Hargreaves asks do we want our teachers to be maestros or enthusiasts?
On Friday 21 September, educational expert and author, Professor Andy Hargreaves delivered the 2012 Catholic Education Ann D Clark Lecture to over 300 educators on education leadership; what works in school improvement; investing in the teaching profession; and building teacher capacity to improve learning outcomes for students.
Professor Andy Hargreaves, who is the Thomas More Brennan Chair at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Educational Change and visiting professor at the Institute of Education in London, said teaching is a profession that requires collaboration, support and investment in the professional capital of teachers.
‘Professional capital is based on the fundamental idea of capital - something that adds to net worth. If you want to get a return, you have to make an investment,’ said Professor Hargreaves. ‘In the teaching profession, professional capital is built on the premise there is a return from teaching; but the most important return, even economically, is the return of the next generation in the skills and qualities of the young people who come out of our classrooms; not just technical skills, but who they are as people as well.’
‘If you invest in this to get quality learning, you need quality teaching and quality teachers, who understand that teaching is technically difficult,’ he said.
In speaking about the importance of investing in the professional learning of teachers, he pinpointed mid-career teachers (8-20 years experience) who he said are at the ‘peak’ of their career, citing Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success, which asserts that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.
‘Teachers are often at their peak around eight years into the job, this is when they are almost as committed as the first one to three years and the most capable of all the groups,’ Professor Hargreaves said. ‘How many hours in teaching is eight years? It is about 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours is the number of hours, if you are doing something complicated to become a true master of it. It takes…lots of practice, not repetition, but practice to stretch and move it into the brain. Whether you are a musician, a cook, a carpenter, a teacher, a doctor - the answer is, if it is complicated… it will take you about eight years.’
Professor Hargreaves said this is huge in terms of its implications for teaching programs, training and retention rates so that investment in teachers isn’t ‘squandered’ before they hit their stride.
‘What do we want our teachers to be - enthusiastic but not brilliant, or maestros of their craft?’ he asked.
‘So all the work that you’re doing as a school, as a diocese and as a country to stretch those people in mid-career is about keeping them engaged,’ Professor Hargreaves said. ‘And if you do that well, when you get to the end of the career, they’ll still be being renewed, and not be disenchanted.’
Professor Hargreaves said there is a disparity between what people think teachers do and their actual work and part of the challenge of improving teaching quality is overcoming political and media stereotypes of the profession.
‘Entry into teaching needs to be more competitive,’ he said. ‘The profession needs to be sufficiently rewarded; it has to be rigorously prepared so people see it akin to medicine and law before you have the license to take up the care of other human beings; it needs high status, symbolism and respect, communicated from the top.’
He also identified three components of professional capital that have an impact on the learning and teaching in schools – human (individual capacity), decisional (judgment/self reflection) and social (collective capacity) capital. Looking at the practices of the top performing education systems in the world, Professor Hargreaves highlighted how these systems are committed to developing these three components in their teachers.
‘Singapore, the highest performing country in the world in PISA tests (Programme for International Student Assessment) develops human capital by paying beginning teachers the same salary as engineers so they don’t lose their best scientists to engineering,’ Professor Hargreaves said. ‘They develop the decisional capital of its teachers by having ultimate career tracks and pathways to be master teachers and curriculum leaders; and they develop social capital by constantly talking and collaborating.’
Drawing on the Jesuit pedagogy of Boston College, Professor Hargreaves said he ultimately wanted teachers to experience joy in their profession.
‘Do you have a passion for something? Are you good at it or can you become good at it with practice? Does it serve a compelling human need? If your answer to these three questions is yes, you will experience absolute joy,’ he said. ‘That is what I want teachers to experience when they are working with their students. This is what teaching is about and why we have to invest in it for future generations in Australia and around the world.’
Executive director of schools, Greg Whitby presented the Ann D Clark medallion to Professor Hargreaves at the end of lecture.
Now in its 12th year, the Ann D Clark lecture is an annual event held to honour the memory of the founding executive director of schools in the Parramatta diocese, Ann D Clark. Past speakers have included Professor Stephen Dinham, Dr Peter Hill, Professor John Hattie, Professor Vivianne Robinson, Professor Michael Fullan and Patrick Dodson.
You can listen to the podcast of the 2012 Ann D Clark lecture here.
« Return to news list