Teaching performance assessments and their impact on initial teacher education: the independence of the academy

Year: 2018

Author: Brownlee, Patrick, McGraw, Amanda, Talbot, Debra, Buchanan, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Australian universities are not homogenous, equally provisioned or accessed. Accordingly, academic programs for each and every discipline vary across all institutions. This is notionally a strength insofar as intellectual diversity and independence are contextually responsive and considered fundamental to (social) scientific endeavor. Yet the differences that exist in academic programs based upon a principle of intellectual independence are likely not so great in practice. This is brought into sharp relief in the case of academic programs for professions, in this case Initial Teacher Education (ITE). ITE is prescribed in Australian Universities by a common set of standards and, in some cases, by state-based accreditation systems.
Literature on the challenges and compromises faced by Australian ITE providers and education academics in relation to accreditation and standards go so far as to suggest a crisis for academia, where compliance mediates or governs independence (McGraw, 2018; Bahr, 2016; Aspland, 2011). The current national trial towards a graduate Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA) mandated for all Australian ITE providers offers insight into this tension.
Drawing on interviews and reflections from academics involved in trialling the Assessment for Graduate Teaching (AfGT), in this presentation we analyse how policy concerning quality and preparedness in the teaching profession shapes, and is shaped by, education academics and their institutions (cf. Darling-Hammond, 2016). Two main concerns are raised: firstly, compliance in pursuing the AfGT requires ITE providers working within contradictions that are inherent in standardising a profession that is resistant to a one-size-fits-all approach; secondly, the design process for the AfGT as a national assessment tool is a social one, offering opportunities to interrogate the completeness of national standards-setting as paradigmatic of the incompleteness of knowledge.