The Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) research project positions Australia in the global landscape in regards to innovative approaches to schooling. The research focuses on exploring 21st Century skills in schooling systems across eight different countries, given the current global imperatives to support students to reach their full potential so that they are equipped for the future workforce. This project specifically relates to the first two principles of the Digital Education Revolution in Australia, which are to encourage students to undertake challenging and stimulating learning activities supported by access to global information resources and powerful tools for information processing, communication and collaboration; and for teachers to devise student-centric programs of learning that address agreed curriculum. Although there is a lot of discussion globally about the importance of 21st Century learning skills, there is yet to be a rigorous approach to develop teacher skills and beliefs in this area or to show what these skills look like in the classroom.
This paper will report on the first phase of the ITL research project which surveyed 22 school leaders and 690 teachers across 22 NSW government schools. Online surveys were designed to capture demographic information about the teachers and their teaching background. The survey also asked questions based on dimensions of innovative teaching and learning employed in the classroom, from which an Innovative Teaching Practice index (ITP) was formulated. The ITP index was created from eight sub-constructs or scales, giving equal weight to three sub-constructs (student-centered pedagogies, extension of learning beyond the classroom and ICT integrated into teaching and learning), and was derived from teacher survey responses to individual items (Gallagher, Shear, Patel, & Miller, 2011). Results found that the teachers most likely to have a higher innovative approach in the classroom are typically younger and tended to have a higher qualification, such as a Masters degree. This paper will explore these results,particularly in relation to discipline areas of the teachers involved in the study. The paper will also examine the preliminary findings on the next phase of the study where site visits were carried out in four innovative government schools from the ITL study, across two different regions of NSW. The case studies will illuminate best-practice innovative programs and learning activities within each of the sites, particularly in relation to student-centered pedagogies, use of ICT in the classroom and engagement with their local communities.