The cornerstone of learning innovation is teachers who are inspired by new ideas and emerging technologies and who reflectively incorporate the latest research into their teaching. The College is wholly committed to the idea of continual improvement in its pedagogical practices and supports this principle by providing quality professional learning opportunities for its staff.
The research on teacher professional learning over the past decade has become clear on the action required if we are to improve the practice of our teachers in the classroom. In his report for the Grattan Institute, author Ben Jensen wrote about what the best performing school systems are doing to achieve constant improvement. Jensen reported:
“The world’s highest-performing school systems provide time for teachers to be mentored, research best practice, have their classes observed and receive constructive feedback on their performance. These systems are relentless about teacher development.”
College-based professional learning events are scheduled across our calendar. Teachers are also encouraged to engage in personally relevant professional learning through their subject area associations, the Association of Independent Schools and other external providers. In this way your daughter is assured of benefitting from the latest research as well as the wisdom of years of shared experience embodied in a vibrant and highly competent staff fully connected to the broader education community.
WIDE World, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Differentiation is the recognition that students learn and create knowledge in individual and unique ways according to their own worldviews, cognitive capacities, life experiences and creative dispositions. The principles of differentiation are foundational to pedagogical excellence. In response to a differentiated curriculum students are able to negotiate their own learning and more fully realise their potential as they encounter and respond to new knowledge in the variety of ways that make sense to them.
Most teachers at the College have completed the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 13-week online certificate course: Differentiating Instruction: Strategies for Effective Classroom Practice. Staff worked in professional learning teams, with the guidance and support of a Harvard tutor and course coordinator, to deepen their understanding of how differentiation is used to design instructional materials, ‘tiered’ learning activities and assessment events that allow all students to learn the same essential concepts in different ways.
Focusing predominantly on Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, the teachers further developed their skills in identifying their students’ interests and learning preferences in order to continue to use practical teaching strategies that respond to their students’ unique needs.
“This course provided a great opportunity for me to collaborate and share professional practice. As I moved through the course the conversations around learning and how to cater for all students were rich and intellectually stimulating.” – Brett, History teacher.
QT Professional Learning Community
The quality of the teacher is by far the most influential variable impacting on student outcomes (Hattie, 2012). In 2015 the College began a partnership with Newcastle University focused on continual improvement and is now fully immersed in the resultant Quality Teaching Program. This ongoing program uses a Professional Learning Community model (PLC) to reflect and improve on teacher pedagogical practice. The core of this program is teachers of various levels of experience and expertise coming together in small teams to observe each other teach, to discuss and reflect on their observations using the Quality Teaching Framework and to critically analyse performance to improve practice and hence, improve student outcomes. Additionally, this program focuses on the inculcation of the Stella Maris Star Learning Framework into our classroom practice on a daily basis.
“Sharing knowledge and innovative ideas with experienced teachers who are all open to advice and constructive criticism has been the highlight for me. It was exciting to discover that there’s a lot I’m already doing but this brings it all together in a more systematic way and it’s being invested straight back into my classroom!” – Ann, English teacher.