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The Arizona K12 Centre (2012, p. 5) states that, “teachers face an ever-changing population of students that represent a wide range of socio-economic, academic, and linguistic diversity. This challenges teachers to consistently work to improve their teaching practice.” Writing on the crucial need for reflective teaching practice, the Arizona K12 Centre further asserts that, “the most important forms of professional learning occur in daily interactions among teachers, in which they assist one another in improving lessons, deepening understanding of the content they teach, analyzing student work, examining various types of data on student performance, and solving the myriad of problems they face each day.”
The Centre recognized the fact that the stages of teacher development are a complex and sophisticated phenomenon. Therefore, it analysed what it termed as the “degrees of sophistication” defined as “the stages of teacher development that represent what a teacher knows, values, or is able to do at various points along a developmental continuum of a teacher‟s career.”
It listed those stages of teacher development or degrees of sophistication as follows:
(i) Developing – A stage of development in which a teacher still relies on more experienced colleagues for support. A developing teacher is moving toward becoming more self-directed and independent in his or her practice.
(ii) Applying – A stage of development in which a teacher is able to teach independently. An applying teacher internalizes and easily applies what he or she has learned about teaching.
(iii) Integrating – A stage of development in which a teacher is fully skilled, confident, and able to integrate complex elements of instruction, curriculum, and professional development into that practice. An integrating teacher moves beyond the classroom in his or her teaching by engaging in collegial relationships and professional growth activities, and is often a leader among peers.
(iv) Innovating – A stage of development in which a teacher consistently innovates and creates in all areas of teaching and professional development. An innovating teacher is a leader in the school, district, and local community, that contributes to the broader education community, often through staff development, classroom-based research, articles, and professional journals.
This view lends credence to the fact that all teachers are not equal in academic credentials, competences and experience. Therefore, it presupposes that teachers who differ in these respects will write professional qualifying tests that are significantly different in depth. In Nigeria, several existing benchmarks lend credence to the fact that academic qualification is one of the most important yardsticks for categorizing teachers.
For instance, the National Policy on Education (2008) states that holders of the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) are prepared basically to teach at the primary and junior secondary school levels while holders of bachelor‟s degree in Education are prepared to teach at the secondary school level. At the tertiary level, the various academic and staffing benchmarks produced by the National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and the National Commission for the Colleges of Education (NCCE) which are agencies supervising university, polytechnic and colleges of education programme, respectively, require basically that only holders of Masters degree should teach at that level.
Also, it has become a universal principle that only holders of Doctorate degree and who are teaching in the universities could be promoted to the rank of professors. These academic and administrative norms in Nigeria are in line with the belief that teachers can be graded according to their academic qualifications and experiences.
It was based on these and other realities that TRCN (2005) classified teachers into four, namely:
(i) Category A – Teachers with Doctorate Degree in Education or PhD in other fields plus a teaching qualification such as the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE), Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), Professional Diploma in Education (PDE) or Post Doctoral Diploma in Education (PDDE).
(ii) Category B – Teachers with Masters Degree in Education or Master Degree in other field plus PGDE, PDE or PDDE.
(iii) Category C – Teachers with Bachelors Degree in Education or Bachelor Degree/Higher National Diploma in other fields plus PGDE, PDE or PDDE.
(iv) Category D – Teachers with Nigeria Certificate in Education or Year Diploma in Education Programme approved by TRCN for Colleges of Arabic and Islamic Studies or Christian Theological Colleges.
Accordingly, the Professional Standards for Nigerian Teachers (TRCN, 2011) and the PQE national benchmarks are organized along these categorisations such that, while all teachers are expected to exhibit competences for same pedagogical themes, however, the depth and variety of expected competences vary according to the categories or academic qualifications and levels of experience of the teachers.
Learning Forward (2013) an international association of learning educators based in the USA (formerly called the National Staff Development Council) while stressing the need for Standards for Professional Learning equally recapitulates professional learning as something that evolves and not of equal status for every teacher. It gives the basis for this evolution, stating that “professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students” are identified by the following characteristics:
(i) Learning communities – The professional learning occurs within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment.
(ii) Leadership – The professional learning requires skillful leaders who develop capacity, advocate, and create support systems for professional learning.
(iii) Resources – The professional learning requires prioritizing, monitoring, and coordinating resources for educator learning.
(iv) Data – The professional learning uses a variety of sources and types of student, educator, and system data to plan, assess, and evaluate professional learning.
(v) Learning designs – The professional learning integrates theories, research, and models of human learning to achieve its intended outcomes.(vi) Implementation – The professional learning applies research on change and sustains support for implementation of professional learning for long-term change.
(vii) Outcome – The professional learning aligns its outcomes with educator performance and student curriculum standards.
Adding his voice on the need for standards in professional learning, Mizell (2013), a Fellow of Learning Forward, asserts that “leadership standard calls for evidence of effectiveness.” He therefore stated that professional learning standards call for “creating a new system of professional learning built on the standards and the research that supports them.”