Quality teaching in our schools

Lee-Anne Collins describes the quality teaching rounds project and how this impacted teacher professional learning.

Lee-Anne Collins is Assistant Principal at Tuggerawong Public School. Lee-Anne worked as a Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR) project officer at Learning Systems, collaborating with the University of Newcastle to support schools in the implementation of QTR.

What does it look like and how do we achieve it?

The term ‘quality’ is something we hear a lot in education. Quality teachers, quality teaching, quality curriculum ... but, quality is subjective. We value different things in our classrooms based on who we are, where we come from and our experiences. Like the explicit quality criteria we provide students, teachers need a set of criteria to guide our shared understanding of quality teaching.

There is a growing bank of evidence provided by our department and beyond to help us identify effective practices. What Works Best: Evidence-based practice to help improve NSW student performance (CESE, 2014) supports our efforts to improve the quality of teaching in our schools. Seven themes such as feedback, explicit teaching and collaboration provide us with approaches for school improvement.

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers defines the knowledge, practice and professional engagement needed for high quality effective teaching (NESA, 2014). These indicators guide the preparation, support and development of teachers throughout their careers.

We only have to look at case studies of high value added schools to support the evidence of these effective practices. We also know that collective teacher efficacy has the biggest in school impact on student outcomes (Hattie, 2015).

What if we did something that helps us go even deeper? Something that’s not new. Not an off-site professional development session with minimal impact in the long term, but something that means we open our classrooms to work with our colleagues. An approach that brings together our collective understanding of quality.

The NSW quality teaching (QT) model

First introduced in our schools in 2003, teachers and leaders quickly realised the NSW Quality Teaching model’s potential for improving their own and their schools’ quality of teaching, and the concept of a shared idea of quality teaching.

The QT model is the lens with which we can evaluate the quality of teaching practice across our school settings, stages and subject areas.

The NSW Quality Teaching model
Image: The NSW Quality Teaching model has 3 dimensions and 18 elements

As we rethink teaching to be more future focused and cater for the changing needs of our students, the QT model helps us focus on the quality of practice.

Whether we are:

* seeking to reflect on our current practices

* implementing innovative, critical and creative thinking strategies

* integrating technology

* working in flexible learning environments

* evaluating the impact of programs

* building collaborative practices

* improving our school culture

the QT model supports our reflection of these practices.

The QT model enables us to develop a deep understanding of what constitutes quality in teaching. The dimensions of intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance provide us with the framework to think about and discuss all elements of teaching, backed by a rigorous research base.

We can meet the needs of all learners by raising the intellectual quality of the lessons we develop and facilitate. When we establish a quality learning environment, we ensure that all students are supported to take an engaged role in their own learning, developing as life-long learners. We must join the dots and show students how their learning is significant. Then we can ensure that teaching and learning isn’t viewed as a series of unrelated ideas, but is connected and meaningful to each of the students in our classrooms.

Through engagement with the QT model, we can ensure we are doing that in our classrooms.

The quality teaching model, developed by the University of Newcastle for the department, has proven time and again to be enduring. It’s not something to tick off and say, ‘We’ve done that!’, because the elements of the model are applicable across settings and strip away the complexity of what works best in classrooms. It’s about sustaining the practice of quality teaching.

Teachers add clarity to the work they do to improve student outcomes when they constantly ask themselves:

* What do I want my students to learn?

* What do I want them to do or produce?

* How well do I expect them to do it?

* How will I know when they get there?

A team in the department have been working with Jenny Gore and the University of Newcastle to update and refresh the quality teaching model support documentation and presentation. These will be introduced soon.

Note: We can also apply the same coding practice to assessments. By analysing and shaping assessments with the QT model, we can ensure that students have the opportunity to show their understanding in meaningful ways.

Quality teaching rounds

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of the QT model in the Quality teaching rounds (QTR) approach to professional development, developed by the University of Newcastle. This approach combines the idea of rounds, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and the QT model. It asks us to respectfully come together regardless of our position, experiences and pre-developed ideas about teaching. When we discuss, with the language and concepts defined in the model, what we observed in a shared classroom observation, we can reach consensus on what quality teaching looks like. Through this process, a transformation occurs to our understanding of quality teaching.

The controlled QTR trial in our public schools showed a significant impact on the quality of teaching in a relatively short time frame. (See The Impact of Quality Teaching Rounds: Report on the results of a randomised controlled trial, Sept 2016) . Other key findings:

* sustained impact over time

* effects occurred regardless of the school setting and years of teaching experience

* improved teacher morale

* teacher sense of appraisal and recognition.

The QTR approach separates the teacher from the teaching and helps teachers feel more confident about their work. Teachers also report a renewed enthusiasm for teaching and enhanced school culture.

[QT rounds] was a catalyst for changing the culture in our school. Staff are happy to embark on new projects and have their peers observe their teaching which was a massive change for our school.

Jodi, primary teacher of 10 to 12 years

Teachers have unreservedly shared the positive impacts for themselves, their colleagues, students and the school. The study demonstrated that QT rounds are an effective form of professional development. Other studies have not been able to demonstrate such improvements on the quality of teaching.

It really made us think about what and how we taught. It also gave us experience of seeing teaching strategies in other areas.

Ryan, secondary teacher of 16 to 18 years

It gives you just more [of] a clearer lens to look through … it’s nice to have a little bit of a framework to … pin your teaching on, to know that you’re doing the right thing really … It’s given us greater confidence in what we’re doing because we can see that the programs we run … are addressing the quality teaching model.

Molly, primary teacher of 4 to 6 years

While QTR can be adjusted to fit the context of each school, it is paramount that the fidelity of the process is maintained for maximum impact.

Key features of quality teaching rounds (QTR):

* at least three teachers in each PLC

* timing of QTR to avoid gaps in the continuity of learning (around two weeks apart)

* full participation in all aspects of QTR by all PLC members

* teaching of at least one lesson by all PLC members

* focus on teaching ‘regular’ lessons

* QTR days organised with adequate time provided for three sessions

1. Discussion of a professional reading in order to enlarge the conversation (approx. 30-60 minutes).

2. Lesson observations (approx. 40-70 minutes, to suit school timetable) with full lesson observed by all PLC members.

3. Individual coding (approx. 30 minutes) soon after the lesson is observed, followed by whole group discussion and analysis; using the QT classroom practice guide in order to reach agreement and ensure professional learning (between 90 minutes and two hours).

Shared understanding of quality teaching

The department values the QTR approach to professional development to improve the quality of teaching – not as a tool to measure the performance of teachers but for opportunities to improve what we do every day with a shared understanding of quality teaching.

You can find a digital version of the Classroom Practice Guide for coding lessons.

New resources are being created to further help with the implementation of QTR.

It’s not about asking teachers to do more, but providing them with time and structure for collegial dialogue designed to improve the quality of teaching.

Quality Teaching Rounds may be just what you and your school needs. You cannot learn it by reading it; you have to do it, because that’s when the real learning occurs!

Join the community of practice with the Quality Teaching Rounds Yammer group. Share your experiences and ask questions of your NSW DoE colleagues.

Interested in participating in QTR?

Individuals interested in participating in the quality teaching rounds should discuss this with colleagues and their principal with reference to their own professional learning and the school’s goals.

Schools should express interest in participating in QTR to the University of Newcastle by email QTR@newcastle.edu.au

For further enquiries about Quality teaching in NSW public schools contact Allan Booth, Director Learning Systems by email allan.booth@det.nsw.edu.au

Accreditation and QTR

Gaining and maintaining accreditation at Proficient Teacher

Teachers seeking to gain accreditation at proficient teacher could use evidence from participation in quality teaching rounds to demonstrate their achievement against chosen standard descriptors at proficient teacher.

Teachers seeking to maintain accreditation at proficient teacher could contribute QTR activities towards their teacher identified professional development hours (TIPD), recording how engagement in these activities demonstrates ongoing maintenance of chosen standard descriptors.

Gaining accreditation at Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher

Teachers seeking to gain accreditation at highly accomplished or lead teacher could use evidence from QTR to demonstrate their achievement against the standard descriptors.

For teachers seeking lead teacher accreditation, the implementation of QTR in their school could be part of their lead Initiative where it aligns to the school plan and has support of the principal.

Maintaining accreditation at Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher

Teachers maintaining accreditation at highly accomplished or lead teacher are required to complete 80 hours of teacher identified professional development, 20 hours of which needs to include professional commitment activities. These activities support the professional development and practice of colleagues in the teacher’s school and wider education community, such as developing and implementing projects and leading professional learning. Leading QTR in a school could involve participation in activities that could be counted towards TIPD and professional commitment at highly accomplished and lead teacher stage.

For further information about the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, and key requirements and relevant links to accreditation policies and procedures access Teaching Standards in Action website.

How to cite this article: Collins, L. 2017, ‘Quality teaching in our schools’, Scan, 36(4), pp. 29-33

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