Description of site/context
Our long-term work with teachers has involved projects with individual schools over periods of 1, 2 or 3 years in duration. These projects have focused on a classroom based, Action Research Cycle (ARC) that values the collection of data and change in teacher pedagogy. Most often these projects have taken place in schools that were developing whole school approaches to pedagogy or in the process of school renewal in various states across Australia.
Conduct of sessions/project
Because of the focus on whole school policy development or school renewal this type of project is most successful if it includes the whole school including, most importantly, the leadership team.
- Schools decide what their focus will be, the duration of the project and the timing of our visits.
- Many schools use student free days to begin the project with two full days. This enables professional learning to take place as well as teachers to decide on the topic for their classroom ARC.
- Other visits are conducted at three other times during the duration of the project to enable spaced learning to be implemented. These are sometimes full days or twilight sessions after school to save on teacher replacement costs.
- We have conducted these whole school projects in the state, catholic and independent systems in P – 7 and P – 12 schools varying in size from 200 to 2000 students.
Key features of these projects are: -
- A focus on teacher change in pedagogy,
- Use of the Action Research Cycle (ARC),
- Validation of pedagogical change through evidence-based investigation by individual teachers in their classroom,
- Emphasis on explicit teaching by exploring teacher talk, and
- Presentation of results of research to their colleagues at a Validation or Sharing Day (usually at a network conference).
- A designated member of the leadership team is responsible for arranging networking meetings among staff, together with support and discussion between our onsite visits. They also act as liaison person between the school and ourselves.
Each teacher plans their own project and begins their research at the pedagogical level they are comfortable with using tools that we have specifically designed for use in the project including a Reflection Matrix and the ARC proforma.
There are a number of positive outcomes from these projects that have been found to be common across different school systems, states and types of school.
- Completion rates for participants were universally high even though teachers were expected to complete a number of tasks throughout the project. The dropout rate across the various schools was low and when this did occur it was related to the level of participation and support from the teacher leaders.
- Opportunities for participants to talk about their projects (as part of the formal sessions or informal talk with colleagues) were highly valued.
- Preparation of transcripts of lessons was found to be of great value in analysing teacher talk. While teachers found this a time consuming task they frequently remarked that it was the most useful data they had collected.
- Participants found it very rewarding to investigate change in their pedagogy by collecting data about their classroom practice rather than measuring student achievement.
- The sustainability of the projects was high. In the process of completing the initial study, many teachers identified further issues that they wanted to explore. A number of schools are still in contact with us 3 or 4 years later and report that the process continues.
- Perhaps the most significant outcome is that participants, particularly teacher leaders, report that this approach produces long-term change whereas other professional learning conducted typically over a single day has little or no effect.
- Many teachers report that this approach produces the most successful and enjoyable professional learning in which they have participated.