Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Why professional learning is important

Teachers make a difference. It is well-known that teacher quality is the single most important in-
school factor influencing student achievement1. Good teaching is also not an accident. Being an
effective teacher is the result of study, reflection, practice, and hard work2. It’s also the result of
effective ongoing professional learning.

A review of nine studies that investigated the effectiveness of professional learning found that on
average, 49 hours of professional learning can boost student achievement by 21 percentile points.3
On average, a teacher helps their students to progress about 14 percentile points in a single year4. In
other words, professional learning can amplify the teacher’s effectiveness by a factor of 1.4.

Professional learning undertaken by teachers needs to be relevant and focussed on the next learning
move in their individual context, as well as on the profession’s collective goal to improve learner
growth and achievement. However, the effectiveness of professional learning should ultimately be
judged by the difference it eventually makes to outcomes for learners.

Effective professional learning approaches expose teachers to evidence-based strategies and
discipline specific content that includes strategies to support their learners to acquire such content.
For this reason, the most effective professional learning approaches are education setting-based and
managed. These approaches focus on improving teaching practice, taking into account the specific
circumstances of each education setting.

Another crucial factor in professional learning is collaboration within a teacher’s context. Effective
collaboration encourages ongoing observation and feedback among colleagues where a culture of
professional sharing, dialogue, experimentation and critique becomes commonplace. Effective
collaboration is frequent and ongoing and, when most successful, an integral part of daily routines.

Collaboration promotes change beyond individual classrooms, resulting in whole school or site
improvement. In other words, when educators increase their expertise by learning together, all
learners benefit.

The environment and culture of the school or setting is key to the transference of knowledge and
learning into changed teaching practice. Teachers are well placed to apply their professional learning
to classroom practice when there is support for professional learning through site structures, explicit
planning and the allocation of time.

This excerpt is from the introduction to the 
High Quality Professional Learning National Dialogue 2018 Stimulus paper - November 2018