Collaborative and applied professional learning strengthens teaching practice

Teachers work together, propelled and critically challenged by expert input, to learn, shape and strengthen teaching practice for ongoing progress and achievement.

Key points

  • Teachers learn best from and with each other through quality collaborative professional learning relationships that build collective efficacy and are based on professional trust and respect.

  • Collaborative professional learning is enhanced through internal and external expertise.

  • Highly effective professional learning marries professional knowledge and experience and critical engagement with research and evidence-based practice.

Visual illustration of HIPL element 3


Why it matters

Professional learning has a greater influence on classroom practice when implemented collaboratively, strengthening both individual and collective teacher knowledge and practice.

Teachers grow their knowledge and skills by applying their learning in their practice, challenging themselves and their colleagues to articulate what student progress looks like.

Teachers and school leaders can learn together to inform the growth of all students in both formal and informal forums. This includes sharing knowledge, observing each other in practice, reviewing evidence of student learning collaboratively and challenging each other’s perspectives and understanding.

Professional learning needs to be kept current and refreshed through access to expertise, both external and internal, to ensure practice is constantly challenged in light of the most current research and educational practice.

Key practices

Teachers:
  • Grow and share your knowledge and skills, applying new evidence-based practices in your classroom.

  • Observe each other in practice, support and challenge your colleagues while analysing student progress and work samples.

  • Use external experts to challenge your values, beliefs and practices.


School leaders:
  • Promote a collaborative and inclusive learning culture and create structures, such as timetabled opportunities in the school day, to facilitate teacher collaboration.

  • Access and leverage internal and external expertise, as required, to support teachers to strengthen their practice.

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 at Campsie Public School highlighted the power of classroom-based collaboration, underpinned by a culture of shared responsibility: ‘Our students, not my students’.

Teachers engage in planned and collaborative professional learning sessions called ‘learning lounges’, where teachers showcase and discuss challenges in their teaching and share expertise and experience to strengthen their collective practice. These structured and intentional approaches to collaborative professional learning are underpinned by a clear focus on harnessing internal expertise to deepen the practice of all staff.

A review of professional learning at Homebush West Public School showed how teachers collaborate in stage teams and meet on a weekly basis to discuss progress on ‘problems of practice’ which they describe as being ‘our challenge’, not any one specific teacher’s challenge. They see professional learning as core to their roles and integral to enabling stage teams to improve classroom practice, resulting in improved progress and achievement for their students. 

One example of this is an approach where groups of teachers identify a common ‘problem of practice’ and then visit a range of classrooms to collect data about the agreed problem. Using protocols to explore the data gathered, teachers then work together to identify practical improvements and reflect on their own practice. This approach empowers staff to collaborate in classroom observations ‘without judgement.’ The characteristics of this practice ensure that professional learning within the school is constant and aligned to the school plan, driven by learner needs of the students. 

At Murray Farm Public School, professional learning is embedded into school routine. Learning Pods have been established as a collaboration and learning mechanism throughout school terms. Learning Pods focus on a vertical collaboration that combines members across stage and support teams. Learning Pods incorporate a book study on formative assessment strategies.

Twice a term Pod teams meet to read, discuss, plan, reflect, share successes and failures, and collectively address problems. This creates a constant loop of knowledge sharing and collegiality. Peer observations, learning walks by executive and Instructional Rounds support the implementation of formative assessment. Learning Communities are designed to facilitate collaborative engagement around the learning needs of every student, teachers use syllabus outcomes and learning progressions to put faces on the data and collaboratively problem solve whilst sitting at the data wall. This reinforces the use of the syllabus as a mandatory document for teachers and the complimentary use of the progressions. Learning Design and Learning Communities are stage-based teams, designed to cross pollinate from Leaning Pods.

Further reading

  • Read the research on teacher professional learning: Collaboration and application.

  • In What works best in practice (page 36):

    • Mimosa Public School staff demonstrate their commitment to a consistent and collaborative approach to professional learning as staff learn together to contribute to the growth of all students.

    • Taree West Public School demonstrates how engaging in a collaborative strategy focused on prioritising time for teachers to work in stage groups supports their professional learning goals.

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