Turbocharging teacher capacity

In this episode, join St Edward's Primary School’s Principal Allison Hatton, whose school recently won the Best Professional Learning Program award. Allison tells The Educator about the school’s ‘Teacher as Researcher Initiative’ and the profound impact it is having. 

To view full transcript, please click here

Kylie: [00:00:13] Hello and welcome to The Educator TV. I'm Kylie Speer, and today I'm talking with Alison Hatton, assistant principal at St. Edward's Primary School. St. Edward's is the best Professional Learning Program Excellence awardee at this year's Annual Australian Education Awards 2022. Congratulations to you, Alison, and thank you so much for joining us today. 

Alison: [00:00:35] Well, it's a pleasure to be here, Kylie and I look forward to chatting to you about our professional development program at St. Ed's. 

Kylie: [00:00:42] Sounds great. Well, firstly, Alison, can you tell us about the thinking behind your school's approach to professional learning and perhaps some of the biggest challenges it addresses? 

Alison: [00:00:53] Absolutely Kylie thanks. It's a great question. Well, in 2022 at St. Edward's School, we revamped our whole teacher professional learning approach and we developed this St. Edward's teacher as a researcher initiative. In short, we've called it SATARY. This initiative is a teacher professional learning activity that's aimed at improving teacher practice through a job embedded approach. It uses teacher reflection as a catalyst for decision making. I suppose the purpose behind this initiative, the biggest purpose is to empower our teachers or give them the autonomy to make positive decisions that lead to them making making the difference in their classroom and improve student learning outcomes. The key product here is teachers building their own capacity and improving their practice. I suppose also talking about what you said around the biggest challenges it addresses is you have professional development, you have people come in, deliver a professional development and walk out. This approach allows teachers to have that vested interest in their own ability and they actually really intricately look at the class in front of them and they develop their professional development based on the needs of the class that they're teaching. We also support it through coaching and mentoring, and it also helps us to get that collaboration happening between and among teams. We use Helen Timperley's, the action research cycle and teachers have their own action research questions and we're really seeing some excellent growth in our data sets, in reading and writing and and student wellbeing. So it's been a really great approach at St. Ed's. 

Kylie: [00:02:47] Fantastic. So what are the most successful outcomes you've seen as a result of this approach and what might other schools be able to learn from them? 

Alison: [00:02:55] So one of the most successful outcomes that from this approach, besides the improvement in student learning data across our school is St. Edwards Last year sorry in March 22. Got to share our work at a learning symposium, so we hosted a Learning symposium here in town and it was a two day event and it was an outstanding success. So over the course of the two days, we had our teachers sharing their action research with other teachers in our school. And this, it created an environment where teachers were able to reflect on their practice, share their experiences. And and I have seen other teachers take on what their peers have done or what their colleagues have done and put it into their classrooms. And it has proven to be a great way to engage kids in learning. So that's one of the most successful outcomes we've had. The other, I suppose successful outcome we've had is is action research really looks at you. The context of the school really looks at the classroom environment. So as a school, we we really needed to improve our reading results. So we took on an action research type process and we implemented some key projects to do that. And one of them was our Learning Dashes project and that was an intensive five week, 1 to 1 reading program where kids were working with AI's and teachers in order to develop their skills as a balanced reader. This year we've seen significant improvement in our results in kindergarten too due to the Learning Dashes project. We've also had our key word signs, you know, action research projects so the kids learn their sight words, but they're associating that with key word signs and it helps them to remember and consolidate their skills. And of course, this is their rating. So there's been lots of great ways that the action research process has supported our teachers and impacted on student learning. 

Kylie: [00:05:07] That sounds absolutely fabulous. And finally, Alison, how will St. Edward's primary school will be sustaining its success in 2023. 

Alison: [00:05:15] Well, thanks again, Kylie. So St. Edwards in 2023 will continue this road to success and really taking into account the context of our classroom, analyzing the data, defining the context and the issues, learning about it, devising an appropriate approach, and then and then trialing and reflecting on our practice according to the needs of the kids in front of us. So we're sort of getting quite clever at this and it's becoming second nature to our staff and we'll continue to complete action research as part of our professional development. We're really excited because at the end of this year we will launch our school based action research website and that will be like a portal for our teachers to see their work or their fellow colleagues and share in their reflections and success. So that's one thing that we're looking forward to as well, to to allow us to keep, you know, our action research work in one as a one stop shop so we can all share and reflect on the great things we do in our classroom. 

Kylie: [00:06:22] Really? Well, thank you so much for your time today, Alison, and congratulations once again. It was so lovely speaking with you. 

Alison: [00:06:29] That's okay. It's a pleasure. Thanks, Kylie. I love being here. 

Kylie: [00:06:32] And thank you, of course, to our viewers for watching the latest episode of The Educator TV. We look forward to seeing you again soon.