful student achievement is a result of teaching ability and student effort."

Darling-Hammond and other researchers have demonstrated the link between powerful teaching and pre-service programs where candidates learn about subject matter, curriculum, the links between knowledge and prior learning, the importance of student goals, the skills that students need to learn, the intensive scaffolding needed to support student learning, student and teacher behaviours, and the importance of feedback from mentors, colleagues and friends.

The Ontario College of Teachers is developing an accreditation process for pre-service teacher education that is based on findings like these. Like other self-regulating professions, teachers accredit faculties to make sure their programs support standards of practice for the profession, to assist in improving programs and to provide public accountability.

Last year, the College established a three-year pilot project to initially accredit Ontario’s 11 faculties of education. The first three have gone through the process and on June 12, the College’s Accreditation Committee considered reports from its panels and made its initial accreditation awards to Laurentian, Nipissing and Queen’s universities.


In the first part of the project, the Accreditation Committee worked with two sub-committees that included representatives from the Ontario Association of Deans of Education, as well as College members and staff, to develop a process and criteria for initial accreditation. They sent out drafts of these guidelines to the three faculties for their review and suggestions. The results of this collaboration were the guidelines outlined in the College’s Initial Accreditation Handbook.

The Accreditation Committee identified the documents required to show that the programs in a faculty of education met the criteria for initial accreditation – courses, registration information, admission and graduation criteria, university and faculty policies, financial information, curriculum vitae of faculty members, technology facilities, partnerships with the community and other institutions, practicum agreements and details and a cohesive conceptual framework for the program.

At the heart of the process – along with the faculties at the three universities – were the members of the accreditation panels. Each panel had up to five participants – one nominated by the university under review, one from the College membership and members of the College’s Accreditation Committee or Council.

The panel for the Laurentian program had Laurentian nominee Lorraine Dionne-Laurin, formerly of the Sudbury Catholic District School Board; College member Jean Grisé of Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Grandes Rivières in New Liskeard, and Council members Paul Charron, Michel Gravelle and Marilyn Laframboise.

The Nipissing University panel members were Avis Glaze of the York Region District School Board – formerly a commissioner with the Royal Commission on Learning – as Nipissing’s nominee; College member Ron Leeking of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, and Accreditation Committee members Donna Marie Kennedy, Cecilia Reynolds and Frances Thorne.

The Queen’s panel was comprised of Callista Markotich of the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board as the Queen’s nominee; Martha Dutrizac from the London Catholic District School Board as the College’s external member, and Accreditation Committee members Larry Capstick and Frances Thorne.


In March, the members of all three panels participated in training sessions at the College and later read the documents submitted by the faculty of education. Then they spent five days on site.

In each case, the panel sequestered itself beginning on Sunday to review the documents and design questions for the next day’s interviews. Among those to be interviewed were the dean, associate dean, president or principal, vice-president academic, faculty members, registrar, librarian, practicum office personnel, teacher candidates, associate teachers, administrators from co-operating school districts, alumni, members of teacher advisory committees and more.

The next day included tours of the faculty and a general orientation to the university’s facilities. The faculties had also set up a room to showcase teacher candidates’ performances and materials for the on-site review panel. Portfolios, action research projects, videotapes of sample lessons, practicum debriefings, teacher candidates’ projects and models, curricula, CD ROMs, web site information and other artifacts were available for the panel members.

Interview schedules began early and ran late. Panelists spent their evenings reviewing the day’s findings and observations and preparing questions for the next day’s interviews.

By Wednesday evening, the panel had finished its interviews. The plan was that the panel’s report and recommendation be completed before any member of the panel left on Thursday. The panels worked late into the night reaching consensus as they collaborated to write the report.

Earlier, the College had been advised that writing the report on site would not allow for thoughtful reflection. That advice proved true. By Thursday afternoon, each of the panels, on its own, had decided that the draft of the report would have to suffice for the moment and the group would reassemble in two weeks to refine the report.

The panels were responsible for collecting information and making observations about the program. Based on what they learned, they made recommendations for the faculty to consider and address before the next accreditation round.

The panel’s research, interviews, and observations formed the basis of its accreditation award recommendation to the Accreditation Committee, which considered the reports on June 12 and voted to grant initial accreditation to Queen’s and Nipissing and initial accreditation, with conditions, to Laurentian.


The next steps in the initial accreditation process involve applying the lessons learned from the first round. An external evaluator, Dany Laveault of the University of Ottawa, conducted a review of the process. His recommendations, as well as comments and suggestions from stakeholders who responded to the College’s request for input, are included in the second edition of The Initial Accreditation Handbook. Another major addition to the handbook will be the draft Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession, July 1998, developed by the College’s Standards of Practice and Education Committee.

During the summer, the next four programs due to go through the process – the University of Ottawa (French and English), the University of Windsor and York University – began working with the College to prepare for their reviews. By the end of the third year, all 11 faculties will have gone through the process of initial accreditation.

In The Right To Learn (1997), Darling-Hammond says, "[Professions] use strategies like accreditation of professional schools and peer review within practice sites as means to review, critique and improve practice."

This pilot project in accreditation of faculties of education is a major step toward the ultimate goal of improving student achievement by supporting teacher preparation.

Rick Chambers, Lise Presseault and Laura Sheehan are program officers in the Accreditation Unit of the Ontario College of Teachers.