Part 3 Collaboration and application

Learning from and with others

Professional learning has a greater influence on classroom practice when implemented collaboratively, rather than in isolation (Dufour, 2011; Elmore, 2002), improving both individual and collective knowledge and practice. Research shows that teachers who work together and learn from each other are more successful in improving student outcomes than those who work alone (Griffin, 2017). Active collaboration, such as peer observation and feedback, coaching, mentoring, team teaching and joint research projects, allows teachers to learn from each other and typically has a positive impact on students. In contrast, collaboration that concentrates on simply sharing resources, planning activities or administrative issues has little or no positive effect on student achievement (Jensen, 2014). Collaboration can provide teachers with flexible and differentiated professional support tailored to their specific needs and objectives (Bentley & Cazaley, 2015).

School leaders and teachers also seek to learn from best practice in other schools and explore ways in which this can be adapted for their own school. This collaboration across schools (Donohoo, Hattie & Eells, 2018) through formal and informal networks helps to strengthen the education of all students within a local community and supports the effective use of professional learning funds. Real and sustainable changes in behaviour through a range of high-quality learning opportunities (offsite, onsite) are enabled when teachers and school leaders apply new knowledge, skills and practices. The emphasis is on professional learning that fosters real changes in teacher practice and efficacy in the classroom (Jensen, Downing & Clark, 2017).

Learning from experts

Professional learning also needs to be kept current and refreshed through access to external expertise to ensure current practice is constantly challenged considering the most current research and practice (Cordingley, 2012; Hattie, 2015a; Honing, Copland, Rainey, Lorton & Newton, 2010). External expertise, knowledge and experience should relate to diagnosed learner needs and may expose school leaders and teachers to valuable new perspectives.

Challenge to grow

Teachers improve their practice in the classroom when they engage in professional dialogue and collaboration where they challenge themselves and their colleagues to articulate what student progress would look like (Hattie, 2015a). Intentional collaboration is symbolic of the way expertise is leveraged within the school to create a growth culture where everyone strives to improve and is collectively accountable for all students’ wellbeing, progress and achievement (Hattie, 2015a).

When conditions are created to enable and encourage more professional collaboration, observation, feedback and mentoring amongst teachers to incorporate these practices, they accelerate the development of contemporary pedagogy with colleagues and students. School leaders and teachers see the student learning needs as ‘our challenge’ not ‘his/her challenge’. They see these problems of practice as challenges for which they are mutually accountable and actively work together as a collective to develop solutions and implement these in the classroom.

Learning by doing – applying the learning in the classroom

Teachers can draw on the expertise of their colleagues in developing new ideas and possible interventions to address the specific learning needs identified. Leveraging the expertise of their colleagues is cost effective, efficient and increases the engagement of colleagues whose expertise is being privileged. This enables teachers to directly apply their learning in the classroom, evaluate the impact of ongoing development and make immediate adjustments with the support of their colleague close by. In high performing systems, schools make space for teachers to engage in school-based research to inform on-going development of practice (Jensen et al., 2016) and focus on content directly relevant to the specific curriculum (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017).

Barber, M., Whelan, F., & Clark, M. (2011). Capturing the leadership premium: How the world’s top school systems are building leadership capacity for the future. Retrieved from the McKinsey & Company website:

Bentley, T., & Cazaly, C. (2015). The shared work of learning: Lifting educational achievement through collaboration. Retrieved from the Mitchell Institute website:

Cordingley, P. (2012). The role of professional learning in determining the profession's future. Retrieved from the Centre for the Use of Research & Evidence in Education website:

Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective Teacher Professional Development. Retrieved from the Learning Policy Institute website:

Donohoo, J., Hattie, J., & Eells, R. (2018). The Power of Collective Efficacy, Education Leadership, 75(6) The-Power-of-Collective-Efficacy_Hattie.pdf (

DuFour, R. (2011). Work together but only if you want to, Kappan Magazine, 92(5) Work Together: But Only if You Want to - Rick DuFour, 2011 (

Elmore, R. F. (2002). Bridging the Gap Between Standards and Achievement: The Imperative for Professional Development in Education. Retrieved from the Albert Shanker Institute website:

Fullan, M., & Hargreaves, A. (2016). Bringing the profession back in. Retrieved from the Learning Forward website:

Griffin, P. (2017). Assessment for Teaching. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Assessment for Teaching - Patrick Griffin - Google Books

Hattie, J. (2015a). What Works Best in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise. Retrieved from the Pearson website:

Honing, M. I., Copland, M. A., Rainey, L., Lorton, J. A., & Newton, M. (2010). Central Office Transformation for District-wide Teaching and Learning Improvement. Retrieved from the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy University of Washington website:

Jensen, B., Sonnemann, J., Roberts-Hull, K., & Hunter, A. (2016). Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems, Australian Edition. Washington, DC: National Center on Education and the Economy. ERIC - ED577259 - Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems. Teacher Quality Systems in Top Performing Countries, National Center on Education and the Economy, 2016-Jan

Jensen, B., Downing, P., & Clark, A. (2017). Preparing to Lead: Lessons in Principal Development from High-Performing Education Systems. Washington, DC: National Center on Education and the Economy. ERIC - ED588214 - Preparing to Lead: Lessons in Principal Development from High-Performing Education Systems, National Center on Education and the Economy, 2017-Sep

Jensen, B. (2014). Making Time for Great Teaching. Retrieved from the Grattan Institute website:

Timperley, H. (2015a). Professional Conversations and Improvement-Focused Feedback: A Review of the Research Literature and the Impact on Practice and Student Outcomes. Retrieved from the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership website:


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