The Standards have been developed by teacher members of AATE and ALEA around Australia and are supported by national and state ETA Councils in all states and territories.
They are based on two principles:
STELLA attempts to capture the depth and range of accomplished English/Literacy teaching.
In recent years, state and federal education bodies have produced sets of standards designed to raise the status and quality of the teaching profession. Most states have developed broad, generic standards outlining levels of competence which the beginning or accomplished teacher should be able to meet. These generic teaching standards do not take account of the subject-specific nature of the knowledge and skills required to be an accomplished teacher. The STELLA project complements this work.
The STELLA materials
The Reflections links and the Discussion site invite teachers to contribute their thoughts and experiences as users of STELLA so that the standards can be open to continual review and further development.
There are three sets of inter-related materials:
STELLA started life as a research project and, like the products of all research activity, its findings are open to wider scrutiny, contestation, debate and further improvement. STELLA is also situated in a wider context of national and international work on professional standards. The Research link provides references to articles about professional standards: some about STELLA, others about standards development in other subjects and in other countries.Background to STELLA
STELLA began life in 1999 as a three-year research project funded by the Australian Research Council. The main aim of the project was to develop professional standards in English language and literacy teaching. The project involved a consortium of English and Literacy educators' associations (AATE and ALEA), researchers from three university Faculties of Education, and government education bodies in three states. More information about the partners can be found on the Partners pages.
With the help of AATE and ALEA, teacher panels were set up in different states. Over three years these groups of primary and secondary teachers, meeting outside school hours, worked to develop the STELLA materials.
STELLA presentations and workshops were held at ETA conferences in all states and territories to report on and trial the materials. Two surveys sent to AATE and ALEA members provided further feedback on work in progress. A National Reference Group comprising the STELLA partners and critical friends oversaw the project's progress.
(For a detailed account of the project see 'Developing Professional Standards for English Literacy Teachers' in Practically Primary, Vol. 5 No. 1, February 2000. http://www.alea.edu.au/pubs.htm or 'Setting Standards: Confronting Paradox' by Brenton Doecke and Margaret Gill in STELLA: a combined issue of English in Australia 129 - 130, December 2000 - February 2001 and Literacy Learning: the Middle Years, 9.1, February 2001. http://www.aate.org.au/Journals/Journals.html)
In 1967 the first President of AATE, A.D. Hope, argued that "the teaching of English is not yet a profession in the fullest sense of the word." Recent presidents of AATE and ALEA now offer a very different perspective.
Dear AATE and ALEA members
The STELLA Project is an impressive achievement.
First, it represents a sustained collaboration between AATE and ALEA, whose members have brought their different traditions and cultures to seek common ground in articulating professional standards for English and Literacy teachers. The joint STELLA edition of English in Australia and Literacy Learning is but one manifestation of this collaboration.
Second, it demonstrates the respect academic researchers and practising teachers have for one another's professionalism. At no time did the teachers, who produced the 'raw data' at the heart of the project - the narratives, the cases and commentaries - ever feel themselves to be the guinea pigs in a research experiment. Academics and teachers explored the issues as co-equals in a spirit of collegial learning.
Third, the relationship that developed between the relatively small groups of researchers/teachers at the three research sites and the rest of the profession whom AATE and ALEA represent, demonstrated the belief of the former that without genuine grass roots involvement, the project would have little credibility. In the three year life of the project, members of the research team criss-crossed the country, speaking at conferences, forums and workshops in every state and territory, conducting surveys, providing feedback, writing articles in professional journals and providing information in newsletters and on the associations' websites. They could not, of course, speak to every member of the associations but they made sure, through the communication channels of the state and national associations, that every member of AATE and ALEA was aware of the project and able to contribute to it in some way if she/he so wished. Not simply an impressive achievement, but, given the resources and personnel available, an epic one as well.
The scope of the STELLA project will inevitably disappoint some. There are, for example, no assessment tasks or assessment portfolios with which teachers might demonstrate levels of performance in meeting the standards. Time (and budget limitations) defeated that particular ambition in the project's original aims. Work on such, however, we fervently believe, will be the focus for a subsequent project that builds on the achievement of STELLA. We are sure also that that work will be just as conscious of the need to involve the grass root membership in its development.
Nor does the project offer simple answers or certainties for those seeking definitive and immutable definitions of 'subject English' or 'Literacy'. No attempt was made to unravel or sever the Gordian knot of intricate interrelationships which constitute subject English and Literacy. The project did not begin with definitional conundrums; nor did it set out to identify and resolve them. The participating teachers had no doubt they were English teachers working in a variety of secondary school curriculum contexts, or teachers in primary schools working in specific literacy programs or, managing issues of literacy acquisition and learning in integrated curriculum programs. One might argue that, collectively, all the authors of the narratives, web cases, and commentaries recognised that they were working within the broad parameters of the following succinct, yet capacious, definition of Literacy enunciated by Luke and Freebody in their introduction to Literate Futures:
Literacy is the flexible and sustainable mastery of a repertoire of practices with the texts of traditional and new communications technologies via spoken language, print and multimedia
English teachers, too, would find in this definition ample scope for carving out the distinctiveness of subject English and its concerns with 'a repertoire of practices' that address cultural literacies and the affective domain. The important thing to note, however, is that the definition of what constitutes Literacy (and by implication subject English) is contested ground. What is meant by flexible? What practices? What texts? What balance between traditional texts and new communications technologies? The structure of the STELLA framework puts the onus on teachers to articulate and demonstrate the ways in which they 'know their subject' in the varieties of contexts in which they teach it. It assumes that such demonstrations occur within a collaborative professional community and is open to that community's scrutiny and critique.
Finally, we need to be clear what STELLA is and is not….and what it might become. As it stands STELLA demonstrates the ability of the profession to identify its own 'best practice' in a language that reflects a shared professional identity and a commitment to achieving the professional recognition that A.D. Hope spoke of in 1967. STELLA is also an exemplary professional development program which, if used judiciously by teachers, faculties, schools and tertiary education institutions, can up the ante enormously in terms of the profession's understanding of, and commitment to, professional teaching standards. It has the capacity to enhance teacher professionalism, both within the education and the wider community.
Importantly, the structure of this STELLA website as a dynamic site with interactive components is an explicit statement about the status of the standards. Standards are not principles set in tablets of stone. They are living and contextualised principles open to critique, adaptation and refinement in the light of evolving professional knowledge.
The website invites teachers to engage in dialogue about the standards. This dialogic process mirrors the ways in which teachers were involved in the original process of articulating the standards and affirms the collegial way in which teachers must continue to work in the further development of professional standards. Implicitly, the structure and design of STELLA ask teachers to consider:
What are the contexts of your teaching?
In so doing, STELLA affirms the Associations' role as its 'guardians', and offers a process for reviewing, refining and renewing the standards; a process which has behind it the involvement and assent of their membership.
The framework is not, however, a set of standards binding on the profession. The standards can only achieve that status if some standards body adopts them as its own. The likelihood of such bodies being established at the state and territory levels is, at this moment in time, extremely high. The likelihood of any of them adopting, in totality, the English Literacy standards framework is less likely. Current indications are that such bodies are more interested in developing generic rather than subject specific criteria.
But we can be certain of one thing. STELLA gives English teachers and Literacy educators both a bargaining position and a rallying cry, when the process of developing 'official' standards begins. It would be a foolish standards body that ignored the weight of considered, collaborative and professional wisdom developed and endorsed by the profession that is STELLA.
We commend it to you.
Terry Hayes (Immediate Past President AATE)
Partners in the STELLA Development Team