George Bernard Shaw in 1903 made a statement that may make teachers, both in action and those who are aspiring to clench with emotions. He said, “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches” The statement is a direct attack on the profession according to many. This paper will take it as a challenge to justify the profession from a professional and technical point of view. There are many technical elements of teaching that many do not know and this is the chance to shine some light to the issue that indeed, teaching is something that people do out of passion and not lack of alternatives. It is a technical field that requires knowledge, empathy, sacrifice and the admiration of the future. This paper will focus on the relevance of teaching from four points of view, teacher professionalism, pedagogy, assessment and literacy and numeracy.
Teaching is akin to shaping the future. There is a lot of dynamics that are involved to the extent of having the governments and other state agencies dedicate a lot of effort and resources to ensure that the profession is properly directed and carried out. As such, there is the element of teacher professionalism. The Australian National Professional Standards for Teachers ensures that there is professionalism in teaching by ensuring that lessons are adequately sequenced and planned for. According to Kimberlin Education (2017), there are seven standards that extend to cover three main teaching domains. The domains are; professional knowledge, professional practice, and professional engagement. All the three domains are maintained across all the four career stages in the teaching profession. The four stages are; graduate, proficient, highly accomplished, and lead (Kimberlin Education, 2017). As such, the seven standards through which teachers must demonstrate competence are; “know students and how they learn, know the content and how to teach it, plan for and implement effective teaching and learning, create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments, assess, provide feedback and report on student learning, engage in professional learning, and engage professionally with colleagues, parents and the community” (Kimberlin Education, 2017). It is therefore, a great display of ignorance to say that those people who fail in their professions can teach. Teaching in itself is a skill and a science that needs professional training, and during practice, a strict code is followed to ensure realization of planned and expected outcomes.
To teach, there are specific outcomes that a teacher needs to target and achieve. Such outcomes are specified by the Australian National Curriculum. As such, a teacher is a highly skilled professional who is able to balance a child’s/learner’s working memory, schematic encoding and cognitive load. A failure to maintain this delicate balance is detrimental to the learning outcomes. Not any individual can actualize the delicate balance and achieve learning outcomes as stipulated in the Australian National Curriculum as George Bernard Shaw wanted to insinuate in 1903 when he said he who can does; he who cannot, teaches. To demonstrate this competence, a teacher is required to maintain registration with a teacher’s registration authority in their jurisdiction, which according to AITSL (2018), is an important element in the maintenance of standards and consistency. The curriculum provides a framework through which teachers can judge the success of their work. It helps to raise accountability on the part of the teacher as well as giving the teacher a platform for demonstrating their level of professional knowledge (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership , 2011).
Teaching as a profession requires the application of complex methodologies that help in the achievement of intended outcomes. According to the Department of Education and Training, (DET) (2008), the Quality Teaching Framework as incorporated in all the teaching and learning programs is aimed at providing quality education by providing the teaching fraternity with a platform that will ensure reflection and analysis of the teaching practice. According to the State of New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education and Training Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate (2003), there are three dimensions of pedagogy. First, is promotion of high levels of intellectual quality. On this dimension, a teacher is expected to have deep knowledge and understanding. Further, the teacher is expected to achieve high-order thinking and have substantive communication. Second, pedagogy in Australia should be soundly based on furthering a quality learning environment. In this dimension, it is expected that a learning environment will be characterised by explicit quality criteria, engagement of the stakeholders, have high expectations, achieve social support and have student’s self-regulation and direction. The third and last dimension of the Quality Teaching Framework is significance. It calls for background knowledge, cultural knowledge, inclusivity, and connectedness.
The quality model described above is critical in the development of an understanding of what constitutes quality in teaching. It provides a framework that teachers should use to think about and discuss all elements of teaching. According to Goldspink, Winter, and Foster (2008), methodology that is constructivist in nature impacts students learning positively thus improving their social, academic, and meta-cognitive outcomes. To meet all the needs of learners, a teacher is required to raise the intellectual quality of the lessons they facilitate. A quality learning environment ensures that al leaners are engaged in their own learning to give them the impetus of life-long learning. The model demonstrates that teaching is not a haphazard profession where people are guided by emotions or intuition. It is a profession with methods of executing tasks and following them up to ensure that the right purpose has been served. The development of a highly skilled workforce which can mold and develop the future of the individual and this country through the use of tested and approved methods. Pedagogy is developed to ensure that the educator-learner relationship is maintained to a level that allows for the flow of information between the two parties.
Teachers do not just teach, they strive to understand whether the expected goals and outcomes of their efforts have been realised. To achieve this end, teachers need to use standardised assessment methodologies. The National Assessment Program provides a platform through which governments, education authorities, schools and the community can determine if the learning outcomes are being met by young Australians. With such kind of assessments, important lessons can be learnt. First, assessments, according to the National Assessment Program (2016), provide a means through which policy can be informed, resource allocation, curriculum planning and intervention programs if the outcomes have not been met. It provides a means through which comparable evidence about student achievement can be attained.
The National Assessment Program is a key driver of improvements and accountability. National testing allows teachers to come to terms with the strengths and weaknesses in their students and as thus device means and ways of putting learning in the correct trajectory. ACARA (2018) provides that assessments are critical for the roles they play in monitoring and providing feedback, reporting progress to parents, schools and teachers. It is for these reasons that the public has access to national level aggregated results which are comprehensive about national and school level performance with regards to learning outcomes. Assessments provide a mechanism to evaluate the success of policies among different learning groups including those of indigenous students. Assessments provide a means to having evidence-based decision making, systemic practices and resourcing. Through the same assessments, the provision for accountability is clearly placed on those who are responsible Education is an expensive affair both economically and in the future and as such, a means to ensure accountability is needed. With assessments, the public can demand answers from those responsible.
Bringing it to an individual level, a teacher is able to tell what a learner is capable of and what needs to improve in their learning. It is for these reasons that there are standards that teachers should compare to. Such standards are provided by Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), (2015) and are used to mainly assess literacy and numeracy. Borrello (2018) explains that the numeracy and literacy assessment provide a teacher with the tools to pin point the needs of each and every learner and as such, the teacher involved can alter his/her teaching methodology and materials to suit the needs of a specific leaner. From the discussion about assessment, it is clear that George Bernard Show erred in his quote. Teaching is a profession that calls for accountability and a persistent pursuit of desired goals and outcomes.
Literacy and Numeracy
Literacy and numeracy may be considered as the formation blocks of learning. As such, there is need for the focusing on the development of two. Literacy is important to grammar, word, and visual and test knowledge. Literacy forms the basis through which other curriculum elements are communicated and understood by the learner as opined by Genishi and Dyson (2015). Failure in literacy on the part of an educational curriculum is tantamount to failure in many aspects of teaching and education. Literacy and numeracy should be taught in accordance to the abilities, knowledge, dispositions, and skills of each individual learner. Only a qualified teacher can make this assessment and determine what a leaner need in terms of teaching methodology. A teacher is able to inculcate the functions of listening, reading, speaking, and the modification of language to fit different purposes which are dependent on the context. Assessment of literacy and numeracy is done in accordance to NAPLAN methodology.
Teachers are supposed to inspire confidence through culturally responsive teaching as prescribed by Souto-Manning and Mitchell (2010) in a way that no layman can. Using numeracy for instance, a teacher passes knowledge, skills, behaviors, and dispositions that allow a student to use mathematics with confidence in all elements of learning. The use of mathematical skills is requisite in many aspects of daily lives and being able to navigate such situations with skill and confidence is the culmination of education. This feat is possible only because of the teachers. Different theories have been put forward to explain these two concepts (literacy and numeracy). They include Stage Models of Reading, Theory of Literacy Development Piaget’s theory, Maturation Theory, Family Literacy Theory, and Emergent Literacy Theory. Other theories that help teachers to dispense knowledge to learners on numeracy and literacy fronts explain concepts such as behaviourism; that suggest that psychological disorders are remedied by altering behavioral patterns, constructivism; which views learning as an active and constructive process, and cognitive constructivism; which supposes that learners build on knowledge through experience. Only a teacher is capable of understanding these aspects and apply them to impact the future of a learner.
Integrating the Foundation Concepts
Gifted and Talented students are unique and have their own special needs in the learning environment and as expressed by Eyre and Lowe (2002), identifying such talent and gifts requires a professional eye. Interestingly, it is teachers who have been equipped to handle such students with incredible skill. These students have the ability to comprehend ideas, even the complex ones more quickly. They have different interests than their peers and this might separate them from their peers especially during social time since they are often not interested in other forms of sociability. They have preference for older peers and due to their higher emotional intelligence. At a young age, it is often difficult to pin point students with special talents and gifts. As such, teachers are often the spotters of such talent, and this requires the use of special training. Again, it is being demonstrated that the role of teachers is not that of failures since it requires a professional lens to spot signs of ability and talent as explained by Eyre and Lowe (2002).
Gifted and talented students often have their own special needs and wants with which the teachers need to be in positions of advantage to meet. Gifted students often struggle with themselves especially when finding out who they are as enumerated by Pohl (2012) due to their vulnerability to internal and external pressures to conform and excel. Due to their failure to conform to normal standards, a need for independence, and to enjoy a high social status among their age peers, gifted students eventually think and feel differently. Due to intense cognitive complexities, gifted and talented students their reactions and behaviours are often intense. As such, the students need special teacher attention to help them apply their cognitive abilities to daily experiences. The special attention from the teacher will eventually help them make sense of their world.
Gifted and talented students are not guaranteed to meet their full potential unless assisted with intervention that is aimed to support their social-emotional and educational needs as evaluated by AITSL (2012). A teacher should be in a position to empathise and respect the unique abilities of the student to help them discover and grow their potential and abilities. As such, these students need targeted professional teaching. The pedagogy of gifted and talented students should encompass personalised learning plans (PLP) and parent support groups if necessary. Their assessment needs to be more regular and collaborative to ensure that it makes sense to them. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers supports differentiation in learning to support gifted and learning students (AITSL, 2012). There are two specific standards in the theory. The first standard calls for differentiation of teaching to handle the needs of gifted learners (AITSL, 2012). Different strategies are needed in this regard. The next standard calls for the establishment of challenging learning goals to motivate them to achieve more (AITSL, 2012). Further the standard ensures that a culture of high expectation is cultured among such students.
During the early 1900s during the times of George Bernard Shaw, the teaching profession might have been the reserve of professional failures, but this has not been sustained in the current era. As such, his statement that “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches” is completely out of order. In this paper, it has been demonstrated that teaching is a highly technical and professional field that requires sufficient training, accreditation and awareness of the expectations of governments, and the society in general. With teaching, there are standards that are followed during assessment, in pedagogy and in literacy and numeracy. The handling of gifted and talented students is also a privilege that is bestowed on teachers its challenges notwithstanding.
ACARA . (2015, December). Content for Year 3 – Learning area content descriptions. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority Website: http://docs.acara.edu.au/resources/Content_for_Year_3_-_Learning_area_content_descriptions.pdf
ACARA. (2018). Implications for teaching, assessing and reporting. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority Website: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/implications-for-teaching-assessing-and-reporting/
AITLS (2017). Nationally consistent registration for all teachers. Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/start-your-career/registration/nationally-consistent-teacher-registration
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Borrello, E. (2018, June 23). NAPLAN review explained: What it will look at and why. Retrieved from ABC News Website: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-23/naplan-review-explained:-what-will-it-look-at-and-why/9900702
Eyre, D & Lowe, H 2002, Curriculum Provision for the Gifted and Talented in the Secondary School, London, David Fulton Publishers.
Genishi, C., & Dyson, A. H. (2015). Children, language, and literacy: Diverse learners in diverse times. Teachers College Press. New York
Goldspink, C., Winter, P., & Foster, M. (2008, September). Student engagement and quality pedagogy. European Conference on Educational Research in Goteborg.
DET, Department of Education and Training (2008) Quality Teaching to support the NSW Professional Teaching Standards
Kimberlin Education. (2017, December 5). Understanding the ATISL Australian Professional Standards for Teachers . Retrieved from: http://kimberlineducation.com/understanding-aitsl-australian-professional-standards-teachers/
National Assessment Program. (2016). Why NAP. Retrieved from NAP Website: https://www.nap.edu.au/about/why-nap
Pohl, M 2012a, Gifted Students in the School Context: An Introductory Guide for Educators, Hawker Brownlow Education, Moorabbin, Victoria.
Souto-Manning, M., & Mitchell, C. H. (2010). The role of action research in fostering culturally-responsive practices in a preschool classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(4), 269.
State of NSW Department of Education and Training Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate. (2003). Quality Teaching in NSW Public Schools. Retrieved from Darcy Moore Website: http://www.darcymoore.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/qt_EPSColor.pdf
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