QESS Project on Teacher Competency Framework and

related outcome- based professional development programme for 

teachers of self-financing post-secondary education sector


  • The QEGS project on “Development of Joint Teacher Training and Staff Development Project” awarded to FSTE in 2009 provides a platform to explore the professional development needs of frontline participants of the self-financing post-secondary education sector (the Sector).
  1. The said Project included several iterations of designed, implemented, reviewed and revised a set of professional development programmes for teachers of the Sector, mainly for those without attending any forms of teacher education programmes.The process revealed that the training needs of frontline practitioners of the Sector were diverse due to their diverse roles in the institutions; and changing from time-to-time due to the changing environments, in particular for those moving up their career ladders.
  2. Frontline practitioners were eager to look for professional development programmes to meet the needs of their work. Given that it is not easy for teachers of the Sector to attend a full programme on teacher education, most of them will choose to attend short programmes when available and time is allowed. Lacking a big picture of the structure and progression of the competencies required for successful performance in different roles resulted in their reactive in choosing programmes: their choices highly depended on availabilities of programmes and affordable time, without a professional development plan for upgrading and refreshing skill sets to meet job requirements. Sometimes this approach leads to mismatch of expectation and programmes attended.
  3. Professional development is a personal issue. Every person will have different needs based on a number of factors: academic and professional backgrounds, personal choices of life orientations, career expectation etc. Professional development is also a local issue. Apart from common and general issues, different cities will have their unique environment which required special attentions.
  4. Besides, the amount of knowledge and skills are accumulated exponentially and so as professional development programmes. Frontline practitioners need to make informed choices of professional development programmes so as to make the best use of their affordable time.
  5. To enable the aforementioned informed choices, it is essential to provide a common reference framework of anticipated successful performances of tasks related to different jobs of practitioners for the Sector in Hong Kong. Such a framework will help practitioners establish direction and create momentum in continuous professional development. Practitioners can check against the framework to see whether their skill sets could carry out the anticipated performance successfully; or else, it is the area that they need professional development.
  6. Such a framework will also help stocktaking available professional development programmes as well as designing programmes with focuses, practitioners who have identified their needs can pick the programmes which addressed their needs.
  7. The purpose of this project is to develop such a reference framework: Teacher Competency Framework (TCF) for frontline practitioners of the Sector in Hong Kong 
    1. help them in planning and implementation of their own professional development
    2. enable focused planning and implementation of professional development programmes by institutions and/or agencies

Dimensions of the competency framework: 16 competencies in three domains

  1. Competencies are the skills, knowledge and behaviors that lead to successful performance. Through the contributions of frontline practitioners, 16 dimensions of competencies have been identified. These 16 dimensions are clustered into three Domains:
    1. Leaning and Teaching Domain
    2. Institutional Development Domain
    3. Teachers’ Wellbeing Domain
  2. Learning and Teaching Domain: Enabling student learning is the most important role of teachers. Teachers are anticipated to demonstrate the following four dimensions of competencies:
    1. Engage students in purposeful and meaningful learning
    2. Assess, record, report student learning outcomes; interpret assessment results to enhance facilitation of student learning
    3. Promote and develop a learning community to facilitate and support student learning
    4. Interpret curriculum documents for implementations; plan, design and implement learning activities to achieve curriculum aims; quality assurance implementations to ensure the achievement of designed aims.
  3. Institutional Development Domain: Apart from teaching, teachers also have other roles in their institutions which contribute to the continuous capacity building of the institute. These roles have different natures and are different for teachers at different positions, in particular for those moving up their career ladders. As such, teachers are anticipated to demonstrate competencies related to the roles of their positions in the institutes, not ALL dimensions of competencies. The competencies in Institutional Development Domain can be summarized into the following 7 dimensions:
    1. Curriculum development to meet the social, economical and technological developments
    2. Quality assurance (both internal and external) and accreditation for programmes by external agencies
    3. Acquiring, maintaining and refreshing hardware and software of the institutions to ensure a conducive learning environment for students
    4. Talent recruitment and retention
    5. Professional development for staff
    6. Image building for the institute amongst stakeholders
    7. Managing the finance for the institute
  4. Teachers’ Wellbeing Domain: Wellbeing is our subjective experiences of feeling good and our potential to flourish. It is more than absence of physical and psychological illness. In very broad terms, wellbeing can be described as the quality of a person’s life.
  5. It is important that teachers are wellbeing, i.e. judging life positively and feeling good. When one is at a state of wellbeing he/she will maximize his/her potential and do the best that he/she is capable of doing.
  6. On the dimensions of teacher wellbeing, from literature, different contributors have different labels and different levels of details. To make the TCF simple and easy to adopt, the following 5 dimensions of wellbeing are proposed:
    1. Physical wellbeing relates to physically safe and healthy.
    2. Emotional wellbeing relates to self-awareness and emotional regulation: coherent thinking process, acknowledging and expressing thoughts and feelings and responding constructively.
    3. Social wellbeing includes the extent to which we experience positive relationships and connectedness to others: family relationships, friendships; feeling of belonging, compassion and caring; and social supports.
    4. Spiritual wellbeing relates to the values and beliefs that determine the way people live, the search for meaning and purpose in life, and personal identity and self-awareness; and linked to religion for some individual and communities.
    5. Professional wellbeing is associated with achievement and success. It includes the aspiration of achievement and success, the reception and processing of information that support individual’s interactions with their environment, having autonomy in professional domain and the feeling of being respected.

Three strands of performance to demonstrate competencies

  1. Competency is a concept. To practise, competencies should be demonstrated through performance. After making reference to competency framework of different countries at different levels, it is proposed that in the context of TCF, competencies should be proxy by the following three strands of performance:
    1. Professional Attributes: the ethical competence involving the possession of certain personal and professional values;
    2. Professional Knowledge and Skill: the cognitive competence involving the use of theories and concepts, as well as informal tacit knowledge gained experientially; and
    3. Professional Practices: the functional competence (skills or know-how), those things that a person should be able to do when they are functioning in a given area of work, learning or social activity.
  2. In summary, in each domain of the Teacher Competency Framework, descriptions of teacher competencies generally will include the following three strands:
    1. Professional Attributes;
    2. Professional Knowledge and Skill; and
    3. Professional Practices

Three Phases of Teacher Competency Standards

  1. The Framework intends to describe the progression in developing teacher competencies in several phases as references to facilitate teachers in planning their professional development. These phases are dynamic and not related to length of services. A teacher may operate at any phase at any stage of their teaching career. For example, teachers with limited classroom experiences may demonstrate the highest level of competencies in talent management and retention. As teachers become familiar with the competencies standards, they will be able to map out the professional development activities that best address their individual needs.
  2. Under the current practice of the Sector in Hong Kong, people with proper training in one or more discipline(s) can join the sector as Novice Teachers. They will gradually develop their competencies in teaching (or enabling student learning) through different modes of professional development: mainly through solving problems in their jobs and learning from colleagues, and with some structured courses to provide knowledge and skills inputs. To strike a balance in comprehensiveness and segmentation, it is proposed to group competency descriptions into three phases of Competency Standards:
    1. Competent;
    2. Proficiency; and
    3. Master
  3. The general descriptions of teachers at different phases are as follows:

    Novice teacher

    • A Novice teacher is a person with proper training in discipline and wishes to become a teacher.

    Competent teacher

    • A teacher at this stage has training in essential knowledge and skills in learning and teaching;
    • He/she also has some teaching experiences where he/she has opportunities to validate the knowledge and skills learned in authentic situations;
    • Through solving problems in workplace, he/she gradually recognize the important, and will be able to, enhancing his/her knowledge and skills by reflection; and
    • He/she will be able to map out her/his essential professional development needs

    Proficiency teacher

    • A teacher at this stage has good professional knowledge and skills related to student learning, including that of the structure of one or more discipline knowledge, curriculum knowledge, learner knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, assessment knowledge etc.
    • He/she has experience in teaching students with diverse backgrounds (learning styles, abilities, experiences, motivation, social and cultural backgrounds etc) and has the willingness and abilities to adopt different approaches in teaching different student groups
    • He/she has the opportunities to participate in one or more of the institution’s work in course coordination, programme development, quality assurance and accreditation etc and be aware of the big picture of providing quality learning experiences to students
    • He/she has the commitment to engage in continuing professional development in discipline, pedagogy, scholarship and professional practice through reflection, exchanging views with peers, and structured programmes

    Master teacher

    • A teacher at this stage has comprehensive professional knowledge and skills related to student learning; and has extensive knowledge and skills in a particular area, such as curriculum design, assessment, quality assurance, pedagogical content knowledge etc.
    • He/she has extensive experiences in managing student learning with diverse backgrounds and thus has the ability to make subtle situational discriminations and adaptation in enabling student learning
    • He/she has experiences in the institution’s work in providing quality-learning experiences to students and has the perspective in the big picture of the inter- connectivity of the components that contributed to quality learning experiences of students.
    • He/she has extensive knowledge and experiences in at least one components of the work in providing quality learning experiences to students and can take up a leading role in that component
    • He/she has the commitment in continuing professional development and be able to engage in the self-directed choice conducive to her/his roles in the institution.
  4. It is anticipated that:
    1. Majority of teachers will be able to reach the Competent Stage after accumulated certain teaching experiences
    2. Some teachers who are tasked with different types of responsibilities within the institutions will gradually reach the Proficiency Stage where they are cross-fertilized by knowledge and skills learned in different types of tasks. They will be able to provide helps to colleagues, in particular novice teachers
    3. A very few of the teachers who have opportunities in accumulated experiences at different positions, within and beyond their institutions, will be able to develop themselves to become a Master teacher. They will be leaders in a particular area of their institutions.

The descriptors

  1. In formulating the descriptors, there is length discussion on the presentations by frontline teachers participated in the Focus Groups of development. The Groups agreed to adopt the following principles for descriptors:
    1. Professional attributes are the underpinning values, believes and skills for the decisions and actions teachers/staff members make in their day-to-day work. As such, it will not be described in phases. Teachers/staff members of an institute are anticipated to demonstrate the professional attributes in all phases of their career development.
    2. In the Learning and Teaching Domain and Institutional Development Domain dimensions under the Professional Knowledge and Skills Strand and Professional Practices Strand are interconnected with each other and collectively contributed to enabling successful performances. As such, descriptors are prescribed collectively under these two strands and will not be divided into dimensions.
    3. Descriptors under different phases are anticipated performances of teachers/staff members of respective phases. Some performances are anticipated only at certain phase(s), not all phases.
    4. Since wellbeing, which leading to self-actualization, is our subjective judgment and feeling, it is not possible to ask teachers to demonstrate their competencies. Instead, we can only highlight elements related to each dimension as an alert to teachers that they should pay attention to the elements so as to achieve the wellbeing state. To this end, descriptors are only for each dimension. They will not be further represented by the three strands, i.e. professional attributes, professional knowledge and professional practice; and divided into stages, i.e. competent proficiency and master.
  2. To facilitate easy reference, each competency descriptor will be assigned a 4 digit reference code according to the following code book:

    1st digit
    L - Learning and Teaching domain
    I - Institutional Development dmain
    2nd digit
    K - Professional Knowledge
    P - Professional Practices
    3rd digit
    1. - Position number of descriptors in the respective strand
    4th digit
    1. - Competent
    2. - Proficiency
    3. - Master

    For example:
    • LK42 is the Proficiency descriptor for the fourth row of the Professional Knowledge Strand of the Learning and Teaching domain; and
    • IP23 is the Master descriptor for the second row of the Professional Practice Strand of the Institutional Development Domain.

    The Teacher Competency Framework (TCF)

    1. For Professional Development Programmes aim at development the competencies of particular competency descriptor(s), the related reference code(s) will be cited at the synopses of the programme. The module number(s) will also be cited at the related descriptors for cross referencing.
    2. The structure of the framework can be depicted in the following diagram.
      The descriptors for the three domains, i.e. Learning and Teaching Domain, Institutional Development Domain and Teachers’ Wellbeing Domain are at Appendix A, Appendix B and Appendix C respectively.

    The Professional Development of Teachers

    1. Professional development is the process of improving and increasing capabilities of teachers through solving problem in the workplace, through exchanging views and strategies with colleagues, watching others perform the job, and through access to education and training opportunities.
    2. In the 80s, the Center for Creative Leadership based on a survey asking nearly 200 executives to self-report how they believed they learned, summarized that lessons learned by successful and effective managers are roughly:
      • 70% from challenging assignments
      • 20% from developmental relationships
      • 10% from coursework and training
    3. The 70 20 10 learning and development model is particular truth in the Internet era and for the senior staff in an organization. For junior staff, probably they need more knowledge and skill input from attending training programme. When they are progressing up their career ladder, their learning gradually shifts to learning from their experiences in working with colleagues and counterparts of other institutions as well as solving problems in their day-to-day jobs.
    4. It doesn’t mean that coursework and trainings are not important. They are essential provide the concepts and kill skills for the other two modes of professional development where professional development is in fact a knowledge creation process, in particular tacit knowledge. Colleagues and counter parts, in particular those from different institutions require platforms for exchanging views and collaboration. Such platforms are rare for Sector at the moment.

    Professional Development Programmes (PDP) for Teachers

    1. To this end, two types of professional development programmes have been identified, i.e.:

      1. Structured Professional Development Programmes, which aim at providing systematic knowledge and skill inputs; and
      2. Collaborative Development Programmes on Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategies, which aim at providing a platform for colleagues from different institutions to exchange views and share experiences.
    Structured Professional Development Programmes
    1. Structured programmes aimed at providing knowledge and skills of learning and teaching to participants so as to develop their technical knowhow of classroom practice. Such programmes can generally be grouped under the heading of
      • Pre-services; and
      • In-services training
    2. For pre-services training, a very basic approach is an orientation to learning and teaching of target students. The orientation aims at enabling new comers of the Sector to walk into the classroom with some background knowledge of target students and basic skills to start the lesson.
    3. Other structured programmes are generally in-services oriented, which require continuous review and update to match the learning needs of participants.
    Collaborative Professional Development Programmes on Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategies
    1. Students, in particular self-financing tertiary sector students, are a dynamic group. Their characteristics, such as interests and motivations of learning, learning styles etc. are evolving from time to time. Besides, the learning environments of the self-financing tertiary sector are also evolving continuously. To enable effective teaching, it is not sufficient for teachers of the Sector to know just the knowledge and skills of teaching, learning and assessment. Teachers need is a platform to exchange experiences and views in context with their counter parts from different institutions, put their heads together, and suggest ways to cater the every changing student characteristics and learning environment: i.e. the creation of new knowledge.
    2. Collaborative programme is designed for this knowledge creation process. It provides a platform for participants teaching similar courses from different institutions to share their positive as well as negative experiences, suggesting ways for improvement and enhancement, trying out their suggestions in the classrooms and coming back together again for consolidation and conceptualization. Such a process will be more effective to be conducted during term time.

      A collaborative PDP is given at Appendix D and three exemplar structured PDPs are given at Appendix D, Appendix E and Appendix F.


    May 2016

Appendix Download

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