Hampden Street School principal, Don McLean describes their approach to professional development. They began by identifying: barriers for teachers, expertise within the staff, successful methods for teachers to share their practice and inquiries. All professional development must be informed by your school's vision – why are you doing this, what is your intended outcome?
I guess one of the barriers in the early stages in getting digital technology established in the school was capacity of the staff. It was when we really attached a strategic sort of approach to digital technology in our school and looked at some good PD, and PD that was going to be something that the whole school could share in and be part of. So when we looked at new appointments, we looked to staff who had capacity in those areas. And we also looked at some of the staff in our school who had an interest in the idea of e-learning and digital technology and we allowed them to build their capacity and build their interest around that and create some excitement amongst the staff on things they did.
And got them to share things that they’d done that are exciting in the class, which created interest across the whole staff. We’ve specifically said to staff, you know, take some risks, have a go, share what you’ve done. And then you get teachers starting to talk out loud about the successes they’ve had. And that starts to make other teachers curious and so when you start getting that sort of good conversations going on amongst the staff, that’s when you start to see the change. I sat in an appraisal in about 2013, 2012 and I felt to myself, I’m a little bit bored here. How’s this going to be for the kids? We need to change some things around what’s going on in the school. We need to make sure that the kids are coming to school because they want to learn.
And that what’s going on in the class is learning. That was sort of a feeling I had that maybe our children were just being compliant with us. Certainly we were seeing a few, what we call little rebels sort of behaviour-wise showing up. We’re dealing with kids who have access to knowledge, who don’t need the teacher to be the fount of knowledge at the front of the class. But what they do need the teacher to be is there to sort of activate their learning, to facilitate their learning and that was the big thing that had to change. We are about student achievement and that information needs to go home to parents but that’s it. Outside that, how you get to that is really up to you and up to you being creative.
So we were saying get out of this box of saying, this is year 3 and this is what you need to know, or this is year 6 and this is what you need to know. And the outcome for us has been phenomenal in the seniors, behaviour has improved no end, student engagement’s improved and that’s been very exciting. To shift those teachers has been a challenge in some ways. Some of the teacher’s we’ve said, when we started with the seniors look this isn’t going to be for you, you might want to think about teaching in another area of the school and they moved. Now the challenge for that is at some stage they’re going to have to change, but my hope is that as the wave moves through the school, as the talk moves through the school, that they would see that’s happening and they would be allowed the time to get there.