“Competencies.” This word is increasingly being used in education circles today. It is a description of one’s ability, a measure of one’s performance. What are the competencies that matter among educators? And are these the same qualities that will be valued in the teachers of tomorrow?
A person’s competencies may be defined in terms of one’s knowledge, skills and behaviours. To understand the competencies required of a teacher, we must first define the job of a teacher.
The task of a teacher is closely tied to the nature of the classroom. Today’s classrooms call for teachers to “prepare virtually all students for higher order thinking and performance skills once reserved to only a few” (Darling-Hammond, 2006, p. 300).
Researchers and practitioners are becoming increasingly aware that the character of the 21st century classroom – and thus the demands on both students and teachers – is undergoing significant change.
What are the roles of the teacher in the 21st century? What are the competencies teachers need to fulfil these roles? What can our teacher education programmes provide to help them with this task?
A team of teacher educators from NIE sat down and asked themselves these questions. Some of the roles they identified included: nurturing the whole child, providing quality learning, working with others, and developing a strong set of personal values.
They then made a list of core competencies that every trained teacher should have. These competencies were classified into three broad performance dimensions: professional practice, leadership and management, and personal effectiveness.
- Professional practice
A competent teacher seizes every opportunity to encourage learning, believing that all students can learn. And learning isn’t limited to the classroom. To this end, the teacher takes every opportunity to improve on his or her own professional practice, in order to provide quality learning.
- Leadership and management
A competent teacher is a leader who wins the hearts and minds of the students. Such a teacher sees the value in developing and working with others, including parents and colleagues, and actively seeks out opportunities for professional collaboration within and beyond the school.
- Personal effectiveness
A good teacher understands the importance of developing oneself before he or she is able to provide support for others. As a professional, this teacher maintains high standards of personal and professional integrity when carrying out all duties and responsibilities.
These performance dimensions align with MOE’s Enhanced Performance Management System (EPMS), which spells out the knowledge, skills and professional characteristics for teachers at different stages of their career.
Good teaching does not occur in a vacuum. Every competent teacher also needs to possess a strong set of values, skills and knowledge.
The NIE team identified three key values that are important for the 21st century teaching professional: learner-centredness, teacher identity, and service to the profession and community. These values guide the application of relevant skills and knowledge on a day-to-day basis.
Teachers today need to develop a holistic array of skills – for teaching and thinking, administration and management; as well as knowledge – of self and pupils, community and pedagogy, among many others.
Developing Teacher Competencies
Not all teachers will have the same level of competence in all areas from the outset. What can teachers do to build and sustain the relevant competencies? This is where the Graduand Teacher Competencies Framework (GTCF) comes in handy, especially for new teachers.
“The GTCF is divided into levels – capacity building and awareness raising,” explains Professor Goh Kim Chuan, who was instrumental in leading this initiative. “The former is the demonstrable achievement of a specific competency, while the latter indicates the awareness of the competency though they may not yet be able to demonstrate its achievement.”
To develop competence, teachers need to progress from awareness to capacity building. The GTCF can help teachers identify the competencies they need and continue to build on them throughout their teaching career, through practice and professional development.
Prof Goh suggests that “some practical ways of bringing up awareness-level competencies to capacity building would be through induction and mentoring within the school, professional development courses at NIE or other providers, or learning with more experienced teachers through professional learning communities.”
American physician, writer and Harvard professor Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” The next step forward, therefore, is up to us!
Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Constructing 21st-century teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 57(3), 300-314. doi: 10.1177/0022487105285962
Low, E. L., Taylor, P. G., Joseph, J., & Atienza, J. C. (Eds.). (2009). A teacher education model for the 21st century. Singapore: National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University.