Collaboration, innovation and adaptation: Quality teaching in a changing environment

Carole Hansen, Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR) Project Advisor, outlines the QTR process and its expanding evidence-base, and offers opportunities for teachers to participate in 2021.

What do we take away from 2020?

Earlier in the year, I wrote about the challenges and changes of operating within a global pandemic and the new and reimagined ways of teaching that had emerged through the learning from home period in NSW schools. As we near the end of 2020, this experience has irrevocably impacted ways of working and thinking within schools. Online learning, technology and face-to-face learning are now tinged with the steep learning curve of 2020. There have been immense challenges and there have been great opportunities for innovation and thinking outside the box. New knowledge acquired throughout this year informs reflection on a consistent consideration in public education – quality teaching. The question now is – where to from here?

Using quality teaching rounds to refocus for 2021

The challenges of this year have highlighted the level of innovation and in-house knowledge our teachers bring to work every day. As such, Quality teaching rounds (QTR) offers formal opportunities to harness this rich, collective pedagogical expertise within our communities to improve teaching practice.

QTR empowers teachers. It contributes to an environment which fosters trust, collaboration and improvement among colleagues in schools. QTR powerfully builds a teacher’s capacity to enrich student learning through collaborative, teacher-driven analysis and refinement of practice. As the video [1:41] below explains, QTR utilises the quality teaching (QT) model as a lens for facilitating discussion and analysis of teaching practice. The approach applies across all subjects and year levels and builds the confidence and capacity of teachers at all career stages.

YouTube video: Quality teaching rounds – introduction by NSW Department of Education

After participating in a QTR workshop, teachers return to their schools and form professional learning communities to conduct a ‘set of rounds’. Over the course of the ‘rounds’ process, each educator teaches a lesson and is observed by the other teachers who code the lesson using the QT model and materials to guide the observation, feedback and discussion. Teachers benefit from robust discussions with colleagues and draw upon knowledge and experiences within their own schools.

How effective is QTR? Current research

QTR makes a significant difference for teachers and students. Previous research has shown that QTR has a demonstrated, sustained impact on teaching quality, teacher morale and school culture (Gore et al., 2017). A recent study (soon to be published by Gore, Miller, Fray, Harris and Prieto-Rodriguez) also indicates that it can improve student achievement in mathematics by 25 per cent.

In 2019, the department built upon its significant partnership history with the University of Newcastle by collaborating on the research project, Building Capacity for Quality Teaching in Australian Schools. This ongoing project aims to rigorously investigate the impact of QTR on students and teachers on a wide scale and in a range of contexts, with a specific focus on overcoming disadvantage nation-wide.

A major component of this project was a 2019 randomised controlled trial which included more than 5,000 students from 126 department schools. Researchers from the University of Newcastle conducted 33,407 progressive achievement tests (PATs) and 791 whole lesson observations, as well as 11,924 surveys with students and 803 surveys with teachers and school leaders.

The results of the study, recently announced by the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre (and soon to be published formally), found that the students whose teachers participated in QTR achieved 25 per cent additional growth in mathematics, with greater improvements demonstrated in disadvantaged schools. The figure below illustrates this impact on maths achievement.

Diagram shows a larger effect size associated with QTR than an alternate program, and almost 2 months of additional growth compared with the control group.
Image: Impact of QTR on maths achievement

These are exciting and compelling results – especially in the context of the disruption caused by COVID-19. The Grattan Institute estimated in June that disadvantaged students probably lost around a month of learning during the learning from home period (Daley et al., 2020). QTR offers a potentially significant opportunity to reduce these impacts, particularly for disadvantaged students.

Get involved!

Schools, leaders and teachers in NSW public schools are encouraged to get involved in QTR in the following ways.

Attend a two-day QTR workshop

Due to the impact of COVID-19, QTR workshops were swiftly moved to an online format and have been successfully operating in this way since Term 2. Workshops are open to all schools. Interested? Register for a QTR online workshop.

As part of its partnership with the NSW Department of Education, the University of Newcastle’s Teachers and Teaching Research Centre, led by Laureate Professor Jenny Gore, has offered two teachers from every department school the opportunity to participate in a QTR workshop at no cost. This opportunity continues in Term 4 and into 2021, with limited places remaining.

Engage with us via media channels

Keep reading

Dive deeper into QTR by engaging in professional reading, using the sources below. In particular, read more about the recent QTR study by Gore, Miller, Fray, Harris and Prieto-Rodriguez – and keep an eye out for their full paper: ‘Improving student outcomes through professional development: Results from a randomised controlled trial of Quality Teaching Rounds’ (due for imminent release).

Teachers can also monitor the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre website to view other current research opportunities for schools.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss QTR further, please get in touch with the QTR project team, led by Allan Booth – QTR Project Leader.

References and further reading

Collins, L. (2017). Quality teaching in our schools. Scan, 36(4), 29-33.

Daley, J., Wood, D., Coates, B., Duckett, S. Sonnemann, J., Terrill, M. & Wood, T. (2020, June). The recovery book: What Australian governments should do now (Grattan Institute).

Gore, J., Lloyd, A., Smith, M., Bowe, J. Ellis, H. & Lubans, D. (2017). Effects of professional development on the quality of teaching: Results from a randomised controlled trial of Quality Teaching Rounds. Teaching and Teacher Education, 68, 99-113.

Gore, J., Miller, D., Fray, L., Harris, J. & Prieto-Rodriguez, E. (2020). Improving student outcomes through professional development: Results from a randomised controlled trial of Quality Teaching Rounds. (Due for imminent release – publication details TBA.)

Hansen, C. (2020). Learning in the time of COVID-19 – reimagining normal. Scan, 39(5).

NSW Department of Education – Learning Systems. (2019, July 11). Quality teaching rounds – introduction [Video file].

NSW Department of Education & University of Newcastle. (n.d.). Quality teaching online (NSW DoE staff). This website includes links to the Classroom Practice Guide, videos, articles and other resources supporting the quality teaching model.

University of Newcastle. (2020). Quality teaching rounds.

How to cite this article – Hansen, C. (2020). Collaboration, innovation and adaptation: Quality teaching in a changing environment. Scan, 39(10).

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