ULearn09 Spotlight with Prof. Helen Timperley co author of the Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES). The good news too is that this huge document has been synthesised into an brochure/pamphlet format to make it more accessible to educators, available here.
What are the kinds of teacher professional development and learning that leads to improved student learning?
Firstly, why do teachers need PD? Amongst other reasons, knowledge is changing and the way our students learn is becoming clearer as more research and information comes to light. Teachers learning from experience is not enough!
Four understandings about professional learning for improving student outcomes:
- Strongly influenced by what and how teachers teach
- PD cannot be an add on
- Effective PD responds to how teachers learn (too often we focus on how our students learn but not our teachers)
- Shaped by the context in which teachers practice. e.g. the environment, opportunities for PD and the students themselves.
Firstly formative assessment. Formative assessment works for teachers in the same way that it does for students. Teachers know why they are learning and what they are learning. They are in control of and monitor their own success. This is a key point as so often what we practice in the classroom is not mirrored in professional learning opportunities such as teacher only days or after school workshops. We need to adapt what we integrate into the classroom, and what we know works for our students, into our professional learning opportunities.
Secondly, effective professional learning is embedded in the teacher inquiry cycle (the following stages are adapted/revised from those in the BES).
>> What knowledge and skills do students needs? >> What knowledge do we as teachers need? >> Deepen professional knowledge and refine skills >> Engage in new learning experiences >> What has been the impact of our changed actions? >>
Principals of effective PD:
Focus on valued student outcomes: (matched to appropriate teaching activities or learning experiences). The success of any PD is determined by student outcomes NOT teacher skills.
Worthwhile content: known teaching knowledge and skills form the basis of effective PD, supported by research evidence.
Integration of knowledge and skill: essential to promote deep teacher learning. Deep knowledge of curriculum, how to teach effectively and how to assess. Integrating theory and practice.
Assessment for professional inquiry: a formative approach to what teachers need to know based on their analysis and information on student achievement.
Multiple opportunities to learn and apply: within a supportive and trusted and challenging environment.
Approaches are responsive to learning processes: different types of PD are required that relate to existing teacher beliefs. Teachers are as diverse as their students.
Opportunities to process new learning with others: teacher interaction, focused on student outcomes, helps teachers put new learning into their existing practice.
Knowledgeable expertise: to challenge assumptions and beliefs, develop new knowledge and skills.
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