Certification Background

National Certification is a voluntary and portable process that ensures teachers have access to a rigorous and transparent process that recognises Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers. It enables you to receive feedback on your practice and have your practice evaluated by nationally trained assessors who are external to your school. It exposes you to communities of practice and supports you to further develop and grow as a professional whilst improving outcomes for your students.

Certification recognises and promotes the development of collaborative learning professionals who strive to continually reflect upon and improve their practice. Certification supports teachers to explore their practice at the Highly Accomplished or Lead career stage of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers PDF 288KB

Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers has three primary purposes:

  • recognise and promote quality teaching
  • provide an opportunity for teachers to reflect on their practice
  • provide a reliable indication of quality teaching that can be used to identify, recognise and/or reward Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers.

It is important to note that as Certification refers to the formal recognition and classification of teachers’ practice, the terms ‘Highly Accomplished teacher’ and ‘Lead teacher’ do not refer to job positions. This makes Certification under the national system portable within and across sectors, states and territories, but it does not mean that any industrial arrangement attached to Certification is automatically transferable.

Information regarding those jurisdictions currently participating in Certification is available on the certifying authorities' page of the AITSL website.

Trained assessors who have completed the national Assessor Training Program assess applications for Certification. The Assessor Training Program is a rigorous undertaking that combines online and face-to-face learning. The SiMERR National Research Centre at the University of England together with AITSL and certifying authorities in states and territories across Australia developed the program.

Certification overview 226 KB PDF


Policy development and endorsement

The endorsement of the the Standards in 2010 was a milestone in the Australian education system and the teaching profession. Teachers across the country now had a common language and a framework that made clear the professional knowledge, practice and engagement required across their careers. This framework supported the career progression of classroom teachers by articulating the characteristics of exemplary classroom practitioners.

The development of Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers in Australia involved extensive national consultation with key education stakeholders. These included teacher employers, regulatory authorities, teacher unions, national, state and territory peak bodies, and practising teachers and school leaders. Research and analysis of existing practices across Australia, in addition to advice and guidance of both national and international experts, also informed its development.

All Education Ministers endorsed Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers in Australia on 20 April 2012 at the Standing Council of School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEEC). The implementation of national Certification across Australia began in 2013.

Employers and professional associations in Australia have for many years implemented teacher certification processes, based on varying professional standards; however, this is the first national Certification process against nationally agreed Standards ever in Australia.

There is a growing body of research on the benefits of certification, written from both a national and international perspective. Teachers in Australia who have undergone state and territory based certification provided the following feedback on the process:

  • certification makes you a better teacher and the professional discussions… are really rich
  • going through the certification process…increased my confidence as a teacher
  • even though I did it (certification) a couple of years ago, it still impacts on my practice every day
  • feedback (on my evidence) provided me with so much information to improve my teaching
  • certification is a very powerful tool for self-reflection and self-development.

Certification is also a feature of some international education systems. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) have been certifying teachers in the USA since 1987. This organisation has made a great contribution to international understanding about methods for assessing and esteeming teacher performance(1). Teachers certified under this process have also given feedback on the benefits of certification saying that it:

  • made them better teachers
  • was an effective professional development experience (96 per cent)
  • improved their ability to evaluate student learning (89 per cent)
  • enhanced their interaction with students, parents and colleagues(2)

1. Ingvarson, L & Hattie, J 2008, 'Introduction'. In L Ingvarson & J Hattie (eds), Assessing Teachers for Professional Certification: The first decade of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (pp. 1-21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, UK.

2. Ingvarson, L & Rowe, K 2007, Conceptualising and Evaluating Teacher Quality: Substantive and methodological issues, ACER, viewed 11 February 2013


Listed below are several research pieces around certification and the development of expertise that together aim to give a considered view of the process and its benefits.

Benefits to Teachers of the Professional Learning Portfolio: A Case Study, Dinham, S & Scott, C 2003

The Development of Expertise in Pedagogy, Berliner, D 1988

The Effects of NBPTS-Certified Teachers on Student Achievement, Harris, D & Sass, T 2007

National Board Certification as Professional Development: What are Teachers Learning?, Lustick, D & Sykes, G 2006

Research and Rhetoric on Teacher Certification: A Response to "Teacher Certification Reconsidered," Darling-Hammond, L 2002

Teachers Make a Difference: What is the Research Evidence? Hattie, J 2003.

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