Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
 
COLLEGE TEACHING: A CHANGING PROFESSION


Speaker's notes


Notes for an address by Céline Saint-Pierre, President, Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, upon launching the brief at Cégep de Sainte-Foy on December 4, 1997

 

The Council has been looking at different aspects of the teaching profession for roughly fifteen years. In its 1990-1991 annual report devoted to the teaching profession at all levels of education, the Council developed a team approach to teaching practice where teaching is no longer viewed as the act of an individual but rather as the act of a member of a teaching team—an act with an institutional as well as a public-service dimension.

In the annual report of the following year (1991-1992), which dealt with the management of educational activity, the Council proposed a new, friendlier and less hierarchical model that calls on the skills and responsibilities of all players—a model better suited to a team approach to teaching practice.

In a 1995 brief on conditions for success at the college level (based primarily on input from students), the Council looked at student expectations of their teachers. The Council concluded that the student-teacher relationship is the fundamental condition, the cornerstone of student success. During the consultations, the students expressed a need for relationships with teachers who feel involved in what is happening at the college and who, in their courses, go beyond the cognitive dimension of learning and are concerned about their students as people. The students also expressed a desire to know their teachers as people and an appreciation of their ability to make connections between ideas, between theory and practice, and between the academic world and the world outside the school walls. The Council drew several messages from these student consultations, including one concerning the teaching qualifications of the teaching staff and another about their institutional commitment.

On the basis of the results of its earlier work and aware of the major changes taking place in our colleges and throughout the education system, the Council asked its College Education Commission to take a closer look at team-teaching approaches at the college level that could be put into practice in the pre-university as well the technical path.

The Commission accordingly held a series of consultations, primarily with teachers but also with college education analysts, administrators and union representatives. Panel discussions were held, as well as workshops at a symposium organized by the AQPC (Association québécoise de pédagogie collégiale) and interviews with more than 175 teachers from 24 different colleges, including Cégép de Sainte-Foy, where we are today. On the basis of these, the Commission drew up a draft brief—which was submitted to the Council for approval at its meeting of September 1997.

The Council hopes this brief can help to promote the renewal of teaching practice, which already enjoys the support of many of the players concerned and to which considerable energy has already been devoted. The Council has taken the time for reflection and analysis required to thoroughly grasp the demands of the practice of teaching at the college level. The Council believes that changes in the practice of teaching are required at all levels to meet the challenges facing today’s schools.

The Council hopes, through this brief, to lend its support to the players in the college system, many of whom are already very much engaged in major changes and are truly an inspiration for everyone working in higher education.

The Council has identified what it believes are the main parameters of a renewed teaching practice. Allow me to list them here as they indicate the thrust of our recommendations:

  1. A closer connection between teaching and learning processes
  2. A broadening of the frame of reference of teaching practice and its team dimension
  3. A real taking in hand of professional development by teaching staff

All of this entails a re-examination of the role of teachers in the classroom, their place and duties within the institution and their responsibilities regarding professional development.

To support the development of professional practice as envisaged by the Council and in light of its understanding of current practice in the college system, the Council has identified four areas of focus, each addressed in a separate chapter of the brief.

  1. Renewal of department practices
  2. Evaluation of teaching practices
  3. Teachers’ qualifications
  4. Recognition of diversity in teaching practice

A series of recommendations are made for each of these areas. I do not intend to present them all today, but I would like to share some of them with you.

1. Renewal of department practices

One of the major challenges for the years ahead is the development, notably within the departments, of more accountable and stimulating professional development practices. It is accordingly essential to promote the empowerment of the department and its members. This must, however, be accompanied by institutional commitment on the part of the entire teaching faculty. The Council does not believe that empowering the departments entails structural change; it is more a question of a change in perspective, of contributing to the implementation of teacher training and professional development programs and to a renewal of relations among the players. Three approaches are suggested to achieve this goal: responsible participation of all teachers in department life; teacher accountability for their activities; and reassertion and support of department coordination.

The Council believes that openness to local negotiation of certain conditions governing work organization is a key condition to the success of these measures. The Council would therefore like the colleges to have more leeway to take into account differences in local conditions.

2. Evaluation of teaching practices

The Council believes that the evaluation of teaching practices are essential for the professional development of teachers and would like to promote their use. Considerable progress has been made in learning and program evaluation, but much remains to be done in the area of teaching evaluation. The Council believes that openness to a more team-based approach to teaching could help foster development of an "evaluation culture"—an essential condition for development of a true team teaching approach and renewed appreciation of the work of teachers. Fairness must be a key goal in making evaluations. This means, among other things, that a diversity in types of evaluation and professional support must be conditions for introducing a truly formative evaluation that can lead to teacher development.

3. Teachers’ qualifications

The Council sees a link between teacher training and the improvement of instruction. Qualification specifically for the practice of teaching could promote more effective instruction better adapted to student needs, especially at a time when teaching is becoming a more and more demanding profession and student populations are becoming more heterogeneous.

The Council believes that teacher development programs should maintain the current emphasis on subject-matter training but should also include training in educational psychology, teaching methods, interdisciplinary education, basic research methods and educational applications of new technologies.

Renewal of the teaching force has already begun. The Council encourages colleges to develop programs to integrate new teachers and to look at ways of improving their employment status. Too many teachers still have precarious status, and we feel it is important to point out the harmful effects of this at a time when we are demanding a greater commitment to the institution from the entire staff.

4. Recognition of diversity in teaching practice

Development of a team approach to teaching demands greater recognition of the diversity of teaching practices together with a search for a professional identity that members of the teaching staff can share.

There are four key issues:

  • Reorientation of teacher autonomy
  • Recognition of all work components
  • A need to put differences into perspective
  • Job mobility

Though the Council does not want to restrict teachers to single-method instruction, it does, nonetheless, want all teachers to assume their duties as teachers, using different approaches if they wish and taking into account the similarities and differences between the two main paths of the college system. The Council considers that, in addition to teaching per se, all teachers should be prepared to assume individual or collective responsibility, over the course of their career and in one capacity or another, for department functions, professional development, research and community service.

To this end, the Council proposes that professional development be treated as a real and essential component of teaching. It is thus important to create an environment that can stimulate in all teachers a desire to take part in professional development activities. There are, of course, formal training activities such as Performa; but there are also other ways of stimulating professional development—for example, by setting up forums for the exchange of ideas between teachers in different institutions where teachers can discuss teaching practices and learn from one another’s experience.

To support this approach, the Council has asked its College Education Commission to look at the training of college teachers in its next brief.

In closing, I would like to thank the members of the College Education Commission and its President, Nicole Boutin. I would also like to thank everyone who worked so hard on a volunteer basis to prepare this brief. I thank as well Renée Carpentier, Commission Coordinator and full-time Council staff member, for the support she provided the volunteers and the quality and rigour of her research, conducted with the help of Claudine Audet and Hélène Pinard, Council Research Officers, and Monique Ouellette and Réginald Grégoire.

Finally, I would like to thank Cégep de Ste-Foy for welcoming us here today to launch the brief. I hope everyone of you here today will read the brief in its entirety and share it with your friends and colleagues.

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