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Australian teacher performance and development framework

By Mike Williss - posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012

In pursuit of its neoliberal education “reform” agenda, the Gillard Government created the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) on 1 January 2010. AITSL is a public company fully funded by the Commonwealth with an independent board charged with developing “rigorous national professional standards” and “fostering and developing high quality professional development for teachers and school leaders”.

The National Professional Standards now exist, and a draft of a framework for teacher professional development was launched on Friday 30 March 2012 for a three-month consultation period.

The AITSL draft document, Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework (ATPDF) opens with the following acknowledgement of teacher attitudes towards teacher appraisal: “Australian teachers report that they do not always get the feedback they need to improve. In an OECD survey, 63 per cent of Australian teachers report that appraisal of their work is largely done to fulfil administrative requirements.” It goes on to say that its proposed framework “aims to promote genuine professional conversations that improve teaching and minimise the risk that administrative and bureaucratic requirements will become the focus.”


The remainder of the document, including a series of “essential elements”, prescribe a series of administrative and bureaucratic requirements within which teacher performance and development must occur. It is a breathtaking switch from the left foot of “genuine professional conversations” to the right foot of “administrative requirements”.

The ATPDF ignores a substantial body of work on the promotion of teacher professional autonomy in the top PISA performing countries (Shanghai, Finland, Hong Kong et al) and instead cites seven documents that provide the evidence base for the framework. Five of the seven are primarily studies of current Australian practice. Examples of works ignored by AITSL are Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? and Ben Jensen’s Catching up: Learning from the best school systems in East Asia published by the Grattan Institute.

The following features of the ATPDF show clearly the administrative and bureaucratic hands operating at the potter’s wheel of teacher performance and development:

  • It is referenced against a single statement of expectations of teacher development, the National Professional Standards for Teaching: “They define the standard expected of all registered teachers and provide a roadmap for improvement above this level.  They provide a basis for professional conversations within schools…”
  • “There must be clear accountability for improving the quality of teacher performance and development.”
  • There must be “alignment of these improvement activities with the school’s plan.”
  • Each teacher must “engage purposefully in performance appraisal and development” in a cycle that begins with the setting of objectives. These must be developed by the teacher “with the principal or delegate” and “must clearly articulate agreed objectives based on the school’s shared view of effective teaching, derived from the National Professional Standards for Teachers…Objective should be designed to be measurable…”
  • The next stage of the cycle is stated as “The teacher then takes action to ensure they meet expectations…”
  • The next stage is for the teacher to “collect and consider evidence against the agreed objectives, deliverables and performance measures”. A “far from…exhaustive list” of seven sources of evidence is presented with emphasis on the teacher collecting “multiple forms of evidence”.  A “central role” is accorded to “data showing impact on student outcomes”.
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Article edited by Jo Coghlan.
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About the Author

Mike Williss is a teacher of Chinese in South Australia. After 32 years in the classroom , he now works for the Australian Education Union in South Australia.

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