Teacher Standards and Professionalism
The focus of this research is teacher professionalism in New Zealand and the possible role of the ‘Standards for the Teaching Profession’ that were released in 2017, in strengthening the quality of teaching. Evidence suggests that the quality of teachers’ work is an important factor in students’ success. So, a challenge for education policy-makers is to create a system that encourages and enables teachers to be high quality and motivated to keep improving. The literature suggests a strategy to enable this is to encourage a mature profession, where teachers take collective responsibility for improvement. Standards for teachers can be a positive influence on improving teacher practice when their use is balanced between regulatory and development functions, so that they are a catalyst for professional development. This research involved 45 teachers in English Medium settings participating in sector specific focus groups for early childhood, primary school and secondary school teachers, a review of policy documents and secondary data from Education Council workshops. The analysis suggests that aspects of organisational professionalism influence the environment, although most teachers did not consciously align themselves to this discourse. There appeared to be some differences between sectors, with those in early childhood aligning more closely to their organisation than other teachers and feeling like they were not accepted as a legitimate part of the teaching profession. Although teachers were generally positive about the new standards, few teachers considered using them for reflection or professional conversations outside of formal appraisal. The aspiration presented in literature of a mature profession that works collaboratively with a mix of stakeholders to combine expertise, ask tough questions to create solutions and grows professional knowledge was not apparent, however teachers identified opportunities to shift the profession towards this discourse.