Pedagogical Quality: A counter narrative for school improvement?

Much of the rhetoric around school improvement is centred on teacher quality. The argument goes something like this… improve teacher quality and you improve student learning. The problem is that a focus on teacher quality often isn’t ideal, and usually doesn’t reap the promised benefits for student learning and school improvement. Instead of teachers feeling supported and empowered, a focus on teacher quality often results in a narrative of good and bad teachers, and of teacher blaming and shaming.

Particularly for teachers in schools where student performance in standardised testing is below the desired levels, a focus on teacher quality tends to result in the deskilling of teachers. Rather than being empowered to trust their professional judgement and be informed by their professional knowledge, a focus on teacher quality often results in a narrow set of practices being forced upon teachers, reducing the teacher’s ability to modify their practice as they see fit.

Even for so called high-performing teachers, the narrative of teacher quality doesn’t provide these teachers with much scope to evaluate what actually makes them a good teacher, or what makes their pedagogical practice, good learning and teaching practice. What evidence can these teachers gather to prove (to themselves and to others) that they are in fact a good teacher?

The IOI approach proposes a counter narrative to this focus on teacher quality, by suggesting that schools and teachers instead make pedagogical quality their number one priority. This enables learning and teaching to move beyond the how, and instead focus on the why. Teacher quality focusses on how teachers teach, pedagogical quality focusses on why teachers teach.

A focus on pedagogical quality therefore enables schools and teachers to make a compelling case for change as it provides scope to redefine quality as needs and circumstances changes. Indeed, the language of pedagogical quality directly connects to the unique circumstances of the school, teachers, students and wider school community, and is much more relevant than any externally imposed definition of teacher quality. By providing schools and teachers a context and language to understand pedagogical quality, the IOI Weekend approach enables them to construct a meaningful and powerful narrative that measures improvement and impact on student learning resulting from teacher and school-led innovation.

The major goal of the IOI Weekend is to provide participating teachers and school leaders with language and tools for determining pedagogical quality. Teams will form around their shared definition of pedagogical quality, and pedagogical quality will be one of the measures used to understand the impact of their innovation project. (Note: I’ll share about the other measures in future blog posts.)

If you’re looking for an alternative narrative to understand, discuss and design quality teaching and learning, then we’d love to have you join us at IOI Weekend. 

A free fast paced three-hour taster on Friday night will provide you with a shorter experience of the IOI Weekend. This is a free event and will be held at:

May 15th 6PM – 9PM at New Era Melbourne
Level 2 141 Capel Street North Melbourne VIC 3051

Over three hours we will give you a taste the IOI Process highlighting:

  • IOI Pedagogical Quality Framework,
  • IOI Learner Development Profile,
  • the Modern Learning Canvas,
  • how pedagogical quality, effectiveness and capacity can be measured,
  • and get you on your way to develop an Innovation Thesis.

Please RSVP to if you intended to join us to help us with catering (light finger food and drinks.)

Your Email (required)

Bringing a friend ?


Continue to the next post in this series Defining Pedagogical Quality.

Photo credit: Quality and value taken by wetwebwork
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6 thoughts on “Pedagogical Quality: A counter narrative for school improvement?

  1. I agree that the focus shift to pedagogy rather than ‘teacher quality’ Richard – this shift to practice is crucial because in understanding pedagogical practice, educators also can embrace the concept of always attempting to add to and enhance their pedagogy. It also embraces the notion that their are different ways of teaching (not being a teacher) than shift, change, develop, adjust depending on the varied context and situation.

    1. Thanks Nikki,
      Yes, this imperative to shift, whether born from a recognition that new possibilities now exist that can fundamentally improve the way students learn, or from a simple desire to improve student learning outcomes, really is the goal. Thanks for your comment, most appreciated.

  2. Richard this is an interesting statement “Indeed, the language of pedagogical quality directly connects to the unique circumstances of the school, teachers, students and wider school community, and is much more relevant than any externally imposed definition of teacher quality. ”
    Im interested in your understanding and definitions of internal and external.Where do you think external impositions come from?
    Are they always external?
    Is the internal understanding of pedagogy not also externally defined or do you think it can be unique to individual schools situations?

    1. I’m hinting at external experts who try define practices that define what quality teaching is. Here in Australia we have the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and other external experts that define and suggests that quality teaching is a known and narrow quantity. And yes, I agree for these external pressures to be felt they need to be amplified by the school community in some form, but I think it is hard to ignore these calls unless schools and teachers have a counter narrative.

      Yes, I also agree that a schools definition of pedagogical quality, which internally defined and unique, is influenced by external sources. School purpose is obviously heavily influenced by departmental policies, think the Melbourne Declaration for the Educational Goals of Young Australians, student needs are influenced by the community cohort, new opportunities are influenced by external developments and innovations, and even teacher beliefs while nurtured internally are definitely influenced by the sum of individual teachers life experiences.

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