Australia invests heavily in developing its teachers. Most are given time for professional learning and do not have to bear the cost but how can we ensure that it is useful?
The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2013 report shows that fewer Australian teachers than the OECD average said that their professional learning had a meaningful impact on their capabilities, particularly in the important areas of individualising learning, teaching students with special needs and teaching cross-curricular skills such as problem-solving.
TALIS surveyed 2059 Australian lower secondary teachers and 116 principals in 123 schools, who would have received professional learning from many different providers. It is useful for all of us to question whether particular programs are not widely offered, or is it that they are not chosen by teachers. Maybe they are not identified as development priorities?
Using professional feedback analysis, our Development Centre asks attendees how they learnt of, and chose certain seminars; what they thought of the content and presenter. We want to know whether the seminar had improved teaching capacity and whether the teachers planned to apply what they had learnt in the classroom. This is how we know we are delivering what is required.
Teachers can also improve the likelihood that they and their students will benefit from the professional learning.
Our Director, Education Services, Aine Maher, suggests that teachers selecting a course should seriously consider their expectations and how their professional learning will impact on their work with students, asking themselves, for example:
Why am I choosing this activity?
Is it based on current research?
Does it offer a new solution to an existing challenge?
What do I hope will be different about my practice when I come back to my class?
How will I commit to changing my practice?
What will success look like?
Effective professional learning requires providers to deliver activities that meet identified needs, and participants should consider their students’ requirements and select courses that will add to their teaching knowledge, practice and engagement. Together this will lead to improved learning outcomes.