The ABC’s Four Corners program last night ‘A Revolution in the Classroom’, was a genuine attempt to re-focus public attention away from the old public vs private school debate and on to the core challenges of schooling. I don’t believe quality learning and teaching in public, private or independent schools is a revolution but rather a necessary requirement in today’s world. While the program focussed on the results of Year 12 students at three diverse schools: Toronto High, Knox Grammar and Hume Central Secondary College, I believe we need to move beyond this industrial mindset that intelligence and good learning is defined by HSC or Naplan results.
While the program offered great insight and certainly opened up discussion, what didn’t come across to the viewer was the critical role of the principal as an instructional leader nor is there a formulaic solution to improving the quality of schooling in schools. We know from the learning sciences that core is understanding learners in their contexts – what they bring, what they know and what they need to know using and analysing student data. The more we learn about learning and the more teachers learn about their students’ learning, the more important and influential teaching becomes.
This is why the current debate on K-12 funding shouldn’t be focussed on the haves/have nots or public vs private but on how we make continuous investment in the development of teachers at every stage of their career. If we do this then every school benefits because every school has a team of successful teachers. Last week Field Rickard, dean of education at Melbourne University wrote in the Australian:
If more effective teacher education programs (and professional development courses) are to be rolled out across the country, serious funding is required. Simply allocating more resources to education may be necessary but not sufficient for changing educational outcomes. A serious reconsideration of funding priorities is certainly called for.
As Rickard indicates we know with a degree of certainty that simply increasing school funding does not work as a school improvement strategy. There is no one system of schooling that can claim it has the mortgage to deliver quality outcomes for students. In a democracy such as ours, parents have a right to choice and students have a right to quality teachers.
In my address to our system leaders in January, I reiterated that as educators we know that effective teacher learning leads to changes in practice that positively influence student learning outcomes and we know from Viviane Robinson’s research that the involvement of the leader is critical. We know from our work with Helen Timperley that we do this by continuous inquiry so that we are all continually learning. The inquiry process enables us to strengthen the bridge between knowing and doing; between standardisation and personalisation and between novice and expert.
Over the next two years, our strategic focus will be on ‘Learning by Inquiring’ – ensuring that teacher professional learning leads to changes in teacher practice and that changed practice leads to improved student learning outcomes for every child in every school.