The roles of teachers and schools are changing, and so are expectations about them: teachers are asked to teach in increasingly multilevel classrooms, integrate students with special needs, use ICT for teaching effectively, engage in evaluation and accountability processes, and involve parents in schools . Furthermore, recent decrees on EFL Teaching noted that teachers need to help students acquire not only “the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test” but more importantly, ways of thinking (creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning); ways of working (communication and collaboration); tools for working (including information and communications technologies); and skills around citizenship, life and career and personal and social responsibility for success in modern democracies”.
When many teachers undertook their initial education, knowledge about learning and teaching was less developed, many teaching tools were not available and the role of education and training was more narrowly conceived. For example, the increased availability of educational resources via the worldwide web, including Open Educational Resources, means that both teaching staff and learners have, potentially, a much wider range of learning materials at their disposal and teachers will increasingly need the competences to find, evaluate and deploy learning materials from a wider range of sources, and to help learners acquire these competences .
A competence is best described as ‘a complex combination of knowledge, skills, understanding, values, attitudes and desire which lead to effective, embodied human action in the world, in a particular domain’ .
Competence is therefore distinguished from skill, which is defined as the ability to perform complex acts with ease, precision and adaptability.
Teaching is, of course, much more than a ‘task’. As Conway and colleagues (2009) point out, discussions about the competences needed by teachers, how they develop over time, and how they are evidenced and recorded, are bound up with wider discussions about:
– assumptions about learning;
– the purposes of education;
– society’s expectations of, and demands on, the teacher;
– available resources, priorities and political will;
– the status of the profession;
– perceived external or international pressures;
– existing traditions and culture;
– the broader societal context and environment in which teaching and
– teacher education occur.
It is also useful to distinguish between teaching competences and teacher competences (OECD, 2009). Teaching competences are focused on the role of the teacher in the classroom, directly linked with the 'craft' of teaching — with professional knowledge and skills mobilized for action . Teacher competences imply a wider, systemic view of teacher professionalism, on multiple levels — the individual, the school, the local community, professional networks.
Speaking about competence and professionalism; conceptualisations of teacher competences are linked with visions of professionalism, theories of teaching and learning, quality cultures and sociocultural perspectives — with tensions between diverse approaches. The differences between theoretical traditions about teaching in (for example) the English-speaking and German-speaking worlds can offer valuable opportunities for dialogue and integration.
Learning to think as teachers implies a critical examination of one’s beliefs and the development of pedagogical thinking, i.e. linking objectives and means in teaching-learning processes. It implies not only analytical and conceptual thinking, but also the development of metacognitive awareness, i.e. thinking and deciding in teaching; reflecting and adapting practices .
Learning to know as teachers concerns the several aspects of knowledge required — including knowledge generated by one’s own practices. Competences are dependent on sound frameworks of knowledge, supported by metacognitive skills and management strategies for swift retrieval and use . Deep subject knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) are both needed; the knowledge of new technologies applied to subject teaching (PTCK-Pedagogical Technical Content Knowledge) is also fundamental in the digital age . The awareness is also necessary: the knowledge and understanding of historical, cultural and structural features of the subject area, linked with others across the curriculum. Knowledge of school curricula, class management, methodologies, education theories and assessment ought to be embedded in a wider awareness of the impact of educational aims.
Learning to feel as teachers is linked with professional identity: intellectual and emotional aspects (see 5). It includes attitudes (commitment, confidence, trustworthiness, respect), expectations (initiative, drive for improvement, information seeking) and leadership (flexibility, accountability, passion for learning). It has to do with self-efficacy, selfawareness, and mediation between ideals, aims and school realities (Geijsel et al., 2009). Fundamental attitudes, which link skills and intentions, guiding teachers to courses of action, include teachers’ dispositions towards democratic values, towards collaboration with colleagues for shared educational aims, and towards maximising the learning potential of every student (through individualized teaching, high expectations, etc.)(see 7).
Learning to act as teachers entails integrating thoughts, knowledge and dispositions in practices that are informed by consistent principles. Effective teaching revolves around these variables: curriculum dimension, classroom management, teaching strategies, climate and evaluation/ feedback. However, the multidimensional, uncertain nature of teaching involves a wide range of activities, settings and actors. There is often a gap between beliefs and intentions and actual actions (Kennedy, 1999). Teachers need to deploy extensive repertoires of skills, strategies and action patterns eclectically, with the ability to judge and act in situation. Quality teaching requires adaptive skills, and a systematic assessment of professional knowledge and actions — against a range of criteria coming from theories, research, professional experience and evidence — for improvement and innovation (see 4).
To sum up, if planned and undertaken appropriately, the development of comprehensive frameworks that define and describe the competences that teachers are expected to deploy, can bring numerous benefits to education systems. In particular, they can:
– be effective ways to stimulate teachers’ active engagement in career-long competence development;
– be instruments for assessing the development of teachers' competences,
– be a sound basis for the planning and provision of coherent, career-long provision of appropriate opportunities through which every teacher can acquire and develop the competences s/he needs.
- OECD. Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments. 2009
- European Commission. Supporting the Teaching Professions for Better Learning outcomes. Strasbourg, 20.11.2012.
- Deakin Crick, R. Pedagogy for citizenship. Getting involved: Global citizenship development and sources of moral values (31–55). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. 2008
- Hagger, H. & McIntyre, D. Learning teaching from teachers. Realizing the potential of school-based teacher education. Maidenhead: Open University Press. 2006
- Anderson, L. W. Increasing Teacher Effectiveness. (2nd edition) Paris: UNESCO, IIEP. 2004
- Feiman-Nemser, S. Teacher Learning. How do Teachers learn to teach? New York/Abingdon: Francis. 2008.
- Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new Framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108 (6), 1017–1054, 2006