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.

Visual illustration of HIPL element 4


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

Teachers:
  • See 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.

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

  • Read the research on teacher professional learning: Continuous and coherent

  • 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)

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