Members Survey:

Teachers' inspiration is in helping students

A ground-breaking survey of members - a first in the College's seven-year history - finds that teachers still put their students above all.

by Brian Jamieson

Mentoring gets high marks from participating teachers

Serving as an associate teacher or a mentor improves professional practice.
So said 81 per cent of those polled for the Ontario College of Teachers' Members Survey on the State of the Teaching Profession in Ontario.

Seventy-five per cent of respondents who had served as associate teachers agreed that they should receive professional development credits for their associate teaching responsibilities. (Fifty-six per cent agreed strongly.)

While the majority believe they are prepared for (56 per cent) and supported (56 per cent) in the role, only 42 per cent felt they had adequate time to both teach and serve as an associate teacher.

Even fewer (35 per cent) thought they were properly compensated for their efforts.

More women enjoyed their experiences as associate teachers than their male counterparts.

"These are important signals for the profession," says College Register Doug Wilson. "Clearly, we've got to find a way to provide greater support for people who take on these roles.

The experience of mentors and teacher associates helps everyone involved to improve the craft of teaching and results in greater student success."

Idealism and altruism first brought teachers to the profession. And College members say these continue to fuel their efforts to improve learning and strengthen teaching.

The Ontario College of Teachers' Members Survey on the State of the Teaching Profession In Ontario draws a telling portrait of teachers' confidence in education, what they think of parents' involvement.

Overall, they're deeply committed to student learning and success and they wish society encouraged education more. They see "conflict in the system" as the biggest challenge they face and they have concerns about standardized testing.

"This study is a validation of teachers as professionals," says College Registrar Doug Wilson. "It's a timely record of their thoughts and feelings about their work and the profession and a further indication that the best way to address issues and concerns is to have an education community that works together."

The survey is the first in the College's seven-year history. Conducted at a cost of less than 20 cents per member, it provides a wealth of information that the College can share with education stakeholders and the provincial government to fuel improvement and address concerns.

"As the teaching profession's regulatory body, it's necessary to know what our members are thinking," says Wilson. "We are uniquely positioned to hear representative voices of our 190,000 teachers and educators in all four of Ontario's publicly funded systems. We want to accurately gauge their opinions and stimulate discussion on professional issues and growth in the profession.

"By strengthening the profession, we improve the quality of education and serve the greater public good. The survey demonstrates the concern and commitment of our members to building a strong teaching profession and quality education system for Ontario and its students."

Over 1,000 polled

Professionally Speaking commissioned COMPAS Inc., a public opinion and customer research firm, to conduct the survey. One thousand and twenty-seven members chosen at random were polled by phone during July. Member names and contact information remain confidential. The sample is deemed accurate to within 3.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

The survey found that:
  • 81 per cent of teachers say that mentoring or inspiring young people is the best part of being a teacher
  • almost 90 per cent are confident in the jobs they are doing
  • 98 per cent believe that supportive parents who read to their children or help with homework are essential for a young person's success in school
  • a strong majority feel that standardized tests demoralize students, do not improve learning and are not a good way to track student success or monitor teacher performance
  • 67 per cent would recommend a career in teaching to their students.


Age differences among respondents didn't appreciably affect the results. Attitudes among young and experienced teachers were startlingly similar. Interestingly, younger teachers had slightly less confidence in the profession as a whole, but were more likely to recommend teaching as a career choice.

Younger teachers also placed more value on job-related experience as a source of teaching skill and had more confidence in principals as a trusted source of information and advice.

Confidence and challenge

Almost 90 per cent of those polled were confident about the jobs they were doing. Close to 80 per cent expressed confidence in the school at which they worked.

Confidence was also ranked high in response to a question about the teaching profession overall. However, they weren't as positive about the quality of Ontario's education system. Sixteen per cent reported they were less than confident in the current system. Twelve per cent had a lot of confidence in the system. The majority fell somewhere in between.

For 81 per cent of the respondents, the best part of the job was "teaching, mentoring or inspiring young people." Six per cent liked teaching a subject that they enjoyed themselves. Salary, job security, work schedule and holidays barely rated as motivations.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents cited "an atmosphere of conflict in the education system" as the most challenging aspect of being a teacher. Men, more than women (36 per cent versus 26 per cent) felt more challenged by the conflict.

Twenty-two per cent said that teaching to meet the needs of individual students was most taxing. Sufficient classroom resources, class sizes and split grades registered as the major difficulty among 13, 10 and four per cent of those questioned.

Almost one in five (18 per cent) thought that society doesn't encourage learning and education as much as it should.

Despite strong objections to standardized testing, only two per cent of those polled cited it as the most challenging aspect of teaching.

The challenges are not believed to drive behaviour but merely reflect the culture of schools and the profession.

When asked if they'd be teaching in five years' time, 65 per cent answered yes. However, 20 per cent said they definitely would not, 12 per cent reported "probably not" and four per cent were undecided.

The respondents' ages determined their response to this question. Eighty-seven per cent of those under 50 say they will definitely (64 per cent) or probably (23 per cent) still be teaching in five years.

The numbers drop among respondents over 50. Forty-two per cent say they will definitely remain as teachers and 19 per cent say they probably will. More men than women expect to leave in the next five years (37 per cent versus 29 per cent).

Two-thirds said they would advise someone about to enter university to consider a career in teaching. Thirty per cent said they would not.

Job experience

Nothing beats on-the-job experience for skill acquisition, teachers say. Eighty-six per cent of respondents said that job experience was very important. They also praised good advice from older teachers or mentors, with a combined 87 per cent ranking this as important or very important.

And there's still a lot to be said for plain, old-fashioned common sense. As a source of skill acquisition, 77 per cent of the teachers answering the survey ranked common sense as important to very important.

Teachers appreciated the practice-teaching experience they had as teacher education candidates and placed high value on ongoing professional development.

Surprisingly, those polled rated what they learned from their parents or family members above their experience as students, advice from principals or learning in Ontario's faculties of education.

Overall, women were more receptive to learning about how to teach from a variety of sources. Women were also more appreciative of courses at the faculties and ongoing professional development than men.

Respondents put more faith in interpersonal skills than subject knowledge as a key to good teaching.

Inspiring a love of learning and showing that they care about their students scored highest (24 per cent and 21 per cent respectively) as features most important to good teaching.

Being good communicators, well organized and having a good sense of humour were also valued (seven, five and three per cent).

Opinions divided

Opinions were strong and divided on the public profile of teaching. A combined 94 per cent of respondents felt that the public doesn't understand the complexity of their jobs. Forty-nine per cent strongly agreed that a comprehensive communications campaign was needed to profile teaching. And they said the profession suffers from the lack of a known and respected public representative.

In comparison to other professions, 88 per cent thought they didn't get their fair share of media coverage. When asked if teachers can do more to promote their achievements 80 per cent said yes, while 19 per cent didn't think so.

Trust in Peers

The most trusted source of information among teachers is other teachers, according to the survey.

Fully 98 per cent of those polled said they had confidence in their peers as a source of information about education issues.

From there, the circle of trusted information sources rippled out in waves determined by personal and professional interactions.

Next to their peers, teachers trusted school principals and students above teacher federations, academic researchers, parents, school board administrators, the College of Teachers, newspapers, Ministry of Education officials and politicians.

Parents crucial

When it comes to determining a child's success, teachers believe that parent support is crucial. Ninety-eight per cent of teachers thought that parents reading to their children and helping with homework were essential to student academic achievement.

Teachers wanted parents to hold their children accountable for their behaviour, work with teachers in a "co-operative, non-aggressive manner," and help their children to read and with their homework.

Only five per cent thought it useful for parents to participate in school-related activities. Men, more than women, favoured parent involvement in children's learning.

As helpful as parental involvement is, teachers felt the opposite was true about standardized testing. In fact, the topic provoked the strongest reaction among all respondents.

Testing questioned

The majority of teachers say standardized tests demoralize students (85 per cent), do not improve learning (90 per cent) and were neither a good way to track student success (88 per cent) nor teacher performance (95 per cent).

Teachers said that their primary responsibility is to students (65 per cent). Parents were a distant second (14 per cent) followed by principals (six per cent), school boards (five per cent), the public (four per cent), colleagues (two per cent) and the provincial government (one per cent).

In the matter of self-regulation, 46 per cent thought that self-regulation of the teaching profession in protecting or enhancing the public interest was valuable or very valuable. But 33 were neutral in their assessment of its value and nine per cent offered no opinion.

They were also divided in their opinions about the information they receive from the College, the profession's self-regulatory body.

A third said they were satisfied with the information they received from the College, a third were dissatisfied and a third were neutral or gave no opinion. Women were more receptive than men to the information they received.

"Teachers are telling us they want to be respected and valued for the work they do," says Doug Wilson. "They want stronger advocates on their behalf and they are disturbed by the conflict they see in the system, which seems to undermine what they do for students.

"Ontario is fortunate to have such a group of caring, committed professionals who take pride in their work and their schools. They are inspired by inspiring young people and they see parents as vital partners in student success.

"Teachers can look at this study and see their values and opinions validated. Parents can look at it and feel confident that teachers want what they want - the best for Ontario's children."


Due to rounding rules concerning survey results, percentages for some questions
may not add up to 100%.

Q1

On a 5-point scale where 1 means very little confidence and 5, a lot of confidence, please tell me how much confidence you have in the following: (on a 5-point scale where 1 means very little confidence and 5, a lot of confidence)

Items of confidence

Mean

5

4

3

2

1

DNK

The job you are personally doing

4.4

54%

34%

6%

1%

1%

5%

The school you work in

4.3

43%

34%

11%

3%

1%

8%

The teaching profession as a whole

4.0

32%

39%

20%

5%

2%

3%

The quality of Ontarioís education system

3.4

12%

35%

34%

12%

4%

2%


Q2

Would you advise someone about to enter university to consider teaching as a career?

A Yes
B No
C Did not know


Q3

Suppose a young person about to go to university consulted you about career choices and asked what the best part of being a teacher was. Which of the following would you say was the best part of being a teacher?

Best part of being a teacher

%

Teaching, mentoring, or inspiring young people

81

Teaching a particular subject matter that you enjoy a lot

6

Liked the idea of being an educator

5

Being part of a wonderful profession and tradition

4

Work schedule and holidays

1

Job security

1

A job with community roots

*

Salary

*

Donít Know / Refused

1


Q4

Which of the following 7 features would you tell the young person is the most challenging aspect of being a teacher?

A An atmosphere of conflict in the education system
B Teaching to meet the needs of individual students
C Society that doesnít encourage learning and education as much as it should
D Lack of classroom resources like computers and text books
E Class sizes
F Split grades
G Standardized testing
H Donít Know / Refused


Q5

Will you be a teacher in five yearsí time?

A Yes, definitely will
B Yes, probably will
C No, probably will not
D No, definitely will not
E Undecided


Q6

As you know, people have different views about where and how teachers acquire skills, please score each of the following as a source of teaching skill: (on a 5-point scale where 1 means itís not an important source of teaching skills and 5 itís a very important source)

Teaching skill sources

Mean

5

4

3

2

1

DNK

On-the-job experience

4.8

86%

12%

1%

*

*

*

Good advice from older teachers or mentors

4.3

49%

38%

12%

2%

1%

*

Old fashioned common sense

4.1

45%

32%

17%

4%

2%

*

Practise teaching during your teacher training

4.0

42%

29%

19%

7%

3%

*

Ongoing professional development

3.9

36%

34%

20%

6%

3%

1%

What you learned from your parents or family

3.7

25%

33%

28%

10%

4%

*

What you yourself learned as a student over the years

3.6

25%

31%

29%

11%

4%

1%

Good advice from principals

3.5

21%

33%

28%

12%

6%

*

Courses at faculties of education

3.2

14%

26%

34%

16%

9%

*


Q7

Which of the following features is the most important in good teaching?

Which of the following is most important in good teaching?

Yes

Inspiring love of learning

24%

Showing that they care about their students

21%

Being good communicators

7%

Being well organized

5%

Having a good sense of humour

3%

Knowing the subject matter

2%

Most or all of the above

38%


Q8

Please tell me how you feel about the following opinions about the public profile of teaching: (on a 5-point scale where 1 means disagree strongly and 5, agree strongly)

Opinions

Mean

5

4

3

2

1

dnk

Most members of the public donít understand the complexity of the teacherís job

4.5

70%

17%

7%

5%

2%

*

A comprehensive communication campaign is needed to promote the public profile of teaching

4.1

49%

25%

17%

5%

4%

1%

The teaching profession suffers from a lack of a widely-known and respected representative as its ďpublic faceĒ

3.8

30%

30%

26%

8%

4%

2%

Teachers could do more to promote their achievements

3.4

19%

31%

30%

12%

7%

1%

Compared to other professions such as physicians, teachers get fair media coverage

2.1

5%

6%

22%

28%

38%

1%


Q9

How essential for a young personís success in school are supportive parents, for example parents who read to their children or help with homework?

A Agree Strongly
B Agree
C Neutral


Q10

Which of the following activities is the most important for parents to be involved in?

A Holding children accountable for their behaviour
B Working with teachers in a co-operative, non-aggressive manner
C Helping young children learn to read
D Helping children with their homework
E Being active in school-related activities for parents
F Donít Know / Refused


Q11

Have you ever been an associate teacher or mentor?

A Have been an associate teacher
B Have not been associate teacher

* Only respondants who answered Yes to Q11 were asked Q12


Q12

Thinking of your own experiences, please describe how you feel about the following opinions:

Opinions

Mean

5

4

3

2

1

dnk

My involvement as an Associate Teacher enhanced my own professional practice

4.2

48%

33%

12%

4%

3%

1%

I should receive professional development credits for my Associate Teaching responsibilities

4.1

56%

19%

8%

5%

9%

4%

My involvement as an Associate Teacher was well recognized and supported

3.6

27%

29%

25%

13%

6%

1%

I have been adequately prepared for my role as an Associate Teacher

3.6

27%

29%

24%

11%

8%

1%

I see myself as a partner with the faculty advisor in the preparation of teacher candidates

3.6

30%

25%

22%

12%

8%

3%

I had sufficient time to undertake my role in relation to Associate Teaching

3.2

19%

23%

29%

16%

12%

2%

I am adequately compensated for my Associate Teaching responsibilities

2.9

17%

18%

22%

14%

25%

3%


Q13

How would you score the value of the Internet as a source of information that is helpful to you as a teacher? (on a 5-point scale where 1 means it's not an important source of teaching skills and 5 means a very important source)

A Very valuable
B Valuable
C Neutral
D Of little value
E Of very little value
F Don't know / did not answer

 


Q14

Please describe how you feel about the following opinions about student testing:

Opinions

Mean

5

4

3

2

1

dnk

The current level of testing runs a big risk of demoralizing and de-motivating students

3.9

44%

23%

18%

9%

5%

1%

Standardized tests are a good way of tracking student success

2.1

3%

8%

23%

25%

40%

1%

Standardized tests are improving student learning

2.0

2%

8%

21%

24%

45%

1%

Standardized testing is a good measure of school success

1.8

2%

5%

17%

23%

52%

1%

Standardizing tests are a good way of tracking teacher performance

1.6

2%

3%

11%

21%

63%

1%


Q15

How satisfied are you with the amount of information you receive from the Ontario College of Teachers? (On a 5 point scale where 1 means very dissatisfied and 5, very satisfied)

RESPONSE: The mean response was 3.0 (or neutral). 9% of teachers were very satisfied, 24% satisfied and 35% were neutral. 17% were dissatisfied and 14% very dissatisfied. 1% did not know or did not answer.


Q16

How much confidence do you have in each of the following as a source of information about education issues?† (on a 5-point scale where 1 means no confidence and 5, a lot of confidence.)

Sources of information

Mean

5

4

3

2

1

dnk

Classroom teachers

4.2

34%

51%

13%

1%

*

1%

School principals

3.7

19%

46%

27%

6%

2%

*

Students

3.5

15%

35%

33%

9%

6%

2%

Teacher federations

3.4

14%

33%

34%

13%

5%

1%

Academic researchers

3.3

9%

32%

38%

14%

6%

2%

Parentsí groups

2.9

4%

21%

44%

22%

8%

1%

School board admin.

2.9

4%

25%

37%

22%

11%

2%

The Ontario College of Teachers

2.7

4%

21%

35%

21%

18%

1%

Newspaper editorials

2.1

1%

6%

28%

33%

32%

1%

Ministry of Education officials

2.0

2%

8%

21%

29%

39%

1%

Politicians

1.5

*

1%

10%

24%

64%

1%


Q17

In the matter of the accountability of teachers, to which of the following groups should teachers feel most accountable?

A Students
B Parents
C Principals
D School boards
E The public
F Colleagues
G The provincial government
H Donít Know / did not answer


Q18

How valuable is the self-regulation of the teaching profession from the perspective of protecting or enhancing the public interest? (on a 5-point scale where 1 means not valuable and 5, very valuable.)

A Very Valuable
B Valuable
C Neutral
D Less Valuable
E Not Valuable
F Donít Know / Refused


Q19

Do you work in an English- or a French-language environment?

A English-language environment
B French-language environment
C Taught in both equally


Q20

Respondents were asked about their place of work:

 

%

Elementary school

60

Secondary school

33

Both elementary and secondary

2

Board office

1

Retired

1

Post Secondary

1

Other

1

Unemployed / not working

*

Don't know / did not answer

1

 
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