School leaders as leaders of professional learning

Year: 2019

Author: Thompson, Pauline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It is widely acknowledged that professional learning is a key driver of continual improvement of teaching practice (Kennedy, 2016). We also know that when school leaders are directly involved in the teacher professional learning and development, this has a positive impact on the quality of teaching in a school (Robinson et al, 2008).

In this paper, I describe a professional learning case study where the program and research was conducted by a member of the school senior leadership team in one secondary school in metropolitan Melbourne. Seven teachers from the school participated in an on-going professional learning program over a 10-week period in 2015. Over the following 3 years, semi-structured interviews were carried out, which led to the formation of a narrative of each participant’s individual professional learning experience. Positioning Theory was used as the conceptual framework to understand any changes in teaching in response to the professional learning program. The collated narratives for each participant were closely analysed using Positioning Theory to track, interpret, understand the behaviour and attitudes of teachers over the study. Through the analysis of the narratives the key characteristics of effective professional learning were identified. These characteristics are brought together in the Iterative Model of Professional Learning (IMPL).

The findings of this study indicate that there are several factors that support teachers to improve their practice. One key factor is the development of a trusting professional relationship between the leader of the professional learning and teachers. However, it is proposed that any professional learning which includes the five characteristics as identified in the IMPL can be effective regardless of whether it is conducted by a person in a formal leadership role or not.