Teachers from every corner of Ontario will recognize their own words when the College
Council considers the standards of practice for the profession later this year.
A self-regulatory body is established through legislation to give a profession the
responsibility for determining and maintaining a level of competency for the profession. A
self-regulatory body must be able to articulate what it is that makes that professional
body unique. In the case of the Ontario College of Teachers, it means answering the
question, "What does it mean to be a teacher?" Professional self-regulatory
bodies most often use the term "standards of practice" to refer to the
descriptors that will answer this question.
Over the last year, hundreds of educators across the province have participated in
focus groups, discussion groups and writing teams as the College collected, sifted and
refined the views about the essential qualities of teaching of practitioners in public,
separate, native and private schools, teacher centres, staff development units and
faculties of education as well as representatives of student, parent, business and
Every response was carefully recorded and analyzed by the College Councils
Standards of Practice and Education Committee and staff from the Professional Affairs
Department, who synthesized participants contributions into statements of philosophy
and draft standards that reflect the collective beliefs of the profession.
But the standards also reflect many individual voices teachers whose
contributions summed up the attitudes of their colleagues so clearly that the drafters of
the standards agreed, "Thats it... thats what everyone was getting
The Ontario standards will in part reflect the Colleges wide-ranging research
into current standards around the world and the theoretical work of leading academics in
However, the College ensured that the standards are essentially a reflection of the
core values and beliefs of Ontario teachers by making focus group interviews the primary
A focus group is typically a group of 10 to 12 people who give specific feedback on
issues presented by a facilitator. These groups are a useful way of listening to
participants and learning from them, getting a sense of the issues and exploring beliefs
A February group in North Bay presents a typical picture. Elementary and secondary
teachers, consultants and administrators and university professors sit around a table
talking passionately about standards of practice for their profession.
They listen intently to their colleagues, agreeing and disagreeing, articulating the
core values and beliefs that ground their work. A tape recorder silently captures their
responses. A facilitator keeps the discussion moving by asking prepared questions and
timing the responses. Another facilitator keeps a scribbled record of the main points on a
flip chart to which the participants often refer.
"What implications will the standards have for the profession... for individuals?
"What knowledge, skills and values should the standards include?
"What should they actually look like? How could the standards of practice be
worded so that they would be relevant to teachers, principals, supervisory officers and
"How can educators share their ideas about what it means to be a teacher with
parents and the broader community?"
After each session, the audiotape was turned into transcripts averaging 50 pages. These
were added to a mountain of data papers on international standards, papers on
professional standards, papers on research data from teachers and Ontario faculties of
education, position papers from educational organizations and electronic communications
from the College web site.
The standards of practice writing team began with three images the image of the
teacher created from the research in Ontario; the image of standards of practice created
by reviewing the international research on standards and the standards of other
professional bodies, and the image of the future and the changing needs of students,
schools and school districts in the 21st century.
Initially, the group established principles and purposes for standards, drawn out of
the Ontario data. These reflect the key values and premises of teachers and the public
about standards of practice and articulate the implications and benefits.
Then the drafters established a format based on five themes and elaborated on each
standard statement by describing key elements and belief statements. The five themes were:
commitment to students and student learning; professional knowledge; teaching practice;
leadership and community, and ongoing professional learning.
This early draft of the Ontario teaching professions standards of practice has
now been sent to all participants in the focus groups, interviews and writing teams for
review. Standards of Practice and Education Committee members and staff will meet with a
number of groups, including members of the College and the public to review the draft
prior to the next meeting of the committee in October.
The committee will consider the feedback from these sessions and prepare a second draft
for more formal and extensive field testing before the College Council considers it in
The draft standards of practice will continue to generate a lot of discussion about
"What does it mean to be a teacher?" The participants in the research process
have spoken with passion as they have struggled to answer this question. Their answers
reflected in the standards and principles and purposes they are based on are
highly personalized, deeply reflective and complex... just like the experience of
The authors are the members of the Standards of Practice and Education Unit of the
Colleges Professional Affairs Department manager Linda Grant and program
officers Gary Adamson, Allan Craig, Mary Marrin and Fran Squire.