The Minister of Education has claimed that the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s proposal would reduce flexibility and prevent meaningful improvement in education. He says that the Association is promoting an industrial model that encourages teachers to punch a time clock at a time when education needs to move into the 21st century. Would the Association’s proposal stand in the way of education transformation?
No. Teachers support meaningful, informed and continuing efforts to make Alberta’s education system more relevant, responsive and effective. In fact the Association has been a leader in promoting change, as documented in A Great School for All: Transforming Education in Alberta.
The Association wishes to cooperate with government and school boards in advancing the goals articulated in the vision for education set out through the Inspiring Education process. This includes enhanced personalization of learning, inclusion of students with diverse learning needs, greater flexibility in program delivery and increased use of technology.
But if teachers are to be agents of change, they need to be provided with the time, resources and professional development they need to meet the increasingly complex demands entailed by 21st-century education.
To help ensure that teachers have sufficient time in the workday to complete at least some of the planning and preparation necessary to meet the new demands being imposed upon them, the Association’s proposal promotes reasonable limits on teachers’ instructional duties and includes processes to identify and reduce the low-value administrative and bureaucratic tasks routinely assigned to teachers.
As well, the proposal supports education transformation by facilitating the implementation of pilot projects to explore potential approaches to achieving the objectives set out in Inspiring Education. Finally, the proposal provides for greater teacher ownership of their professional development and for the profession to collaborate with other interested groups and individuals in the development of enhanced professional learning outcomes.
The Minister’s stated belief that the Association’s proposal would preclude efforts to improve education and turn teachers into clock-watchers betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the proposal and, more disturbingly, a failure to understand or appreciate the nature or reality of teachers’ practice. It is ironic that the Minister, who advocates so passionately for 21st-century learning, seems to embrace the very 19th-century beliefs that any restriction, however reasonable, on a school board’s ability to pile additional work on its teachers is an impediment to change and that efforts by teachers to exercise their professional judgment threaten the quality of our education system.