In contrast to the representation of teachers as free agents whose professional knowledge, skills and ability to demonstrate a sense of mandated moral duty signify their professional identity, Kostogriz argues for an alternative understanding of professional ethics ‘as an ability to respond to others—that is, ethics as responsibility’, or, as he later puts it, ethics as ‘responsibility’. Kostogriz draws attention to an increasingly important tension between, on the one hand, the externally mandated expectation that teachers comply with performance indicators (standards) which conceive of professional ethics as ‘a moral add-on to knowledge, skills and behaviour’, and on the other, the question of whether this captures well enough just what constitutes the professional ethics of teachers. Significantly, the argument draws on the experiences of beginning teachers as they work to establish relations with students, revealing the situated nature of teachers’ work from which it is clear that a sense of ‘relational practice’ emerges grounded in an ethics or responsibility. What these experiences reveal is, in a sense, the poverty of externally mandated performance indicators emphasising accountability in relation to high-stakes testing (a relatively recent policy demand), while putting to one side codes of conduct drawing on broadly agreed moral principles. In Kostogriz’s view, this illustrates a turn away from the moral nature of education and the ethical in human relations such that teachers’ ‘only motivation is to enact externally mandated performance indicators and moral principles’, a situation not helped by initial teacher education programmes which defer so readily to an externally imposed representation of the professional teacher. In response, Kostogriz urges an awareness of the human subject (teacher, student), as always in the process of becoming, interconnected with each other in the same ongoing experience of being. In this relational process of self to self and self with self, we develop an ethic of responsibility to and for one another.
The Studying the Effectiveness of Teacher Education project was supported by a strong partnership involving the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT), the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT), the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD, now the Department of Education and Training), the Queensland Department of Education Training and Employment (QDETE), Deakin University’s School of Education in Victoria and Griffith University’s School of Education and Professional Studies in Queensland. This research was supported under Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme (project LP110100003). The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the other members of the research team, the Australian Research Council or the Industry Partners. The project team consisted of Diane Mayer (Sydney University), Brenton Doecke (Deakin University), Mary Dixon (Deakin University), Alex Kostogriz (Monash University), Andrea Allard (Deakin University), Simone White (Queensland University of Technology), Bernadette Walker-Gibbs (Deakin University), Leonie Rowan (Griffith University), Jodie Kline (Deakin University), Julianne Moss (Deakin University) and Phillipa Hodder (Deakin University).
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