Last Updated on 31/08/2023 by James Barron
This article delves into the crucial role of professional values in the teaching realm, emphasising integrity, motivation, curriculum expertise, assessment proficiency, and behaviour management. Drawing from personal experiences in the industry, it underscores the importance of modelling professionalism, aligning teaching with industry standards, and ensuring that instructional methods are in sync with student needs and contemporary practices. The overarching theme resonates with the need for educators to be diligent, adaptive, and consistent in their practices, thereby empowering students to achieve holistic success.
Teaching, as an esteemed vocation, extends far beyond the mere transfer of knowledge; it encompasses the moulding of character, nurturing of values, and the shaping of future global citizens. This exploration delves into the myriad dimensions of professional values that educators must embody, from the foundational principles of integrity to the nuanced intricacies of curriculum design and classroom management. The narrative also integrates a first-person perspective, weaving in insights from the field and industry, offering a holistic view of the transformative power of effective pedagogy.
Professional values are the guiding principles that underpin the practices of educators, ensuring they deliver quality education and foster a positive learning environment. Integrity in teaching emphasises honesty, transparency, and ethical behavior, acting as a cornerstone for all educator actions. Embracing the ideals of inspiring, motivating, and challenging students helps them to realise their potential, while good subject and curriculum knowledge ensures educators can provide coherent and relevant instruction. Effective lesson planning and adaptability in teaching are vital to cater to the diverse needs of all students, ensuring inclusivity and personalised learning. Moreover, productive assessment and effective behavior management are pivotal in tracking student progress and maintaining a conducive, safe classroom environment.
Integrity stands as a cornerstone in a teacher’s professional values, serving as a beacon that guides every action, decision, and interaction in the educational landscape. As educators, we wield significant influence over the young minds we nurture, making it imperative that we consistently model honesty, transparency, and fairness. Upholding integrity means maintaining a steadfast commitment to ethical principles, even when faced with challenges or temptations. It fosters trust and respect between the teacher and students, creating a positive learning environment where pupils feel safe and valued. Furthermore, by embodying integrity, teachers instil these values in their students, laying the foundation for them to become principled individuals in society.
- Modelling Honesty: Always providing accurate information to students, even when it’s challenging or unfavourable.
- Transparency in Grading: Clearly communicating grading criteria and ensuring students understand why they received a particular grade.
- Fair Treatment: Ensuring every student, regardless of background or personal beliefs, is treated with equal respect and given equal opportunities.
- Admitting Mistakes: If an error is made during instruction or in any other aspect of the teaching process, acknowledging it and rectifying it promptly.
- Consistency: Applying classroom rules and expectations uniformly to all students, avoiding favouritism.
- Protecting Student Privacy: Respecting the confidentiality of student information and never sharing it inappropriately.
- Professional Boundaries: Maintaining appropriate relationships with students, both in person and on digital platforms.
- Avoiding Conflicts of Interest: Not accepting gifts from students or parents that might be perceived as seeking preferential treatment.
- Upholding Institutional Values: Respecting and adhering to the rules and guidelines set by the educational institution.
Inspire, motivate and challenge
To inspire means to ignite a passion for learning within students, helping them see the beauty, wonder, and relevance of the subject matter. By motivating, teachers empower students to harness their intrinsic enthusiasm, making the learning process more engaging and rewarding. It’s through this motivation that learners are driven to push their boundaries. Meanwhile, to challenge is to encourage students to step out of their comfort zones, fostering critical thinking, resilience, and adaptability. By seamlessly integrating these three values into their teaching approach, educators not only impart knowledge but also shape students into lifelong learners who are eager to explore, question, and conquer obstacles in their educational journey and beyond.
- Inspiring through Role Modelling: Demonstrating passion for the subject and a genuine love for teaching, which can be infectious to students.
- Motivating through Recognition: Celebrating individual student achievements, no matter how big or small, to boost confidence and self-worth.
- Challenging with High Expectations: Setting standards that push students to reach their full potential, while ensuring they are still achievable.
- Inspiring with Real-world Connections: Linking curriculum topics to current events or practical applications, helping students see the bigger picture and relevance of what they’re learning.
- Motivating with Varied Teaching Methods: Incorporating diverse activities, technologies, and strategies tailored to students’ diverse learning styles and interests.
- Challenging through Critical Thinking Exercises: Presenting scenarios or problems that require deeper thought, analysis, and innovative solutions.
- Inspiring through Guest Speakers: Inviting professionals or experts in a field to share their experiences and insights, bringing lessons to life.
- Motivating through Interactive Learning: Utilising tools like group projects, discussions, or debates to encourage active participation and peer learning.
- Challenging with Advanced Resources: Providing access to higher-level texts, projects, or materials for those ready to dive deeper into subjects.
- Inspiring with Personal Growth Stories: Sharing tales of overcoming obstacles, either personal or from notable figures, to underscore the value of perseverance and determination.
- Motivating through Student Autonomy: Giving students a say in their learning process, such as choosing project topics or research directions, fostering ownership and engagement.
- Challenging by Encouraging Feedback: Welcoming constructive criticism and feedback from students, promoting a two-way learning environment and continuous improvement.
Promoting good progress and outcomes
Promoting good progress and outcomes is a fundamental aspect of a teacher’s professional values, encapsulating the core objective of the educational journey: fostering student growth and success. For educators, this means not only imparting knowledge but also tailoring teaching methods to cater to diverse learning styles and needs. It’s about setting clear, achievable benchmarks and then providing the necessary support and resources to ensure every student has the best chance to meet, if not exceed, these expectations. Continuous assessment is crucial, allowing for timely interventions and adaptations in teaching approaches to address any areas of concern. Moreover, promoting positive outcomes extends beyond academic achievements. It encompasses nurturing a holistic development of students, emphasising skills such as critical thinking, resilience, and collaboration, which prepare them for future challenges in both academia and life.
- Clear Learning Objectives: Setting precise goals for each lesson or unit to give students a clear understanding of expectations.
- Regular Assessments: Implementing periodic quizzes, tests, and projects to gauge students’ understanding and progress.
- Feedback and Intervention: Providing timely, constructive feedback and implementing intervention strategies for students who might be struggling.
- Incorporate Real-world Applications: Relating academic concepts to real-life scenarios to enhance understanding and demonstrate relevance.
- Promotion of Soft Skills: Emphasising the development of skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving as integral parts of the curriculum.
- Collaborative Learning Opportunities: Encouraging group projects and discussions, allowing students to learn from and with their peers.
- Engaging Parents: Establishing open communication with parents or guardians to ensure a cohesive support system for students both at school and at home.
- Holistic Development: Encouraging extracurricular activities, arts, and sports to promote overall growth and balance in students’ lives.
Good subject and curriculum knowledge
Mastery over the subject matter ensures that educators can convey complex ideas with clarity, answer questions confidently, and inspire trust in their students. Moreover, a deep understanding of the curriculum allows teachers to create lessons that are coherent, progressive, and aligned with educational standards and benchmarks. This ensures that students are provided with a well-structured learning journey that scaffolds knowledge sequentially and comprehensively. Furthermore, possessing robust subject and curriculum knowledge allows teachers to make interdisciplinary connections, relate topics to real-world applications, and tailor their instruction to cater to the evolving needs and interests of their students. In essence, a teacher’s command over their subject and curriculum is a testament to their commitment to delivering quality education.
- Deep Content Mastery: Proficiently understanding core concepts, theories, and applications within the subject area.
- Staying Updated: Regularly reviewing and updating knowledge to keep pace with evolving academic research and discoveries in the field.
- Effective Lesson Planning: Designing lessons that sequentially build on previous content, ensuring a coherent and progressive learning experience.
- Addressing Misconceptions: Quickly identifying and rectifying any misunderstandings students might have about the subject matter.
- Relating to Real-world Scenarios: Connecting academic topics to real-life situations to make the content more relevant and engaging for students.
- Interdisciplinary Teaching: Linking concepts from one subject to another, fostering a more holistic understanding.
- Using Varied Resources: Incorporating diverse educational materials, such as textbooks, online resources, and hands-on experiments, to cater to different learning styles.
- Tailoring to Different Learning Levels: Adapting content delivery based on students’ proficiency, ensuring that both advanced learners and those needing extra help are catered to.
- Participation in Workshops: Attending professional development sessions, conferences, and workshops to deepen subject knowledge and learn innovative teaching strategies.
- Engaging in Discussions: Participating in academic forums, both online and offline, to discuss and debate current trends, challenges, and methodologies in the subject area.
- Consistent Review of Curriculum: Periodically revisiting and assessing the curriculum to ensure alignment with educational standards and the needs of the students.
- Feedback Implementation: Adjusting teaching methods and content based on feedback from students, peers, and educational experts to continuously improve subject delivery.
Plan and teach well-structured lessons
A well-structured lesson is a blueprint of effective pedagogy; it ensures that instructional time is maximised, learning objectives are clear, and activities are sequenced logically to build upon prior knowledge. Effective planning involves understanding the diverse needs of students and incorporating various teaching strategies, resources, and assessments to cater to different learning styles. Moreover, a well-executed lesson seamlessly transitions between topics, maintains student engagement, and fosters a collaborative learning environment. By consistently delivering structured lessons, teachers not only facilitate comprehension and retention of content but also cultivate a classroom atmosphere where students feel valued, challenged, and motivated to actively participate in their own learning journey.
- Clear Objectives: Starting each lesson with a clear statement of what students should know or be able to do by the end.
- Logical Sequencing: Organising lesson activities in a way that builds upon previous knowledge and leads naturally to subsequent concepts.
- Incorporation of Multiple Resources: Utilising textbooks, multimedia presentations, hands-on activities, and digital tools to cater to varied learning preferences.
- Active Engagement Techniques: Integrating questioning, discussions, or group activities to maintain student interest and participation.
- Differentiation: Adapting lesson content and tasks to cater to students of varying abilities and learning styles.
- Formative Assessments: Embedding checks for understanding throughout the lesson, such as quizzes, polls, or short written reflections.
- Transitional Moments: Ensuring smooth transitions between different parts of the lesson to maintain flow and focus.
- Real-world Connections: Relating lesson content to practical applications or current events to enhance relevance.
- Feedback Loop: Allowing opportunities for students to provide feedback or ask clarifying questions during the lesson.
- Incorporation of Technology: Leveraging educational platforms and tools to enhance interactive learning and provide diverse resources.
- Reflective Closure: Ending lessons with a summary, reflection, or a look ahead to reinforce learning and set the stage for future sessions.
- Flexibility in Execution: Being prepared to adjust the lesson plan on-the-spot based on student responses, questions, or unexpected challenges.
Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils
Recognising that each student enters the classroom with unique abilities, experiences, and challenges, it’s imperative for educators to tailor their instructional methods to cater to this diverse tapestry of learners. This adaptability ensures that every student, whether they’re advanced learners, those with specific learning needs, or anyone in between, receives the necessary support and challenge to thrive. By being responsive and flexible in their teaching approach, educators not only foster a more inclusive environment but also empower all students to engage actively, feel valued, and achieve their full potential. Such commitment to differentiation showcases the teacher’s dedication to the holistic success and well-being of every individual in their care.
- Differentiated Instruction: Tailoring lessons with varied activities and materials to cater to different learning levels and styles.
- Regular Assessments: Using diagnostic tests and formative assessments to gauge individual student understanding and identify specific needs.
- Flexible Grouping: Rotating students through different groups based on skill level, interest, or learning style to promote diverse interactions and targeted learning.
- Use of Technology: Leveraging educational software and apps that allow for personalised learning experiences and accommodations.
- Incorporate Multiple Learning Modalities: Utilising visual aids, auditory tools, kinaesthetic activities, and hands-on experiences to cater to varied sensory preferences.
- Individualised Feedback: Providing tailored feedback that acknowledges strengths and offers strategies for improvement.
- Peer Tutoring: Pairing students who excel in certain areas with those who may need additional support, fostering collaboration and peer-to-peer learning.
- Adaptable Lesson Plans: Being prepared to modify lesson content or pace based on real-time student feedback and engagement.
- Support Materials: Offering supplemental resources, like additional readings or practice problems, for both advanced students and those needing extra reinforcement.
- Safe Learning Environment: Creating a classroom atmosphere where students feel comfortable expressing their needs, questions, and concerns.
- Collaboration with Specialists: Working alongside special education teachers, counsellors, or other professionals to address specific student needs.
- Continuous Professional Development: Engaging in training and workshops focused on diverse learning needs and inclusive teaching strategies.
Make accurate and productive use of assessment
Proper assessment provides educators with a clear picture of a student’s current understanding, skills, and areas that require further attention. This allows for targeted interventions, ensuring that learning gaps are promptly addressed and that students remain on track in their academic journey. Furthermore, assessments aren’t merely tools for grading; they provide invaluable feedback that can inform curriculum design, teaching methodologies, and resource allocation. They also empower students by offering insights into their progress, helping them recognise their strengths and areas for growth. In essence, by valuing accurate and productive assessments, teachers commit to an evidence-based approach, ensuring that their instructional choices are data-driven, relevant, and tailored to the unique needs of their learners.
- Formative Assessments: Utilising quizzes, polls, and in-class tasks to gauge student understanding in real-time and make immediate instructional adjustments.
- Summative Assessments: Implementing end-of-unit tests, projects, or presentations to evaluate overall student comprehension and skill acquisition.
- Feedback Mechanisms: Providing detailed, constructive feedback on assignments, highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement.
- Self-assessments: Encouraging students to reflect on their performance and set goals, fostering self-awareness and ownership of learning.
- Peer Assessments: Allowing students to review and critique each other’s work, promoting critical thinking and collaborative learning.
- Portfolio Assessments: Compiling student work over time to track progress, showcasing growth and areas of mastery.
- Diagnostic Assessments: Using pre-tests or initial evaluations to identify baseline knowledge and specific learning needs at the onset of a unit or course.
- Technology Integration: Employing digital tools and platforms that offer immediate feedback and analytics on student performance.
- Data Analysis: Reviewing assessment results to identify patterns, learning gaps, or areas where the curriculum may need adjustment.
- Collaboration with Colleagues: Sharing assessment findings with peers to gather insights, compare results, and develop collective strategies for improvement.
- Incorporation of Multiple Assessment Types: Balancing objective tests with subjective evaluations, like essays or projects, to cater to diverse learning styles.
- Continuous Reflection: Regularly revisiting and refining assessment methods to ensure they remain relevant, fair, and aligned with learning objectives.
Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment
The classroom should be a sanctuary where students feel secure, respected, and motivated to learn. Effective behaviour management not only minimises disruptions but also fosters a positive classroom culture where mutual respect and understanding thrive. By setting clear expectations, consistently reinforcing positive behaviours, and addressing challenges proactively, teachers can create a conducive atmosphere for both academic and personal growth. Moreover, a well-managed environment promotes inclusivity, ensuring that every student, irrespective of background or ability, feels valued and heard. Ultimately, by prioritising effective behaviour management, educators underscore their commitment to providing a holistic learning space where students are empowered to engage, collaborate, and flourish.
- Clear Expectations: Setting and communicating explicit behavioural guidelines and classroom rules from the outset.
- Consistent Reinforcement: Recognising and praising positive behaviours while consistently addressing disruptive actions to establish a pattern of predictability.
- Proactive Interventions: Anticipating potential issues and intervening early to prevent escalation.
- Responsive Consequences: Implementing fair and appropriate consequences for inappropriate behaviour, ensuring they are known and understood by all students.
- Collaborative Solutions: Involving students in discussions about classroom behaviour, letting them have a say in the creation of rules or consequences.
- Modelling Behaviour: Demonstrating desired behaviours through the teacher’s actions, setting a standard for students to follow.
- Safe Space Creation: Designing classroom layouts and routines that minimise opportunities for disruptive behaviour and promote collaboration.
- Open Communication: Encouraging students to express their feelings and concerns, fostering an environment of trust and mutual respect.
- Parental Engagement: Partnering with parents and guardians to ensure consistent behaviour expectations both in and out of the classroom.
- Peer Mediation: Training and using student mediators to help resolve conflicts among classmates.
- Continuous Professional Development: Participating in workshops and training sessions on the latest behaviour management strategies and techniques.
- Cultural Awareness: Recognising and respecting diverse backgrounds, understanding how cultural differences might influence behaviour, and adjusting management techniques accordingly.
My own professional values
My own professional values influence my practice substantially while teaching; I feel this is due to my experience within industry, especially when interviewing candidates. The first element of this is to be professional so that students can learn to act professionally by example. This includes always treating students and staff with respect and ensuring boundaries are in place, for example, I will be friendly but I am not friends with students. The next element is when thinking of student ability, I relate it to terms of employing them, by doing this I am able to always relate everything I teach to industry, this increases the level of student engagement but also begins to get students ready for industry. This relates closely to always following industry standards as well as teaching standards, for example, following British Computing Society standards of programming while promoting best practices, such as PSR-2: Coding Style Guide, which is a guide designed “to reduce cognitive friction when scanning code from different authors. It does so by enumerating a shared set of rules and expectations about how to format” (PHP-FIG, 2019) your code.
An element of how my professional values influence my practice is outside the actual teaching, an essential element is being technically able to teach the units I am assigned and having the integrity to either learn the required material or alternatively make it clear that my experience is not sufficient to teach a particular unit. This relates closely with staying up to date with the latest industry developments, this is particularly challenging as the computing and technology industries move and change at an incredible rate.
An important aspect that occurs outside the classroom is reflection, while I may not always formally reflect upon a class; I always ensure I consider how the class went and what elements could be improved. Reflecting as a teacher allows me to identify my areas of strength and where I can improve, fostering my personal and professional growth. It encourages a deeper understanding of my teaching practices and their impact on my students, leading to more effective and responsive instruction. Moreover, regular reflection promotes my lifelong learning and adaptability, ensuring I remain relevant and effective in an ever-evolving educational landscape.
There are also many ethical professional values that influence my practice, for example, being strongly against software piracy and educating students on how it can affect them. Explaining how software piracy has personally affected my income is a very strong and relatable message for students. Following on from this I am able to explain how the pirated version of my software is always larger than the original, which I normally turn into a quick activity where they guess what could be using the extra storage space. Another ethical element that I ensure I educate them on is that the data centre industry creates more pollution than the airline industry and that every Google search uses energy. A very important ethical aspect that I include in my lessons is explaining that when they graduate it is likely they will be in competition or working with programmers that are located in third world countries, some aspects of this can include huge differences in salaries, code quality, standards, English language ability, etc., as well as other factors, such as time zones, etc. Another very important aspect is to control the subject matter of student projects, as students frequently have a free reign over the type of projects they work towards, it is still important that the projects are suitable for the teaching establishment, for example, a game was designed in which a model of the campus was used and it was possible to navigate the campus while shooting lecturers, obviously this was totally inappropriate and was not allowed to be created. Another aspect that, while not as important, it is beneficial that students do not become obsessed with particular products, makes, styles, etc., to the point of participating in ‘flamewars’ and understand that they are all tools and while working in industry they must pick the most suitable for the job at hand, e.g., Windows vs Apple.
In the vast and dynamic expanse of the educational landscape, the role of professional values stands paramount. As elucidated, the ethos of integrity, inspiration, and student-centric approaches are indispensable to the teaching profession. Moreover, the ability to adapt, innovate, and constantly evolve in the face of challenges signifies true pedagogical excellence. Drawing inspiration from personal professional values and experiences within the industry offers a tangible touchstone, bridging the gap between academic theories and real-world applications. In essence, it is through these values and principles that educators not only enlighten minds but also kindle the flames of curiosity, resilience, and integrity in the next generation.
PHP-FIG. (2019). PSR-2: Coding Style Guide. Retrieved from PHP-FIG: https://www.php-fig.org/psr/psr-2/
Educated by Tara Westover
This memoir recounts the author’s journey from growing up in a strict and abusive household in rural Idaho with no formal education to eventually earning a PhD from Cambridge University. The book explores themes of family, education, and the power of self-determination. Westover’s story serves as a testament to the transformative power of education and critical thinking.
The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker J. Palmer
This book delves into the emotional and spiritual aspects of teaching, arguing that effective education stems from the integrity and identity of the teacher. Palmer explores challenges like fear, inner conflict, and the complexities of classroom dynamics. The book offers inspiration and guidance for teachers seeking to align their inner values with their professional lives.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
This book introduces the concept of “fixed” and “growth” mindsets and argues that one’s mindset significantly influences the ability to learn and achieve success. Dweck suggests that a growth mindset fosters adaptability and resilience. The book has wide applications, including in education, where it has inspired teachers to instill a growth mindset in their students.
Teach Like a Champion 3.0 by Doug Lemov
This instructional manual provides a set of concrete teaching techniques aimed at increasing student engagement and boosting academic achievement. Based on extensive observations and studies, Lemov outlines practical methods and classroom activities for educators. The book serves as a toolkit for both novice and experienced teachers to elevate their classroom effectiveness.
The Art of Teaching by Gilbert Highet
This classic text offers a philosophical and artistic perspective on the practice of teaching. Highet discusses various elements that make teaching an art, such as enthusiasm, clarity, and preparation, drawing on examples from literature and history. The book serves as both an instructional guide and an ode to the nobility and complexity of the teaching profession.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
A seminal work in educational theory, this book critiques traditional “banking” methods of education that treat students as passive recipients of knowledge. Freire argues for a more participative, dialogical approach that empowers students to become critical thinkers and active learners. The book has had a significant influence on progressive educational practices globally.
Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham
This book offers insights from cognitive science to explain why traditional teaching methods often fail to engage students. Willingham addresses common questions about student motivation, attention, and learning styles, proposing evidence-based strategies for effective teaching. The book aims to bridge the gap between scientific research and classroom practice.
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson
Robinson argues that finding one’s “Element”—the intersection of natural talent and personal passion—can lead to a fulfilling life and career. Using anecdotes and research, he explores how traditional education systems often stifle creativity and fail to help students find their Element. The book calls for a radical rethinking of educational practices to support individual talent and passion.
Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan
This book presents the concept of “Professional Capital” as a way to elevate the teaching profession through collaboration, enhanced skills, and strong professional cultures. It offers a blueprint for systemic change in educational systems, advocating for investment in teachers’ social and intellectual capital. The book aims to inspire policymakers, administrators, and teachers to transform education from the inside out.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
Based on extensive research on vulnerability, this book argues that embracing vulnerability is crucial for achieving meaningful connections and personal growth. Brown applies her findings to various areas of life, including parenting, leadership, and education. The book has inspired a wider conversation about the role of vulnerability in building resilience and authenticity.
My first experience of teaching was in 2016, when I was asked to
deliver a talk to a group of 16-year-olds on what it was like to start
your own business. I immediately knew I wanted to become more
involved in teaching but I didn’t know where to start as I had not
previously considered a career in education. A few weeks later I
agreed to teach a class of Chinese students from the Shanghai
Technical Institute of Electronics and Information, who had travelled
to the UK to learn English and Software Engineering, after that I was
hooked. Within the next few years, I taught hundreds of students of
many different nationalities, aged from 16 to 60, and from
levels 2 to 6. I focused my time teaching with Bath University and
Bath College for several more years until I felt a change was in order.
For the last few years, I have taught remotely with several private
training organisations, provided dedicated one to one coaching
sessions, provided consultancy on teaching and assessment practices
and written about my experiences as a teacher. I plan to continue
with my current activities for the foreseeable future but I’m always
open to new teaching experiences.