Dr Lawrence Ingvarson, Principal Research Fellow, Australian Council for Educational Research.

Professional standards for teachers and the MESH project (Mapping Educational Specialist knowHow) have similar objectives.  Each aims to build stronger bridges between research and practice.  Each aims to synthesize findings from current research about successful professional practices and summarize its implications for what teachers should know and be able to do.  Each aims to demonstrate and extend the knowledge base for teaching, and thereby strengthen its claims to be recognized as a profession.

For example, the MESHGuide for spelling states that:

The primary goal of the MESH Spelling site developers has been to bring together insights from the past 40 years of research into spelling, and to present these in ways that are bite-sized, clear and intelligible to a non-expert.

Writers of teaching standards have similar goals (Ingvarson, 2013). In defining standards for what beginning teachers need to know and be able to do. Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2005), for example, identify three questions that they typically address:

  • What kinds of knowledge do effective teachers need to have about their subject matter and about the learning process and development of their students?
  • What skills do teachers need in order to provide productive learning experiences for a diverse set of students, to offer informative feedback on students’ ideas, and to critically evaluate their own teaching practices and improve them?
  • What professional commitments do teachers need to help every child succeed and to continue to develop their own knowledge and skills, both as individuals and as members of a collective profession?

This appears to be essentially a similar enterprise to the development of MESHGuides.

It is important to keep in mind that “teaching standards”, as used here, refers to standards developed by teachers and their professional bodies for purposes such as professional registration and certification, not standards developed for purposes such as performance management and annual appraisal by school administrators (Ingvarson, 2014); that is, standards developed by teachers for the purposes of articulating what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do in their specialist field, whether that be teaching at the junior primary level or high school mathematics.

Standards for performance management purposes are usually generic in nature, whereas standards for professional certification purposes need to drill deeper, like MESHGuides (Ingvarson and Rowe, 2008).  Recent research indicates the importance of subject-specific pedagogical knowledge for student progress (e.g., Baumert et al., 2010; Goulding, Rowland, & Barber, 2002; Hill, Rowan, & Ball, 2005; Kelcy, 2011; Kersting, Givvin, & Thompson, 2012). Given its importance, this knowledge needs to be articulated in teaching standards in the relevant specialist field of teaching. The teaching profession, like many professions, is made up of many specialist fields, each with distinct elements of professional knowledge and practice.

For example, what an early primary teacher needs to know about learning to read is very different from what a secondary science teacher needs to know about helping students overcome misconceptions in learning physics. What a primary teacher needs to know about child development is different from what a high school physical education teacher needs to know about adolescent development. And so on. If standards are to provide a clear guide for teacher education or professional development, they need to be elaborated for each field of teaching. This is just as true for primary teachers as secondary teachers.

{The National Board for Professional Teaching standards in the USA has developed standards in 25 specialist fields of teaching.  See www.nbpts.org}

While teaching standards and MESHGuides have similar objectives, there seem to be some differences in the ways they are developed and used.

Professional standards bring together what accomplished teachers know and do in their specialist field.  They embrace the whole role.  In contrast, the starting point for MESHGuides appears to be quite specific or discrete tasks or challenges in teaching, such as “teaching and learning spelling”, or “teaching writing to reluctant writers”.  A set of teaching standards , for example for literacy teachers, such as those teachers have written for the NBPTS, includes similar information, but under broader categories such as standards for teaching writing or reading.  Whereas MESHGuides assemble information to inform specific teaching plans and practices, teaching standards cover broader and longer-term guidelines for teacher education programs and professional development.

It is important to note that well written teaching standards do not prescribe particular styles or ways of teaching.  They do not standardize teaching – they rely on professional judgment about how best to meet a standard in particular contexts.  Likewise, it seems that MESH Guides are also about informing, not supplanting, professional judgment.

A key feature of professional standards is that they are also developed for assessment purposes, such as identifying and recognizing teachers who have attained high professional standards (Ingvarson and Hattie, 2008).  Standards are measures.  A standard points to and describes a desirable level of performance.

There are three essential steps in developing standards for the professional certification of accomplished teaching (Ingvarson, 2014):

  1. Describing good teaching, defining what is to be assessed – i.e. what do accomplished teachers know, and do. (these are often called “content” standards)
  2. Developing valid and consistent assessment methods for gathering evidence about what a teacher knows and is able to do in relation to the standards; and
  3. Developing reliable procedures for assessing that evidence and deciding whether a teacher has met the standard.  (i.e. setting performancestandards).

Professional standards for graduate teachers describe what their training courses should have given them the opportunity to learn to be fully prepared to teach the curriculum (Ingvarson, 2013).  Standards for accomplished teachers should describe what teachers should get better at with experience.

MESHGuides would appear to be not only a valuable resource for teacher development, but also for teachers who have decided to apply for advanced certification and therefore need to assemble evidence demonstrating high levels of classroom performance (e.g. in the form of entries into a portfolio of professional practice).

For example, one of the four portfolio entries for an English specialist teacher applying for advanced certification with the NBPTS is titled Analysis of student growth in reading and writing[1].  The entry invites a teacher to show how they support their students’ growth and development both as readers/interpreters of texts and as writers. The following examples of statements from the standards for accomplished English teachers illustrate what the entry is designed to assess.

Accomplished English teachers:

  • nurture their students’ enthusiasm for writing by motivating them to write about issues that matter in their lives.
    • have a command of a wide range of assessment methods and strategies aligned with their goals.
    • provide students with constructive feedback, highlighting successes and prompting student reflection about ways to improve.

The entry asks teachers to feature the work of two students over time; students who represent different challenges as developing writers.  Assessors are trained to look for clear evidence that the relevant standards have been met.

These standards are similar to the components in the MESH Guide for Teaching Reluctant Writers, such as knowledge of: evidence from research about reluctant writers; student characteristics; factors influencing students as writers; evidence-based strategies; and methods of assessing progress.

It is clear that MESHGuides assembling this kind of information for each of the various specialist fields of teaching would be a valuable resource for teachers preparing evidence of how they integrate research into their practice.

In this sense it would seem that the purposes of standards and MESHGuides are complementary. Standards for a specialist field like primary teaching might be accompanied by an “archive” or database of MESH Guides relevant to many of the central skills or practices that a primary teacher needs to master in preparing for advanced certification.

The development and application of standards for purposes such as professional certification, and the development and implementation of MESHGuides, give teachers a better basis for taking greater control over their profession and resisting fads and fashions promoted without a sound basis in research or professional experience (Ingvarson, 2014).


Baumert, J., Mareike Kunter, Werner Blum, Martin Brunner, Thamar Voss, Alexander Jordan, Uta Klusmann, Stefan Krauss, Michael Neubrand, Yi-Miau Tsai(2010). Teachers’ Mathematical Knowledge, Cognitive Activation in the Classroom, and Student Progress. American Educational Research Journal, vol. 47 no. 1, 133-180

Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (Eds.) (2005). Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Goulding, M., Rowland,  T. & Barber,B. (2002). Does it Matter? Primary Teacher Trainees’ Subject Knowledge in Mathematics. British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 28, No. 5, 2002

Hill, H., Rowan, B. and Ball, D. (2005). Effects of teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching on student achievement.   American Educational Research Journal, 42(2), 371-406.

Ingvarson, L. (2014). Standards-based Professional Learning and Certification: By the Profession, for the Profession.  In L. Martin  (Ed.), The Handbook of Professional Development, PK-12:  Successful Models and Practices.  New York:  Guilford Publishing.

Ingvarson, Lawrence. (2013) ‘Standards for beginning teachers’, Research Developments, Australian Council for Educational Research.

Ingvarson, L.C. & Hattie, J. (Eds.). (2008).  Assessing Teachers for Professional Certification: The First Decade of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  Volume 11, Advances in Program Evaluation. Amsterdam: Elsevier Press. 

Ingvarson, L.C. & Rowe, K. (2008). Conceptualising and Measuring Teacher Quality: Substantive and methodological issues. Australian Journal of Education, 52(1),

Kelcy, B.  (2011) Assessing the effects of teachers’ reading knowledge on students’ achievement.  Educational evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(4), 458-482.

Kersting, N.B. et al. (2012). Measuring usable knowledge: Teacher’s analyses of mathematics classroom videos predict teaching quality and student achievement.  American Educational Research  Journal, 49(3), 568-589.


Brief biography  Lawrence   Ingvarson is a PrincipalResearch Fellow at the Australian   Council for Educational Research.

Recent   projects include the development of teaching standards in Australia, Kuwait   and Saudi Arabia.

He has   also provided consultancy services on teaching standards and teacher   evaluation in Brazil, Chile, New Zealand and Scotland, and on teacher quality   for the OECD.  Recent books include AssessingTeachers for Professional Certification:   the First Decade of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The book brings together the   research and development work conducted by the NBPTS in the USA since its   inception in 1987.  Recently, he co-directed an IEA study of the preparation of   mathematics teachers in seventeen countries, TEDS-M, in collaboration with a   team from Michigan State University. He is a Fellow of the Australian College   of Educators and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the   Australian Science Teachers Association (2001).