CEA’s Research Report on Teaching Aspirations

Max Cooke (Twitter @max_cooke) from the Canadian Education Association gave me a heads up a couple of days ago about the release today of a research report from his association.  The report "Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach:  Now and in the Future" is an insight to teachers’ views about what it’s like to teach and learn in Canada’s Public Schools.

The results can from 4 800 teacher who responded to a Canadian Teachers’ Federation online survey and 200 teachers who participated in focus groups.

In light of the negativity that’s been spreading recently with the tentative agreement between OECTA and the Ministry of Education, it should be seen as a good news piece.  I would suggest that it should be required reading for all teacher candidates at Faculties of Education as well as a gut check for active practitioners in the field. 

It takes a couple of reads to really understand the results of the research.  It would be a good question for all to ask – am I teaching the way that I always thought that I would?  As you read the report, it really is good news to see the number of teachers who responded in the positive.  Sadly, though, it’s a little disconcerting that these numbers aren’t 100%.   The research defined six factors that would support one to become the teacher that they’ve always aspired to be:  Personal Attributes, Leadership, Relationships, Resources, Policies, Procedures and Protocols, and Infrastructure.

Is this a wish list?  Or, is this how things really should be.  My first reaction is that these are the types of conditions that support teachers in their teaching which would translate to students being successful in their learning.  And yet, the nagging fact is that the results aren’t 100% positive.  Kudos for those who responded to the research (the report includes how they surveyed teachers and what limitations are placed on the data.)  It would be so easy for everyone to focus on those bad moments; I think that it’s great that so many are confident enough in their teaching that they are teaching the way that they’ve aspired.

A couple of questions do come to mind for those that didn’t respond positive.

  • What aspects of the six criteria are not being met?
  • What grade levels or subject areas are they teaching – is it during a standardized test year where the focus is on board defined foci?
  • Do they have a teaching partner for their subject area or grade or are they going it alone?
  • Are there other factors that are prohibiting you from being the teacher that you aspire to be?

The report and the findings make for really interesting reading.  In summary, the CEA focus on three points.

  • A significant proportion of teachers have experienced teaching the way they aspire to teach, at least occasionally;
  • Although teachers are able to teach the way they aspire to teach on occasion, this does not always happen on a consistent and system-wide basis;
  • Finally, there was significant agreement among teachers about the personal attributes of teacher that were most important.

If I was a principal in a public school, I think I would "flip" my first staff meeting of the year.  I would make every staff member aware of the report and ask them to do some reflection on their personal practice.  Then, the focus of the physical meeting will be on brainstorming ideas to change the school culture and environment so that all teachers can begin teaching the way that they’ve always aspired. 

Particularly in Ontario this fall, there will be a great deal of angst.  An activity like this could serve to shift a bit of the focus towards reflecting on professional practice.

If it turns into good teaching and good student learning, who could argue?

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