Monday, 29 April 2019

Honouring Teacher Agency

Dear Editor,

From a teacher’s perspective, Professor James Ladwig’s article, “Put professional judgement of teachers first or we’ll never get the systemic education improvements we all want. Let’s talk about it” is uplifting and refreshing. Throughout the years, one could argue that the educational system, media and public have slowly disempowered the teaching profession. On numerous occasions, the media has criticised teachers for issues such as, not effectively dealing with bullying or behavioural issues to not providing the correct assessment grade. One could surmise that teachers have very few public advocates. 

Ladwig highlights issues that are impacting on the teaching profession, such as test measurements, market-driven professional development, and pre-packaged curriculum and apps that are promoted as the panacea. Tired of these imposed solutions, teachers want to be viewed and respected as professionals. Empathetically, Ladwig advocates on behalf of teachers by saying that more ‘best practice’ policies from vested interests is not what is needed. While in agreement with Ladwig, teachers may argue that it is not only important, but imperative to promote teachers’ professional judgment with a degree of autonomy. Does our current system balance professional autonomy with accountability?

Convincingly argued by Ladwig, the education systems are 'standardised, stratified, countable'. Unfortunately, these education systems can provide politicians and independent stakeholders the evidence that supports 'their' agenda or needs. Misusing the evidence can have negative consequences on the profession, damaging the reputation of the teaching professionals. I applaud Ladwig for asking, ‘how do we build systems that increase the likelihood that teachers will make intelligent and wise decision in their work?’ This solution-focused question authentically shifts the concept from teacher compliance and accountability to teacher agency, while reinstating 'teacher professionalism' back into the education system. Teacher agency is an essential element when designing new education systems.


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