Professional learning is continuous and coherent

Effective professional learning is aligned to system, school and individual performance and development goals. It supports teachers and school leaders to deepen their practice by focusing on sustained evidence-informed approaches.

Key points

  • In a culture of continuous learning, coherence at all levels within school enables teachers to learn together and from each other in a culture of high professional expectations, resulting in greater impact on student outcomes.

  • Professional learning is embedded into everyday practice and is applied in every classroom.

  • School leadership teams build a consistent professional learning approach into their school planning, considering timetabling and resource allocations.

HIPL element 4: Professional learning is continuous and coherent

HIPL element 4: Professional learning is continuous and coherent

In HIPL-enabled schools, teachers engage in a cycle of continuous professional learning, which is seen as a core part of their role and clearly focused on student needs. Professional learning is integrated into the everyday routines of a teacher and is seen as something more valuable than attending isolated ‘events’ and courses. Teachers use a HIPL approach: using data to inform conversations and decisions about professional learning as part of the performance and development process and align it to their school’s strategic improvement goals and student need. ​

​School leaders take a ‘narrow and deep’ approach to whole-school professional learning. They focus on a small number of high value strategies and support teachers to embed new learning into practice with fidelity over the medium to long-term. They identify and support the development of potential school leaders (such as Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers) who can lead professional learning practice in the school.​

​The Department identifies where professional learning, advice and support is most needed and aligns this to system and school priorities. It is committed to supporting the sustained implementation of evidence informed approaches. ​

​Students benefit when learning experiences are continuous and facilitated through quality teaching practices which are tailored to their needs.

Why it matters

School leaders, teachers and other staff in high performing systems see professional learning as a core part of their role. Professional learning is built into the everyday routine within the school, informing the design of the school timetable with professional learning resources allocated to targeted tasks and activities.

Implementation of professional learning in practice is continuous and sustained over time. It is narrow and deep, and focuses on a few high value strategies which are executed with fidelity over the medium to long term.

Professional learning in high performing systems has a high degree of coherence between expectations for teacher and leader roles as expressed in role statements and systemic frameworks. In NSW public schools, this includes specific role statements, the  Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and the Performance and Development Framework. This coherence is also reflected in school priorities through the Strategic Improvement Plan.

Building coherence increases the power and impact of professional learning, by aligning thinking and actions to improved student outcomes.

Key practices

  • Consider professional learning as a core part of your role, aligned to strategic and professional improvement goals, and driven by student need.
  • Integrate professional learning into your everyday routine rather than attending isolated ‘events’ and courses.
  • Focus on a few high value strategies which are sustained with fidelity over the medium to long-term - ‘narrow and deep.’

  • Use professional learning and other relevant resources to support teachers to engage in professional learning that is embedded into their everyday practice over a sustained period.

School leaders:
  • Focus on a few high-value strategies which are sustained with fidelity over the medium to long-term - ‘narrow and deep.'
  • Use professional learning and other relevant resources to support teachers to engage in professional learning that is embedded into their everyday practice over a sustained period.

Illustrations of practice

These examples are drawn from NSW public schools and illustrate effective practice in High Impact Professional Learning.

A review of professional learning practice at Hanwood Public School revealed how time for professional learning is structured and integrated into day-to-day school practice by shaping the timetable around teacher professional learning needs. Teachers have dedicated professional learning time in weekly 90 minute sessions, where they are able to work with an expert on quality research-based pedagogy, both in and outside of the classroom, and to reflect on how they are deepening their practice. These sessions focus on improving teaching practice through triangulation of internal data, moderation of student work and cohort gap analysis and allow for collaborative analysis and planning.

Professional learning activities clearly link to strategic priorities within the school, based on overall or cohort-specific student learning needs. This connection is reflected in individual Performance and Development Plans (PDPs) and the school plan to ensure staff are supported to develop the necessary skills to meet the school’s objectives. A focus on continuous improvement is embedded across the school with staff understanding how their learning activities not only support the school’s strategic directions, but also how their professional learning supports them to deepen their teaching practice to strengthen student progress and achievement.

A review of professional learning practice at Macarthur Girls High School showed that there is a shared understanding that professional learning is not a series of ‘discrete events’. Rather, professional learning includes regular, peer-to-peer learning which is built into the school day and utilises evidence-based approaches such as Quality Teaching Rounds.

‘In-school’ professional learning is the predominant approach as it ensures a sustained focus on school priorities and supports practical application of evidence-informed learning to everyday classroom practice.

There is a clear link between the school’s professional learning activities, Performance and Development Plans (PDPs), the school’s Strategic Improvement Plan, the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, and the School Excellence Framework, ensuring clear alignment with the school’s strategic priorities.

Further reading

  • In What works best in practice:
    • Aldavilla Public School establishes consistent and explicit policies across the whole school and teachers view the maintenance of these high expectations as a part of their core business. The culture at this school values professional learning as an integral component of their day-to-day business. (Page 9)
    • Concord High School consistently analyses their HSC data from year to year to reflect on student progress and achievement and inform areas for improvement and more targeted learning for teachers to consider in their programming. Teachers learn together and work to upskill new and beginning teachers to ensure that the knowledge and expertise is building the capacity of all staff. (Page 20)
  • School resourcing snapshots demonstrate examples of coherent whole-school professional learning programs, informed by student need and which effectively utilise departmental funding through SBAR;
    • Toormina High School have established a collaborative, whole-school approach to professional learning with a focus on reading, numeracy and Aboriginal education. The initiative was implemented to support classroom teachers and leaders in developing professional knowledge, skills and confidence to evaluate their effectiveness, and reflectively adapt their practice based on the needs of their students.
    • Coonamble Primary School sought to develop capability for teachers to create new ways of teaching and learning mathematics by connecting mathematics to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures by strengthening teaching capability in evidence-informed practices in numeracy through high impact professional learning and explicit differentiated teaching and learning.

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