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Professional Standards
The National Professional Standards – Graduate Teachers

The National Professional Standards for Graduate Teachers provide a framework for assessing preservice teachers’ knowledge and capabilities in both school-based and University-based courses and as such complement the work of school-based and university-based teacher educators.

The introduction of National Standards has provided a clear direction for the development of a shared understanding of the expectations of preservice teachers’ within three connected domains:


The Standards provide a common basis for planning learning pathways and assessing professional learning and achievement. It provides not only a common set of outcomes but also a common language for talking about and providing formative and summative assessment feedback for the preservice teachers’ regarding the knowledge and skills they develop during school-based learning. Knowledge and understanding of the Standards should assist in the development of consistency and equity of teaching and assessment of preservice teachers.

Each Standard statement documents a set of relevant knowledge and skills that can be realised in the various observable and often complex and non-observable knowledge and understanding, practices, products and performances required of teachers. The knowledge, practices, products and performances listed in Standards statements are all interconnected and these statements cannot, therefore, be used as an assessment checklist (Connell 2009). They are however, intended to be interpreted consistently such that as a tool for judging professional levels, they do, in fact, represent a Standard.

Notwithstanding these arguments The National Professional Standards for Teachers were endorsed (not without question) on the 14th February, 2011 by the Australian Government and as such are being used by teachers, leaders, teacher educators and policy makers to provide direction and structure which is nationally consistent (AITSL, 2011). They do this by articulating what teachers are expected to know and be able to do at various stages of their career.

Understanding the Standards

The National Professional Standards for Graduate Teachers are divided into 3 categories:


During the school-based learning segments of their degree programs, preservice teachers will be assessed against each of the Standards. These assessments, made by school-based teacher educators/assessors, are based on judgements about the quality of the practical performances and products developed for and used in those performances. In the interest of assessment consistency and reliability, it is important to pre-specify an agreed on range of possible practices and/or products that could count as evidence of having achieved each Standard. Consistency in assessing preservice teachers across all university-partner school sites and all States will be more likely if school-based teacher educators are armed not only with knowledge of the National Professional Standards for Graduate Teachers but also with an inventory of possible evidence of the Graduate Standards.

Each Standard targets one aspect within the domains of knowledge, practice or professional engagement. Within each broad domain, each Standard also specifies a number of focal areas that are connected to the overall Standard.

These specifications provide a clear guide for preservice teachers regarding the areas in which they should concentrate their own learning:

  • what they should know, understand, and try to implement when they are planning, and teaching classroom lessons
  • teaching practices
  • learning activities
  • and classroom organisation and management

For university and school-based teacher educators, the foci within each Standard specifies the important areas of knowledge, skills and processes that need to be taught, practised and assessed.

Activity – Understanding the Detailed Specifications of Professional Teacher Standards

Your Task:

Follow the link to Standard 4

Standard 4 Create and maintain safe and supportive learning environments, includes 5 focus points. Focus 4.1 Support student participation: Identify strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities, provides an elaboration of the words “safe and supportive”. It specifies that a learning environment that is safe and supportive should “support student participation” in learning. It goes on to specify that supporting “student participation” in learning involves the use of teaching and learning strategies that “support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities“.

What Standard 4.1 doesn’t specify, however, are the practices, types of teaching strategies, learning activities, activity sequencing, materials, and classroom organisation and management etc. that will count as having identified “strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities“.

List the strategies you would expect to see used in your classroom by a preservice teacher during their mid-program prac, a preservice teacher during their final prac, and a proficient teacher.

Standard 4 Focus 4.1 Support student participation: Identify strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities
Preservice teacher Mid-Program Graduate Standard Proficient Standard

The following sources also illustrate the types of evidence that could be used to assess achievement of this Standard:

The Standards in Practice

The Standards for Graduate teachers provide a framework that

  • makes clear the knowledge, practice and professional engagement required at this career stage;
  • presents a common understanding and language;
  • assists graduate teachers and supervising teachers to judge the success of their learning and assist self-reflection and self-assessment;
  • can stimulate professional conversations and debate among teachers, teacher educators and other members of the profession; and
  • provides a complementary resource for planning and assessing both university-based and school-based learning components of pre-service teacher education programs

The importance of quality teaching to ensure improved outcomes for students is well documented (Hattie, 2003). It is important to recognise that National Standards are only one part of a holistic approach to preparing teachers.

The professional experience or practicum placement is a central learning and teaching context in all Australian teacher education programs. Accurate assessment of the knowledge and capabilities learned, consolidated and applied by preservice teacher’s during these placements, is a critical responsibility of the preservice teachers’ school-based mentor/supervising teachers and the university mentors/supervisors.

Activity – Graduate Professional Standards in Practice

Continuing the process of matching observations with particular Standards

Your Task

View one of these videos

Teachers and preservice teachers working in Primary School Contexts

Teachers and preservice teachers working in Secondary School Contexts

After watching the video jot down on the following Professional Practice Observation chart, 6 key observations that you consider could be a basis for judging this preservice teacher’s professional practice.

Refer to:

  1. National Professional Standards for Graduate Teachers: Standards 3, 4, 5.

and to the lists shown in

  1. Possible Evidence for Judging Achievement – Graduate Standards 3, Graduate Standards 4 and Graduate Standards 5

Professional Practice Observation Chart


The Professional Standards present a Developmental Continuum

The Australian National Professional Standards for Teachers are different for teachers at different career stages. Standards are listed for four career stages: Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers. Each of these stages can be viewed on the AITSL website.

By clicking on ‘Standards’ in the top menu you can then choose to ‘View by career stage’.

screenshot of the National Professional Standards for Teachers website

This allows teachers to see how expectations change at each developmental stage.

The recognition that knowledge and skills develop over time is also important for school-based teacher educators who teach and assess preservice teachers. Student teachers’ abilities to apply theoretical knowledge in practical contexts will also develop over time and their development capacities and competencies will depend on the learning and practice opportunities afforded to them on their practicums. The developmental process operates across the stages within one practicum and across all practicums within their degree programs.

If the Graduate Standards are to be used as a framework for learning and assessment in school-based learning placements, they will need to be adapted according to the stage of the development of the preservice teacher, that is, whether they are being assessed against standards at the end of their first, second or final practicum. Further, the impact of different school-based learning contexts and the types of learning experiences the preservice teacher is exposed to should also shape and limit the particular Standards and/or foci that could be demonstrated and validly assessed on any practicum.

To tailor the school-based learning programs for each preservice teacher’s stage of development, supervisor/mentor teachers may also need better information about what stage in the continuum the preservice teacher is at to consider the most appropriate Standards foci and teaching contexts for that preservice teacher.

Activity – What elements of practice attached to a Standard may not be observable or assessable?

Your Task:

Consider the following two foci in Graduate Teacher Standard 1: Know students and how they learn

  • Graduate Standard 1.3
    Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds
    Demonstrate knowledge of teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Graduate Standard 1.4
    Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
    Demonstrate broad knowledge and understanding of the impact of culture, cultural identity and linguistic background on the education of students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

Refer to the actions etc. shown in the Possible Evidence for Judging Achievement – Graduate Standard 1 list.

Would it be possible for a preservice teacher to develop and demonstrate and provide assessable evidence of this knowledge in your classroom context?

How would you vary the learning program you provide for a preservice teacher and your assessment expectations to make it possible for a preservice teacher to begin to learn how to achieve all aspects of Standard 1 if any of the following conditions applied:

  • the preservice teacher was on their first practicum
  • the preservice teacher had not yet completed any courses focused on diversity and catering for diverse learners in the classroom
  • the preservice teacher was a member of a specified ‘diverse’ group (i.e., from a “diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic background” and/or from an “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background”)
  • none of the students you teach were members of a specified ‘diverse’ group
Reflective Questions

Reflective Questions:

  1. How might you involve preservice teachers/colleagues in a learning conversation around the Standards?
  2. How do professional experience schools ensure that the Standards are used to support preservice teachers learning in professional experience? (i.e. used as a learning tool not just an assessment tool)
Key Readings

Australian Institute of teaching and School Leadership Ltd (AITSL) 2011: National professional Standards for teachers

Ingvarson L. C. “Assessing Teachers for Professional Certification: Achieving National Consistency” Professional Educator Mar. 2011: 10-15.
Available at:

Connell, R (2009): Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism, Critical Studies in Education, 50:3, 213-229

White, S., Bloomfield, D., & Le Cornu, R (2010), Professional experience in new times: issues and responses to a changing education landscape. Asia-Pacific Journal Of Teacher Education, 38(3), 181-193. doi: 10.1080/1359866X,2010.493297