Research into school improvement suggests that one of the primary factors that can inhibit the raising of student learning outcomes is the siloed nature of the teaching profession.
While during the instructional stage of a teaching degree there are many opportunities for teachers to observe others in action, in many schools this does not continue once a teacher is entrusted with their own class. Instead the adage of ‘my classroom, my kingdom’ seems to apply.
In this model, a teacher misses out on the opportunity to observe their own students in another context and to learn from the successful pedagogical strategies employed by their colleagues.
King David is a firm believer that the best student outcomes are achieved when teachers see themselves as learners too. Tom Kane, Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, writes: “If we want students to learn more, teachers must become students of their own teaching. They need to see their own teaching in a new light.”
As such, our school has adopted a number of processes which are collectively designed to drive teacher development. Much like in the analogy of the iceberg, only a small fraction of the huge amount of work our teachers do is visible to the students and their parents. The many hours of professional reading, peer observation, coaching and lesson preparation can often be taken for granted.
I believe that it is important that our wider school community gains an appreciation of the endeavours that every educator undertakes to ensure that they are always growing in their competency and knowledge.
One of the key drivers of a culture of continuous improvement at our school is the Professional Development Plan and Review program (PDPR). This is a program that is designed to share best practice, invite self and peer review of the quality of teaching and offer opportunities for teachers to develop in areas that they would like support in.
The program breaks down the silos by engaging teachers in classroom or peer observations which allow for insights into another’s teaching and also for opportunities to receive feedback on their own approaches. Further, the program provides for teacher self-assessment and prompts for consideration of progress in relation to the School’s learning priorities.
Following a review meeting which facilitates the sharing and consolidation of insights into teaching strengths and any areas for development is the establishment of a targeted individual professional development plan which is focused on meeting the unique needs of each teacher.
Another hugely successful program that we have adopted is professional coaching. In this model, teachers are granted access to a coach who guides their growth in meeting professional challenges. This process involves the gathering of data which is used to prompt a focus on improvement. This is often obtained through use of a Swivl, a video recording device designed to draw attention to a teacher’s pedagogical choices. Using relevant evidence obtained from a teacher’s own classroom has been shown to be powerful in encouraging positive outcomes.
These programs run in parallel with the extensive range of professional learning opportunities that our teachers participate in. These include our weekly after-school learning sessions, our annual Student Wellbeing Conference and external avenues such as subject expertise workshops and conferences.
It is apparent that offering genuine and non-confrontational opportunities for feedback provides for a culture of continuous teacher improvement. It is always a privilege to witness the openness and collegiality with which our teachers embrace this process. We know that our teacher training and development program continues to build on the outstanding teaching and learning provision at The King David School and that through investing so heavily in our teachers we are providing the best for our students.