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Jemima Holmes/S00127810

Research Essay
Learning for a teacher does not end with their formal training at
university, it is an ongoing process throughout their career. Professional
learning is how teachers continue to develop and learn throughout their
profession. A teacher must reflect on current and past knowledge and be open
to new experiences, insights and research (Casswell & Beutel, 2013).
Professional learning can happen in many ways, relatively informally through
continued learning or everyday reflections and through formal professional
development sessions, learning through teaching teams and communities, and
formal and informal feedback and reflection.
Professional development allows professions to develop on their
expertise and network with colleagues. Angela Perry (2004) emphasizes the
importance of supporting teachers and providing positive learning environments
for ongoing development (Perry, 2004). She states that it is important for
teachers to question their knowledge and understanding and that change needs
to come from the inside (Perry, 2004, p43), as adults our learning is more
consolidated when we "own" what we need to learn. Teachers need to be
continually questioning whether as teachers, they understand what students
need. Teachers need to learn to teach, reflect and base learning on evidence.
Student learning relies on teacher learning and improved instruction (Dismone,
Smith & Phillips, 2013, p10). Dismone, Smith and Phillips conducted an
experiment based on students learning and teacher professional development.
It was concluded that teachers who participated in professional development
focused on instructional strategies they were more likely to teach in ways that
associated with students achievement growth (Dismone, Smith & Phillips,
2013, p2). Although this points out one area in which professional development
assist student and teacher learning it shows how important it is for teachers to
continue learning as this directly helps improve on skills for students to learn
and develop.
Equally as important as teachers working individually is collaborative
working. Professional Learning teams create a space for collaboration and a
united responsibility for teaching practices and helps achieve a common goal

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(DuFour, DuFour, Eaker & Many, 2010). Professional learning teams are
smaller groups of closely linked teachers that can collaboratively plan the
process for achieving successful student outcomes. In order to achieve student
outcomes, plans must be made when considering students outcomes data, the
preparation of action plans, how lessons will be implemented and evaluation of
teaching practices and student learning (Department of Education and Training,
2005). There are various types of professional learning in which teams can
conduct discussions and further learning such as case discussions which allow
teachers to reflect on recorded evidence of teaching outcomes and
effectiveness. Teams engage in discussion and identify dilemmas or areas for
reflection and improvement. Study groups are where opportunities for regular
collaboration can take place. Issues surrounding teaching practice, assessment,
pedagogy and greater school issues can all be discussed and developed upon.
Finally examining student work gives teams the chance to understand students
thinking and improve on teacher learning, strategies and resources (Department
of Education and Training, 2005). In order for professional learning teams to be
effective, teams need to be aware of how to work as a team. Successful team
work includes having good leadership skills, meeting regularly, supporting each
member and developing trust and identifying that things may not always go to
plan, recognising mistakes and issues to build and reflect upon them for future
collaboration (DuFour et al, 2010; Department of Education and Training, 2005).
Similar to Professional learning teams it is important for professionals to
work as professional learning communities. Professional learning communities
work on a larger scale to achieve student achievement. Professional learning
communities incorporate teachers, leaders, students and parents alike to create
successful schools. To establish a foundation of Professional learning
communities a school must first establish a common mission or purpose of the
school (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Shared visions allow all members of the
community to work for a common gaol and feel united. As a community
weaknesses and strengths can be identified and improved upon as well as new
research and findings can be introduced and learnt. Professional learning
communities incorporating many of the same components of learning teams
and both work together in similar ways to achieve goals.

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Professional learning incorporates reflective practice in many aspect.

Reflective practice allows teachers to identify and evaluate their own strengths
and weaknesses. Reflective practice can be very effective in identifying where
the teacher needs to improve and where they are going well, but this can be
subjective to what the teacher focuses their reflections on (Crosswell & Beutel,
2013; Perry, 2004; Parsloe & Leedham, 2004). Feedback from supervising
teachers and co-workers is important as it may point out areas in which the
teacher did not notice a weakness or strength. In order for feedback to be
effective in professional development in need to be constructive and positive.
The best way to ensure this in oral and timely feedback. Written feedback can
be effective but can often be late and take away the usefulness of it (Quigly,
2014). Coaches and mentors often provide feedback to teachers and having a
reliable person to provide feedback is important.
Coaching is used to improve a persons skills to a higher level through
descriptions and instruction whereas mentoring is someone being a role model
or influence to someone (Parsloe and Leedham, 2004). Coaching and
mentoring is a way to lead people to take charge of their learning. Coaching is
built upon trusting relationships between teachers and a mutual goal to work
towards. Coaching is important in professional learning as it supports
professional growth. Coaching can identify a range of characteristics and needs
that contribute to the effectiveness of a teacher. Evidence based data can be
used to inform future coaching and mentoring and lead to a shared
understanding of the outcomes to be achieved by the implementation of
strategies. Data should be accessible to teachers so they can identify areas of
improvements likewise data needs to be accessible for principles and school
leaders to identify teachers and areas in their school that require further
professional development and to support teachers in interpreting he data of
their students.

The inquiry circle incorporates all aspects of professional learning, and

assists in teachers and school leaders to identify what professional learning is

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needed. The inquiry circle addresses the needs of students and initiates
learning together as teams and communities. Designed using five dimensions it
outlines steps for professions to follow. The Dimensions include; identifying
students knowledge and skills, finding out about teachers knowledge and skills,
deepening professional knowledge and refining skills, engage students in
learning and assess impact of actions taken (Timperly, 2011). Engaging in the
inquiry cycle can be on a daily basis or on a long term basis. Daily use can be
identified through informal assessment and information from the students and
long term use through more formal assessment and collected data (Timperly,
Professional learning is continuous throughout a profession. Through
tools such as the inquiry circle or assistance through mentoring and coaching
and the collection of data teachers can assess areas in which they need to build
a deeper knowledge and understanding. Professional learning allows
professionals to improve on current understand and be introduced to new ways
of thinking and this ultimately helps in achieving greater student learning.

Word Count: 1202

Crosswell, L., Beutel, D. (2013). A bridge over troubling waters: a snapshot of
teacher graduates perceptions of their ongoing professional learning
need. Asia Pacific Journal, 41:2, 144-158.

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Department of Education and Training 2005, Professional learning approaches.

Melbourne. Available at:
Desimone, L., Smith, T. M., & Phillips, K. J. R. (2013). Linking student
achievement growth to professional development participation and
changes in instruction: A longitudinal study of elementary students and
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DurFour, R., Eaker, R. (1998). Professional Learning Communities at work:
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Dufour, R., Dufour, R., Eaker, R., Many, T. (2010) Learning by Doing: A
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Moyle, K. (2015). Coaching and mentoring for school improvement. Retrieved
Parsloe, E., Leedham, M. (2004). Coaching and Mentoring. (2nd ed). London:
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Perry, A. (2004). Deep change: Professional development from the inside out.
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Quigley, A. (2014). How learning is mired in a flood of feedback. The Times
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