Qualified quality? Relations between practice, evaluation and policy in the judgment of quality in teaching performances

Year: 2019

Author: Kirsten, Rah

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In a manner not dissimilar to the tensions surrounding the construction of the Australian Curriculum, the Australian Professional Standards for Teacherswere established upon ideals of accountability and realised through an agenda of national educational reform. The resultant framework, as well as the related policy imperatives of government agencies in states and territories, lay claim to ‘teacher quality’ and standardise the judgment of teaching performances against cascading sets of common descriptors. In the study of practice, however, the performances of individual agents must be considered in relation to social practices, epistemologies and histories in particular fields. Reconciling ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ measures in judgments of performance is a complex undertaking that defies the principles of linearity. This paper examines the ways that language is put to use in teaching standards and associated policy initiatives, in attempts by government agencies to regulate and aggregate performances by teachers. Drawing upon an evaluative methodology that references theories of practice grounded in sociological and philosophical traditions, this paper puts forward that the normative values inherent in teaching standards frameworks are inadequate for the task of understanding, and hence measuring, nuanced performances of teachers that are constitutive of teaching practice.