Educational institutes in New South Wales have embarked on a quest to make gradual improvements since the adoption of the Quality Teaching model. While this progress has been markedly slow because of the many changes required for each institute to achieve effective results, it has been consistent.
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Even so, schools and other institutions of learning need to increase the pace of change on a district level so as validate the continued use of the model. This can only be achieved if the district education body reassesses key features of Quality teaching model in all schools.
Education is a fundamental requirement for the development and ultimate advancement of the community and educators and policy makers are constantly looking for educational structure and practices that will increase the effectiveness of the education system.
The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education and Training (2003) asserts that a core directive of the Department of Education and Training is to make sure that state and nation wide policies on education are successfully implemented. The Quality Teaching model is one of such policies that the Department of Education and Training is mandated to adapt throughout its jurisdiction.
This policy has led to academic progress and improvements in student performance across NSW since it was formally endorsed. However, these level of improvement has been lower than it was projected to be. These low success rates might be attributed to the previous attitude of encouraging teachers and school administrates to implement their own version of principles and guidelines of the Quality Teaching model.
A number of noticeable reasons are to blame for the slow development and improvement of the pedagogy proposed through the Quality Teaching model. Anderson and Helms (2001) assert that the three defining principles of the model; intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance, faced some form of opposition in their implementation within the district.
The biggest hindrance faced in the implementation has been budgetary constraints in most schools. Inequitable financing of educational institutes as the District and National levels have led to unequal distribution of resources across school districts. Without equity, it is impossible for most institutes to set aside the financial resources required to implement this new model.
The Federal and State government aspires to provide equitable financing to each educational institute. However, this noble goal is seldom met and the reality is that some institutes receive modest finances while others have a surplus. King (2002) observes that this has a direct influence on the ability of the institute to provide quality education to the students.
The last decade has witnessed significant changes in the education field with computers and modern learning equipments becoming central to the learning efforts of students. The District bodies have been unable to conclusively supply institutes with this expensive modern equipment therefore deposing the district bodies from their traditional role as major financier to educational institutions.
Charity organization, corporate sponsors, and philanthropists have taken up the role of major financier. Martinez (2004) points out that this private funding has led to intense competition and disunity as teachers from different schools fight to obtain sufficient financing from these new benefactors.
This occurrence has mitigated the effectiveness of the Quality Teaching model as finances play an integral role in the success of the model.
Failure to adopt a successful teaching model has led to lowered performances in public schools. This has led to dissatisfaction among many parents who have turned to private schools in the hope that these privately funded institutes will provide better quality education.
Gore and Ladwig (2006) suggest that the presumption that private schools are better equipped to provide quality education is misguided surplus finances do not equate to better delivery on all the elements of Authentic Pedagogy and the Quality Teaching Model.
As such, availability of adequate financial resources does not necessary translate to quality teaching. The attitude of all the relevant parties in the educational system significantly influences the success of the teaching model.
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These relevant parties include teachers, students, school administrators and regional and national education bodies. Teachers are regarded as the most significant actors since they are relied on to impart knowledge to the students. Their role is therefore critical to the success or failure of any quality teaching process since they are the ones who implement the Quality Teaching model.
Teachers do not hold a uniform attitude regarding the model and their outlook is influenced by factors such as cultural ideologies and social predispositions (Martinez, 2004). Teachers generally enjoy a modest social economic status and this inclines them to believe that certain goals and intentions are beyond one’s natural capability.
Lee and Smith (2001) observe that teachers find it hard to make the constant changes in educational practices necessitated by current social circumstances. While such changes would greatly enhance the quality of teaching and positively influence student performance, the changes require significant financing and maintenance. The financial requirements of the changes are unattainable even for the wealthiest nations.
Changes are proposed regularly and this this makes many students and teachers loss interest in the many incomplete efforts proposed all the time (Groundwater-Smith & Hunter, 2000). Teachers also feel an extra burden since they are forced to fulfil responsibilities that are alien to their training.
The Regulatory Commission for Authentic Pedagogy under the Quality Teaching model
Steps need to be taken to deal with the shortcomings of the current implementation of the Quality Teaching Model in NSW. One method which might assist is the establishment of a regulatory body by the Department of Education and Training. Such a body would be responsible for formulating a sustainable system that addresses the issues that plague the current Quality Teaching implementation.
The body would liaison between the Department and School administrations to identify teacher and student issues that need to be addressed. The body would provide students with an avenue to air their views or grievances concerning their education.
Anderson and Helms (2001) suggests that such an avenue would be beneficial for students who prefer to air their views concerning the education process to an independent third party. Agents in the regulatory body would also play a supervisory role thus ensuring that all parties fulfil their mandated roles and responsibilities.
The financial requirements of the proposed regulatory body would be significant. Government and State authorities would need to provide these finances. It would therefore be desirable for the body to fulfil its goals within a reasonable period of time to save the government from high maintenance expenses.
NSW has 760,000 students and 2200 public schools making it the State with the highest student and public schools population in Australia (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2003).
An average of 350 students would be served in each institute if the number of students was evenly spread out across the available schools. If each teacher was is responsible for a maximum of 30 students, less than 20 teachers would be required for each institution. Combined with administrative and non-administrative staff, the number of non-student population would be between 30 and 40 adults.
Regulatory agents would be tasked with supervising and interviewing this non-student population in schools. From this, they would be able to deduce their effect on the overall academic achievement of students. It is to be expected that the non-student staff will be greater or less than the estimates provided since students are not equally distributed across public schools in NSW.
In addition to this, Lee and Smith (2001) assert that education institutions for special needs students require the different pedagogical principles to regular institutes. At the same time, regular institutions applying self-contained or inclusive classrooms to cater for special needs students require the same, if not more, attention in the delivery of Quality Teaching goals.
The commission will therefore be made up of agents who will invigilate progress in predefined sectors of NSW. Feedback is essential in any monitoring efforts and as such, the regulatory division will have a feedback department. The feedback will be obtained from teachers, administrators and students.
All additional policies or amendments to policies concerning Quality Teaching will be instigated from the division making it a centre for changes and the chief source of resources concerning Quality Teaching for schoolteachers.
King (2002) suggests that consistent monitoring is necessary for any significant gains to be achieved. With this considerations, each agent will have to regularly assess all institutions within his/her jurisdiction and interview all the relevant parties in order to access if the Quality Teaching model is being implemented effectively.
While attention will be given to all the relevant parties, focus will predominantly be on the students since they are the people who the model hopes to impact. Regular interviews will therefore be conducted with students and a focus group established to help gauge the students’ attitudes towards schoolwork, teachers, administration and non-teaching staff.
The agent will also interview teaching and non-teaching staff who interact with the students. By interviewing teachers, the agent will gauge their attitude towards the Quality Teaching model. Groundwater-Smith and Hunter (2000) observe that the interviews will also help in giving a better understanding of what each teacher perceives quality teaching to mean under this model.
From the findings of the interviews, teachers who are under-informed will be required to attend Quality Teaching seminars in order to inform them on what constitutes quality teaching under this framework. Administration heads will be consulted before recommending mandatory seminars to ensure that their authority is not undermined.
An important question will be with regards to who makes up the regulatory agency staff. King (2002) proposes that pedagogy experts from universities and seasoned policymakers on educational matters are the best candidates.
Such professionals will be best placed to design and redesign the application of Quality Teaching in public schools in order to increase the rate of effective implementation through seamless adaptation and assimilation. The current move towards Quality Teaching in NSW is grounded in studies done by veterans such as Newmann and Griffiths (King, 2002).
These seasoned academic researchers would be the most qualified to run the regulatory commission and handle any difficulties that may arise in the implementation process of the Quality Teaching Model. Uniform adoption of the new policies would be desirable and as such, meetings between the commission’s heads and regulatory agents would be necessary.
Such meetings would ensure that all public institutes in NSW integrate Quality Learning in their institutes at the same pace regardless of factors such as school population or socio-economic realities of each institute (Anderson & Helms, 2001).
As has been noted, some teachers would require additional training in order to properly adopt the Quality Teaching principles in their classrooms. The commission’s heads will be in-charge of these mandatory re-education seminars. Martinez (2004) reveals that there is a great possibility that most of the teachers who will require re-education will be career teachers who have been in the job for long.
Such senior teachers with experience of over ten years will have developed personalized teaching techniques and most likely have reputations amongst their peers and the students. Proposed changes that such teachers consider unproductive or flawed will be ignored.
Gore and Ladwig (2006) see the rationale behind such action and concur that experience offers insight into areas within Quality Teaching that require more analysis and evaluation. Even so, experience is not synonymous with perfection and even the most experienced person can learn better ways of doing things.
The commissioners will therefore have to face the challenge of convincing these veteran teachers that the Quality Teaching model is a pedagogical framework that will bring about teacher satisfaction and improve the learning experience for the students.
The commissioners will use regular regional meetings as avenues for obtaining feedback from teachers. Such feedback will include suggestions on how the three tenets of Quality Teaching can be better adapted. Such meetings will ensure that the role of enforcement is passed on to the teachers.
Without such an approach, the regulatory commission would have to force the framework upon teachers and this would lead to resistance and even resentment. In these approach, the primary role of the commissioners and regulatory agents will be to obtain support for the framework from teachers.
Groundwater-Smith (1999) forecasts that ingraining the pedagogical framework into all teachers will lead to teachers implementing it autonomously therefore leading to the desirable outcome, which is rendering the work of the commission obsolete.
The administrative hierarchy will have the regulatory agents at the bottom and the regulation commission and schools’ senior administrators at the top. The agents will conduct the actual regulation and report to the commissioners and school heads. The agents would also involve the school administration to help coordinate in activities that affect the particular school.
Even so, the agents would have autonomy during evaluations to ensure that an independent and impartial report is obtained. The school’s administration would be isolated from evaluation efforts in order for valid claims to be made by teachers and students.
The administration will have representation during focus group interviews or individual interviews with students and staff. However, the representatives role will be strictly that of an observer.
Analysis of the Potential Impact on the Quality Teaching framework
The agent’s attention shall mostly be directed towards the student body, teaching and non-teaching staff. These groups individually influence the three tenets of Quality Teaching in a profound manner. The Student body’s acceptance of the model will occur if they are able to find relevance in the subject matter. Effective learning will only able to occur if the teacher is able to identify areas of interest for the students and focus on them.
The agent will be tasked with identifying where the interests of the different students lies notwithstanding the differences in culture and socio-economic status that the students might have. This will not be an impossible task since there is a fusion in some of the basic interests of students in NSW state due to the co-existence of different cultures and social classes in the same environment (Groundwater-Smith & Hunter, 2000).
An in-depth understanding of student interests and desires would assist in increasing the efficiency of the teaching methods employed by making the lesson more engaging for the students.
For a teacher to perform his role effectively, he needs to be well informed since the students should ideally view him as the primary purveyor of information. While it was easy for the teacher to be the primary source of information in the past, this is no longer the case since information technology systems have made an infinite amount of knowledge and data available to the students.
Technology savvy students are able to challenge tutors with complicated information obtained from the internet. Teachers are at times unable to keep up with the student’s pace for information desire.
The first tenet of the Quality Teaching Model is intellectual quality and it insists on the teacher possessing a large knowledge base in order to remain significant and intellectually respected by their students (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2003). Inability to maintain intellectual quality will diminish the effectiveness of the teacher.
The non-teaching staff plays an integral role in the education institute. Their role in maintaining a healthy and adequate learning environment is constantly undervalued despite it being very important since teachers and school administrations can only provide a classroom-learning environment but they cannot effectively control the external environment that the non-teaching staff takes care of.
While regulations for the control of substance use exist, they are very inadequate (Corwin et al., 1975). The non-teaching staff takes care of the environment therefore providing a conducive atmosphere for students and teachers alike. Greater sensitivity to the role that non-teachings staff play in enhancing the learning environment is required since they are necessary elements in the school environment.
Anderson, R. D., & Helms, J. V. (2001). The Ideal of Standards and the Reality of Schools: Needed Research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38 (1), 3-16.
Corwin, R., Heffernan, P., Johnston, R., Remy, M., Roberts, J., & Tyler, D. (1975). Environmental Impact Assessment. San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper & Company.
Gore, J. M., & Ladwig, J. G. (2006). Professional Development for Pedagogical Impact. Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education Annual Conference, Perth.
Groundwater-Smith, S. (1999). Students as Researchers and the ‘Why’ Question. Paper presented to the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Brighton.
Groundwater-Smith, S., & Hunter, J. (2000). Whole School Inquiry: Evidence-based Practice. Journal of In-Service Education, 26 (3), 583-600.
King, M.B. (2002). Professional Development to Promote School-wide Inquiry. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18(1), 243-257.
Lee, V.E., & Smith, J.B. (2001). Restructuring High School for Equity and Excellence. New York: Teachers College Press.
Martinez, K. (2004). Mentoring New Teachers: Promise and Problems in times of Teacher Shortage. Australian Journal of Education, 48 (1), 95-108.
NSW Department of Education and Training. (2003). Quality Teaching in NSW public schools: A classroom practice guide. Sydney: NSW Department of Education and Training, Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate