I spoke this morning in Sydney at the ANZSOG schools conference*, alongside Bill Louden (Edith Cowan Uni) and Ken Rowe (ACER). By the end, we were in furious agreement about the importance of teacher quality in improving educational outcomes. Except it had become clear that we meant different things by the term. Both of them place primary emphasis on pedagogy – in other words, quality teaching. My emphasis in on getting better teachers in the classroom. Near the end, I argued that this was more important, on the basis that the variance between teachers is bigger than the variance within the same teacher from year to year.
Of course, my approach is also a bit more depressing than theirs. If the solution to teacher quality lies in improving teaching techniques, then we can retrain the existing workforce. If instead the solution lies in changing who goes into the classroom, reforms start looking rather more radical. But the whole discussion did make me realise that almost every government report on teacher quality in Australia is really about quality teaching.
* Incidentally, I spoke to a few people about Brendan Nelson’s no-show yesterday, and there seemed to be a reasonable consensus (including from people who weren’t very partial to him) that he wasn’t merely being a chicken, as the anti-VSU protesters had completely taken over the Merewether building