The Teacher as Professional Learner: What the National Board Standards Say

By Hamilton, Kristin | Techniques, November-December 2015 | Go to article overview

The Teacher as Professional Learner: What the National Board Standards Say


Hamilton, Kristin, Techniques


COMMIT to students and their learning

KNOW what to teach and how to teach it

MONITOR and manage student learning

THINK systematically and learn from experience

BE a member of a learning community

Teachers have to learn how to learn in their field. In this respect, a teacher is like any other professional. In fact, one of the characteristics of a profession is that it develops and maintains a body of knowledge that all its members ascribe and contribute to. It is a living body of knowledge, constantly evolving, like the knowledge of its individual members.

Many resources document the characteristics of good professional development for teachers. We know, for example, that duration of the sessions or the program matters, and learning opportunities must be active and centered on students (Desimone, 2011). However, far fewer professional development resources unpack the characteristics of an effective, accomplished professional learner.

What do career and technical education (CTE) teachers have to learn and how do they go about learning it? How do they identify new areas of growth, and how do they push themselves even further in their areas of strength? How do they reflect upon their students' learning and industry trends and use that information to improve their practice? How can a beginning teacher identify and hone the knowledge and skills that characterize accomplished practice? As medicine would look to its doctors or the law to its lawyers, we should look to accomplished teachers to answer these questions. We should look to you.

By CTE Teachers, for CTE Teachers

Since 1989, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (National Board) has maintained high and rigorous standards and provided a voluntary system that certifies when teachers meet the advanced standards of their certificate area. Twenty-five certificate areas, including CTE, are based on the Five Core Propositions that state what teachers should know and be able to do. Teachers author the standards, score the assessments and make up a majority of the Board of Directors. Board certification is by teachers, for teachers.

Similar to medicine's Hippocratic Oath, the Five Core Propositions underscore the accomplished teacher's commitment to advancing student learning. The Five Core

Propositions are:

* Proposition 1: Teachers are committed to students and their learning.

* Proposition 2: Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.

* Proposition 3: Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.

* Proposition 4: Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.

* Proposition 5: Teachers are members of learning communities.

The newly released second edition of the Career and Technical Education Standards (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards [NBPTS], 2015) describes what accomplished CTE teachers know and do as they bring the Five Core Propositions to life (sidebar at right). Far from being prescriptive, the document is descriptive and requires teachers to be responsive to their particular contexts, specialty areas and students. There is no one right way to teach to meet the standards and achieve board certification.

Before I discuss what the standards say about accomplished professional learners, it is worth describing the standards writing process--for that says something about who we are as teachers and as a profession.

A Committee of Your Peers

Another hallmark of a profession is that its members set the standards of practice for entry and advancement. While teaching has a long way to go before teacher expertise is systematically recognized as authoritative, National Board Standards are a critical instance of what it looks like for teachers to have the "power of the pen. …

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