The Nature of Teaching
In its broadest sense, teaching is a process that
facilitates learning. Teaching is the specialized application of knowledge,
skills and attributes designed to provide unique service to meet the
educational needs of the individual and of society. The choice of learning activities
whereby the goals of education are realized in the school is the responsibility
of the teaching profession.
In addition to providing students with
learning opportunities to meet curriculum outcomes, teaching emphasizes the
development of values and guides students in their social relationships.
Teachers employ practices that develop positive self-concept in students.
Although the work of teachers typically takes place in a classroom setting, the
direct interaction between teacher and student is the single most important
element in teaching.
Teaching as a Profession
The continued professionalization of teaching is a
long-standing goal of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. The Association
continues to work to advance teaching as a profession. Professionalism is a
complex and elusive concept; it is dynamic and fluid. Six generally accepted
criteria are used to define a profession. The teaching profession in Alberta
fulfills those criteria in the following ways:
1. Its members have an organized body
of knowledge that separates the group from all others. Teachers are
equipped with such a body of knowledge, having an extensive background in the
world and its culture and a set of teaching methods experientially derived
through continuous research in all parts of the world.
2. It serves a great social purpose.
Teachers carry responsibilities weighted with social purpose. Through a rigid
and self-imposed adherence to the Code of Professional Conduct, which sets out
their duties and responsibilities, teachers pass on their accumulated culture
and assist each student under their care in achieving self-realization.
3. There is cooperation achieved
through a professional organization. Cooperation plays an important role in
the development of the teaching profession because it represents a banding
together to achieve commonly desired purposes. The teaching profession has won
its well-deserved place in the social order through continuous cooperation in
research, professional preparation and strict adherence to the Code of
Professional Conduct, which obligates every teacher to treat each student
within a sacred trust. Teachers have control or influence over their own
governance, socialization into teaching and research connected with their
4. There is a formal period of
preparation and a requirement for continuous growth and development.
Teachers are required to complete a defined teacher preparation program
followed by a period of induction or internship prior to being granted
permanent certification. This period includes support for the formative growth
of teachers and judgments about their competence. Teachers are devoted to
continuous development of their ability to deliver their service.
5. There is a degree of autonomy
accorded the professional. Teachers have opportunities to make decisions
about important aspects of their work. Teachers apply reasoned judgment and
professional decision making daily in diagnosing educational needs, prescribing
and implementing instructional programs, and evaluating the progress of
students. Teacher judgment unleashes learning and creates the basis for
6. The profession has control or
influence over education standards, admissions, licensing, professional
development, ethical and performance standards, and professional discipline.
As professionals, teachers are governed in their professional relationships
with other members, school boards, students and the general public by rules of
conduct set out in the Association’s Code of Professional Conduct. The code
stipulates minimum standards of professional conduct for teachers, but it is
not an exhaustive list of such standards. Unless exempted by legislation, any
member of the Association who is alleged to have violated the standards of the
profession, including the provisions of the code, may be subject to a charge of
unprofessional conduct under the Discipline Bylaws of the Association.
The competence of teachers is governed by
the Practice Review Bylaws of the Association. The expectations for the
professional practice of teachers related to interim and permanent
certification are found in the Teaching Quality Standard Applicable to the
Provision of Basic Education in Alberta. The Teaching Quality Standard
defines the knowledge, skills and attributes all teachers are expected to
demonstrate as they complete their professional preparation, enter the
profession and progress through their careers. Additionally, the Department of
Education’s Teacher Growth, Supervision and Evaluation Policy (Policy 2.1.5)
supports and reinforces the Teaching Quality Standard by setting out basic
expectations for teacher growth, supervision and evaluation.
Teachers as Professionals
The certificated teacher is the essential element in
the delivery of instruction to students, regardless of the mode of instruction.
A teacher has professional knowledge and skills gained through formal
preparation and experience. Teachers provide personal, caring service to
students by diagnosing their needs and by planning, selecting and using methods
and evaluation procedures designed to promote learning. The processes of
teaching include understanding and adhering to legal and legislated frameworks
and policies; identifying and responding to student learning needs; providing
effective and responsive instruction; assessing and communicating student
learning; developing and maintaining a safe, respectful environment conducive
to student learning; establishing and maintaining professional relationships;
and engaging in reflective professional practice. These processes must be free
of discriminatory practices and should contribute to the holistic development
of students who are actively engaged, responsible and contributing members of a
democratic society. The educational interests of students are best served by
teachers who practise under conditions that enable them to exercise
professional judgment. Teachers have a right to participate in all decisions
that affect them or their work, and have a corresponding responsibility to
provide informed leadership in matters related to their professional practice.
The Association’s Role in the Context of
The Alberta Teachers’ Association is a self-governing
body financed through membership fees established in accordance with the bylaws
of the Association. The legal framework through which the Association functions
is the Teaching Profession Act. The Association, through the democratic
interaction of its members, is the collective voice of Alberta teachers. It is
a unilateral organization that includes as active members certificated
individuals employed in public education as classroom teachers, as well as
school- and district-based administrators. The profession believes that all
professional educators should be members of the Association and strives to accomplish
this through an amendment to the Teaching Profession Act that would
include superintendents and deputy superintendents appointed by school boards.
As a professional teachers’ association,
the Alberta Teachers’ Association performs a wide range of activities related
to the enhancement of teaching as a profession, the improvement of public
education and the well-being of its members. The Association furthers the
professional status of teaching by policing the conduct and competence of its
members through its Discipline Bylaws and Practice Review Bylaws, ensuring high
levels of practice for students and public assurance in the teaching
profession. The Association also has a responsibility to appraise the
expectations of society and to recommend changes to Alberta’s education system
to meet changing needs. Thus, it maintains an active interest and a position of
leadership in all areas of public education. This includes systematic
long-range planning in such matters as the processes of teaching, working conditions
for professional service, organization and administration of schools, teacher
education and certification, curriculum, educational research and development,
early childhood education, and education finance. Through its committees
dealing with these topics, as well as through representation on many
departmental committees and boards, the Association stays at the forefront of
the most recent developments and represents the interests of its members. To
accomplish this, the Association should have adequate representation on all
Department of Education committees, boards and advisory bodies dealing with
matters related to teaching and learning, and all members representing the
profession on government advisory bodies, boards and committees should be named
by the Association.
A common criterion for measuring the degree of public
acceptance achieved by a professional organization is its ability and
willingness to exercise rigorous control over membership standards. This means
that the professional body has control over the educational, certification,
practice and competence standards to determine who enters into and remains in
the profession. A long-standing goal of the profession is to have jurisdiction
over teacher certification in Alberta. The Association’s having such authority
would parallel the established practice of other professions.
As the authoritative voice of the teaching
profession in the province, the Association must play a role in making
decisions related to teacher preparation, recruitment, selection, admission,
institutional preparation, internship, placement and programs of support in the
early years of practice. It should have direct and formal representation in the
process that accredits institutions that grant degrees in education.
Finally, the Association believes that
teachers require one teaching certificate and that all teachers have the same
certificate. As previously mentioned, the profession, through the Association,
should have full responsibility for the issuance of teaching certificates and
the suspension or cancellation of certificates on grounds of incompetence or
Alberta is recognized for having one of the best
public education systems in the world. Central to the system are caring, highly
competent professional teachers who are supported by a professional association
that recognizes as its core responsibilities stewardship of the profession,
services to its members and commitment to public education. The continued
efforts of teachers to strive to improve their professional practice, supported
by the collective through the Alberta Teachers’ Association, will ensure that
Alberta students will continue to receive quality teaching resulting in
enriched educational experiences.