Teachers sought for ground-breaking research into their profession

Jo Earp –

Finding credible ways to assess good teaching methods has been difficult but the Australian Council for Educational Research has come up with an innovative project that will test for skills that could be added to a teacher’s portfolio.


The great unknown: how to assess what teachers do in the classroom.

Researchers are testing innovative methods for recognising highly accomplished practitioners that link focused portfolio tasks to teacher standards.

“Accomplished teachers are worth their weight in gold,” Dr Lawrence Ingvarson, Principal Research Fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and head of the Portfolio Project, says.

“However, research shows that current methods of teacher evaluation have little credibility with teachers. If the profession wants good teaching to be valued more, it must learn how to evaluate it in ways that are publicly credible and professionally acceptable.”

Ingvarson and colleagues have been working with practising teachers to explore more authentic methods for demonstrating how members of the profession meet the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) at the highly accomplished level.

“A hallmark of a profession is that it can not only define high standards and good practice but that it also has developed reliable methods for identifying and recognising members who have attained those standards,” he says.

“The Portfolio Project has reached the stage where ACER can now test these innovative methods for their feasibility and their credibility with teachers,” Ingvarson says. “We are seeking primary teachers and secondary science teachers who would be interested in field testing just one of these new portfolio tasks in the second half of 2015.”

For primary teachers, the team has developed guidelines for four “entries” that a teacher might place into their professional portfolio: Developing students’ writing; Building conceptual understanding in mathematics; Inquiry skills; and Engaging colleagues in a project to improve teaching and learning in your school.

For secondary science teachers, the team has also developed guidelines for four “entries” that a science teacher might place into their professional portfolio: Building conceptual understanding in science; Conducting a whole class discussion in science; Engaging students in science investigations; and Engaging your professional community in a project to improve teaching and learning in science.

The guidelines for each entry provide a clear structure and scaffolding that assists teachers in gathering evidence and analysing their teaching.

In both cases, the first entry is based on samples of student work over time. The second and third are based on video recordings and the fourth is based on documented accomplishments in the wider school community.

“We anticipate that preparing an entry would take place over a period of two to three months. “In addition to making a valuable contribution to strengthening teaching as a profession, completing one of these portfolio entries will also provide participants with a professionally validated example of your expertise in teaching. And, teachers consistently report that preparing, analysing and reflecting on evidence for a portfolio entry has been one of the most rewarding and effective professional learning experiences of their career.

“The entries will provide ACER with a basis for developing benchmarks illustrating what counts as meeting the APST standards at the highly accomplished level, something that has not been done before.”

More information: http://portfolio.acer.edu.au

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Source: Teachers sought for ground-breaking research into their profession

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