It seems ridiculous to have to state that one of the most important investments we can make as teachers is in our students. Stating the obvious, one would think. Maybe so, and this was one of the messages articulated in the NESA online professional development opportunity – My Teaching Impact: Inspiring stories of teaching impact in the classroom and beyond.
It does have to be stated. We do have to be reminded that our students are the reason for us being here. We have to do the best by them. But what does it mean, to invest in our students? And how can we do this?
In My Teaching Impact several successful processes and strategies were introduced and briefly described. You will be able to access these in the highlights package to be released by NESA. This information will be made available to readers.
If we are investing in our students, then we need to know just what is happening in our classrooms. We have to make learning intentions and goals clear. Students need to be able to answer the questions: What am I learning? and Why am I learning it?
We need to be able to answer the questions: If I know what I am teaching, and why I am teaching it, then how well am I teaching it? This means we need common understandings about what constitutes effective teaching. And this isn’t just about test results, it is more focused on the quality of our teaching and its effectiveness.
In the early 2000s the emphasis of much of the research about what happens in the classroom shifted to what teachers actually do – their pedagogy. In NSW, this resulted in the Quality Teaching in NSW Schools policy.
Educational research has finally caught up with teachers in recognising the importance of teaching. … the impact of curriculum and school organizational practices occurs through teaching and assessment practices, that is, through pedagogy.
Quality teaching in NSW public schools 2003 p.3
This philosophy continues to impact teacher professional development and research. The Quality Teaching Framework was developed from research and focuses on reflecting on quality planning and assessment practices.
How to examine our teaching effectiveness without a test
Here are some suggested ways we can invest in our students by examining what is happening in our classrooms. The suggestions below provide an introduction to practices that support teacher learning about teaching. Classroom observational strategies are recognised for their potential to impact on what we do in the classroom. These include:
- developed by Elizabeth City and colleagues. This is a process for investigating teaching practice and its impact on student learning. As a collaborative strategy it has been tried and tested in numerous schools. Very rewarding. Robert Marzano describes Instructional Rounds as one of the most valuable tools that a school or district can use to enhance teachers’ pedagogical skills and develop a culture of collaboration.
- NSW DoE offers detailed information on the key elements of instructional rounds, and support for implementation.
- AITSL also has detailed information and instructional rounds ‘how to’ advice.
Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR)
- developed by Professor Jenny Gore at the University of Newcastle, and colleagues. Professor Gore’s QTR is based on the Quality Teaching principles. The NSW DoE has made a considerable financial commitment to the QTR project, which is to be adopted NSW schools in 2019. QTR has been trialled since 2014, and further trials to measure impact on student outcomes and engagement will run alongside implementation. Ask your principal if you are interested.
- This 2017 article in Scan magazine describes the initiative and its impact.
Other references for further reading include
- Dinham Steve (2009) How to get your school moving and improving: an evidence-based approach Victoria: ACER Press – focus is on adding value to Australian schools
- Fullan, M. Hill, P & Crévola, C. (2006) Breakthrough California: Corwin Press – the teacher as learner
- NSW DoE has a number of other strategies for developing teacher effectiveness. These include Gallery walks, Magnifying classroom practice and Peer coaching, among others at https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/learning-for-the-future/Future-focused-resources
- AITSL also has a range of resources, some of which may suit your context. See https://www.aitsl.edu.au/tools-resources
- Wiliam, Dylan website: http://www.dylanwiliam.org/Dylan_Wiliams_website/Welcome.html – his work on formative assessment is amazingly comprehensive. There are links to papers, videos and presentations.
One of the key messages about the practices described here is that examining practice is usually, and best undertaken as, a collegial effort. Whole school initiatives can work wonders, but the process of changing an entire school’s practice is a bit like trying to change direction the of a 458 m long oil tanker – it’s long and slow, and requires ongoing, passionate commitment. Thank goodness we have school principals who are committed to this.
Meanwhile, in the classroom, there are many things we can consider that will help students find, develop and use their voices in the learning process, and demonstrate our commitment to investing in our students. I have grouped these loosely under the headings Classroom communication, The classroom and Strategies for teaching in English in a resource titled ‘Investing in our students’.
AEU – Australian Education Union: represents Australian public school, early childhood and TAFE teachers, education leaders and support staff industrially and professionally. http://www.aeufederal.org.au/
IEUA – Independent Education Union of Australia: represents teachers and support staff in non-government schools, early childhood centres and other non-government educational institutions Australia wide. http://www.ieu.org.au/
NSWTF – The New South Wales Teachers Federation is the registered trade union which represents all teachers in New South Wales public pre-schools, infants, primary and secondary schools and TAFE Institutes, and teachers in Schools for Specific Purposes and Corrective Services. https://www.nswtf.org.au/
The National Union of Students: A representative body fighting for the rights of students across Australia. http://nus.asn.au/en/
AITSL – Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership
NSW DoE – NSW Department of Education
QTR – Quality Teaching Rounds: https://www.6seconds.org/2012/05/08/sociograms-mapping-the-emotional-dynamics-of-a-classroom/
ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-27/millions-to-be-invested-in-improving-teacher-quality-nsw/10038048 accessed 6/10/2018
AITSL – https://www.aitsl.edu.au/tools-resources accessed 6/10/2018
NSW DoE: https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/learning-for-the-future/Future-focused-resources accessed 6/10/2018 accessed 6/10/2018
SCAN magazine: https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/professional-learning/scan/past-issues/vol-36,-2017/quality-teaching-in-our-schools accessed 6/10/2018
City, E., Elmore, R. Fiarman, S, & Teitel, L. (2009) Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning Harvard Education Press
Marzano, Robert J. (2011) The Art & Science of Teaching / Making the Most of Instructional Rounds Educational Leadership, Volume 68, Number 5, pp 80-82, USA: ASCD
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb11/vol68/num05/Making-the-Most-of-Instructional-Rounds.aspx accessed 4/10/2018
NSW Department of Education and Training (2003) Quality teaching in NSW public schools: An annotated bibliography, Sydney: NSW DET