Dr. Dawn C. Wallin

August 23, 2014 5:23 PM






























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































CHAPTER SIX: Teachers, Administrators and the School System (5th Edition)


“Hey, it’s great to see you again.” Toni grinned broadly at Aaron, her former classmate in the Faculty of Education. “How’s the job? Are you going crazy the same as me?”

“It’s tough,” Aaron replied. “I’m working harder than I ever have before. But I’m enjoying it too. There are really good people on the staff at my school, and they’ve helped me a lot. So has my principal. I’ve been given some extra prep time. So I feel as if I’m making progress, even if I don’t always feel that the kids are making as much as I want them to!”

“You mean you actually know what other teachers in your school are doing? I don’t even know all their names yet, and I haven’t had time to speak to most of them.”

“What about at your orientation?” Aaron asked. “Didn’t you meet everyone there? Didn’t you get a chance to talk about school programming? And what about your team meetings?”

“What orientation?” Toni replied. “I arrived, was shown my classroom, given my class list, told where the textbooks were, and that was that. The teachers next door to me have said hello, and invited me to let them know if I need anything, but they’re busy too, and I hate to bother them. Some of the teachers haven’t even introduced themselves yet. Teachers don’t have meetings except for staff meetings, and those are usually full of administrative details and reminders about deadlines; I don’t know what you mean by ‘team meetings.’ I’m the only new teacher on staff, and I’m spending every evening and most of the weekend just trying to keep up. In addition to the regular teaching, I’ve been given a bunch of supervision tasks that nobody else wants to do. I’m already dead tired, and it’s only October.”
“That sounds tough,” Aaron commiserated. “Our staff works in grade-level teams, so we meet every week during a common prep period to talk about programs, particular kids, and teaching ideas. I’m working really hard too, but I also feel I’m learning an incredible amount and the other teachers are really helpful. But what about your principal? Isn’t he helpful?”

“I wouldn’t exactly describe Mr. Plett that way,” said Toni. “He talks mostly to the two staff members who seem to be his personal friends. He certainly hasn’t been helpful to me. I never see him. The norm in the school just seems to be that you do things on your own. Aside from getting the paperwork done, or whatever the latest board policy is, everyone, including the teachers, seems to prefer to be left alone to teach in their own way. Even when there are discipline problems, I definitely get the feeling that Mr. Plett expects me to solve them on my own, and I’m not sure he thinks I can do it.”

“I can’t believe how different my school is,” Aaron responded. “My principal has been in my class at least a half dozen times already. She just drops in for a few minutes, chats with some of the kids, and gets a sense of what we’re doing. The next time I see her she’s always got some positive remark to make about something she saw in the class. And she spent an hour with me after the first week, talking about how I was doing, offering suggestions, and most of all letting me know that she was there to support me. Even our staff meetings are pretty good. We spend most of the time talking about educational issues—language development, new program ideas, grading practices, and so on. We’ve got a school discipline policy, and I talk with other teachers quite a bit about what they’re doing with particular kids.”

“You know,” Toni mused, “I thought that teaching was teaching, wherever you were. But talking to you makes me realize how much difference the kind of school you’re in can make to your attitude. When I listen to your enthusiasm I realize how important the principal and other teachers are.”

Prospective teachers are generally motivated by their desire to help children and to foster learning. At the same time, it is important to remember that teaching is also a job for which people are well paid, and one that occurs in a defined setting, with particular rules, procedures, and conventions.

When a new teacher begins a first job, or when an experienced teacher changes schools, she or he moves into a setting that is already formed. The school has a history, a set of practices, a culture (“the way things are done around here”), and a group of people who may have been there for some time. The new person must learn about these practices and habits and, for the most part, adjust to them. Although new teachers often begin their careers with a great deal of idealism about how they can change things, they may soon encounter aspects of their work that instead change them.

Some of these conditions are inherent in the history and development of schools as institutions and of teaching as an occupation. Other conditions are created by the administrators who run the schools. Teachers need to understand how their work is shaped by these conditions. To that end, this chapter reviews the school as a workplace and teaching as an occupation, including the roles of teachers and administrators. Features such as hiring, pay, and evaluation are reviewed, and some of the tensions inherent in these activities are identified.



Table 6.1 indicates the number of full-time teachers in Canadian, provincial and territorial schools from 2006/2007 to 2011/2012, and the rate of change in full-time equivalent positions. Table 6.2 provide the student enrolment of students in schools from 2006/2007 to 2010/2011, which indicate an overall declining rate of change over the same period of time of anywhere between 0.1-2.5%.  The data indicate that overall, school enrolments are declining slowly in Canada.  On the other hand, the number of teachers employed in school systems has continued to rise somewhat each year, for a total rate of increase of 8.1% over that 10 year period.


Table 6.1 Full-time equivalent educators in public elementary and secondary schools, Canada, provinces and territories, 2001/2002 to 2011/2012





















































































































































































Percentage Change,
2001/2002 to 2011/2012















Note 1. "Full-time equivalent (FTE) educators" is defined as the number of full-time educators as of September 30th (or as close as possible thereafter) of the school year, plus the sum of part-time educators according to their percentage of a full-time employment allocation (determined by the province or territory). The term "educators" refers to teachers, school administrators and pedagogical support.

Note 2. Figures may not add up to totals because of rounding.

Note 3.  Educational Assistants are not included

Note 4. Excludes publicly funded hospital and provincial schools, care, treatment and correctional facilities. The increase in 2007/2008 is partially due to the inclusion of "long-term occasional teachers", which were not counted before 2007/2008. Data for 2010/2011, which include early childhood educators for the first time, are not comparable with those for previous years.

Note 5. All educators in Lloydminster are included in Saskatchewan's counts and none of them are captured in the counts for Alberta. Includes educators in provincially funded schools (including "associated independent" and "historic" high schools) and excluding "independent" "First Nations" schools and postsecondary sites.

Note 6. Data for Alberta prior to 2004/2005 are not comparable with more recent data due to a change in methodology. All educators in Lloydminster are included in Saskatchewan's counts and none of them are captured in the counts for Alberta.

Notes:  Due to the nature of the Elementary-Secondary Education Survey (ESES) data collection, these data are updated on an ongoing basis and are therefore subject to further revisions. These data are for publicly funded schools only and do not include private schools and federal schools. Care should be taken with cross jurisdictional comparisons. The proportion of educators (comprising a mix of teachers, administrators and pedagogical support) and their respective remuneration differ in each jurisdiction.
For a brief description of this indicator, including the methodology, please see the Handbook for the Pan-Canadian Education Indicators Program.

Source:  Statistics Canada, Elementary-Secondary Education Survey (ESES), data published December 4, 2013. Updated April 17, 2014.


Table 6.2 Full-time equivalent enrolments in public and other elementary and secondary schools, Canada, provinces and territories, 2006/2007 to 2010/2011 (Note 1)






















































































































































































































































Note 1. Other: includes private schools and/or home schooling data as provided by the jurisdictions.
Note 2. Ontario data in category "Other" in 2009/2010 is not comparable with previous years.
Note: Due to the different manners in which full-time equivalents are reported by the jurisdictions, this indicator should not be considered to be directly comparable. In addition, a full-time equivalent ratio may or may not be applied to home schooled students depending on the jurisdiction.
Source:  Statistics Canada, Summary Elementary and Secondary School Indicators for Canada, the Provinces and Territories, 2006/2007 to 2010/2011, Elementary-Secondary Education Survey.


Traditionally, teaching in Canada has been done mainly by women, especially at the elementary level. In the early part of the century, almost all teachers were women (Reynolds, 2001). Not coincidentally, teaching at the time was also a low-paying, low-status job that offered little in the way of career prospects. Despite these disadvantages, teaching was for many years one of the few careers open to women. An increase in pay, status, and working conditions during the twentieth century went along with an increase in the number of male teachers entering the profession, particularly at the secondary level. However, between 1990 and 2011, the percentage of males as full-time educators dropped from 41 percent to 26 percent (Statistics Canada, 2011). If the data are disaggregated by type of school, males represent 3% of the early childhood educators, 16% of elementary educators, and 41% of secondary educators. In addition, the limited available evidence appears to indicate that relatively few teachers are drawn from the ranks of Canada’s recent immigrant, visible minority, and Aboriginal communities, even though these groups provide an increasing proportion of Canada’s student population (Ontario College of Teachers, 2012). Addressing this disparity provides an important challenge to Canada’s education systems as they enter a period of sustained recruitment.
The next section looks further into the issue of supply and demand for teachers within the teaching occupation/work force.



The ability to obtain a teaching job depends first on whether job openings are available. This in turn depends upon the total number of teaching positions (which is often called the stock of jobs), and the number of vacancies that occur over time (often called the flow of people). Even in provinces with a very large teaching force, if only a few people actually leave their jobs, there will be few vacancies for new teachers. Similarly, if the total number of teaching jobs drops, which may occur when provinces and school districts face very tight budgets, turnover in the teaching staff will not result in many vacancies because the empty positions will not be filled. In 2010, the median age of secondary and elementary school teachers was reported to be 41.3 years of age, with an average retirement age of 58 (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2010).  This finding may suggest that the teacher turnover evident in the early 2000’s has slowed down, which will have implications on the number of positions opening up. In the overall picture of teaching in Canada today there is still a teacher surplus—there are more people with teaching credentials than there are teaching jobs.

As was noted above, however, in the past few years in Canada, even though student enrolment has been decreasing, schools have been increasing their rates of teacher full-time equivalents.  This inverse trend may be due to a variety of factors that interact with each other: increasing diversity in school systems, the need for appropriate educational programming, diversification and specialization of programs, class size caps in early years grades, etc.  In addition, in certain subject areas and geographical locations the situation is quite different and shortages abound. Specifically, teachers for subject areas such as mathematics, science, technology, and French immersion tend to be in short supply, and rural and northern school boards may have more difficulty finding qualified teachers than urban boards. Recruiting teachers into administration has also become a problem for some jurisdictions.

In a study that examined the profiles of young Canadian graduates who entered post-secondary institutions directly after high school (Allen, Harris, & Butlin, 2003), 84 percent of the 1995 Bachelor of Education graduates were working in education in 2000 (Note: Young graduates represent about half of a regular graduating class). However, a study conducted by the Ontario College of Teachers in 2012 suggests that since 2005, there is an emerging surplus of teachers and growing underemployment.  This issue has a cumulative effect as graduates from earlier years who remain underemployed compete for jobs with new graduates from teacher education programs.  Ontario is a unique case in this regard, as the extent of the issue is not as severe in other provinces across Canada.  This is due partly to the fact that until recently, Ontario teacher education programs had a shorter time to completion (which has now changed to be more in line with other provinces), and due partly to the proliferation of “off-shore” teacher preparation programs, many of which are online.  In any event, the Ontario College of Teachers report suggests that one in three teacher education graduates of 2011 remained unemployed, and one of the remaining two who did find work, did not teach as much as they wanted. Although 9 out of 10 new teachers indicated they would remain teaching within five years, the survey found that discouragement increased by the second year for those teachers who were unemployed or underemployed, even though they are “highly committed educators motivated by a strong desire to make a positive different for students…. The highly challenging job market does not deter many of them from sticking with their career choice” (p. 5).



Who determines what work is done, when, where, and how in schools? In fact, authority over schools officially rests with provincial governments and school boards. These bodies may (though they are not required to) delegate authority to administrators and teachers. As employees of school boards, teachers are required to comply with instructions given by school boards and school administrators. Teachers have very limited influence over their teaching assignment. They must teach at certain times in certain classrooms, and they do not choose their own students. In all these respects, the work of teachers is highly constrained and controlled.

In these ways, the school is a bureaucratic, hierarchical workplace, often compared to a factory model of organization. The term “bureaucratic” derives from the work of sociologist Max Weber, and refers to a hierarchical organization that is governed by rules, staffed by people with expertise, and operated on the basis of standard procedures and practices. Although the term is often used pejoratively now to mean organizations that are overly rigid and wedded to strict rules, the development of bureaucracies was a response to previous organizations that generally operated on the basis of favouritism, patronage, and the whims of those in positions of power. With the development of the hierarchy of decision making also came the definition of role responsibilities, channels of due process, and protections against abuses of authority. Moreover, a certain amount of organization and standardization seems both necessary and desirable in operating a school system that involves large numbers of students and staff, and a varied and complex body of knowledge.

In other respects, the school is a professional organization like a hospital. Teachers normally have a considerable amount of autonomy within their own classes as to how they teach. While teachers must follow a prescribed curriculum, many curriculum guides give teachers considerable choice in how they approach the subject. Matters of teaching methods and style, approach to discipline, treatment of students, and overall classroom atmosphere remain, in most cases, largely subject to the discretion of teachers. Even when there are official policies, teachers often modify or ignore them. For example, a teacher may enforce the school attendance policy or the school discipline policy selectively, if at all. Teachers thus have more autonomy than exists in many other jobs in which workers are not only told what to do, but also how to do it.

More commonly today, schools are labelled as communities of learners (Sergiovanni, 2005). In this model, educational stakeholders (including teachers, administrators, parents, and students) work toward enhancing a view of learning as a public good. Building community and focusing on relationships are keys to improving education. According to Sergiovanni, the development of a strong, shared vision is at the heart of a school’s ability to build community. In his book Strengthening the Heartbeat: Leading and Learning Together in Schools (2005), Sergiovanni advocates for a teacher-centred approach that promotes collaborative cultures and organizational competence.
The following section discusses some of the characteristics of teaching as an occupation that may have an impact on the ways in which teachers describe their work environment.



Teaching has been the subject of a number of important studies over the years. One of the first of these, The Sociology of Teaching, was written in the 1930s by U.S. sociologist Willard Waller. In 1975, Dan Lortie published his book, Schoolteacher, though the book was based on data collected years earlier in the 1960s. A powerful study of Australian teachers by R.W. Connell, Teachers’ Work, was done in the mid-1980s. In the 1990’s there were further discussions about the nature of teaching as an occupation, including Rod Dolmage’s Canadian book, So You Want to Be a Teacher (1996), Goodson and Hargreaves’ edited collection Teachers’ Professional Lives (1996). All of these works offered conclusions about some of the basic characteristics of teaching. Although evidence suggests that these characteristics are still common in Canadian teaching, the nature of their work has changed substantially (Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 2013).

In the past, teaching was often largely an isolated job. Teachers worked most of the time with students, and did not have much interaction with other adults. This was true not only of new teachers, who may have felt that they are left to “sink or swim” on their own, but also of experienced teachers. With the increasing development of collaborative professional development, team teaching, interdisciplinary inquiry learning projects, and teamed support for diverse learners, much of the isolation in teaching is being dispelled.

Although each teacher learns to teach individually, and has a unique style, teachers tend to reject the idea that there is a single best way to teach. Given the increasing diversity that exists in classrooms today, teachers recognize that meeting the learning needs of students also necessitates that they work with their colleagues to consider what teaching is and how best to do it. The research on student learning suggests that the teacher is the most important in-school influence on student learning (Leithwood et al., 2006).  It is therefore not surprising that much of the recent professional development for teachers has centred on differentiated instruction, assessment, and inquiry learning, all of which offer opportunities for teachers to reflect on how they work with students.

Teaching involves conflicting roles. Teachers want all children to succeed and to develop a love of learning, yet much of their time and energy goes into controlling students’ behaviour and evaluating students according to external standards. The more one tries to reach students individually, the more one may feel conflict with other aspects of schooling, such as the need to sort students by ability or the pressure to have students conform to rules and standards.

Teaching is also highly uncertain, and it is very difficult for a teacher to know when he or she is successful. While short-term measures such as grades and test scores are important, most teachers are far more concerned about the long-term development of their students. Teachers tend to rely much more on their own judgments about students than on any other measure. And when teachers feel that their ability to have an impact is limited by the influences of other phenomena, such as peer pressure or societal issues, a report from or about former students who have been successful is the affirmation they need to realize the difference they can make in the lives of their students.
All of these characteristics are important in shaping the way people think about teaching. For the most part, these characteristics tend to make teaching a difficult and uncertain enterprise. The hierarchical, bureaucratic model is less suited to an environment where there is no common technical culture and where outcomes are uncertain. Yet a professional model is difficult to implement in a setting where people face conflicting demands. A community model works well if school and community members have built trusting relationships and work toward a common vision. Effective schools create a balance between the models that affirm professionalism, offer a consistent and secure structure, and focus on building a shared vision for learning.



These characteristics of teaching also create difficulties in defining the role of school administrators. In hierarchical organizations such as factories, workers take directions from—and are supervised by—bosses. Schools often use essentially the same model, with teachers being directed and supervised by principals and superintendents. This is such a common feature of schooling that we take it for granted. Yet the factory model, even a factory model modified by the ideas of Total Quality Management (Deming, 1986) and more recent management strategies related to standardization and accountability, does not always fit the unique contextual needs of schools and/or students very well.

What would happen if schools operated more like hospitals, in which doctors individually and collectively make most of the treatment decisions, and in which administrators are primarily involved with keeping the organization cohesive and functioning? What would happen if school principals and superintendents were elected by teachers, or by teachers, students, and parents? What would happen if teachers took turns being responsible for administrative duties in the school? It seems likely that patterns of authority would change considerably. One might glean some tentative ideas by comparing schools to organizations that have different methods of determining leadership. For example, in universities, administrators are often hired for a limited term through open and participative processes; in collectives, leadership is shared and rotated; and, in political systems, leaders are elected. In principle, any of these practices could also be used in schools.

Regardless of these possibilities, Canadian school and school district administrators—principals and superintendents—are charged by their superiors (school boards) with supervising the operation of the schools. It is their job to ensure that the organization’s goals are being met, and that its policies and procedures are being followed. However, these are difficult tasks for the administrator to accomplish. For one thing, as was discussed in Chapter 1, there is much uncertainty about what the goals of schooling are or should be. Furthermore, education is not an activity that can be tightly specified. Teachers can’t simply be told to do something and be assured that what they do will affect all student learning in similar ways. For example, both the British Columbia College of Teachers and the Ontario College of Teachers have documents that outline standards of teaching, but the general nature of the standards allow for differences in interpretation and personal autonomy.

Even when teachers are given directions, the administrator cannot be sure they will be followed. Once the classroom door closes, teachers are often substantially free to teach what and how they like, so long as they observe certain limits. In many schools, if there are not too many complaints by students or parents and if there is not much disorder or noise, teachers are more or less left alone to do as they wish.

In short, the professional aspects of teaching and the norm of teacher autonomy mean that administrators have limited ability to exercise influence through the giving of orders or commands. Rather, administrative influence rests on other kinds of mechanisms. In a classic formulation of the nature of authority, sociologist Max Weber talked about three types of authority: traditional, legal, and charismatic. Each of these can be seen in the operation of schools.
Traditional authority used to be the most common type of authority. People were obeyed because they held positions that required obedience. Thus, monarchs, the nobility, or religious leaders were obeyed because it was normal to do so in a given social order. While traditional authority is less important in our society today than it has been historically, it still plays an important role. The traditional authority of administrators rests on their positions, which give their wishes and instructions a legitimacy that those of other people may lack. A suggestion made by a principal may often carry more weight with staff than a suggestion made by a teacher, simply because principals occupy positions of authority and are assumed by and large to know what they are doing.

Legal authority operates through the structural or organizational features of the school. Administrators evaluate teachers. They assign teachers’ workloads and have an important role in determining the details of a teacher’s work life. They can issue instructions that teachers are legally obligated to obey (although, as we have pointed out, this strategy is not always effective). Administrators often have control over resources teachers want, such as budgets for supplies and books or access to professional development opportunities. They can determine whose ideas get support and whose do not. Administrators also play a critical role in teachers’ career prospects. A good reference from an administrator is usually vital to a promotion. Principals can and do use these mechanisms to influence or control teachers’ behaviour.

Charismatic authority rests on the personal characteristics of the leader. Some people are able to command obedience by the force of their personality; they are impressive enough for others to want, or at least to agree, to do what they suggest. Indeed, when we use the word “leadership,” we are often talking about charismatic authority, which rests on certain intangible qualities of the leader.



Recently, there has been a marked revival of interest in the idea of leadership in schools. Research over the last 10 years or so has emphasized the important role of the principal in creating and sustaining quality schools. This research has led to calls for school principals to become much more oriented toward providing active leadership. Graduate programs and in-service training for school administrators are giving increasing emphasis to what is called “educational leadership” as opposed to the relatively routine and administrative style described earlier in the chapter.
Many studies, in education and other fields, have examined the nature of leadership and the characteristics that make people effective school leaders (Bascia, Cumming, Datnow, Leithwood, & Livingstone, 2005; Begley & Slater, 2000; Fullan, 2011; Kowalski, 2010; Mulford, Silinis, & Leithwood, 2004; Volante, 2013). This research shows that the idea of leadership is far from simple. On the one hand, it does appear that some individuals in leadership positions can make a considerable difference to their school or school district. There is much anecdotal evidence and a growing body of research about school administrators who were able to strengthen school programs, improve morale, create conditions under which students learned more, and inspire teachers to be better at their work. Effective principals have a strong interest in instructional issues. They tend to be highly visible in the school. They both initiate and support improvement efforts by teachers and students. They work hard at creating a positive school climate, a sense of purpose and efficacy, strong working relationships among teachers, and shared power and responsibility.
On the other hand, leadership is not always and necessarily a positive thing. No recipe exists for being an effective leader. What works in one school with a certain staff, student body, and community will not necessarily work in another school, an idea that is sometimes called the contingency or situational theory of leadership. Some of the education literature on effective leadership portrays good leaders as knights in armour (notice the masculine quality here) who rescue failing schools almost single-handedly, triumphing over all kinds of obstacles. A number of Hollywood movies have reinforced this image of the good principal. But the reality is much more complex. The requirements of leadership may vary depending on the staff, the students, the program, and other aspects of the school. In certain cases a strong interventionist style of leadership may be most effective; in others, a quieter form of facilitated support may achieve the best results.

There are also important barriers to effective leadership in both schools and other organizations. Promoting change may bring increased conflict and a sense of uneasiness as people try to work out new practices. It may not be sufficiently recognized that changing our old and familiar patterns of behaviour is very difficult to do, even when there is a willingness to do so. A principal who presses for change may encounter resistance from staff, students, or the community. Even when people recognize that improvement is needed, they may naturally not be anxious to engage in the hard work required to bring about improvement, especially when, as is true for many teachers, their jobs are already demanding and the rewards of change are quite uncertain.

Any leader’s capacity to be effective is also partly dependent on external circumstances beyond his or her control, such as the level of resources, support from higher levels of authority, or crises that may occur. The need to cope with a sudden budget decline can distract everyone from a long-term educational agenda. A new curriculum requirement from the provincial government may mean that professional development time has to be reallocated. Just as a cautious principal can block teachers’ ideas, so a superintendent or school board can stifle a principal’s initiative if they wish to do so. A large number of circumstances could make it difficult for even the most talented leader to accomplish school goals.

While we have a strong tendency to think of school leadership in terms of “the leader” and the school principal, authors such as Linda Lambert (2003) challenge us to take a much broader view of leadership, constructivist leadership, that is a much more shared and collaborative process. Leadership, Lambert contends, is a shared endeavour that all members of a school community can contribute to, constructing and pursuing a shared purpose for the school. The leadership capacity of a school, she suggests, has two critical dimensions, breadth—the degree to which participation in the work of leadership is broad-based including teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members—and skillfulness—the degree to which participants have developed proficiency in the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of leadership (Lambert, 1998, p. 12). 
The dialogue that began this chapter illustrated how different schools can be in their operation, and the importance leadership can have in creating these differences. The next section discusses typical and exemplary practices in relation to many of the aspects of life in schools for teachers.



The following sections outline some of the common issues related to the career progression and development of teachers: hiring, contracts, induction, salaries, working conditions, professional development, supervision, evaluation, academic freedom, and dismissal/tenure procedures.


Hiring has at least two requirements. The first is to define the qualities needed to fill a position; the second is to use some process to select a particular person who, presumably, best embodies those qualities. In practice, however, neither requirement may get explicit attention. Most schools and school divisions establish staffing needs for the upcoming year based on projected enrollments, program requirements and options, an examination of movement of staff (retirements, transfers, part-time placements, leaves, dismissals), special population needs, and current legislative regulations. From this data, the school division determines how many professional placements it can offer, and in which subject areas, for particular schools.

While the hiring process for teachers has common elements, it varies widely across schools and districts. In some settings, time may be taken to gather staff opinion or community views, and to think about the kind of person who is wanted for a position. For most teaching positions, however, selection begins with a review of the paper qualifications (résumé, experience, type of certificate) of various candidates, and the creation of a short list of persons to be interviewed.

School boards have the formal, legal responsibility for hiring teachers. In some cases, most of the authority for hiring teachers is given to school principals, who review applications, determine who will be interviewed, conduct the interviews, and recommend a candidate to the superintendent and the school board. It is crucial to note, however, that principals do not hire teachers, even though many systems rely on the principal’s recommendation for hiring. In some districts, most of these tasks are the responsibility of superintendents, who then assign teachers to particular schools. The principal may have little or no role in choosing his or her staff. In other districts, especially small, rural ones, school trustees are directly involved in interviewing prospective teachers and making decisions about hiring. School boards, or the governing body of the school division, have the final authority on hiring, even if they delegate that authority to the superintendent or superintendent’s office.

There has been little Canadian research on the process of hiring teachers, but some evidence suggests that this varies just as the authority for hiring varies. Some schools or districts rely heavily on interviews. In some cases, though it may occur infrequently, other teachers or parents may be involved in interviewing. However, research on personnel selection indicates that performance in an interview cannot accurately predict performance on the job (Cranston, 2012). Many districts or schools may rely heavily on an applicant’s references, and particularly on comments from teachers or administrators who have seen the applicant in a teaching situation. For new teachers, the teacher candidacy experience is very important in that it provides some evidence of competence that an administrator may use in making a hiring decision. Working as a substitute teacher can also be a way of becoming known and hireable in a school, although substitute teaching can be more difficult and less satisfying than regular teaching.

Subject-matter expertise is naturally an important consideration in hiring. The growth in French immersion in Canada made it relatively easy in the last decade for new teachers with good French-language skills to find employment. Those with skills in specialist areas such as computer applications, special education, or music have also been at an advantage in the job market. As new priority areas emerge, administrators will look for applicants who have these skills. However, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that hiring may also depend on entirely extraneous factors, such as whether the applicant is willing to undertake extracurricular activities or whether the applicant grew up in that particular jurisdiction. Many school systems like to hire teachers who graduated from their own schools. Employment equity may be a hiring consideration. Another criterion is whether the candidate will “fit in” with a particular staff. The goal of hiring may be to minimize the risk of problems rather than to find the most dynamic and effective person. The evidence suggests that university grades are often given little importance in hiring decisions.

The uncertainty in hiring processes reflects the elusiveness of the concept of the “good teacher.” A more detailed discussion of teaching occurs in Chapter 7; at this point, it is sufficient to note that there is no consensus on what good teaching is, or on how to decide if a particular person is a good teacher. This of course makes hiring much more difficult. One alternative that is being used in some settings is to use hiring as an opportunity to initiate a debate or discussion within a school regarding what qualities and skills are most important in a teacher. The very discussion of these matters can itself contribute to building consensus on issues of teaching and learning.

Employment Equity and Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is primarily a U.S. term. Ontario judge Rosalie Abella (1984), who completed a major study on the issue for the Government of Canada, preferred the term employment equity, by which she meant efforts to create a more balanced representation of various groups in a given work force. Employment equity has broad application in Canada in many sectors of the labour force and in many different industries. The federal government, for example, requires all companies with which it contracts to develop and implement an employment equity strategy.

Employment equity is regarded as necessary because work forces may become highly segregated in terms of race, ethnicity, or gender, and because certain groups of people have had enormous difficulty in finding employment. With respect to teachers, two areas of employment equity have been predominant in Canada: the pursuit of an ethnically and racially representative teaching profession and of gender equity in school administration.

A Representative Teaching Force

At a time when every province in Canada is in a period of rapid teacher turnover and a renewal of the profession, issues of employment equity and representation take on a particular importance.

As noted earlier, Canada—always a society characterized by cultural diversity—has articulated a constitutional and legal vision of itself that acknowledges and celebrates the richness of this diversity (Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 2013). Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is of particular importance in this regard, because not only does it make discrimination by government illegal but it also makes provision for actions that seek to redress existing inequities. For many people a commitment to equity and multicultural education in Canada can only be, at best, partial if the teaching force generally bears little resemblance to the cultural and racial diversity of the wider society or to the communities and students with whom they work. This may also help to explain the elusive and subjective nature of what it means to be “a good teacher” or “the best candidate.”

Schools in most Canadian cities serve students from a variety of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, yet relatively few teachers, administrators, or school board members originate from these same groups (Canadian Teachers Federation, 2013). In some cities and in much of northern Canada, large numbers of students are Aboriginal, yet Aboriginal teachers and administrators remain underrepresented in these schools. At least three quite different justifications can be made for a representative teaching force at the system level. The importance of teachers as role models for students from non-dominant backgrounds is one such justification, but equally important is their presence to challenge the development of stereotypes and prejudices among dominant-group students. Second, if schools do indeed value culturally relevant curricula, such teachers are likely to bring to the system a range of knowledge, skills, experiences, and sensitivities that would be enriching. Third, from an employment perspective, school systems might justifiably be asked to examine why, as major employers, they do not draw equally from the population of their communities, and to take steps to remove unreasonable barriers in their hiring and personnel practices.

Canada has a number of innovative teacher-education programs that train Aboriginal students and students from other underrepresented groups as teachers. Many Canadian universities, including British Columbia, Brandon, Saskatchewan, Lakehead, McGill, and Memorial, operate programs that specifically recruit Aboriginal people into teaching. Usually these programs pay particular attention to Aboriginal cultures, Aboriginal languages, and the requirements of northern and urban schools, where most Aboriginal students go to school. These programs have brought about a substantial increase in the number of Aboriginal teachers in First Nation schools. However, in provincial schools, with or without large Aboriginal student populations, the small number of Aboriginal teachers remains a challenge. Today, most teacher education programs have an equity mandate that makes increasing the diversity of teacher graduates a central concern. Across the country as a whole there is a greater recognition of and focus on the fact that the student populations of our faculties of education should more fully reflect the cultural and racial diversity of the wider population.

Some school divisions have begun the process of reviewing hiring processes in order to eliminate culturally biased practices, and to recruit actively teachers from underrepresented groups (Toronto District School Board, 2004). Few school jurisdictions in Canada, however, have employment-equity policies comparable with those required of many federal and provincial agencies.

Women and Administration

Much of the research on women in administration addresses their representation, career development, and leadership/management style. Currently, more women than men complete advanced degrees in educational administration, yet their numbers in administrative positions overall are disproportionate to their representation in the field of education (Reynolds, 2001; Kachur-Reico & Wallin, 2012). While the proportion of women in leadership positions continues to grow, especially as more men leave the field of education (Statistics Canada, 2011), their representation remains somewhat uneven, both demographically and positionally. For instance, women are more apt to hold assistant positions (vice principal or assistant superintendent) than they are to hold chief positions (principal or superintendent). They are also more apt to hold elementary principalships than middle or high school principalships (Wallin, 2005; Young & Ansara, 1999). While the career paths of males and females appear to have become more similar in the past few years, there is evidence that women still do not receive the same kinds of encouragement or socialization into their administrative roles as do men, and that women still face gender discrimination and barriers that are both individual and systemic (Bascia & Young, 2001; Wallace, 2001; Wallin, 2013; Wallin & Crippen, 2007; Young, 2002). Unfortunately, the lack of a reliable data base that records gender statistics prevents an accurate assessment of progress toward gender equity in Canadian education.

There is a strong tendency to characterize women as having a more democratic and participatory style of leadership than men, suggesting that there is something that can be uniquely referred to as a “female leadership style” (Shakeshaft, 2000). However, there also exists research that reports that some women are not comfortable with participative forms of leadership, and that context or role are larger factors in the way women operate in educational administration than leadership style (Eckman, 2004; Wallin, 2004). Other studies argue that there are few, if any, differences in the way females and males lead and that the differences identified in studies were either insignificant or attributable to female administrator accommodations to male-defined leadership positions (Eagly, Karau, & Johnston, 1992; Wallin & Crippen, 2008). There is evidence to support both views, and most of us can think of women and men who exhibit “masculine” and “feminine” characteristics in their leadership styles.

The lack of a reliable data-base raises questions related to equity in education. For example, what does it mean to achieve equity in terms of representation? Can equity be framed in terms of the numbers of women versus the numbers of men; the numbers overall, by position, or by kind of district? Are women advancing disproportionately in certain types of schools, school districts, or positions? Are they receiving positions more often in circumstances where attracting candidates is difficult? Have school divisions maintained (or even initiated) a focus on gender-equitable practice, or is there a sense that gender equity is “old news,” and we no longer have to pay attention to it? To what extent have changes in family structure, parenting roles, and social attitudes blurred gender roles between males and females? Do men experience barriers to movement into and within administration, and if so, how are the barriers similar to or different from those experienced by women? Is there a “female leadership style” or have men and women become more similar in their leadership styles, especially in a nurturing field such as education? Because we lack contemporary comparative studies of males and females, it is difficult to determine how much style differences are actually shaped by gender and how much by role identities or socialization patterns.

Another concern relates to the movement of men out of the profession. Historically, when females begin to dominate a profession, that profession becomes devalued in society. If such is the case, where is the balance between gender equity, representation, and the “tipping point” that could devalue the profession of education as a whole, causing negative consequences for all professionals in education?

Neither is gender an independent variable in relation to leadership. In fact, gender may intersect with race, culture, age, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, and residence in Western or non-Western societies to impact entry and/or socialization into leadership positions. As Wallace (2001) states, finding the answers to these types of questions “requires the voices of both men and women, while recognizing the complex positions of power those voices occupy” (p. 11). These are the kinds of gender issues that male and female educators must struggle with as they strive toward a democratic and equitable education system.

Employment-Equity Measures

What steps can be taken to increase the numbers of women, Aboriginal people, and other underrepresented groups among teachers and administrators? A wide range of employment-equity programs has already been established in organizations. Although much of the debate over employment equity focuses on the idea of quotas (in which some portion of a set of jobs is reserved for members of target groups), the use of quotas is in fact relatively rare, and is only one of many ways to strengthen the presence of affirmative-action target groups. Some of these include

•     specific efforts to find qualified applicants from target groups, and to encourage them to apply;
•     providing training to target group members to increase their qualifications and chance of being selected;
•     providing training to those on selection committees in order to guard against unwarranted biases in hiring;
•     providing guidelines for job criteria that are not systematically exclusive of certain groups (e.g., qualifications such as height or coaching experience); and
•     changing workplace conditions to make jobs more attractive to target group members (e.g., providing daycare or allowing staff flexibility with respect to religious holidays).

Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly allows affirmative-action employment-equity provisions. Furthermore, until we are successful in having a distribution of teachers and administrators that is more consistent with the overall population, employment-equity measures appear to be warranted, and are likely to continue in Canada.



Teachers are formally the employees of school districts. When hired, a teacher normally signs a contract with a school district. However, the contract typically lays out only some of the most basic aspects of the job, such as the notice required for resignation or dismissal. There may be different kinds of contracts for different teachers. A standard contract applies to people who are taking on permanent, full-time positions. However, teachers who are going to be employed temporarily, part-time, or as substitutes may have a different form of contract with fewer protections and benefits. A number of provinces, for example, now allow school districts to hire teachers on temporary contracts that expire automatically at the end of the school year. These contracts give school districts more flexibility in their staffing from year to year, but at the price of eliminating job security for teachers in this category, who must wait to find out each spring if they will have a job the following year.

It is also important for prospective teachers to understand that an undertaking made either by them or the school district through a letter or even a conversation or phone call is also a form of contract. Any agreement entered into by two parties may be recognized by the courts as a binding contract, even if it is not a formal document.



Induction refers to the processes used by school divisions to orient teachers new to the division, whether they are new to teaching in general, or new to employment within that particular division. For many years, concern has been expressed about the way in which first-year teachers are treated. In some cases, new teachers may be given teaching assignments other teachers do not want. These could involve teaching several different subjects or different grades. Whatever the teaching assignment, new teachers may simply begin on the first day, with no orientation, no support system, and little help in dealing with problems that inevitably arise. This is the “sink or swim” attitude that can make or break a new teacher’s likelihood of remaining in the profession.

Fortunately, many school districts are now taking measures to improve the experience of first-year teachers. Administrators are realizing that it is to the school’s and students’ benefit to make the first year as satisfying as possible for new teachers. It is increasingly common to find districts providing measures such as orientation sessions, mentoring arrangements with more experienced teachers, lighter teaching loads, extra support from the principal, group meetings of beginning teachers, or special professional development opportunities to support new teachers. Improving the first year of new teachers is a relatively easy, yet potentially powerful, way of improving schooling.
Wong, Britton, and Gasnor (2005) describe an effective induction process as follows:

Support that reaches all beginning teachers, incorporates multiple sources of assistance, typically lasts at least two years, and goes beyond imparting mere survival skills…. Induction is a highly organized and comprehensive form of staff development, involving many people and components…. Mentoring is often a component of the induction process. (p. 379)

In fact, many school divisions across Canada now ensure that there is some sort of induction process available for new teachers. Having a good induction process is an incentive for teachers to apply to the division, and helps school divisions retain good teachers once they come on board. For example, the provincial government in Ontario is exploring an induction program for all first-year teachers (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010). Most often, induction programs are developed by individual school divisions through mentorship programs, reduced teaching loads, or other incentives that help ease the transition into full-time teaching.



Teachers are generally paid annual salaries. Salaries are determined through collective bargaining between teachers’ associations and either school boards or provincial governments (an issue more fully discussed in Chapter 9). Pay rates for teachers in Canada are normally tied closely to the teacher’s experience and education. The more years of postsecondary education, the higher the starting salary. Most collective agreements also provide that teachers will get an increase in salary, called an increment, for each year of teaching experience up to a specified maximum number of years. Teachers working in remote or isolated communities may also be paid extra, whether through a higher salary scale or some form of isolation payment (Dolmage, 1996).

In all of the provinces except Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario, basic salary and fringe benefits are negotiated at a provincial level between teachers’ associations and the provincial government. In the three provinces mentioned, negotiations of salary are conducted between the teachers’ association and the local school division or region. Collective agreements also contain salary and other provisions for administrators, if they are part of the bargaining unit. Fringe benefits may include such issues as compassionate leave, supplementary medical insurance, cumulative sick leave, long-term disability insurance, maternity leave, retirement gratuities, sabbatical and study leave, life insurance, and dental insurance (Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 2003). A new teacher is wise to compare the fringe benefits of different divisions, as they can vary greatly.

Pay levels vary from province to province, and in provinces where collective bargaining of salaries is carried on locally (see Chapter 9), salaries vary across school boards. Table 6.3 shows a salary scale for Saskatchewan teachers.
Teachers’ pay, like that of other public-sector workers, increased significantly in the 30 or 40 years prior to the early 1990s. Early in the 1900s, teachers were badly paid. During the Depression years, many teachers had their salaries reduced every year, or worked only for room and board (Library and Archives Canada, 2010). But this situation began to change in the 1950s with the establishment of unions as a major force and the increased importance to economic development attached to levels of education. By 1989, the average salary for Canadian teachers was about $48 000 (Sale, 1992), while in comparison the average weekly industrial wage in Ontario (among the highest in the country) in 1991 was $560, or about $29 000 per year (Statistics Canada, 1992).

The late 1990s were characterized by pay freezes, unilateral salary rollbacks, days off without pay, and reductions in professional development days for teachers in many provinces. However, in the last few years salaries for Canadian teachers have begun again to rise. Despite these ups and downs, Canadian teachers remain, on the whole, quite well paid compared with most other Canadian workers (keeping in mind the problems of comparison raised in Chapter 5 with respect to education funding). Table 6.4 shows the average educator’s salary from 2006/2007 to 2010/2011. However, these figures reflect average salaries, and must keep in mind, as shown in Table 6.4, that starting salaries are lower than these.


Table 6.3 Sample Salary Scale for Teachers (2012/2013)


One Degree

Two Degrees



$51 476

$54 393

57 952


53 776

56 781

60 448


56 180

59 273

63 051


58 690

61 875

65 766



64 592

68 599


64 054

67 427

71 553



70 387

74 635


69 907

73 476

77 849


73 031

76 702

81 202


76 295

80 069

84 699


79 706

83 584

88 347

Source: Adapted from Provincial Collective Agreement Between the Boards of Education and Government of Saskatchewan and the Teachers of Saskatchewan. Effective September 1, 2010–August 31, 2013,

Table 6.4 Average remuneration per educator in public elementary and secondary schools, Canada, provinces and territories, 2006/2007 to 2010/2011 (in current dollars) (Note 1)































Percentage change






























Percentage change






























Percentage change






























Percentage change






























Percentage change















Note 1. Educator remuneration includes educators' salaries, wages and allowances, but excludes fringe benefits and teachers' superannuation pension funds.
Note 2. Excludes Educational assistants.
Note: Care should be taken with cross jurisdictional comparison. The proportion of educators (comprising a mix of teachers, administrators and pedagogical support) and their respective remuneration differs in each jurisdiction.
Source:  Statistics Canada, Summary Elementary and Secondary School Indicators for Canada, the Provinces and Territories, 2006/2007 to 2010/2011, Elementary-Secondary Education Survey


Note that teachers’ pay provisions are generally based on the bureaucratic organizational model and are thus related only to paper qualifications and to years in the organization. Other aspects of teaching, such as skill or commitment, or the voluntary assumption of additional duties and responsibilities, are not recognized in the pay scale. For many years there have been calls, especially in the United States, to implement some form of merit pay in which teachers who are judged better by some standard are paid more. Given the characteristics of teaching mentioned earlier (its uncertain, non-technical, and isolated nature), determining merit is extremely difficult. Moreover, teachers do not control most of their conditions of work, which means that their ability to work is at least partly determined by someone else. Merit pay is a troublesome concept under these circumstances, but one that continues to generate interest in educational-policy debates (Chamberlain, Wragg, Haynes, & Wragg, 2004).


Working Conditions

Working conditions refer to the multitude of factors that affect the everyday working situation of teachers. Examples of working conditions include class sizes, number of courses taught, preparation time during the school day, expectations for extracurricular activities and supervision of students, placement of difficult students, expectations for marking and for reporting to parents, and so on. The entire set of working conditions is important in shaping teachers’ work. For example, it usually takes more effort to teach several different courses than to teach the same course to several different groups of students, but this also depends on the size of the classes and the student composition. Many teachers prefer to teach students whom they believe are more capable and more motivated to do well in school. Some teachers have found their work made significantly more challenging by the placement in their classes of students with severe behavioural or other issues, something discussed more fully in Chapter 7.

Teachers’ duties are assigned by school boards and administrators, and teachers are required to take on the assigned duties unless their collective agreement specifies otherwise. A teacher can be assigned to teach any grade or subject, regardless of his or her training, except in the few instances where provincial regulations require a specific qualification. For example, in some provinces teachers must have a special certificate, acquired through additional training, to work as special education teachers. A teacher’s workload can be changed at the end of, or during, the school year. Aspects of working conditions, such as maximum class size (whether or not there are split-grade classes) or the amount of non-teaching (preparation) time teachers must receive, may be regulated either by the collective agreement or at the discretion of the school district or school administration. However, for the most part, teachers have relatively little control over their working conditions, which puts schools closer to the bureaucratic than to the professional model.

Teachers’ working conditions are affected significantly by developments outside of the school. For example, if unemployment increases, more children may have to cope with declines in family income and living standards, and with the increased frustration of an unemployed parent. Poverty has, for many reasons, a very strong negative impact on children’s ability to benefit from school. As well, social issues within the community have a tendency to find their way into the school, so schools (and therefore teachers), are increasingly being asked to initiate and maintain programs that focus on social issues as well as academic learning.


Class Size

A survey in 2004 commissioned by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation indicated that 76% of Canadians believed that class sizes in Canadian schools were too large, and 77% of the respondents believed that large class sizes and increasingly heavy workloads were a primary reason why young or beginning teachers leave the profession after a few years. Class size and composition studies and reports have also been conducted by a number of teachers associations in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. Several provinces have taken steps in recent years to reduce class sizes. For example, the Ontario government in 2003 made a commitment to limit primary class sizes to a maximum of 20 by 2007 and further extended this initiative in 2005.  Manitoba made a similar commitment in 2012 to be realized by 2017.


Preparation Time

Another important working condition for teachers is the amount of time they have each day when they are not actually teaching a class. This is commonly called preparation (or prep) time. A Canadian Teachers Federation (2013) report indicates that, “the most common type of provision is a guaranteed minimum amount of preparation time per week or per cycle. In some cases, however, preparation time is expressed as a percentage of total instructional or assignable time rather than being prescribed in minutes” (p. 1).

There are, however, considerable variations here. In British Columbia, elementary teachers have 90 minutes per week, while in Winnipeg they have 180 minutes per cycle (six days). Secondary teachers in Nova Scotia can have no less than an average of 10% of assigned time in 6 of 7 school boards (not including Halifax which is 150 minute per six day cycle, while in Ontario arrangements can include a period each day, or 225-240 minutes per five instructional days.


Professional Development

All schools and school systems recognize the need for teachers and administrators to continue to learn about their work. Professional development or in-service training are the names given to the various formal and informal opportunities provided to teachers to improve themselves. Professional development can include everything from informal after-school teachers’ meetings to university degree programs.

Despite the amount of effort that goes into their preparation, studies typically report that teachers are not very satisfied with their professional development experiences, which are seen as having little impact on subsequent activity in the classroom (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 2011). The ideas raised may be unrealistic, may require substantial skill (which teachers are not able to develop in one or two days), may not fit with the rules and procedures of a school, or may be popular one year but forgotten the next. All of these problems reduce the potential value of professional development. Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin (2011) point out that effective staff development must include the following:

  1. It must engage teachers in concrete tasks of teaching, assessment, observation, and reflection that illuminate the processes of learning and development.
  2. It must be grounded in inquiry, reflection, and experimentation that are participant-driven.
  3. It must be collaborative, involving a sharing of knowledge among educators and a focus on teachers' communities of practice rather than on individual teachers.
  4. It must be connected to and derived from teachers' work with their students.
  5. It must be sustained, ongoing, intensive, and supported by modeling, coaching, and the collective solving of specific problems of practice.
  6. It must be connected to other aspects of school change. (p. 82)

Most Canadian school systems provide structured professional development activities. Provinces normally set aside a certain number of days in each school year (from five to twelve days is typical) when schools can be closed to students to allow teachers to meet. In addition to these, schools may organize a wide range of other professional development activities either outside of school hours or during school time (using substitute teachers to cover classes). Many teachers devote considerable amounts of their own time and money to study and improvement activities of various kinds.

The development of a professional model of teaching has generated much more interest in making professional development a valuable process. Much of the change in professional development has been influenced by educational research that has supported practices such as peer coaching (in which teachers work with one another to improve particular aspects of their teaching) and reflective practice (in which teachers gather information about their own teaching and use it as the basis for planning changes). Increasing efforts are also being made to integrate professional development with other school activities such as evaluation practice or curriculum development, to provide ongoing support for teachers who are trying to make changes in their practice, and to create collaborative relationships among teachers to support change. The concept of schools as learning organizations (Senge, 1990) or learning communities (Mitchell & Sackney, 2000) places these notions of professional development—the building of personal, interpersonal, and organizational capacity—at the heart of school improvement. Here the learning of teachers, and the capacity of the school community at large to learn together to improve the educational experiences in the school, becomes a vital part of the organizational life of the school. This concept provides a powerful model for the increased professionalism of teachers for energizing life in schools.



The degree to which teachers are supervised in their work also varies enormously from school to school. In some schools, teachers rarely see another adult in their classroom during the course of the year. Outside intervention occurs only when there is a problem, such as excessive noise or a complaint from a parent. In other schools, principals and staff members are frequently, if briefly, in one another’s classes for various reasons.

The very fact of supervision as a normal feature of schools is an indication of the influence of the bureaucratic model. In professional settings, however, supervision by superiors is typically replaced by a peer-governed process of quality control in which members of the profession set up systems to examine one another’s practice.
Teachers have mixed opinions on the matter of supervision. On the one hand, most teachers value the autonomy they have in the classroom, and their ability to organize teaching in a way that they feel suits them and their students. This is consistent with the lack of a common approach to teaching, noted earlier in this chapter. Teachers may worry that too many visits by an administrator will result in more external control over their work and more instructions to them to change what they are doing. On the other hand, most teachers have a real interest in improving their teaching, and they recognize that feedback from others can be very helpful in doing so. One of the key factors in the perceptions of teachers in regards to supervision is the development of professional and trusting relationships between principals and teachers.

Recent thinking in education, as indicated earlier, emphasizes the role of the principal as an educational leader. This orientation urges principals to shift their priorities from administrative duties to improving their schools’ instructional programs, and to achieve this goal by working closely with teachers (Hallinger, 2009). Under the instructional leadership approach, principals spend much more time in classrooms, learn about what teachers are doing, and discuss educational issues with them. This approach seeks to move schools closer to a professional model of organization. There is not enough evidence yet to show that large numbers of principals are in fact changing their practice, but it is reasonable to expect that teachers will have more visits to their classrooms than used to be the case.



Almost all educational jurisdictions have policies requiring the formal evaluation of teachers on a regular basis. First-year teachers can expect to be evaluated more frequently (and more carefully) than more experienced teachers.
Evaluation has two purposes. One of these is to help teachers improve their teaching; this is commonly referred to as formative evaluation. The second function of evaluation is to find and deal with teachers whose performance is not acceptable; this is called summative evaluation.

Most teacher evaluation policies attempt to combine both these functions in a single set of practices. The evaluation most commonly in use involves a conference model. The person doing the evaluation (usually, but not always, the school principal) meets with the teacher being evaluated to discuss and agree on how the evaluation will be conducted. This may involve matters such as how many classroom visits will be made, when they will be made, what specific aspects of teaching will be looked at most closely, and any other matters that either the teacher or the principal may wish to have considered. Following whatever classroom visits and other measures have been agreed to, the evaluator and the teacher will meet again to discuss the results of the evaluation. The evaluator will provide a written report on the evaluation, and the teacher will have an opportunity to comment on the report. The evaluator may then revise the report in light of the teacher’s views. A final version of the evaluation report, together with any written comments the teacher wishes to make, are normally placed in the teacher’s personnel file, which is held by the school district. These procedures have been developed and adopted to protect teachers from unfair and arbitrary evaluation that could lead to dismissal.

At the heart of the debate about teacher evaluation is the distinction between hierarchical and professional models of schools. In a hierarchical model, it is clearly the job of managers to evaluate workers and determine whether they are competent. In a professional organization, however, managers may not be knowledgeable enough to make judgments about competence. Hospital administrators do not judge the quality of medical practice, for example. Instead, evaluation in professional settings relies primarily on peer assessment and on standards of practice.
Teacher-evaluation efforts have been troubled by several problems. First, it is difficult to combine formative and summative evaluation in a single policy. Many commentators on the issue feel that as long as teachers are concerned that the evaluation may be used against them, they are unlikely to be open in raising concerns about improvements in their own teaching. Making decisions about whether to retain teachers on staff is not consistent with creating an open climate for discussing teaching and its improvement.

There are also serious technical problems with teacher evaluation. The point has already been made that there is no single style of good teaching. Indeed, people will disagree in many cases on what good teaching is. When agreement on good practice is hard to obtain, there is an obvious problem in evaluating when good practice is occurring. For example, a teacher may favour a more open and student-centred teaching style, while the evaluator favours a more controlled and disciplined approach. It is not evident that one of them is right and the other wrong, but their different views would certainly affect the evaluation.

Most teacher evaluation occurs through classroom visits by evaluators. But there are questions about the validity of this technique. Are evaluators’ judgments, based as they are on only a relatively brief time in a classroom, the best measure of good teaching? What about cases where the evaluator knows little about the particular subject or age group? What happens if the evaluator and the teacher happen to dislike each other? There are many potential sources of bias in evaluations done through observations. Each evaluative approach discussed above may have some value, but each also has significant weaknesses. There is no agreement in the research on any particular evaluation practice that can be demonstrated to have a high level of validity. As well, in the overwhelming majority of cases, evaluation reports are quite positive. However, many teachers express the desire to be given feedback that will help them improve; a formal report based on a single observation is not viewed by teachers as being particularly useful, even if it is nice to be told one is doing a good job.

In the last few years, some school districts have begun to move toward a form of evaluation policy called the two-track model. Under this scheme, most teachers do not have formal evaluations. Instead, they work with their administrator to define areas in which they would like to review their teaching practice and make changes. The plan they develop for doing so might include professional development activities, work with fellow teachers, directed reading, classroom observations by administrators, or other steps. Data may include that found in student reports, parent reports, peer review of materials and/or practice, teacher tests, documentation of professional activity, systematic observation, pupil achievement data, successful action research, participation in school improvement, administrator report, and data unique to the individual teacher. This work is carried out strictly for purposes of self-improvement. Often this kind of data is arranged in a portfolio that is provided to the evaluator for assessment. No formal reports are prepared, and no evaluative comments are placed in the personnel file. The teacher and the evaluator work through the portfolio together, initiating a professional conversation that allows for reflection and performance feedback. Obviously, the time it takes to create the portfolio and conduct this type of evaluation is its primary deterrent, even though the level and quality of feedback may be very valuable. Box 6.1 outlines Seven Oaks (Manitoba) School Division’s policy regarding its Professional Learning Framework.

BOX 6.1 Professional Learning Framework

Seven Oaks School Division desires high quality education for its students. Quality instruction is concomitant with quality education. Effective teaching forms the foundation on which quality education is based.

Teachers, acting as professionals who serve the public interest, must be personally responsible and accountable for their professional judgments and actions. They must ensure that they are current in the knowledge of the profession and must take responsibility for the application of that knowledge in diverse situations. The Professional Learning Framework requires that teachers engage in examination of their practice by:
•     documenting and showing evidence of teaching practice through the use of a professional portfolio, personal journal, interactive journal or other means;
•     reflecting upon one’s practice to link the theoretical frameworks and broader purposes of education to one’s actions in the classroom;
•     dialoguing with peers and administrators to consider educational judgments made and how they link one’s knowledge and practice;
•     giving consideration to other relevant perspectives;
•     finding ways for research to inform practice as well as for practice to inform research;
•     acting upon new understandings; and
•     preparation of an Annual Reflection on Professional Learning to be discussed with administrators and submitted to the Superintendents’ Department for placement in the personnel record.

In the Professional Learning Framework reflection, dialogue and action are built upon enabling conditions of trust and open communication. Leadership built on trust and communication will foster the professional learning that results through reflection, dialogue, and action.

Administrators and teachers benefit from collegial discussion of education and teaching and are encouraged to engage in such discussion frequently. Educational judgment is negotiated through reflective dialogue.

Source: Seven Oaks School Division. (2005). Policy GBI: Professional learning framework. Seven Oaks School Division Policy Manual. Reprinted by permission.

A smaller number of teachers will be in a formal evaluation track. Teachers might choose to be evaluated formally, perhaps because they want something on their record about their teaching performance. Alternatively, administrators may identify teachers whom they wish to evaluate formally. These could be new teachers, teachers moving into a different subject area, or teachers about whose competence the administrator may have concerns. For teachers in the formal mode, the procedure would be similar to that described for the conference model. The two-track model is intended to increase the emphasis on the improvement of teaching, while reserving more formal evaluations for the relatively small number of cases where they are wanted or needed.


Academic Freedom

As employees of a school district, which is governed by provincial regulations and curriculum requirements, teachers are not free to teach whatever content they want. In universities, professors are recognized as having academic freedom, which means that they are able to teach in their classes the knowledge they consider to be most important and worthwhile, even if these ideas are controversial or unpopular.

In Canada, teachers are required by law to teach the curriculum as established by the province or other legitimate authorities and to obey the legitimate instructions given to them by administrators and school boards. A teacher can be dismissed for refusing to do so. In the well-known Alberta case, Jim Keegstra taught for years an anti-Semitic version of history in which he held Jews to be responsible for most wars, economic depressions, and other human tragedies. Keegstra was eventually dismissed by the local board of education, not because of his anti-Semitic teachings, but because he had refused to obey an instruction from the superintendent to teach only the Alberta history curriculum (Schwartz, 1986). However, Keegstra was not involved in a case of academic freedom, because, as the courts related, there can be no academic freedom to teach what is false (Hurlbert & Hurlbert, 1992, pp. 221–33).
It is true, however, that teachers in schools are not free to determine what subject matter they will teach. Nor in most schools is it easy for teachers to raise in their classes controversial issues such as politics, sexual behaviour, religious values, or abortion. For example, in the case of Chamberlain v. Surrey Board of Education No. 36 (2002), a kindergarten–grade 1 teacher asked the school board to approve three books depicting families with same-sex parents. The board refused because it knew many parents would object to the books, primarily on religious grounds. In a 7–2 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the board had to reconsider its decision using only the criteria in the School Act, stating that decisions of the board were to be secular in nature. In other words, although the board had the right to refuse the books, the grounds they had used to reject the books were found to be unjust; tolerance and diversity was upheld (but, again, not academic freedom per se). In 2003, a committee consisting of eight parents, two trustees, two teachers, and two principals, convened by the Surrey School Board to review “sensitive” materials based on specific local school board and Ministry of Education criteria, voted to include two books that involved same-sex parents for use under the family-life curriculum. Although the ruling in the end supported the teacher’s desire to use sensitive material, the criteria upon which those kinds of decisions have to be made are very complex. Teachers must exercise caution to ensure that their approach to controversial issues fits with the required curriculum, is as fair and objective as possible, and is appropriate to the needs and abilities of students. In fact, many school districts have policies on teaching controversial issues, and require teachers to obtain permission from school administrators before raising these issues in class.


Dismissal and Tenure

The history of Canadian education has a number of examples of teachers being fired because they did something controversial, or because they disagreed with or challenged a decision of the school board, regardless of their competence as teachers. For instance, for many years in Canada, getting married was grounds for automatic dismissal for any female teacher.

Over time, teachers have been able to protect themselves from arbitrary firing. Most of the improvement occurred through advancements in collective bargaining, as teachers’ organizations and school districts made agreements that were intended to protect teachers from unjustified dismissal. At present in Canada, teachers can be dismissed for several reasons. First of all, school districts, as employers, have the right to eliminate teaching jobs for budgetary or programmatic reasons, which is termed dismissal due to redundancy. Depending on the provisions in collective agreements, layoffs of this kind may be based on seniority or other criteria, or may be at the discretion of the school board.

New teachers may, depending on the province, hold what are called probationary appointments for one or two years. This means they can be dismissed by a school board during this time without having a right to a third-party appeal through arbitration; in other words, teachers who are on probationary appointments have no due process rights and can be terminated without much fuss.

Once teachers have been in a particular school district for more than the probationary period, they acquire tenure or, in more formal terms, the right to due process. This does not mean that a teacher has a guaranteed job for life! It does mean that a teacher cannot be dismissed without being given legitimate reasons for the dismissal, and without having the right to challenge the dismissal through a process of arbitration.

What are valid reasons for dismissing a teacher? The most common reasons have to do with incompetence, moral turpitude (being convicted of a serious crime, sexual offences), extensive absenteeism without justification, or other such actions. Teachers can also be dismissed for failing to obey a legitimate instruction of the school board. Thus, if a school board instructed teachers to follow a particular curriculum, a teacher who refused to do so could be dismissed.
None of these grounds for dismissal can be applied in a simple way. Through a series of laws and court decisions, an understanding has gradually developed of what would constitute reasonable grounds for dismissal. In almost any attempt to fire a teacher, the school board would have to show that it had given the teacher notice that there was a significant problem, and that the board had made real efforts to help the teacher eliminate the problem. A school board that had a concern about a teacher’s competence would need to show that the teacher had been informed (usually in writing) of the concern, and that efforts had been made to help the teacher improve his or her skills. Only when such efforts had been made, and had clearly failed, would a move for dismissal have very much likelihood of being successful. Essentially, the onus is on the school board to prove its case. The demonstration of incompetence as a teacher is particularly difficult to establish to the satisfaction of an arbitration board, especially where teachers have, over time, received positive evaluations that stand as a record of their competence.

Teachers’ organizations continue to play an important role in safeguarding teachers’ rights to continued employment. A teacher who fears dismissal will usually contact his or her association to seek advice and assistance. When dismissals end up in arbitration, the teacher’s costs are usually borne by the teachers’ association.

Of course, dismissal is a very blunt and powerful instrument, and one that may be inappropriate given some situations where providing help to an individual in need should be more important than taking away his or her career. On the other hand, although protection from arbitrary or unfair dismissal is important, this protection should not come at the expense of students who remain under the tutelage of a teacher who is doing them more harm than good.
An alternative mechanism for disciplining teachers is rooted in the professional model of doctors or engineers, in which the professional group is responsible for disciplining its own members. Teachers’ organizations in Canada have pressed for such authority, as discussed in Chapter 9, and provinces with colleges of teachers have assigned this role to the colleges.



Canadian schools tend to embody very similar policies and procedures for organizing the work of teachers, from hiring through workload determination and supervision. There is nothing inevitable about these arrangements, and arguments have been made for significant changes to them. As long as current processes are largely taken for granted, however, the necessary debate and discussion about better alternatives will not occur. Teachers need to be aware of the reasons for current practice, and to think about ways in which the organization of their work might be improved.



1.   Obtain an age profile for teachers in your province and, if possible, data on attrition rates from teaching. What estimates might you make of the numbers of teachers who might be leaving teaching in the next five to ten years? What factors might change teachers’ plans to retire or leave teaching?

2.   Discuss ways in which Canada might address the shortage of teachers in some geographical areas and subject specializations.

3.   Are schools overly bureaucratic? Use examples to create a debate that argues for both possible responses.

4.   Interview one or two teachers. Ask them to identify the best and worst aspects of teaching. Ask about differences in the various schools in which they may have taught. What conclusions can you draw from their comments?

5.   Observe the work of the principal in the school in which you are student teaching or observing. How often is the principal in classrooms? What does he or she do while there? What sort of communication does the principal have with teachers? What is the primary content of these communications? As you see it, what is the principal trying to accomplish in the school?

6.   Find out how teachers are hired in a local school district. Are all jobs advertised? How many people are interviewed? Who does the interviewing? Who makes final decisions about hiring? Who else is involved in hiring decisions?

7.   Find out what provisions, if any, are made to induct new teachers into a local school or district.

8.   Do a brief write-up of professional development activities, either in the school as a whole or as practised by one or two teachers. What activities do people participate in? How useful do they seem to be?

9.   Obtain a copy of the teacher-evaluation policy in a local school or district. To what extent does it embody the traditional model described in this chapter? What other features does it have?

10. Try to obtain the written judgment of an arbitration proceeding over teacher dismissal. What arguments and evidence were advanced for and against dismissal? Which arguments appear to have been most successful? What grounds did the arbitrator use in arriving at a decision?

11. Obtain the list of school administrators from a local school district. Compare the numbers of men and women at each level. How have these proportions changed over the last 10 years? What gender issues, if any, have you noticed or experienced occurring in schools?

12. Ask the provincial teachers’ association or society whether any school districts in your province have employment equity or affirmative action plans. Obtain a copy of such a plan if you can. What are its central features? What impact do you think such a plan will have? Why?