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Wooltorton, S. and Marinova, D. (Eds) Sharing wisdom for our future.

Environmental education in action: Proceedings of the 2006 Conference of the Australian Association of Environmental Education

Chapter 15 Showcasing Excellence: Professional Teacher Standards and Learning in Environmental Education Amy Cutter-Mackenzie and Barbara Clarke Monash University Phil Smith Australian Association for Environmental Education Jeff Su Gould Group 1. Introduction Since the 1990s professional teaching associations have commenced the process of developing teacher and/or teaching standards1 and associated professional learning and assessment models in the key discipline areas. The intent of this approach is to capture the depth and range of accomplished educators’ teaching. Despite the increasing work on teacher standards in Australia, currently there are no professional teacher standards in environmental education (Cutter-Mackenzie, 2005). Up until the recent implementation of the sustainable schools initiative there was little or no recognition of environmental education practice in Australia. Through an accreditation process, the programme recognises schools as ‘sustainable schools’. However, such recognition focuses upon environmental management, rather than students’ or teachers’ ‘understanding of, and concern for, stewardship of the natural environment, and the knowledge and skills to contribute to sustainable development’ (Ministerial Council on Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs, 1999). To these ends, this paper is about the recent, yet early, developments (thinking) in environmental education concerning the advance of professional teaching standards and learning in Australia. More specifically, the paper is based upon a proposed project being driven by Monash University, the Australian Association for Environmental Education and the Gould Group to develop and implement appropriate professional teacher standards and professional learning models with and for teachers. 2. Background Since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, there has been strong support “for the development of environmental education as one of the most critical elements of an all-out attack on the world’s environmental crisis” (UNESCO-UNEP, 1976:2). As stated in the National Action Plan (Environmental Education for a Sustainable Future), “environmental education
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Many terms are used in the literature and policy documentation concerning standards, including professional teacher standards and teaching standards. These terms hold different meanings. According Sachs (2005: .2), professional teacher standards are concerned with measuring teacher performance, while teaching standards are about improving teaching. For the purposes of this paper and the larger project, we utilise the term ‘professional teacher standards’ to encapsulate both definitions. 131

These three projects (conducted in accordance with requirements set out for collaborative research grants under the Australian Research Council’s Strategic Partnerships with Industry: Research and Training scheme .Wooltorton. Tilbury (1992. Cutter-Mackenzie and Smith (2003) identified that in-service professional learning in environmental education had a significantly greater influence on teachers’ environmental education practices than pre-service teacher education preparation in the area. Linke. national and state level with respect to environmental education policy development (Curriculum Corporation for Environment Australia. there is scant evidence to suggest that teachers are meeting the goals set out in the various international.9% of a sample of primary school teachers had undertaken pre-service training in environmental education with 6. Spork. and formal and informal processes leading to changed behaviour in support of an ecologically sustainable environment” (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage. 1994) and Spork (1992). Although not all states and territories have fully developed policies and dedicated environmental education curriculum documents. most notably the National Board for Professional 132 .2001 Commonwealth-funded collaborative research was undertaken by the national Mathematics. 2002. (Eds) Sharing wisdom for our future. 1977. UNESCO. 1992). A Move to Standards In supporting teachers’ professional development and learning. and Marinova. national and state policy documents (see A. In the case of Queensland Australia. Teachers are seen as key multipliers who can help society learn from past actions. UNESCO-UNEP. 2000. A. 1995). 2003). environmental education is incorporated in other broader documents such as the Essential Learning Standards curriculum framework documents being implemented in Tasmania and Victoria. and Walker. this problem has been largely associated with the lack of environmental education incorporated into and offered in pre-service and in-service teacher education programmes. Walker. 1980. Environmental education in action: Proceedings of the 2006 Conference of the Australian Association of Environmental Education is defined in its broadest sense to encompass raising awareness. Robottom. 2005: 3). The focus was on the formulation of subject-specific professional standards for Australian teachers. S. Cutter-Mackenzie and Smith (2003) found similar results in a statewide study of primary school teachers in 2002 despite increased rhetoric on the importance of environmental education in teacher education. According to Cutter-Mackenzie and Smith (2003). values. question current relationships with the environment and consider actions towards a sustainable future. 2003. 3. Cutter-Mackenzie and Tilbury.SPIRT) have proved to be of national significance. Cutter-Mackenzie and Smith. attracting attention in a number of forums. 2004. This work parallels similar initiatives in other countries. knowledge and skills. Malone. 1992. from 1999 . Substantial progress has been made at the international.6% having received later inservice training. However. Many authoritative international documents confirm the important role that teachers play in bringing about the social change needed to address environment and sustainable development concerns (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage. D. Spork (1992) found that in 1990 only 4. Of particular importance. Science and English/Literacy subject associations in partnership with academics in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. 1990. 2005. acquiring new perspectives. Cutter-Mackenzie and Smith’s (2003) research revealed that experienced teachers were more receptive to professional development and learning in environmental education than novice teachers because novice teachers are focused on ‘surviving’.

1998). the competencies were too broad to implement and/or impact environmental education practices in primary and secondary schools (Cutter and Smith. 2005). The first was that it would develop the profession through the potential to: improve the status of teachers. D. The second argument relates to the individual perspective and teacher professional learning. quite distinct from approaches focusing on “implementation of new policies”. While some significant claims have been made about the power of standards and their assessment. build a professional language to support reflection and discussion. amplifying the importance of teachers’ professional knowledge. While the initiative was well received by environmental educators.Wooltorton. teachers would be able to design their own professional development to attain them. In order to support the shift from policy to practice in environmental education. (Eds) Sharing wisdom for our future. there is growing evidence of the value of standards for teacher professional learning. Other than general international. Cutter-Mackenzie and Smith. and provide a “benchmark” for which to aspire. national and state environmental education statements and policies. Daniels. Spork. Morony (1999) regarded this kind of arrangement of professional development to be an essential characteristic of true “professional practice”. Zemelman. Monash staff has just completed a linkage project that explores portfolio development using the AAMT standards and the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE) standards and there is currently a Linkage project to develop standards in History education. Professional standards can help develop individual professionals through: providing a “road map” to identify and plan personal/team professional development needs. 2001a. S. and endorsing and valuing the work of accomplished teachers of mathematics. 1992). Despite the increasing work on teacher standards in Australia. 1993). and Marinova. and Hyde. 2001b. which has developed a powerful model of subject-specific professional standards and assessments for the purposes of certifying ‘accomplished’ teachers in a range of subject areas (Ingvarson. Research into the development and use of teacher standards continues to attract national funding. providing a framework to evaluate practice. 2005). There were two aspects that motivated the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT) involvement in the process of developing standards for teachers of mathematics and an associated assessment process (Clarke. in collaboration with the Australian Association for Environmental Education 133 . Ingvarson (1998) claimed that in identifying standards of excellence. we propose. 1998. Environmental education in action: Proceedings of the 2006 Conference of the Australian Association of Environmental Education Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in the United States. only one policy document has been produced which contains environmental education standards (termed competencies) for Australian (specifically Queensland) teachers (Board of Teacher Registration. articulate what it means to be an excellent teacher of mathematics. currently there are no teacher standards in environmental education (A. increase knowledge of the work teachers do.

environmental education professional teacher standards for accomplished primary and secondary school teachers across Australia. and Marinova. Two. two pilot Sustainable Schools Programs were piloted in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria with funding support from state and commonwealth departments and. In the case of Australia. the programme recognises schools as ‘sustainable schools’. in Victoria. (Eds) Sharing wisdom for our future.Wooltorton. 134 . Through an accreditation process. This will be leveraged off best practice environmental education schools. environmental. UNESCO-UNEP. Randers. in extensive consultation with the profession of teachers and environmental educators. World Commission On the Environment Development. to develop. and promoted moves to more sustainable patterns of development. S. Environmental education in action: Proceedings of the 2006 Conference of the Australian Association of Environmental Education and the Gould Group. education departments have been slow to take-up environmental education and. such recognition focuses upon environmental management. to develop. through the Gould Group. D. report on and make accessible professional learning profiles based on these standards for accomplished Australian teachers. Since the implementation of the pilot program. consequently. an environmentally sustainable Australia has been identified as a priority by government and key stakeholders. 1992. There are substantial concerns among scientific experts that the limits of the earth’s capacity to provide for human existence are within sight (see Meadows. These concerns have led nation-states to re-examine prevailing cultural norms about the nature of the earth as an infinite resource for human exploitation. 2005. to develop appropriate assessment and accreditation procedures for accomplished teachers in environmental education. including sustainable schools1. social and technological developments instigated by human beings have changed the biosphere. implement. implement it into schools. 2. Over the past four decades there has been a growing understanding that the continued economic. Three. 1990). It will ultimately inform better practice in environmental education and thereby work towards building a sustainable Australia. to develop appropriate teacher standards and a linked professional learning and assessment model with and for the profession of teachers. and 3. environmental education has been identified at the international and national policy level as an important change agent for sustainable development. national and state education policy and curriculum documents. The proposed research has three main aims: 1. The focus upon environmental education has resulted in efforts being made over the past three decades to incorporate environmental education into international. and Behrens. Millennium EcoSystem Assessment Board. Meadows. The significance and innovativeness of this project are shown in four distinct areas. the Department of Environment and Heritage have implemented the National Sustainable Schools Initiative. 1 From 2002 to 2004. Why Standards in Environmental Education? This is a highly significant and innovative project for environmental education. 1972. up until the recent implementation of the sustainable schools initiative there was little or no recognition of environmental education practice in Australia. evaluate. However. One. 4.

For example.Wooltorton. Concluding Comments In order to support the shift from policy to practice in environmental education in Australia. and the knowledge and skills to contribute to sustainable development” (Ministerial Council on Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs. AAMT worked with teachers in developing portfolio assessment items which met the associated teacher standards developed by and with the profession. Indeed. While there is certainly a growing body of research about this. improve and/or continue their environmental education practices. what might teacher excellence in environmental education look like? By way of doing this in mathematics. Illustrated in Table 2. the wisdom we seek is from the Australian primary and secondary teaching profession itself. Excellence in Environmental Education Developing accomplished teacher standards in environmental education is a complicated task. as is measuring excellence in environmental education. at an accomplished level. The development and recognition of excellent teachers should be one of the urgent priorities for schools. (Eds) Sharing wisdom for our future. 6. Recognising teachers’ excellence in 135 . and one would expect that employer groups and educational systems that provide funding for professional learning would be equally interested and assisted by consensus views on excellence. to develop and implement professional teacher standards and learning models in environmental education. and the most appropriate professional learning towards that excellence is that which would occur within a framework of clear and public professional teacher standards. There has been no previous attempt to research and develop professional standards and learning models for teaching environmental education in this country. In order to demonstrate ‘standards in practice’. and concern for. such as the sustainable schools initiative. Equally those individuals. There has been no previous attempt to research and develop professional standards and learning models for teaching environmental education in Australia. and Marinova. teachers were asked to prepare accounts showcasing their accomplishment of a particular standard. The intention of this project is to leverage off best practice environmental education programmes. stewardship of the natural environment. D. this research would have both national and international significance. The problem is that we have relatively few consensual ideas in this country about high levels of environmental education teaching competence. recognising teachers’ excellence in environmental education will provide an incentive for both teachers and schools alike to initiate. and even fewer about how to certify them. Four. Table 1 illustrates possible portfolio items. professional bodies such as the Australian Association for Environmental Education and the Gould Group that provide professional learning for teachers would value having access to the outcomes of such a project as this. 1999). This would not just apply to schools either. S. 5. the same framework is presented applying the same core items. we propose to develop and implement appropriate teacher standards and professional learning models with and for teachers. This framework could equally be applied to environmental education. Environmental education in action: Proceedings of the 2006 Conference of the Australian Association of Environmental Education rather than students’ or teachers’ “understanding of. teachers’ groups.

. Professional Journey – A detailed reflective account of the teacher’s professional development over time. implementation and assessment of an extended teaching sequence with a class of students. Professional Journey – A detailed reflective account of the teacher’s professional development over time. The development and recognition of excellent teachers should be one of the pressing priorities for schools. Table 1: Standards for Excellence in teaching mathematics in Australian schools (Doecke.standards of professional teaching practice is possible.. Option Items Unit of Work Student Work Samples Instructions Materials Testimonials Publications Video Classroom Story Teaching Materials Professional Attributes Professional Practice Table 2: Standards for Excellence in teaching environmental education in Australian schools Domains Professional Knowledge Core Item Case Study – A detailed account of two children’s progress in environmental education over an extended period of time. Teaching and Learning Sequence – A detailed account of the development. and the most appropriate professional learning towards that excellence is that which would occur within a framework of clear and public professional teacher standards. S. (Eds) Sharing wisdom for our future. unavoidable and absolutely necessary (1998: 16). This reflects the growing 136 .Wooltorton. D. Education and Training References Committee released a report on an inquiry into the status of teaching (A Class Act). Option Items Unit of Work Student Work Samples Instructions Materials Testimonials Publications Video Classroom Story Teaching Materials Professional Attributes Professional Practice In 1998 the Australian Senate Employment. "the Committee insists that establishing. improve and/or continue their environmental education practices. and Marinova. Bishop. Teaching and Learning Sequence – A detailed account of the development. Environmental education in action: Proceedings of the 2006 Conference of the Australian Association of Environmental Education environmental education will provide an incentive for both teachers and schools alike to initiate. 2005: 4) Domains Professional Knowledge Core Item Case Study – A detailed account of the mathematical progress of two children from the same class over an extended period of time. and Prince. In commenting on the issue of standards of professional teaching practice. implementation and assessment of an extended teaching sequence with a class of students. Clarke.

45-60. Cutter-Mackenzie. A.deh. Cutter. & Smith. 17-34). Flaxton: Post Pressed. Educating for a Sustainable Future: A National Environmental Education Statement for Australian Schools. D. P. (2005).au/education/publications/ sustainable-future.gov. Assessing highly accomplished teachers of mathematics.. In B.au/education/publications/eereview-schools/index. A. Environmental Education Research. R. Gauging primary school teachers' environmental literacy: An issue of 'priority'. Asia Pacific Education Review. http://www. Toowong: author. Cutter.). S. Spencer (Eds). (2003). Rowan (Eds). Meeting commitments for a sustainable future: Environmental education in pre-service teacher education. and Marinova. A chasm in environmental education: What primary school teachers 'might' or 'might not' know. Coupland.. Cutter-Mackenzie. & Smith. Taking Environmental Education from Policy to Practice: An Initiative for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (Discussion Paper). (2002). Making mathematics vital (Proceedings of the 20th Biennial Conference of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers) (pp.. 497-524. 9(4). The last sentiment encapsulates the ethos of this project. Environmental Education: An Agenda for Preservice Teacher Education in Queensland. (2001a). Australian Association for Environmental Education and Monash University.that (the standards) are determined by the profession itself" (1998: 17). A. (2001b). & Smith. Reconceptualising learning in the knowledge society (pp. A. & Tilbury. References Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (2005). Curriculum Corporation for Environment Australia (2003). Clarke.. In M.. (Eds) Sharing wisdom for our future. A Curriculum Review of Environmental Education. 113-132).html.gov. developing standards with and for the profession of environmental educators.Wooltorton. 137 . Anderson & T. Knight & L. R.. D. In B. Brisbane: Post Pressed Flaxton.. 2(2). Knight (Ed. Sydney: Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers.deh. 87-92). Ecological literacy: The "missing" paradigm in environmental education (Part One). Cutter-Mackenzie. A. http://www. (2005). Researching in contemporary educational environments (pp. & Smith.html Board of Teacher Registration (1993). Environmental education in action: Proceedings of the 2006 Conference of the Australian Association of Environmental Education commitment to ‘standards’ in teaching in many quarters in Australia and elsewhere. J. B. The Committee also made a clear statement on its position in relation to the location of responsibility for developing professional teaching standards: "It is an essential characteristic of standards of professional practice. R. A.

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