Tomás Ó Ruairc, Director of the Teaching Council, yesterday delivered a presentation to the annual Conference of the Inspectorate entitled “The Role of the Teaching Council in Ensuring Quality of Teaching in Schools“. In a wide-ranging presentation Tomás focused particularly on the notion of “quality assurance” in schools. As can be seen from the accompanying Wordle which I created from the text of his presentation, the words “quality” and “assurance” dominated the presentation.
I’m not a particular fan of the phrase “quality assurance” as it pertains to education as, to me, it has strong overtones of the business world where “products” can be counted and checked for “quality assurance”. Pupils in schools, on the other hand, cannot be equated to products and cannot be measured in the same way. However, Tomás Ó Ruairc dismissed the notion of quality assurance as something driven by an outside agency whose sole purpose is to assess and evaluate based on something that can be observed or measured. He remarked that:
“….. we do not talk about “quality assessment” or “quality evaluation.” We talk about “quality assurance.” Quality assurance does make perfect sense if you view it as a dynamic whose initial impetus may come from external agents, but which must become self-sustaining and self-correcting if it is to cope with the unknowable challenges of the future”.
He spoke of the notion of quality assurance in terms of “collaboration” with the other stakeholders in education – schools, teachers, pupils, parents, Boards of Management, Teaching Council, and DES Inspectorate. He also spoke of the “need to support the profession as they begin that journey towards new understandings of quality assurance, and new ways of doing it”. He remarked that the Teaching Council/Inspectorate needs to “step back, but not out” of this process of quality assurance so that teachers can engage with this new dynamic “whose initial impetus may come from external agents, but which must become self-sustaining and self-correcting if it is to cope with the unknowable challenges of the future”.
This is an interesting and thought-provoking presentation on the notion of quality assurance in schools and Tomás Ó Ruairc stresses that he is not in favour of traditional “top-down” models of this concept that are rooted in power, but he would rather that we move towards “empowerment of the profession, rooted in trust, and geared towards continuing, ongoing improvement in teaching and learning”. He wants to see a shift in the “balance from assurance of quality (from and by ourselves [ie. Teaching Council] and the Inspectorate) towards assurance for quality (professionals supporting each other…).
The full presentation can be downloaded from the Teaching Council website HERE
A line from the presentation that struck me was:
“Teaching can be described as a commitment to the immeasurable so that others can face the unknowable“.
It’s an interesting remark that has got me thinking. Such is the benchmark of a good presentation/speech. I’ll have to think some more about that line to see how it applies to my teaching and my commitment to the profession.