Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Marianne Larsen


This dissertation takes up the idea of the teacher as a professional and examines the period in Ontario between 1990 and 2010 when a change in teacher governance through the creation of the College of Teachers contributed to a refocusing of teacher evaluation policy and a redefining of what it means to be a professional teacher. Across a wide variety of settings, teachers are now viewed as central to successful education reform with the result that the requisite qualities of the professional teacher and how teachers are to be transformed to achieve these qualities have become the subjects of intense policy debate.

The research uses Foucault’s conceptualizations of discourse, subjectivity, power, governmentality, and panopticism as a lens to analyze the data. Because of their importance for hiring, firing, and promotion purposes, teacher evaluation documents were chosen as representative examples of teacher professionalism, and the changes in these documents were traced over time between 1990 and 2010. In addition, this qualitative study draws on data from 25 semi-structured interviews with principals and teachers who were employed in Ontario public schools throughout this time period. These principals implemented the teacher evaluations, and the teachers experienced the evaluation process. Of interest was the meaning and influence these educators assigned to the practice of teacher evaluation.

Despite the principals’ belief that they could offer useful advice about teaching, the research discovered that the evaluation process had little effect on teachers’ classroom practices. However, what did profoundly affect teachers’ practices with students was the disciplinary role assumed by the newly established College of Teachers and fears of being falsely accused of sexual misconduct. Although there is no category in the teacher evaluation forms that records the successful demonstration of safe practices such as never being alone with a student without supervision and using only appropriate touch with students, the safe teacher has become a new professional ideal. This sense of the teacher-as-potential-pedophile is a global phenomenon that marks the deep loss of trust in the teaching profession in Western neoliberal nations.