What is High Quality Professional Learning?

What is High Quality Professional Learning?

In a recent CSE seminar paper entitled “Building a high-performing 21st century school system” Andreas Schleicher (Director of Education and Skills: OECD Education 2030) points to some very important characteristics of high-performing schools and systems across the world. Of the key proponents identified as central to success, one of the most important is the provision of a high-quality, job-embedded professional learning program similar to that which we offer our staff here at STL. In fact, our rich professional learning program stacks up very well against systems from across the world.

Central to our program is the action learning TRIAD model which allows teachers to investigate an aspect of teaching or learning that aligns with our strategic direction, about which teachers would like to know more. They then conduct research to learn more about theories and practices that align with these. Implementation of innovative pedagogies comes next, followed by observation and feedback with a final step of evaluating the efficacy of the strategy based on student performances and learning outcomes. This opportunity for job embedded professional learning, that allows staff to translate theory into action, to receive feedback on the implementation of practices and to engage in professional dialogue about teaching and learning, allows for rich discourse around what matters for effective teaching and learning.

Our professional learning program has two layers; an internal program that is tightly aligned with the College strategic direction and an external program that seeks to reach beyond the limitations of our local scope to engage in global discourse and research. These two layers are critical in ensuring that staff have opportunities to translate theory into action, without which very little change would take effect. It is the balance between these two aspects of our program that allow us to work at the cutting edge of educational thinking in order to create powerful learning environments for our students.

In particular, our internal program offers opportunities for:

  • Induction and mentoring for those new to the college, new to teaching and new to leadership.
  • Action learning and research
  • Peer observation, reflection and feedback
  • Professional Collaboration
  • Pedagogical Innovation
  • Leadership training and development
  • Sharing and celebration of teachers’ work
  • Professional Reading groups

Further to these internal opportunities, we also provide targeted professional learning for staff to address key college priorities. In 2019, the key areas of priority for academic staff include the following four areas:

  • Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction – where staff will have collaborative opportunities to build understanding of framing teaching and learning around “life worthy” concepts that will be important in the lives of our students,
  • Creating Cultures of Thinking – where staff will have collaborative opportunities to learn more about the cultural forces that define our classrooms and how to cultivate these,
  • Quality Teaching Rounds – where staff will have collaborative opportunities to learn about what is meant by quality and how to identify quality so that it can be woven into all of our classrooms, and
  • Literacy Across the Disciplines – where staff will have collaborative opportunities to deepen their understanding of what it means to build student literacy across the disciplines.

Each staff member chooses an area of focus that is of highest relevance or need to them and becomes part of a Professional Learning Team that will explore relevant theories as well as implement and evaluate innovative practices.

Further to a very rich and robust internal professional learning program, we also provide staff with access to a range of external professional learning opportunities. These include:

  • Attendance at local, national and international conferences and workshops
  • Post-graduate studies and study grants for those staff choosing to pursue their education further in an area that is aligned to the College strategic direction.
  • Partnerships with global leaders in education and educational organisations

So, while we still have work to do to improve our program, when comparing what we do here with world’s best practice in Professional Learning for teachers, as identified by Andreas Schleicher and his team at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – OECD, our model holds up very favourably.

Jacqui Coker
Director of Teacher Professional Learning