Improving teaching: some lessons for the UK from Australia

Whitty, G and Gore, J (2017) Improving teaching: some lessons for the UK from Australia. In: Professorial Lecture Series 2016-17, 17 May 2017, Bath Spa University, Bath, UK.


In recent decades, the dominant mantra adopted by governments around the world has been that improving schooling depends on getting and keeping good teachers. This has pointed to a need to raise the quality of entrants to the teaching profession, change the nature of teacher education programmes, and enhance the effectiveness of continuing professional development. However, each of these goals raises a host of political and practical challenges, many of which have received inadequate critical attention. In this lecture, we focus on the conventional wisdom surrounding efforts to improve teaching. In teacher education, for example, energy has gone into recruiting better qualified students to teacher education courses, increasing the length of teacher preparation programmes, making courses more academically rigorous, incorporating teacher training colleges into universities, and enhancing government and/or professional regulation of the teacher education system. In teacher development, different camps argue for increasing regulation and accountability on the one hand and greater autonomy and school-based collaboration on the other. In many parts of the world, teachers’ professional lives are increasingly shaped by teacher standards and performance assessments. We discuss why regulation and accountability have taken such hold in the teaching profession, and interrogate the (often-erroneous) assumptions that have shaped government policy, especially in England and Australia. Going beyond critique, we also provide a series of provocations for policy makers who seek genuine improvement in teaching. These insights are grounded in recent research on teacher development conducted in Australia that has produced measurable impact on the quality of teaching while simultaneously enhancing teachers’ morale and confidence. Preliminary data also suggest important positive impacts on pupils’ engagement and learning. We argue that widely sought-after improvements in teaching will remain elusive unless policy settings are altered in ways that afford teachers more respect, trust, and professional support. Improving teaching in order to improve pupils’ learning depends, in large part, on teachers’ confidence in themselves and each other and not only on public confidence (or lack thereof) in teachers, borne of greater accountability.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Divisions: School of Education
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2017 15:43
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:46
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