Updated Practice Standards Increase Inclusiveness

September 28, 2018 Mark Swanson

Alberta’s teaching profession has a new Teaching Quality Standard (TQS). A ministerial order signed by Education Minister David Eggen this past February brings into force a revised TQS effective September, 2019. It will officially replace the original TQS enacted in 1997 and will apply to all certificated teachers in Alberta.

A key premise behind the TQS is that quality teaching and supporting students as individual learners are integral to student learning and success. The new TQS is a culmination of fulsome consultation with stakeholders, including the ATA, over the past several years and reflects the significant shifts in society and educational approaches since 1997.

The following chart provides a high level comparison of the 1997 and 2018 versions of the TQS.


Readers of the new TQS will notice a longer and more thoughtful preamble. The 1997 TQS referenced the School Act that enabled the enactment of the ministerial order bringing it into force at that time and not much more. In comparison, the 2018 TQS prefaces the TQS with seven “whereas” statements. These statements outline foundational assumptions about teachers, students and learning environments. To provide clarity in interpretation and application of the TQS, definitions are now provided for key terms (competency, inclusive learning environment, indicators, local community, school authority, school community, school council, student and teacher).

All teachers are expected to meet the Alberta teaching standard in day-to-day practice. In both the 1997 and 2018 versions the teaching standard is a single sentence.

“Quality teaching occurs when the teacher’s ongoing analysis of the context, and the teacher’s decisions about which pedagogical knowledge and abilities to apply result in optimum learning by students.”

“Quality teaching occurs when the teacher’s ongoing analysis of the context, and the teacher’s decisions about which pedagogical knowledge and abilities to apply, result in optimum learning for all* students.” *emphasis added

At first glance the two standard statements look identical; however, the word all now precedes “students” when referring to optimum learning. A careful read of the full 2018 document reveals the underpinnings of the change. The inclusion of the word all reflects a shift in recognition and value for inclusiveness and diversity in learning environments. This emphasis is seen throughout the document and in particular in the new listing of teaching competencies.

The 1997 TQS was formulated with two sets of Knowledge, Skills and Attributes (KSAs—17 for Interim Certification and 11 for Permanent Certification). In the 2018 document a focus on teaching competencies and development of these competencies has replaced KSAs as requirements to hold and maintain a teaching certificate. The new competencies are as follows:

  1. Fostering effective relationships
  2. Engaging in career-long learning
  3. Demonstrating a professional body of knowledge
  4. Establishing inclusive learning environments
  5. Applying foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit
  6. Adhering to legal frameworks and policies

Each of these six competencies is supported by between three and eight indicators. These indicators assist teachers to more fully understand the particular competency and how it might be demonstrated within a teaching context. Notable is the change from two sets of KSAs to a single set of competencies. The change suggests a shift to viewing teacher development on a continuum with competencies evolving in depth and breadth over time.

Much of what is contained in the competencies and their indicators echoes what is contained in the 1997 KSA descriptors. Arguably, the method of quality teaching has not changed perhaps as much as the teaching context has changed. For example, reflecting the evolution of digital tools since 1997, competency in using technological tools to support teaching and learning is incorporated within Competency 3. Recognition of the need to meet the needs of increasingly diverse student populations is reflected in Competency 4.

Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, competencies 1 and 2 each have an indicator that relates to First Nation, Métis and Inuit perspectives and Competency 5 sets out a requirement for teachers to apply foundational knowledge about Indigenous groups.

The new TQS has necessitated a revisiting of the memoranda of agreements between the minister and Alberta teacher preparation institutions, and this is currently underway. The minister has also initiated a review of the Growth, Supervision and Evaluation Policy, a companion policy document that may require revision to ensure alignment with the new TQS.

For more than two decades the 1997 TQS has guided the development and review of teacher preparation programs in Alberta. It has guided teachers in developing their professional growth plans and guided administrators in their efforts to supervise and evaluate teachers. The profession now has a new standard and looks forward to the guidance it can provide into the future.


Alberta Education Teaching Quality Standard. 2018. https://education.alberta.ca/media/3739620/standardsdoc-tqs-_fa-web-2018-01-17.pdf (accessed August 23, 2018).

Growth, Supervision and Evaluation Policy. 2018.
https://education.alberta.ca/media/1626684/tgse.pdf (accessed August 23, 2018).

1997 Teaching Quality Standard Applicable to the Provision of Basic Education in Alberta. Revised 2013.
https://education.alberta.ca/media/1626523/english-tqs-card-2013_3.pdf (accessed August 23, 2018).

A former dean of the faculty of education at Concordia University in Edmonton and a former Alberta Education official, Dr. Mark Swanson is the coordinator of the Professional Development program area of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

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