Ticking boxes, kicking goals: teacher perceptions of their professional learning within the Victorian performance and development process

Year: 2018

Author: Allen, Janette

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) Performance and Development process (2014-2016), was designed with the expectation that its “effective, evidence-based performance and development processes within schools lead to improved teaching and leadership practices and the enhancement of learning, engagement and wellbeing outcomes for students and staff alike (DET Performance and development guidelines for teachers, 2014, p. 4).
The complexity of factors that influence teachers and leaders in their local interpretation and implementation of policy becomes apparent through researching local experiences.  The policy text positions teachers and their leaders in particular ways, yet in schools the agency of individuals may or may not lead to the outworking of the policy vision. Better understanding how teachers have made sense of, and enact, these intended supports for their “learning, engagement and wellbeing” is important for all stakeholders in and beyond the education system.
This project traced the perceptions of a group of teachers at one primary school as they developed and enacted their performance and development plans. Narrative inquiry methodology was utilised to provide the participant teachers with an opportunity to articulate and reflect on their learning through a six-month period of their review cycle. Five narratives resulted, reflecting different aspects of their experience. These were analysed using Positioning Theory. The positions expressed by the teachers through their words and actions pointed to the complex interplay of factors shaping their learning across time as the review process continued. Through the analysis it became clear that the teachers had agency to address and pursue matters of student learning, improving their student outcomes as they developed their professional skills and knowledge. It also became clear that there were factors that inhibited and disempowered their learning.
This study yields valuable insights into the ways teachers and their leaders perceive and exercise their rights and duties within the professional construct of the performance and development policy.  Power to enact the research-supported constructs within the policy, such as goal-development, collaboration, reflection, and feedback, is spread between teachers, their school leaders, regional leaders, policy-writers, politicians, researchers and the community. One implication of this study is that possibilities for re-positioning may exist for all to contribute to the creation of a more supportive professional learning environment for teachers and their students.