The Power of Professional Collaboration

27 Jul 2018

Teachers and school leaders pushing and supporting each other

 

The team at the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre, University of Newcastle

“QTR is a fantastic example of an evidence-informed process that provides a structure for teachers to talk with each other about what good teaching is and how they’re going.”

Twenty years ago, I started my career as a high school English teacher outside of Nashville, Tennessee. The school gave me the keys to a classroom, a textbook, a few curriculum documents and my class lists, and I was let loose to face the 28 fresh faces of my first period Year 9 class.  Within the first five minutes, I had a student openly and loudly refusing to do what I had asked. In that moment I realised that the direction of the class for the year was now all down to me.  I instantly understood both the responsibility and the isolation of teaching.  Somehow I managed to defuse the situation and keep the class on track.  Thus began the whirlwind of my first year of teaching.

I was very lucky to teach in a school with a strongly collaborative and supportive culture, so early on in my career I got a great combination of mentorship and challenge to learn how to deal with unruly Year 9s. That culture was crucial to my development as a teacher, and whatever impact I had on my students came from a combination of my own skills and what I learned from my colleagues.

Fast forward a decade or two, and I have left teaching to focus on education policy and research. While I do miss the classroom, I am pleased that I am still able to engage with teachers and the teaching profession through my work as General Manager of Education at the Paul Ramsay Foundation. In particular, on coming into the Foundation last year, I was delighted to see the Foundation focuses on the quality of teaching.

The literature bears out the importance of teaching as a key point of influence on students’ education outcomes. We also know from the best education systems in the world that, in good education systems like Australia’s, improvements come from teachers and school leaders pushing and supporting each other to get better in their practice and serve their kids as well as they can.  In the best circumstances, schools and systems build structures through which teachers can consider evidence about how to teach well and provide feedback to each other about how they’re going.

Having experienced a strongly supportive culture as a teacher myself, and looking at the wide body of research, I am very pleased that today we’re announcing a partnership with Laureate Professor Jenny Gore and her team at the University of Newcastle to expand and further test their innovative teacher professional development program, Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR).

QTR is a fantastic example of an evidence-informed process that provides a structure for teachers to talk with each other about what good teaching is and how they’re going. Teachers get to see each other teach and talk together about how to improve their own teaching using the common language that the Quality Teaching model provides. For teachers, this is a good in itself, as it breaks down the isolation of teaching I felt so keenly on my first day.  Even better, the rigorous evaluation of QTR has shown that it improves the quality of teaching, even months after a set of rounds has ended.

We’re proud to support Jenny and her team both to offer the opportunity of Quality Teaching Rounds to thousands more teachers around Australia and to extend the evaluation to look at student outcomes. I’m also pleased that the NSW Department of Education has recognised the promise of this program and joined us as a key partner to facilitate both program delivery and evaluation.

The vast majority of teachers enter their first classroom focused on making a difference for the kids they teach, and there’s great promise that QTR supports them to do just that. Ultimately, that’s why we’ve decided to support Jenny and the QTR team.

John Bush – General Manager, Education