Have a look at AITSL’s Classroom Practice Continuum. There are six levels of teaching from graduate to lead, each thoroughly described. The continuum is supposed to indicate what we should see from a relative rookie (graduate) to a highly experienced, effective teacher (lead). The idea is that a teacher should wish to move up the levels to become a ‘better’ teacher.
AITSL designed this continuum so that teachers have a framework on which to judge the quality of each other’s teaching. In doing this, AITSL has taken it upon themselves to decide and dictate what good teaching looks like. Most troubling is they have decided that good teaching encourages hyper-individualism whereby learning is almost completely personalised, accommodating for the unique and special differences of the individual child. It is differentiation in the extreme, the earmark of the Level 6 lead teacher:
“The teacher supports students to use evidence, including prior learning experiences, in personalising and revising their learning goals.”
“They negotiate assessment strategies with students, ensuring these are aligned with learning goals.”
“The teacher involves students in adapting the learning space to support everyone’s learning.”
“The teacher facilitates processes for the students to select activities based on the agreed learning goals.”
This has a clear bias towards hyperindividualism, a constructivist philosophy not shared by all and certainly not backed by good evidence. We so want to believe each individual child is unique and special (and in many ways, they are), but when it comes to learning, students are much more alike than they are different and tend to need to learn the same things. Practicality aside, I know of no robust body of evidence that suggests differentiation to the extreme of personalising learning to each child’s needs leads to better outcomes.
AITSL has taken it upon themselves to determine what good teaching is, but it seems more like an ideological preference than anything else. To give one great example, systematic phonics instruction, long known to be characteristic of good teaching in the early years, does not lend itself to such hyperindividualism – the clue is in the word systematic.
Defining and judging good classroom practice is pretty much impossible. Not only is it unethical, but it has also been proven unreliable. English teachers will be quick to tell you how awful and utterly pointless judging classroom practice is. School leaders would once (and often still do) enter your room with a continuum very similar to AITSL’s and judge your teaching as outstanding, good, requires improvement (once satisfactory) or inadequate. Ofsted did this too.
As you can imagine, many good teachers with solid student results would be branded inadequate for silly reasons like talking too much or not showing progress in 20 minutes (whatever that means). People lost jobs because of it; careers even. If a leader were to use AITSL’s continuum, one could be considered a rookie if they are not personalising learning goals or negotiating assessment strategies, which may not be appropriate at the time – or ever. Such a leader would be making the same mistakes made in the UK.
English obsession with grading classroom practice all came crashing down when good people started to research its efficacy. To think you can judge the quality of teaching by watching someone teach for 30 mins is absurd. When your conceptualisation of what good teaching looks like is based on ideological preferences rather than good evidence, then it becomes quite unethical.
The only thing you may be able to grasp from classroom observation is whether or not the class is sufficiently orderly and well behaved, which should be – but often is not – the responsibility of school leaders. If you wish to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher, just go and have a look at student results. Even then, proceed with caution, leadership is probably impacting the results too. Grading classroom practice is a deep, dark rabbit hole. I suggest learning from the mistakes of others, taking heed of the research and avoiding the practice entirely. Teachers are professionals, they can work towards improving student outcomes together without judging each other.