The Ontario College of Teachers had a milestone year in 2014. It was significant in that we were instrumental in providing guidelines for teacher candidates that will effectively shape teaching in Ontario for decades to come. We also took new measures to explain the College’s role to the public, whom we are mandated to serve.
In March, Council and senior College staff developed a set of strategic priorities to help advance the College's mandate. Complementing renewed mission and vision statements, the priorities aim to:
- broaden member engagement in the College
- facilitate the ongoing professional learning of members
- enhance Council and committee effectiveness, and
- develop a long-term communications plan to inform the public, improve transparency and work with other regulators to develop a public appreciation of the value of self-regulation.
Initial Teacher Education Program
This year, the College took the lead role in helping to guide and implement Ontario's initial teacher education program. Working with the Ontario Ministry of Education and Ontario's faculties of education, we helped to shape the program that comes into effect September 1, 2015. The enhancements will provide for a minimum of 80 days of practical experience over four academic semesters. Greater focus will also be given to diversity, students’ mental health and well-being, using technology to teach, and special education among other core elements. The College created a set of regulatory amendments to implement the changes for our Council to consider. We’re pleased to support this initiative because we know that students benefit from great teaching and the excellent preparation of teachers.
In 2014, College staff also met with each faculty to discuss their plans for the enhanced program, to ensure a shared understanding of the program elements and to provide early accreditation guidance to faculties. In February, we released an Accreditation Resource Guide to help faculties, accreditation panels and the College guide the development of accreditation applications and accreditation decisions.
After consulting with deans of education and reviewing the practice of other accreditors, we proposed amending the accreditation regulation to alter the composition of panels. We also began to review complementary process changes related to the structure and duration of site visits, use of artifacts and other structural components to streamline the accreditation process.
Among its core elements, the enhanced program expects that teacher candidates will understand the cultural and linguistic assets contributed by First Nation, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) families and communities to each child’s positive identity development, learning and well-being, as well as the importance of histories, cultures, contributions, perspectives and treaties to contemporary FNMI communities. The College is working with the faculties of education to embed these opportunities for learning within the teacher education programs in Ontario. We have added First Nation, Métis and Inuit organizations to our existing lists of providers of Additional Qualifications (AQs). We are also following the debate over the federal First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, an element of which is the certification of teachers in schools on reserves according to provincial requirements. At the same time, we are working to strengthen our relationship with First Nations, Métis and Inuit representatives for issues related to accreditation, development of AQ course guidelines and certification.
To inform members and applicants about the changes in certification requirements, we developed a series of communication tools, including a self-assessment tool, which has been added to the online application. We have already updated registration guides to enable applicants and former members to determine the impact of the changes on them. As well, we’ve revised our faculty tour presentations and examined opportunities to further engage teacher education candidates.
Communication and Consultation
Communication was a major thrust for the College this year. In keeping with our legislated mandate to communicate with the public on behalf of our members, and based on a series of guiding principles and significant quantitative and qualitative research, we began a series of outreach initiatives including paid and earned media, public engagement, and meetings with parents, trustees and senior educators across the province. This public awareness initiative has allowed the College to communicate broadly about its mandate and its work in the public interest.
Consultation continued as a hallmark of College culture. We conducted several surveys over the year to gather feedback instrumental to improving our service to members and to the public. We sought input to simplify our Accreditation Information Management System, to determine whether Additional Qualification courses are being delivered as they’ve been accredited, and to measure whether our public information messages were getting through. We streamlined our ability to gather critical information from College members, including their email addresses. As well, we launched a mobile app to enable members to access College information and make transactions, including the payment of fees, easier.
In 2014, the College joined a working group in a comparative study led by The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC). Sixteen assessors from regulatory bodies, assessment services and post-secondary institutions/registrar associations will develop tables for 12 countries, comparing academic credentials earned abroad with those obtained through Canadian education systems.
We’ve made great strides to improve efficiencies and bolster transparency in our investigations and hearings processes. We anticipate the reintroduction of a bill to amend our Act to bring needed regulatory changes to the forefront.
Duty to Report
A provincial coroner’s report also held special significance for the College. The report followed an investigation into the death of Toronto child Jeffrey Baldwin, who had suffered years of mistreatment by his grandparents. It called on the College to establish practices to ensure that College members know and adhere to the duty to report suspected child abuse to a Children’s Aid Society. As a result, the College began work on a professional advisory on the duty to report and is looking to have members attest annually that they have reviewed any related professional guidance from the College on these matters. In future reviews of accredited programs and courses, the College will verify that the content ensures that the curriculum adequately covers the identification of signs of abuse and neglect in children, and the duty to report.
Collaboration is also a defining characteristic of our work. In 2014, the College operated a summer institute in collaboration with the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators focused on Exploring Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Ethical Leadership. We hosted a conference in November featuring workshops in three streams: Professional Regulation, Acting in the Public Interest, and Effective Practices and Research in Teacher Education. We also hosted the International Forum of Teacher Regulatory Authorities’ (IFTRA) conference at which representatives from teaching regulatory bodies around the world discussed challenges relating to reciprocity and mutual recognition of teacher qualifications, as well as current challenges and opportunities in self-regulation.
Our work garnered several honours last year. These included a Building Owners and Management Association of Canada award for energy conservation and environmental stewardship, nomination for a United Way Spirit Award recognizing exemplary campaigns that promote awareness, donor engagement and giving through strong team structure, effective planning and co-ordination, and the 2014 Regulatory Excellence Award from the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR).
I am grateful to our Council for its leadership and direction, to our staff for their work, commitment and innovation, and to our many partners. Together we set the standard for great teaching.
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