Professor Jenny Gore and Ms Julie Bowe, from the University of Newcastle’s (UON) Teachers and Teaching research program, are set to transform the quality of teaching in NSW with an innovative approach to professional development for teachers.
Quality Teaching Rounds, the brainchild of Gore and Bowe, enables teachers to draw on their own strengths and the advice of their peers to find creative ways of improving their practice.
Using an evidence-based model whereby small groups of colleagues watch a lesson in progress and assess performance, each teacher takes a turn to host a round – similar to medical rounds used to teach junior doctors in hospitals.
“It’s enabling teachers to feel really positive about themselves and their work. And it’s having demonstrable impact on student learning overall and on equity outcomes.”
The lesson is coded and discussed by the teacher and the observers against the dimensions of quality teaching identified in the Quality Teaching model, which was developed by Gore and Associate Professor James Ladwig. Breaking down teaching into its key elements enables teachers to notice and analyse exactly what’s happening in the lesson.
“Although the coding process is central to achieving depth and specificity in the analysis, teachers quickly realise it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the professional conversations they have in the experience,” Gore said.
Unlike most professional development for teachers – where they might attend a workshop but then never have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned – this model enables teachers to use a combination of their own professional judgement and evidence generated through a research-informed framework to work out how to improve their practice.
“We’re finding teachers are really excited about this way of working and the opportunity it creates for them to analyse in detail what they are doing and collectively work on ways to improve teaching practice,” Gore said.
“Because the focus is very much on teaching rather than the individual teacher, it really ensures people don’t feel personally judged but instead feel supported, and often affirmed.
It’s enabling teachers to feel really positive about themselves and their work. And it’s having demonstrable impact on student learning overall and on equity outcomes.”
The Quality Teaching model is already used in more than 2,300 government, 300 Catholic and 30 independent schools throughout Australia. It has been shown to make lessons more intellectually engaging and challenging, improve the learning environment, and increase the significance of what is learned.
“It puts a focus on the things that should and will matter to students in terms of enhancing their life at school and building a commitment to lifelong learning,” Professor Max Smith said – a researcher who is helping to test this model.
The research team, which includes Gore, Bowe, Smith, Professor David Lubans and Dr Nicole Mockler, is now mid-way through a scientific trial in a randomly selected group of public schools in NSW – which will provide the academic rigour necessary for Quality Teaching Rounds to be rolled out more broadly.
Modelled on clinical trials used to test medical treatments, the trial involves 24 schools which are divided into two intervention groups and one control group. Observers are ‘blinded’ as to which group has received which intervention (the control group will receive their intervention next year). The research team has been swamped by interest from schools, with nearly 250 applying to take part in the trial.
Earlier analysis of Quality Teaching Rounds has suggested it produces significantly higher quality teaching and thus benefits students, for example by raising NAPLAN scores in the classes of teachers who have participated.
On the basis of earlier research conducted by Gore and Bowe, the NSW Government has written the Quality Teaching model and Quality Teaching Rounds (Great Teaching Inspired Learning) into its current policy for all NSW Schools. The team is currently planning with the NSW Department of Education and hopes to eventually introduce it across all public schools in the State.
“This is impactful research embedded in policy with the potential to change the preferred model of teaching and teacher development in schools across the state,” Smith said.