Why learner feedback is critical for professional development

Estimates from the Australian Principals Federation indicate that principals spend only 2% of their time on their own professional development. How can this figure be bolstered?

A clear barrier to the lack of professional development for senior school staff is a lack of time. Can the means by which professional development is undertaken be simplified? Dr Joe Thurbon, Chief Technology Officer at Educator Impact, believes it can - and it starts with learner feedback.

“It’s important to make sure that the right data is in the hands of the right people at the right times,” he told The Educator. “When teachers collect feedback to inform their development, and when school leaders collect feedback from teachers to inform their own activity, things start to get simpler because people are more engaged. Teachers are motivated to participate because they’ve been involved from the outset.”

The same principle applies to school leaders, he added: principals are comfortable when they know that their investments have an evidentiary basis. Making it easy to collect data is a great place to start simplifying things.

Another way is to consider the means by which learning is delivered. Online professional development is nothing new, but the benefits are becoming more and more apparent. “It’s all about access,” said Thurbon.

For example, EI’s digital offering is designed to be available to schools anytime and anywhere, on their own terms and timeframes – a vast difference to traditional classroom based learning.

“We’ve become very convenient for schools to use within their broader PD framework,” Thurbon said. “One unexpected benefit we’ve noticed has been that the less we are involved in person, the more ownership schools demonstrate in the process, driving engagement internally.”

However, while technology is a great enabler, Thurbon warned that problems can occur when principals try to do it all themselves.

“We’ve seen schools succeed by partnering with groups that have specialist expertise. The other big challenge at scale is to make sure staff personally tune into the PD program.”

He recommended three steps to build that engagement. First, ensure people see value from their effort as early as possible, because delays make people feel that their effort is wasted. Second, staff feel more engaged if they’re in control of their feedback and data. Finally, staff need to be connected to their peers throughout the process.

This article is based on an interview with Joe Thurbon, Chief Technology Officer at Educator Impact. To find out more about Educator Impact, please visit www.educatorimpact.com.