For over 100 years, teachers have attended teachers’ conventions in Alberta. Originally organized by the Department of Education, teachers’ conventions provided opportunities for school inspectors to meet with teachers in each community. Over the years the role played by the Alberta Teachers’ Association in the annual teachers’ conventions gradually increased.
In 1942, the Department of Education agreed to grant the Association the responsibility for organizing conventions. The agreement requires the Alberta Teachers’ Association to improve the teaching profession by organizing and supporting groups that advance the knowledge and skill of teachers. The School Act (1988) specifically identifies as “teaching days” the two days on which a teachers’ convention, authorized by the Alberta Teachers’ Association, are held. Attendance is mandated in the School Act as comprising part of teachers’ employment contracts with their boards.
The 10 convention associations are agencies of the provincial Association. As Association subgroups, they plan, conduct, fund, evaluate and govern the teachers’ conventions held across the province. In conjunction with other activities at the school, local and school board level, conventions are a key professional development opportunity for teachers to enhance their professional growth and, thereby, foster student learning.
Statement of Principles
The objects of the Association as stated in the Teaching Profession Act are to provide and develop leadership and programs that will enhance individual teacher competence, teaching as a profession and the cause of public education. Such activity is called “professional development.”
The primary goal of the Association’s professional development program is to establish and maintain high standards of professional practice. Progress toward this goal requires the advancement and promotion of Association policies related to professional development.
Professional development takes many forms and is provided by many different people and organizations with the goal of enhancing learning for students. As described in the PD framework for professional development in Alberta, effective professional development activities at teachers’ conventions shall include the following:
Content—Convention sessions are based on research and build on established knowledge, skills and attributes. The program provided is designed to enhance implementation of curriculum, instructional techniques and assessment techniques. In addition, sessions enhance pride in being a member of the teaching profession and motivate teachers to further explore and study topics of interest, areas of need and new research on effective practices in education.
Process—Conventions provide opportunities to engage teachers in collegial dialogue. Conventions encourage teachers to explore, think critically and reflect on their professional practice to identify action strategies and solutions for issues of common concern.
Context—Conventions are professional development activities that respect the professional judgment of teachers in determining their needs.
Given the diverse professional learning needs of so many professional educators, convention boards develop annual programs that offer a wide variety of curricular and pedagogically-relevant speakers, workshops, exhibits and networking opportunities.
The Association, as a professional organization, strongly values teachers’ conventions and recognizes both the professional and legal obligations that teachers have regarding convention attendance. Convention attendance is mandatory for all active members of the Association who are employed as full-time and part-time teachers and school leaders in the province’s public, separate, and Francophone school boards.
While teachers’ conventions are considered by many members to be the signature professional development event of the year, conventions are but one of a number of interdependent opportunities provided to teachers to complement and supplement their career-long professional development.