Reflecting on the Use of the Professional Standards for Accomplished Teaching of Languages and Cultures

By Scarino, Angela | Babel, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Reflecting on the Use of the Professional Standards for Accomplished Teaching of Languages and Cultures


Scarino, Angela, Babel


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The evaluation of the Professional Standards Project (PSP) highlights its success both as a set of resources that provided the catalyst for professional conversations and learning (see Scarino, A., Liddicoat, A.J., Crichton, J., Curnow, T.J., Kohler, M., Loechel, K., Mercurio, N., Morgan, A-M., Papademetre, L., & Scrimgeour, A., 2008) and the National and State processes of facilitation of these conversations and learning, as well as the classroom-based investigations undertaken by teachers. For the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA) the PSP provided the necessary National and State processes for inviting teachers of languages to begin to experiment with using the professional teaching standards that had been developed by them, as the profession, for the profession (DEST, 2005). As such, it became a common activity for all State/Territory MLTAs that allowed for ongoing learning about the actual use of the professional standards.

The papers in this edition of Babel highlight different dimensions of the use of the professional standards in the professional learning of teachers of languages. Kylie Farmer highlights the value of including classroom-based investigations in the process; their value resides, firstly, in giving teachers an active role in experimenting with ideas in their own particular and unique contexts, and, secondly, in inviting teachers to consider and reconsider data or evidence from their own classroom in making a difference to students' learning. Sherryl Saunders describes the value of using the professional standards as a framework for ongoing professional learning in one particular state, namely, Queensland. She highlights the way in which the professional standards capture the complex and varied nature of teachers' work and the way in which this needs to be recognised in any professional learning. Robyn Moloney highlights the value of using the professional standards and, in particular, their language-specific annotations, in the pre-service education of teachers, as a way of bringing intending teachers into the profession. Lesley Harbon describes the value of further work (funded again by the Australian Government), both in continuing the process of introducing teachers of languages to the professional standards, and in elaborating on the assessment dimension of professional learning as the area identified by teachers themselves as the area in which further learning is warranted.

These accounts confirm that the professional standards and the accompanying language-specific annotations are of value to teachers of languages. Furthermore, the PSP has provided a valuable opportunity for teachers to begin to relate them to their own professional practice at both National and at State/ Territory levels, for both in-service and preservice education, in relation to pedagogy and, in the next phase, in relation to assessment. These accounts, however, do not necessarily do justice to capturing the complexity of the process of teacher learning. This is particularly the case when the goal is to effect change in teacher practices that will strengthen student learning. The complexity is multidimentional and relates to

* professional conversations as teachers compare practices with each other and reference these experiences to developments in the field

* the actual work of teaching itself (as language teachers or language teacher educators)

* the complexity of effecting change and gathering evidence of change in practices and change in student learning.

This relationship between learning, change in teachers and learners, and actual evidence of this change is never linear and neat.

As one who has been and continues to be intimately involved in the development of the professional standards themselves (DEST, 2005) and the Professional Standards Project (Scarino et al., 2008) and allied projects including the Intercultural Language Teaching and Learning in Practice (ILTLP) Project (Scarino, A.

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