Yesterday, the Teacher Registration Board of South Australia released their Professional Learning Report (authored by Associate Professor Debra Panizzon) As someone who works with Professional Development of Teachers and teacher growth and development, I started reading the executive summary whilst still in my PJs yesterday morning. My work with Edufolios has meant that I have spent a fair bit of time looking at the differing registration requirements across Australia and so it was really interesting to read a paper that evaluated and explored the information being collected by our own state’s policies and systems.
The main body of the work is discussing information collated trough the Professional Learning History area of the Teacher Portal, a statutory requirement for all new teacher registrations and renewals. A random sample of 2, 254 teachers was selected and their data, along with an online survey and focus group interviews, was used to try and gain an insight into how teachers in South Australia complete, record and respond to professional learning opportunities in our state.
I have always been given the impression that a fair few teachers find it hard to get permanency or even contract work here in SA. So it was surprising to see that of the sample, 49% of the teachers were in permanent full time positions. TRT and short term contract teachers made up only 8 and 2 percent respectively. I have a great deal of access to teachers in their pre-service and early career stages and having run courses for teachers during the week and had only TRTs and those out of work attend, it was interesting to read that some of those permanent teachers were expressing frustrations that their sites were refusing to let them attend professional development activities outside those scheduled during school time. If that is the case, then that is extremely worrying. Professionals need to have the opportunity to identify and evaluate their own skill sets (as an individual) and seek out professional development that meets those needs. In fact it’s wonderful to read that the report recommends that
“the TRB clarify with educational stakeholders that the focus of professional learning is around individual teacher registration. As such, teacher need to be supported in seeking specific professional learning that is relevant to their own unique ideas“ (pg25)
The auditing of the professional learning histories provided showed up several points for development. Mostly, in the way in which we’ve been filling the Learning Report in. The findings also suggest that we’re a bit nervous about how we should report on the professional development we attend. That we tend to favour face-t0-face professional development which results in a certificate that can be provided as proof of our attendance. That goes against the TRB’s intentions to allow us to be more free with our professional development needs and seemed to surprise the author, especially as this still seemed to be the case for those working out in the country who might have to travel long distances to access such PD opportunities. A few more interesting ways of gathering evidence were hinted at in the paper. For example. the use of a twitter feed in which you are clearly engaging with colleagues or discussing content that might fit with one of the AITSL standards. The report recommends that the TRB provide more examples, taken from the sample, which could act as exemplar to being a little more creative with your professional development. I think that’s a great idea.
One key problem that seemed to occur was that, apparently, we sometimes find it difficult to distinguish between professional development and professional practice. It is not O.K. to list “School Camp” or “lesson planning” as professional development However, if you were to write a post in which you analysed your lesson planning, discussed things you had learnt through assessment of outcomes and how you were planning to amend your pedagogies, that would (at least in my opinion) demonstrate professional learning. I guess it comes down to how you “annotate” your submission.
Each and every entry needs to be justified by the domain of the AITSL standards you are touching upon. Although the TRB doesn’t call upon us to delve into the focus areas for each domain, it could be argued that without doing so it can be difficult to contextualize your learning and development within the domain itself. That’s why we included the tags for the focus areas and our AITSL standards guide for our users writing their reflective journals on Edufolios. I know that they help me to focus my 100 word description of how my activities connect to the standards.
In fact there’s a fair bit in the report about the standards and how we’re coping with them. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, of those 2,254 teachers 1726 mentioned standard seven. If they were asked to delve deeper and select a focus area I suspect 7.4 “Engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities” would be what they were thinking of. In fact, it might not surprise you to hear that the next most popular domain was six with 248 teachers evidencing against it. The TRB are a fan of domain six (Engage in professional learning) and on page 24 of the document we see a suggestion that we use the focus areas of this domain to help us evidence all our professional learning. We are asked to
to consider their learning at a deeper level in relation to (i) planning around their own needs; (ii) being able to reflect on how their learning enhances their practice; (iii) engaging in collaborative networks; and, (iv) ways in which their learning enhances student learning.
I couldn’t agree more. If our professional development opportunities are not hitting these areas then what are we bothering with it for? I love that this has been focused on. Purely because, as you know, I have a passion for helping teachers to remain and enjoy being learners. Standard 6 helps us to do that so beautifully. However, I would hope that our Professional Development would do more than just touch on standards 6 and 7 alone. Most professional development opportunities have a clear focus inside one of the other domain areas. If we were to use Standard 6 as a way to reflect upon our professional practice and learning that might help us to deepen our understanding of those other domains (and possible focus areas). A blog post in which we reflect upon how our professional development has enhanced our practice in another area would be very powerful.
Most of the professional development courses I run are based on standards other than 6 but usually touch on an element of 6 too. Whether that be through networking at a co-creators meetup (6.3) or spending time in the PD reflecting on which aspects of the learning will be useful and can be implemented. Although the TRB doesn’t ask us to ensure that we cover all of the AITSL standards in our 3 years of PD, if we’re also aiming to move along the Career Ladder then it is surely more efficient to spend those three years familiarising and gathering evidence that might also be useful ( and in fact well rounded) to cover most aspects of our professional duties and standards. In fact, as Reflect Growth develops, it will be possible to identify which standards we actually NEED to focus on and to evaluate the impact of a PD we have undertaken. For now, we can use Edufolios’ Focus Area tag cloud to check that we’re not favouring one standard over another.
As someone who does not work inside one school but operates in Higher Education (my work at which apparently doesn’t count as teaching by the way – even though I’m teaching future teachers about teaching…. erm…) I can relate to the issues raised about the expense of PD and having to make decisions about whether to refuse work to then pay for PD. Of course this seems unfair when you consider that the teachers who are there with the permission from their school are likely to be BEING paid for attending whilst their schools cover the cost. Part of me thinks (and hopes) that DECD are considering this more deeply. If a TRT is working in a particular cluster of schools, or lives in a particular area, it would seem sensible that those TRTs be at least invited along to the whole staff PD that occurs on site. Just because you don’t have a contract or permanent position, should mean that you are left feeling on the outside of the teaching network.
All in all, there were some fascinating stats in that report and I have at least 2 more posts to write delving into those. There were also some really great, practical suggestions about how to deal with some of the commons issues raised. I really look forward to seeing how the TRB respond to those suggestions. My experience with them so far seems to indicate that they will respond and are keen to improve and develop the role of the board further. If the team at the TRB are reading this… I’ve got a draft email for you with some questions and ideas! – That probably wont’ come as a surprise 😉
You can find a copy of the executive summary of the report here.