Building capacity for quality teaching in Australian schools

Year: 2019

Author: Gore, Jennifer, Miller, Andrew, Fray, Leanne, Patfield, Sally, Prieto, Elena, Harris, Jess

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Arguably, nothing is more critical to a nation’s well-being and prosperity than the quality of education provided for its students. Globally, billions of dollars are invested annually in teacher professional development (PD) on the premise that developing the teaching workforce is foundational to improving outcomes from schooling. Yet few studies show rigorous evidence of PD’s impact on either teachers or students. Meanwhile, Australia is lagging behind in international comparisons of academic performance, profound inequalities in educational outcomes remain, and teacher retention is low.

Given an active Australian teaching workforce of ~300,000 teachers, an approach to teacher development that enhances the quality of teaching—for experienced and beginning teachers, across grades and subjects in diverse schools—has immense potential for improving student outcomes. While alternatives such as increasing the calibre of preservice teachers might yield long-term results, we seek to build the capacity of the existing workforce through a short-term intervention, with demonstrated effects.

Typically, when positive effects of PD have been reported, they have been limited to a small part of teaching practice, a single subject area or a small group of teachers. In contrast, the Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR) approach, the focus of this symposium, has been shown to improve teaching in general. Founded on an evidence-based model of quality teaching, QTR is not linked to top-down accountability but, instead, designed to build professionalism and empower teachers. QTR is thus uniquely poised to build the quality of teaching in Australian schools, quickly and on a large scale, including in settings that have traditionally faced barriers to accessing quality PD such as small and rural/remote schools.

This presentation outlines the five-year project Building capacity for quality teaching in Australian schools,funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation and Australian Research Council. The project seeks to build teachers’ capacity to improve student outcomes and increase equity by scaling up QTR, using processes of refinement, replication and evaluation employing both quantitative and qualitative methods. We outline our current four-arm cluster randomised controlled trial that is comparing teachers engaged in QTR against two time-equivalent intervention groups and a usual-practice control group. The primary outcomes are student growth in reading, mathematics and science. Secondary outcomes are quality of school life and aspirations (students), and teaching quality, engagement, morale, self-efficacy and collective efficacy (teachers). The remaining papers in this session outline preliminary analyses of data.