From the Principal

Expert Teachers and Professional Development

“A good teacher teaches in an excellent way and imparts knowledge; however a great teacher transforms the students and makes them better humans. A good teacher teaches effectively in a structured way, a great teacher teaches in a way that makes the students ready for life!”

The adult in the classroom makes a big difference to the way students learn, to the students’ love of learning and the excitement of discovery.

Professor John Hattie’s research shows that teachers – for better or worse – account for 30% of variance in student outcomes:

“It is what teachers know, do, and care about which is very powerful in this learning equation. I therefore suggest that we should focus on the greatest source of variance that can make the difference – the teacher. We need to ensure that this greatest influence is optimised to have powerful and sensationally positive effects on the learner. Teachers can and usually do have positive effects, but they must have exceptional effects. We need to identify, esteem, and grow those who have powerful influences on student learning.” Prof. John Hattie.

Teachers in NSW must be registered, as professionals, with the government agency, NESA.

Part of this process requires each teacher to undertake a set number of hours to maintain their professional registration. As we live in a regional area, getting access to “approved” professional development is much more difficult than in urban areas. It also means time away from class and travelling long hours.

To balance this problem, St Columba tries to offer its staff the highest level of professional development onsite, coordinated by our Director of Professional Learning, Chris Delaney.

At the beginning of each year, before students return, St Columba staff undertake days of professional learning. Several afternoons each school week, when the students have left the campus, professional learning is the centrepiece of regular staff meetings.

Hundreds of hours are spent each year by staff who are involved in formal studies that enhance their professional performance and credentials. For our staff, becoming an experienced teacher is not enough, they seek to be expert teachers, the ones who make the biggest positive difference in the lives of their students.

“Expert teachers aim for more than achievement goals. They also aim to motivate their students to master rather than perform, they enhance students’ self-concept and self-efficacy about learning, they set appropriate challenging tasks, and they aim for both surface and deep outcomes. Expert teachers do differ from experienced teachers – particularly on the way they represent their classrooms, the degree of challenges that they present to students, and most critically, in the depth of processing that their students attain. Students who are taught by expert teachers exhibit an understanding of the concepts targeted in instruction that is more integrated, more coherent, and at a higher level of abstraction than the understanding achieved by other students.”

We know that the best way a school like ours can offer the very best in educational opportunities is by:

  • having an entire staff who are abreast of the best in research,
  • are aligned with the School’s determination to be the most outstanding in the state,
  • speak in the same educational language and
  • are able to work as a team to drive positive outcomes for our students.

In 2021, despite all the interruptions of drought, bushfires, Covid and floods, our educational leaders have continued working with individual staff and with small groups to support their professional practice.

Now, at this critical time, we need to bring all our staff together to ensure that every staff member is fully oriented to our Deeper Learning teaching and learning model and are given the opportunity to work with their peers on bringing best theory into best practice.

This means that, In 2020, the School Executive has approved two extraordinary staff planning and development days, scheduled for 28th and 31st May of Term 2.

These are classified as student free days, however we appreciate that for some families this may cause undue hardship, and as we have done in the past we will offer supervision for Primary students on these days. For planning purposes we would ask parents to register for this service.

These two days will:

  • focus on the professional learning that is most likely to be effective in improving professional practice and student outcomes;
  • enhance our collective responsibility for improving practice and meeting specific and relevant educational goals that relate to the learning needs of our students; and
  • focus on professional learning that leads to improvements in school structures and explicit teaching strategies.

Working alongside our AISNSW consultant, Jennifer Woods, our K-12 focus will be around Deep Learning. These days present a fantastic opportunity to further our collective understanding and take significant steps towards embedding Deep Learning into our everyday teaching practice.

We recognise that this will cause some inconvenience for some families, but found that  a similar whole staff professional development time in 2020 allowed us to pivot effectively to on-line learning during the pandemic shut down and believe that two days of whole staff learning with a consultant in situ will be less disruptive than sending teams to Sydney.

Terry Muldoon

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