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We are currently developing research-based professional learning courses that are grounded in day-to-day teaching practice and are designed to enhance teachers’ content-specific pedagogy with the intent of improving student learning.
The professional learning courses will be integrated into your classroom, allowing you to find solutions for authentic and immediate problems as part of a cycle of continuous improvement (Hawley & Valli, 1999; National Staff Development Council, 2010).
The professional learning courses will be a shared, ongoing process that is locally rooted and makes a direct connection between learning and application in daily practice, thereby requiring active teacher involvement in cooperative, inquiry-based work (Hawley & Valli, 1999); to enhance student academic achievement and school improvement goals (Hirsh, 2009).
The professional learning courses will be based around the following Principles of Effective Professional Learning:
Professional learning is focused on student outcomes
Professional learning is focused on student outcomes (not just individual teacher needs) Professional learning is aimed at maximising student learning so that all students achieve their learning potential. Using multiple sources of student outcomes data, teacher professional learning should be guided by analyses of the differences between goals and standards for student learning and student performance. Such analyses will define what teachers need to learn, make teacher professional learning student centred, and increase public confidence in the use of resources for professional learning. Student outcomes will improve if professional learning increases teachers’ understanding of how to represent and convey content in meaningful ways.
Professional learning is focused on and embedded in teacher practice
Professional learning is focused on and embedded in teacher practice (not disconnected from the school) Teacher professional learning should be school based and built into the day-to-day work of teaching. The most potent and meaningful learning experiences occur in the school, where teachers can address the immediate problems and challenges of learning and teaching. Being situated close to the classroom and their colleagues enables teachers to work together to identify problems, find solutions and apply them. This does not imply that beyond school learning experiences, such as postgraduate studies or attendance at workshops and seminars, are not valuable. External learning opportunities can complement school-based professional learning. Professional learning should be anchored in the school-based work of teachers but enriched with ideas and knowledge sourced from outside the school.
Professional learning is informed by the best available research on effective learning and teaching
Professional learning is informed by the best available research on effective learning and teaching (not just limited to what they currently know) Teacher professional learning that improves the learning of all students prepares teachers to apply research to decision-making. Successful professional learning programs immerse teachers in the content they teach and provide research-based knowledge about how students learn that content. Results of research need to be made accessible to teachers to enable the expansion and elaboration of their professional knowledge base. This research should include information on effective teaching and learning, how students learn particular content, classroom management, assessment and curriculum. 15
Professional learning is collaborative, involving reflection and feedback
Professional learning is collaborative, involving reflection and feedback (not just individual inquiry) Teacher professional learning opportunities should relate to individual needs but be organised around collaborative problem-solving. Organised in teams, educators take collective responsibility for solving the complex problems of teaching and learning and improving student outcomes. Teams share knowledge, expertise and experience in order to deepen learning and to foster a mutual understanding of effective classroom practice. Teams create the conditions for collegial reflection and support and help to spread workloads more evenly. Constructive, objective and actionable feedback on teacher practice is important for targeting areas where a teacher needs to improve his or her performance and for the purpose of designing professional learning opportunities that address areas for improvement. Competent, experienced teachers, school leaders or an expert sourced from outside the school can also provide teachers with feedback on their professional learning. For example, feedback from a trusted peer on the operation of a professional learning team or a coaching or mentoring partnership is useful to gauge the effectiveness of such strategies.
Professional learning is evidence based and data driven to guide improvement and to measure impact
Professional learning is evidence based and data driven (not anecdotal) to guide improvement and to measure impact Data from different sources can be used to determine the content of teachers’ professional learning and to design and monitor the impact of professional learning programs. Evidence, rather than anecdotes, needs to be collected regularly at the student, teacher and school level to help focus teacher learning. Student journals, for example, can be analysed to identify areas where students are struggling or how students are progressing from one month to another. Data can be used to measure and improve the impact of professional learning. Formative evaluations allow teachers to make mid-program refinements and corrections, while summative evaluations measure the effectiveness of professional learning activities and their impact on teacher practice, knowledge and student learning.
Professional learning is ongoing, long term and sustained
Professional learning is ongoing, supported and fully integrated into the culture and operations of the system – schools, networks, regions and the centre (not episodic and fragmented) Professional learning needs to be ongoing, long term and sustained. Significant and long-term change in teacher practice does not occur in a matter of weeks but more often over months or years. Learning by doing, reflecting and refining is a long, multistage process. Teachers need support for their professional learning. Solving complex problems and implementing innovative practices may require outside expertise and additional resources. Encouragement and recognition is also crucial to maintaining effort since finding new ways to do things is difficult and often painful. Sustained, immediate and quality support is essential to ensure improvement in schools and classrooms, particularly when unexpected problems arise. Supported, ongoing professional learning must be embedded in the system. Central and regional staff have a responsibility to model good practice by participating in ongoing professional learning. Appendix A: The seven principles of highly effective professional learning 16 Professional learning in effective schools: The seven principles of highly effective professional learning
Professional learning is an individual and collective responsibility
Professional learning is an individual and collective responsibility at all levels of the system (not just the school level) and it is not optional Professional learning should occur at all levels of the system. It is an individual and collective responsibility encompassing schools, regions and the centre. For teachers and school leaders, professional learning needs to be linked to schools’ performance goals. These goals in turn need to reflect the needs and aims of the regions and the centre. Professional learning is inextricably linked to enhancing the capacity of the system as a whole. Central and regional offices and key stakeholder groups should work collaboratively to determine strategies for improvement and share best professional learning practices to drive school and system-wide improvement.