The latest Grattan Institute Report sets out the following challenge to Australian schools and systems to improve teacher effectiveness.
Improving teacher effectiveness outweighs the impact of any other school education program or policy in improving student performance.8 A student with a great teacher can achieve in half a year what a student with a poor teacher can achieve in a full year.9 And because the impact of highly effective teaching is cumulative, relatively modest increases in effectiveness can make a big difference to student learning.10
The report lists the professional development programs which improve teacher effectiveness:
- Teacher mentoring and coaching that is intensive and involves regular classroom observation and feedback.15
- Lesson and grade groups, in which teachers work together to plan lessons, examine student progress, and discuss alternative approaches. Teachers improve by observing each other’s classrooms, identifying and solving problems as they arise, and jointly improving each student’s learning. 17
- Research groups of teachers identify a research topic (how to introduce a new pedagogy, for example) and analyse the evidence of what works and what doesn’t. Teachers then trial the practices that are shown to work and evaluate their impact on students.
- Teacher appraisal and feedback. When teachers receive meaningful feedback on how they can improve classroom learning and teaching it has a remarkable impact on student learning.
- Classroom observation and feedback provides constructive and immediate feedback for teachers and has a significant impact on student learning.25 It is a prominent feature of all of the above programs.
The Grattan Institute worked with six schools to see how these programs could be implemented.26 The report recommends that schools:
- provide teachers with an individual development plan, with personal objectives linked to school objectives, and regular support from their development manager (8 to 10 sessions a year).
- regular active professional collaboration in lesson or grade groups, in which teachers learn from each other about how to improve student learning (at least 12 group meetings a year).
- a classroom peer observation and feedback group of three teachers that have 24 observations per year with additional time for constructive feedback on how to improve classroom teaching.
- intensive mentoring particularly for teachers who are in their first two years of teaching or who would otherwise benefit from regular support. At least four times a term, mentoring should include observation and discussion of the classroom practice of both mentor and mentee.
- a comprehensive appraisal process that identifies and provides constructive feedback on a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses.
- the opportunity to participate in research groups that bring together teachers to work on school-based research.
The report also states that implementation of these programs requires around 135 extra school periods of professional learning a year (around three school periods per week) for each teacher.
IRIS Connect can assist schools to undertake these strategies. IRIS Connect is a video- based professional development system that allows teachers to video their practice, then store it in the cloud for review and reflection at any time. The power of this system means that providing effective feedback is dramatically improved. Teachers can watch their practice as many times as they want for deeper reflection. They can write comments on various parts of the video which can be time stamped for effective review.
Currently classroom observation is undertaken with pen and paper. The practice is held in the memory of the observer and the observed. However by videoing practice the observer and the observed can view and review aspects of a lesson together to understand what can be improved.
With IRIS Connect schools can also store videos of good practice in a shared library which is part of the IRIS dashboard and they can record professional development activities held at the school so that the learning community develops a knowledge base of best practice.
Using IRIS Connect as the key professional learning system in a school ensures teachers efficiently use their time on the kind of active professional collaboration which impacts on teaching and learning.
To find out more about IRIS Connect please join our National Forum