Over the course of the year I have written about a range of issues but the central theme has been about learning and teaching in a contemporary and connected world. The more I write about this, the more I recognise that improving student learning is about improving teacher quality. It’s not pie in the sky stuff, it’s achievable when we get teachers working and learning together, opening their practice up to critical reflection and setting high benchmarks for themselves and their students.
I know this has been the road less travelled in our profession for the past hundred years and I suppose it can be difficult to imagine how teacher practice could change. Opening your teaching up to comment is a huge risk but when done in the spirit of continuous improvement, the rewards are great.
I am fortunate to be able to see this in practice when I visit schools. When I hear teachers talking about Helen Timperley’s inquiry cycle as a framework for reflection, it not only changes practice but culture.
Recently, I was asked to view the art work of students at Caroline Chisholm, Glenmore Park. These students are being taught by teachers who are part of a professional learning community committed to improving their own and their students’ learning. I know I often say I was wowed by student work but I don’t think I can capture the standard here in words.
What is impressive is that the art teachers expect their Year 1o students to produce Year 12 quality work – and they do. By the time this cohort gets to Year 12, the standard is extraordinary. Out of a class of 30 this year, 10 were nominated for the NSW Art Express and 7 have been chosen to exhibit. The teachers are charting the progress of their students from Year 7 through to Year 12.
I spoke to several of the students who acknowledged their teachers and were supportive of the stretch their teachers provided. The teachers didn’t think their practice was out of the ordinary and this is when you know you there’s been a cultural change.
It’s a great base from which to build and I look forward to continuing the learning conversations with teachers and leaders next year.