quality teaching

From global to local – how the world shapes learning

Here is another of our intermittent blogs during the #AARE2022 conferenceIf you want to cover a session at the conference, please email jenna@aare.edu.au to check in. Thanks!

This blog, covering two sessions, was put together by Jess Harris at the University of Newcastle at the Teachers and Teaching Priority Research Centre

Kitty Janssen (top left), Russell Cross and Thi Kim Anh Dang (top right photo), Matthew Harper (middle left), Jacquie Briskham (bottom photo)

Jacquie Briskham: Prioritising Casual Relief Teachers through the provision of quality professional learning to Advance Teaching Capacity and Wellbeing

Casual teachers are in high demand. Despite the complexity of casual teaching, casual teachers have limited access to professional development, support and mentoring. Furthermore, casualisation can impact teachers’ career progressions, when they are competing for jobs with other teachers, who have been provided support, mentoring and ongoing professional development.

Jacquie reported that casual teachers are often left with superficial or simplified lessons that they have to redesign in order to help give engaging lessons.

This project engaged 32 casual teachers in Quality Teaching Rounds, with the support of the NSW Department of Education. Importantly, casuals were paid for their time, while they participated in four days of Rounds. After 6 days of professional development, there was a clear impact on the quality of teaching, the confidence of casual teachers and their morale. One of the highlights within the findings was that the provision of collaborative professional development supported casual teachers to feel a sense of belonging. They were able to develop a support network of colleagues with similar experiences. The network has endured beyond the project, with casual teachers supporting each other in schools and discussing their teaching practice. The principals noticed that QTR prompted casual teachers to engage in discussions about their teaching, a professional discourse that ‘wasn’t there previously’. Engagement in the PD has resulted in increased employment for many of the participants.

There is a call for more effective PD policy for all teachers, not just those who were in permanent positions. Responding to a question, Jacquie indicated that the development of networks for casual teachers was critical to supporting them to build a sense of belonging in the school and in the profession. There was some discussion about how you might take the program of PD for casual teachers to scale. There are issues with remuneration and across educational jurisdictions.

A question was raised about how to support casual teachers in high school settings, particularly when they were teaching out of field. Jacquie reported that the teaching standards were not as easily applied as a pedagogical model, like the Quality Teaching model, for improving every lesson. 

Dr Thi Kim Anh Dang and Assoc. Prof. Russell Cross: Globalizing Teacher Education through English as a Medium of Instruction: Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory Perspective.

Drawing on their latest publication, they look at context and teaching and teacher education research, particularly how globalised teacher education has been supported through the use of English as the language of instruction.

Globalisation has led to educational contexts that are no longer bounded in space. Rather they are shaped by global, national and local features of teaching and teacher education. The impact of COVID is used as an example of how global elements have reshaped teacher learning and practice across the globe. 

Dr Dang and Associate Prof Cross argue that there are still very limited theoretical tools for systematically analysing the role of context on teacher learning and practice. They draw on Vygotsky’s theory of genetic development across histories and times. This theory is empirical, empirically bound and theoretically rich.

There is a need for the articulation of globalised space in education. Global artefacts, including online social spaces, privilege the virtual and extend global imaginaries, which can transform our understanding of schooling, teaching, and teacher development. 

They demonstrate the utility of their theoretical framework through an examination of English Language instruction in Vietnam and how practices are shaped at these global, national and local levels.

Student perception of learning and wellbeing within and beyond the classroom

Saurabh Malviya: Continuity of Learning in the child’s everyday in outside school hours care

What does the community think of after school care educators? And how do children think about learning in and out of school. In Australia, the number of children attending Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) has doubled since 2005. While there is a national quality framework for OSHC, there is widespread variation in the level of educational practice embedded in programs. 

This study examines children’s perceptions of how OSHC as a place for developing their identity and extending their learning through play-based learning. This phenomenological study looks at one OSHC program with children ranging in ages from 5 – 12. The themes emerging from the research demonstrate that OSHC and the relationships with educators support children’s social and emotional learning and understandings of their agency.

In the question and answer session, there was a discussion about the potential unintended consequences of examining the educational outcomes of OSHC programs. Do we want that part of a child’s day to be seen as an extension of schooling? Or is it beneficial to the professionalisation of OSHC to understand the types of learning that they support.

Matthew Harper: The subject (still) matters: Uncovering student experience in a case study of high school mathematics and drama

Maths and drama are positioned at different ends of the curriculum spectrum, with maths being considered a serious pursuit while drama is seen as a school subject where students go to play and explore. Matthew Harper takes an in-depth look at these two school subjects, particularly how students perceive maths and drama and characterise their learning in these subjects. Drawing data from four classes (two maths and two drama) in one school, the study involves 51 lesson observations, two interviews with each teacher, student focus groups and visual illustrations of the subject areas.

In focus groups, students were asked to draw an illustration and asked to describe their experiences in either maths or drama lessons. These illustrations and interviews were analysed, using a Bernsteinian lens, to demonstrate the different forms of framing between the subjects. 

Students often drew and described their engagement in maths as passive and teacher driven, whereas drama is a place where students can test things out, try, fail and ‘escape’ the traditional classroom. These drawings and interviews showed powerful understandings of their experience with the content and experiences of learning in different classrooms and subject areas.

The discussion after the study was focused on some of the study’s limitations, in examining only one teacher in each school. The students’ drawings and interviews, however, reflected a specific understanding of how they believe a subject should be taught. The teachers’ individual approaches could be partly responsible for these ideas, it could be that the subject matters.

Dr Kitty Janssen: Improving adolescent sleep: The appropriateness of six potential strategies for secondary schools

Media reports suggest that Australian adolescents are sleep deprived, with reports of 7-10 teenagers not getting enough sleep. Despite a lack of evidence, school leaders from two Australian schools reported a need to build more education and support for students to understand their sleep needs. The approach to health and wellbeing in schools is complex, balancing individual student needs and supporting wellbeing. As a result, teachers need to focus on educating students about the importance of lifestyle changes, including improving sleep.

This study used a strengths-based approach to look at the various factors within students’ lives that helped to improve their sleep. Dr Janssen’s findings show that better understandings of sleep hygiene and parents’ involvement can support improvements in adolescents’ sleeping patterns. She developed the concept of adolescent busyness, which included students’ academic work, social media use, out of hours activities, and peer and family relationships to understand some of the factors that could be inhibiting sleep. Her findings challenged media reports, showing that the majority of adolescents in her study are getting the recommended amount of sleep.

Importantly for parents, this study found that parents’ oversight of social media and devices can create stress that actually inhibits adolescents’ sleep. The factors of adolescent busyness are slightly increased for female students and issues of sleep appear to be worse for children as they move into their mid-teen years.

COVID coaches: tutoring only works when backed by quality teaching directed at the students who really missed out

The injection by NSW and Victorian State Governments of more than half a billion dollars on tutoring programs to help students catch up after Covid-19-related disruptions to normal schooling is welcome.

However, there is a need to ensure the intervention is more than an economic ‘sugar hit’ and that it leads to sustained improvement in outcomes for students, particularly the most disadvantaged.

There is decent evidence that tutoring programs can work, but not all tutoring programs are effective. Research on small group tuition, for example, indicates that the quality of the teaching in small groups may be as important, or more important, than the precise size of the group.

It is vital that approaches to tutoring used by schools to help improve student learning outcomes post Covid-19 have been demonstrated to have positive effects, and they should be rigorously tested in this setting.

Importantly, they must target the most disadvantaged students to support their long-term learning.

Research we conducted last year with Stage 2 (Year 3 and 4) students in NSW schools showed that, contrary to widespread expectations of ‘learning loss’, by Term 4 most students were where they should be, despite the 8-10-week period of learning from home. This is testament to the valiant efforts of teachers, leaders, and families. The narrowed curriculum when schools returned to classroom teaching was no doubt also a factor.

However, the remarkable headline result masks a more complex picture. Year 3 students in the most disadvantaged schools achieved significantly less growth in 2020, equivalent to two months, in mathematics relative to their 2019 peers.

This evidence that remote learning affected disadvantaged students more than others underlines the importance of focusing subsequent interventions on these students.

But I argue that a wider focus on quality teaching across the board is important in the post-pandemic recovery, because when teaching improves, student outcomes improve.

In his address last week, Federal Education Minister Allan Tudge made clear his commitment to raising student learning outcomes, both in disadvantaged settings and among high performing students.

While it’s common to blame teachers for falling education standards on national and international standardised testing, we must not fall into this trap. If there’s real interest in improving student outcomes across the board, there must be investment in improving the quality of teaching. For that to have an impact, we need to understand what constitutes quality teaching and focus on improving teaching, not teachers.

As a profession, we have struggled to come to agreement on what we mean by good teaching. In my experience as a teacher and education researcher, good teaching involves nurturing students’ intellectual depth while ensuring a positive learning environment, and helping students to see the value of their work beyond school. 

This is the basis of the Quality Teaching Model we have developed, which is delivered through the professional development program Quality Teaching Rounds.

Distinct from professional development that asks teachers to focus on improving the teaching of a particular topic or a particular set of skills, our approach focuses on enhancing teaching in general.

Teachers work in professional learning communities in which they observe and analyse lessons in each teacher’s classroom. They are guided by a conceptual framework, the Quality Teaching Model, that focuses on the intellectual demands of the lesson, the quality of the learning environment and the extent to which learning is made meaningful for students.

Teachers are able to judge and refine the quality of their own teaching, and the teaching of their peers, in a positive and supportive environment, using a shared language and simple yet rigorous coding. This leads to significant improvements in teacher confidence and morale, as teachers feel encouraged and recognised for good work.

Last year we were able to demonstrate that the students of teachers who participated in our Quality Teaching Rounds program achieved an additional 25% learning growth in maths (two months in an eight-month period). 

Importantly, in disadvantaged schools the effects were even stronger.

All children can learn and all teachers are capable of delivering great teaching.

At the core of our work is driving improvements in the quality of teaching and student outcomes in all educational contexts, particularly where inequities exist. And doing so in ways that honour the complexity of teaching and demonstrate respect for teachers.

The success of the tutoring programs being used by schools to help students recover post-Covid-19 will depend heavily on the quality of the tutoring they provide. Tutors need to be really clear about what they’re trying to achieve and how best to help. For the current programs to succeed, the quality of the teaching of these tutors will be paramount.

Laureate Professor Jenny Gore is currently leading the Teachers and Teaching Research Program, which represents a culmination of more than a decade of research, mostly undertaken in collaboration with key colleagues at the University of Newcastle.

Beginner teachers are NOT under prepared and NOT bad at managing behaviour. Here’s the evidence

For years claims have been circulating that newly graduated teachers are under prepared to teach in today’s often challenging classrooms, and that they are bad at classroom management. Thanks to mainstream media interest, and critics within education circles, these claims have led to an increasing array of government interventions in Initial Teacher Education in universities around Australia. What, how and to whom teacher education is delivered has been thoroughly examined and churned in the bid to improve teaching quality and student outcomes.

As teacher educators, intimately involved in teaching our new teachers and supporting them as they embark on their careers, we were deeply concerned about these claims so went looking for evidence of what was going wrong.

This blog post is about our research and what we found.

Be surprised, we found no evidence that beginning teachers in Australia are unprepared for the classroom or that they are bad at behaviour management.  

We believe extensive reforms have been made to Initial Teacher Education in Australia to ‘improve’ teacher quality without any evidence to support the claim that beginning teachers are less competent than experienced teachers.

Our research, carried out in Australian schools, found that most beginning teachers in fact engaged in higher levels of emotional support than their more experienced colleagues, and for most, behaviour management is not a problem.

Background on government ‘reforms’ to make teachers “classroom ready”

Following the now infamous 2014 Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report, which formalised the (we believe false) claim that graduate teachers were unprepared for the classroom, Australian universities have responded to accreditation requirements by

Various state governments have also made changes that impact universities intake criteria and course content: Queensland, for example, has mandated that students entering primary teacher education degrees must have four semesters of sound achievement in English, Maths and Science. New South Wales has signalled that to be eligible for employment in NSW government schools, students commencing a teaching degree from 2019, must:

  • Receive a minimum credit grade point average in their university degree.
  • Prove sound practical knowledge and ability, which will be reflected by an assessment of every single practicum report.
  • Show superior cognitive and emotional intelligence measured via a psychometric assessment.
  • Demonstrate their commitment to the values of public education in a behavioural interview.

Those doing online degrees are out.

None of these measures are bad, in and of themselves, although they have created significant compliance burden for teacher educators and schools of education, as well as increasing the fiscal pressure on schools and faculties of education.

The problem is that these interventions into university teacher education have come without any supporting empirical evidence that beginning teachers are less competent than their more experienced colleagues.

Our research into the teaching quality and classroom management skills of newly graduated teachers

What research method did we use?

There are different ways of measuring the quality of teaching. The two main ways involve using test scores (like NAPLAN for example) or by observing teachers teaching, and measuring the presence or absence of teaching practices known to add positively to students’ social, behavioural, and academic outcomes. The latter method is, of course, much more expensive because it uses direct observation, but it also can’t be manipulated like test scores can.

One method of direct observation is the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) observation measure developed by University of Virginia education specialists Bridget Hamre and Robert Pianta. We used this method in our six-year longitudinal study.

In our paper published in Teaching and Teacher Education this week, we compare the CLASS scores of beginning teachers (0-3 years’ experience) and experienced teachers (more than 3 years’ experience) and found no significant differences between the groups.

We used the CLASS system in our study investigating the development of severely disruptive behaviour of students because we were interested in learning the contribution made by the quality of teaching. In the very first year of this six-year longitudinal study, we noticed three standout teachers who were all in their early 20s and wrote about it in the AARE EduResearch Matters blog.

That’s also when we decided to ask how many years our teacher participants had been teaching in our research interviews because we were interested to see whether the excellent practice we were seeing bore out over time with a much larger number of participants.

Six years later, we can finally reveal: yes, it does and no, those three early career teachers were not an anomaly. Beginning teachers really do cut it.

We then broke our experienced teacher category into two (4-5 years and more than 5 years) and compared the CLASS scores of teachers in these groups with beginning teachers (0-3 years’ experience). This time there were significant differences with the 4-5 year experience group achieving significantly lower quality in three dimensions: Productivity, Instructional Learning Formats, and Negative Climate.

Importantly, there were very few participants in the 4-5 year experience group. While these findings do align with the possibility of a post three-year decline for some teachers, the findings should be interpreted with caution as extreme outliers can have a disproportionate influence on group means.

What’s the upshot?

We followed more than 200 students over six years and very few of their teachers declined participation. Their length of teacher experience ranged from 3 weeks to 38 years.

Basically, beginning teachers performed just as well as, or better than, teachers with more years of experience, regardless of the groups we compared them with. And, while all research is impacted by self-selection to some degree, in this study that was mitigated by our relationship with and presence in seven participating schools and the longitudinal nature of our project.

We found no evidence that beginning teachers were unprepared for the classroom or that they are bad at behaviour management. In fact, we found that most beginning teachers engaged in higher levels of emotional support than their more experienced colleagues. And behaviour management was the second highest scoring dimension of the 10 dimensions measured by the CLASS.

This evidence is good news for beginning teachers who must have been feeling pretty bruised in recent years and good news for preservice teachers who are scaling an increasing number of hurdles to prove their worth. It is also good news for teacher educators who work incredibly hard under enormous pressure to continually revise and refine their content and to support their students to do well.

Rather than implementing any more graduation hurdles designed to “vet” entry to the profession or further destabilising university teacher education, governments need to look at the evidence and turn instead to finding better ways of directing support to all teachers and provide intelligently targeted, quality professional learning to those who need it.

Professor Linda Graham is Director of The Centre for Inclusive Education at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Linda is currently Chief Investigator on several externally funded research projects including “Which children develop severely disruptive school behaviour?”, a six-year longitudinal study funded by the Australian Research Council. She has published more than 80 books, chapters, and journal articles, as well as numerous pieces published in The Conversation.

Associate Professor Sonia White is an academic in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education and researcher in The Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) at QUT. Sonia is a registered mathematics teacher and her research investigates children’s early learning and development.

Dr Kathy Cologon is a senior lecturer in the Department of Educational Studies at Macquarie University. Kathy has a particular interest in research and practice relating to the development and support of inclusive education, with a view towards greater recognition of the rights of all children.

Professor Robert Pianta is Dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and founding Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). He is a leading expert in the field of developmental psychology with much of his research devoted to supporting teachers use of quality teaching practices that best support children’s academic, social-emotional and behavioural development. With his colleagues at CASTL, he has led the development of well-known measures including the Teacher-Student Relationship Scale and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS).

Listen to the children. This is what ‘good’ teaching looks like to them

Much has been researched, written and debated about what it means to be a ‘good’ teacher. Conversations in Australia continue around quality teaching and teacher quality and the way we educate our teachers. Governments at national and state levels have specifically designed and established teacher accreditation regimes to produce ‘good’ teachers.

But despite the proliferation of public debate and political action around these issues, I was aware that the voices of students and their perspectives and experiences of being taught had been largely overlooked.

As part of a wider research project exploring the nature of exemplary history teaching, I interviewed groups of young people at four different high schools about their experiences of learning, and sought their insights and understanding into what good teaching looks like to them.

The students interviewed demonstrated a high degree of insight and understanding about the nature of teachers work and shared a strong, articulate vision about what students consider good teaching to mean. And although the students in the study were all from a variety of school backgrounds – government, independent, urban and regional – there was a clear consensus amongst the students about the aspects of teaching that were regarded as most important to them.

They valued the relationship they had with their teacher most of all. But they also recognised and were engaged by the different teaching methods their teachers used and they appreciated and were inspired by the deep knowledge their teacher had of their subject.


Students from all schools in the study told me that their relationships with their teachers were by far the most important factor for affecting their engagement in learning. For students at the independent school Greenview College, they felt encouraged and empowered to learn with their teacher Penny, who makes an effort to get to know them as individuals.

At the start of each school year Penny writes each of her students a letter to introduce herself, and asks students to write to her in return. Penny uses the insights and understanding gained about her students to then better tailor learning experiences to their interests and passions. Penny also surveys her students regularly during the school year with one student telling me “she asks us how we like to learn and through that feedback, you can tell she took that on.”

Students make a connection between their teachers getting to know them, listening to them and the quality of their engagement in learning.

It is a connection that is especially pronounced at Bayview High School, a public school in a regional area of NSW, where challenges such as low student attendance, violence and anti-social behaviour create additional barriers to student engagement. Within this teaching context, teacher Jane achieves both high levels of engagement and above average academic results from her students, a key reason for which is the strength of the relationships and the community she establishes in her classroom. Jane’s students tell me that learning in her classroom is different because:

Lisa: It’s like a family.

Rachel: Yeah, she [Jane] is our family.

Lisa: I actually want to be here.

Rachel: It is pretty much my favourite class.

Lisa: Honestly, I skip every single class except this one.

Jade: It’s like a safe place.

Here, student’s voices are providing insight into the significance of relationships in establishing the possibilities for student engagement in learning, and reminding us that before students begin to learn they need to be welcomed to a classroom in which they feel safe and to which they belong. For students, a good teacher is someone who works to create this kind of classroom.


Students in all the schools had very clear ideas about the type of classroom practices that they found most engaging and effective. None of the teachers in the study made regular use of textbooks, something that all the students interviewed made mention of as a positive aspect of their practice. The students told me that they got the most out of teaching practices that were creative and offered a variety of learning experiences, with students at one school saying it was great that “no two lessons were the same”.

For students in one outer-urban government high school, they felt energised and enthused by their teacher Dan who made innovative use of technology alongside teaching strategies such as role play with his history classes. One of Dan’s students told me:

We are young and we like things that excite us and make us happy, and [Dan] is exactly the type of teacher you want….you get excited! Like ‘Oh my God I’m going to [Dan’s] class!’….you really get excited to go in there, you go there and always have fun.

But far from valuing pedagogies that preference ‘fun’ over ‘learning’, students saw the best teachers as those who used engaging and innovative pedagogies to, as one student expressed it, “get us out of our comfort zone.” For these students, a good teacher was one who offered a variety of learning experiences that were both enjoyable and challenging.


All the teachers in the study were specialists in History, with an expert level of subject matter knowledge, and this expertise was both noticed and valued by their students. The students I spoke to frequently made reference to the way in which their teachers’ expert knowledge allowed them to engage in particular teaching strategies or in the way teachers made their own passion for history visible to the students. Importantly, students see teacher knowledge as visible to them through the way it translates into particular learning experiences.

For students at the independent boys’ school Churchill College, they find the enthusiasm of their history-buff teacher Max to be infectious:

Rick: You can tell he has a real passion for the subject. He actually said one class he was reading [a history book] the night before. You can tell he is really interested in the subject and that drives him.

James:    Yeah, it makes you want to be just as interested.

Students really value being taught by subject specialists, particularly when a teacher demonstrates and shares their passion for learning with their students, and even learns alongside them.

Talking to students about their teachers and seeking their thoughts about teaching can be a source of rich and meaningful data about students’ understanding and experiences of classroom learning in particular contexts. Whilst these conversations with students represent a mere starting point for considering the role of students in conversations about their education, they show us that when they are included, students can offer informed and meaningful feedback about what good teaching means to them. It is also a reminder that secondary school students, who may be taught by up to six different teachers on any given day, have real knowledge and insight into contemporary teaching practices and are able to provide meaningful commentary and feedback on these as informed agents.

We can learn much from what our students have to say about teachers and teaching and should not shy away from including them more often in these conversations.



Claire Golledge is undertaking a PhD in Education, using multiple case study methodology to examine the classroom practices of exemplary history teachers. Claire has taught History and Legal Studies in NSW secondary schools, and is a current post-graduate Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Sydney University.


Claire is presenting at the AARE 2018 Conference on Monday 3rd Dec on “I skip every class except this one”: the value of student voice in conversations around ‘good’ teaching.

How useful are standards in helping teachers’ professional development?

Teachers are forever learning. The complex world of schooling today means that teachers need to keep learning so they can respond to the diverse needs of their student learners. At the same time teachers need to meet the regulations or ‘standards’ imposed on them by the ever-changing political landscape. Often these regulations are designed, in part, to make teachers engage with professional learning.

I decided to look at how important the standards are in supporting teachers with their professional learning. I wanted to unravel if and how teachers’ work is reshaped and reorganized by standardisation. Canadian sociologists Dorothy Smith and Alison Griffith highlight the importance of understanding the influence of the ‘new public management’ on what actually gets done at the ‘front line’ of public service industries, including education. I wanted to explore the ideas proposed by Smith and Griffith that “the managerial ‘boss’ or governing texts” play varying roles in the ‘governing’ of people’s front line work depending on how such texts are ‘activated’.

The conundrum of standards

As we know there is a rise in the use of various national standards – from teacher professional standards to quality standards in early childhood and student achievement standards – as a means of governing teachers’ work. The development and maintenance of these systems of standardization requires massive infusions of both time and money. These investments are justified because they purport to ensure teachers are more efficient, accountable, and effective.

A lot of teachers’ work is shaped by meeting documentation requirements or to ensure students meet prescribed benchmark standards. As many see it, these practices appear to be at odds with the claims that imposing standards improves teacher efficiency and teacher quality.

Governing texts such as national professional standards and a national curriculum can have the unintended effect of constraining opportunities for teachers to learn about their work. This occurs when they are interpreted in ways that encourage coverage of individual standards. However, I believe, when teachers are supported to engage in authentic, contextually appropriate professional learning that is focused on their learning needs in relation to the learning of their students, they can transform their practice.

The problematic

How can we know that a teacher’s learning has transformed their teaching work and how is support for such transformative learning coordinated?

What my study involved

I interviewed 8 teachers, including both primary and secondary teachers from the public, catholic and private sectors. Each teacher had participated in a variety of forms of professional development that previous research has identified as having the capacity to transform practice.

I asked them to talk about a time when they knew they had really learned something about their teaching work. What they had learned? How did they know they had learned? Just tell the story. Then, with guidance, they selected and demonstrated evidence of the learning they had spoken about. Finally, teachers were asked to reflect on the ‘fit’ as they saw it, between the learning they had spoken about and the evidence they had demonstrated.

I used institutional ethnography as a method of inquiry to explore research conversations and demonstrations of evidence, together with a mapping analysis to bring the ‘spaces’ or ‘gaps’ in which teachers learned about their work at the ‘front line’ into view.














(Source: Talbot, 2015 )

What I found

All of the participating teachers were able to turn their energy to engaging with learning about their teaching work as the creation of an ‘everyday utopia’ – alive to the imaginative, sensual and affective possibilities of interactions with their students.

Learning something about their teaching work began for each of the teachers in this study as a response to the learning needs of the students in front of them rather than as a response to the governing texts of recent educational ‘reform’. The learning happened in ‘spaces of possibility’ that existed because of the unique coordination of local social relationships by school-based ‘professional learning architects’ such as the school principal.

The role of the ‘professional learning architect’ in creating the possibilities for such learning to occur has ongoing significance as we move towards the mandatory accreditation of all teachers against national professional standards. The ‘professional learning architects’, especially the principals but also the teacher ‘professional learning architect’, have a clear vision of how all the individuated, differentiated, inquiry-based, externally provided bits of professional learning for the teachers within the school fit into the overall plan of providing learning experiences that meet the needs of the students.

While the ‘professional learning architect’ and some classroom teachers referred to the standards, they were only useful in a peripheral way to most classroom teachers. Their professional learning was more driven by engaging with the needs of their students.




Dr Debra Talbot is a Lecturer in Education and Co-director of Professional Experience at the University of Sydney. She has more than 20 years experience as a classroom teacher, head of department in government and independent sectors, and professional learning consultant. Debra’s research interests are in teacher education, curriculum, pedagogy, and social justice. She continues to work with teachers in schools in these areas. Read more about this study here.