What the revised Teaching Quality Standard means for new Alberta teachers

With the previous version formed in 1997, the 2016/17 publication of Alberta’s Teaching Quality Standard (TQS) marks the first full revision to the document in almost 20 years. The TQS, which outlines the educational requirements that Alberta teachers need to meet, has important bearing for the expectations and practices that teachers must exhibit in their work.

Investigating these changes, and their possible implications on new and pre-service teachers, was the basis of Patrick Wee’s Werklund Undergraduate Research Award project. Under the supervision of Dr. Amy Burns, Patrick used comparative analysis to identify consistent themes, and contrast the two versions of the TQS. Patrick looked at the documents in 3 ways:

  • Qualitatively – looking at the goals and the language used to describe each theme
  • Quantitatively – the amount of detail and attention given to particular theme
  • Organizationally – how the layout of the information and themes has changed

Patrick also interviewed two principals, one from and elementary and one from a high school, to gain insights into the practical implementation of these standards.

Old and new

While much of the content remained the same, the differences highlight important and considerable developments in Alberta Education’s vision and expectations of teachers. Overall, the new TQS presents both more detailed terminology and more intensive requirements, which addressed previous concerns about the ambiguity of certain standards.

This was reinforced by organizational shift from the document having only 2 large sections, to being divided into 6 domains of teaching. In the previous version, the requirements were categorized as either relating to “Interim Certification” (i.e. for new teachers only) or to “Permanent Certification.” Now, the 6 domains represent discrete sets of requirements which relate to a particular idea (e.g. career-long learning, professional body of knowledge).

The amount of content dedicated to various themes in the 1997 and 2016 TQS

The amount of content dedicated to various themes in the 1997 and 2016 TQS

While themes of diverse learning and building effective relationships remained the most prominent, discussions of knowledge of content and Indigenous learning change considerably. For knowledge of content there was a shift away from teachers being subject-knowledge experts – being the keepers of knowledge – and more emphasis placed on the design effective learning environments and considering the ‘how’ of teaching. The need for teachers to have an understanding of Indigenous culture and pedagogy, and to include this meaningfully within the classroom, contrasts with the complete lack of expectations in this area in the older version.

In contrast, the themes of technology and authentic learning remained almost entirely unchanged. These two themes are discussed in almost entirely the same way, with similar amounts of content being dedicated to the themes. These sections maintain their relevance, however, through a focus on the complex nature of learning needs, and the ability for a teacher’s practice to evolve and change as new developments arise.

Today’s teachers

Changes to the Teaching Quality Standard promote an increased understanding of learning, and in preparing today’s students for success. While the two versions are more similar than dissimilar, the changes do mark the evolving vision of teaching and education in Alberta, representing the profession’s growth over the past 20 years.

For new teachers, the new TQS lay out more intensive and detailed criteria. By eliminating the section on ‘Interim Certification,’ all teachers must work towards the same goals. However, as noted by the principals, these standards will mean different outcomes for new versus experienced teachers. Going forward, there is a need to connect the design of pre-service education to the realities of the field, particularly in light of these new standards.