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
and altruism first brought teachers to the profession. And College members
say these continue to fuel their efforts to improve learning and strengthen
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.
"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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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)
Would you advise someone about to enter university to consider teaching as a career?
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?
Which of the following 7 features would you tell the young person is the most challenging aspect of being a teacher?
Will you be a teacher in five yearsí time?
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)
Which of the following features is the most important in good teaching?
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)
How essential for a young personís success in school are supportive parents, for example parents who read to their children or help with homework?
Which of the following activities is the most important for parents to be involved in?
Have you ever been an associate teacher or mentor?
* Only respondants who answered Yes to Q11 were asked Q12
Thinking of your own experiences, please describe how you feel about the following opinions:
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)
Please describe how you feel about the following opinions about student testing:
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.
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.)
In the matter of the accountability of teachers, to which of the following groups should teachers feel most accountable?
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.)
Do you work in an English- or a French-language environment?
Respondents were asked about their place of work:
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