Exploring the Nature of Mandatory Professional Learning as a New Requirement for Teacher Registration in South Australia

Year: 2017

Author: Panizzon, Debra, Lind, Peter, Laity, Nigel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) was established to provide national leadership around excellence in teaching and school leadership. Part of this role has involved promoting a degree of consistency across states and territories regarding teacher professional development or learning. While 20 hours of professional learning per annum is now mandatory in most states and territories, this can vary across the registration cycle (i.e., 30 hours in one year, and 10 in the next). Within South Australia teachers must undertake 60 hours of professional learning over a three-year registration cycle. This learning must be documented and linked to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) with evidence of completion retained. Importantly, these formalised changes around professional learning are in line with other professions (e.g., engineers, nurses, and certified practising accountants) with the expectation that members accrue a particular number of hours or points towards continuing professional development (CPD).

At the end of 2015 the first cohort of teachers in South Australia required to demonstrate these new conditions applied for renewal of registration. To explore the nature of their professional learning, the Teachers Registration Board of South Australia (TRBSA) initiated a research evaluation to explore the overall process and nature of the professional learning undertaken by teachers. It comprised an audit of 25% of the professional learning summaries of all renewing teachers (N=2 254), an online survey (N=1 980), and conduction of 12 focus groups with teachers across the state (N=116). Data from the summaries of professional learning were coded in relation against the mode of professional learning (face-to-face, online, study), the APSTs addressed, and hours aligned to each of the activities. The online survey collected data not available on the TRBSA data base (e.g., years of actual teaching, employment status). Compilation of both these sources of data enabled non-parametric analyses using a Kruskall-Wallis test and Pearson's chi-square across teacher employment status (full time, part time or relief teacher), employment setting (early childhood, primary, secondary), years of teaching, and geographical location of school (metropolitan, regional, rural). Results from the evaluation identified a preference for face-to-face professional learning regardless of location, age and years of teachers while all teachers demonstrated no difficulty in aligning activities to the APST. However, difficulties emerged around what constitutes 'evidence' of learning; the need for teachers to take ownership of their learning; and, to distinguish professional practice from professional learning.