Author: Bronwyn Burr, Knowledge Sharing Manager
2 December 2019
Meeting our Teaching Fellows is always inspiring, and our inaugural Teaching Fellows Forum held earlier this term was no exception. Travelling from as far as Tjuntjuntjara in the Great Victoria Desert region of Western Australia, Cooktown in Far North Queensland and Hobart in the south, 33 of the country’s accomplished teachers and school leaders converged in Sydney to discuss the best ways to make their students and schools future ready.
Each Fellow is a recipient of a prestigious Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award, and together, provide a breadth and depth of teaching and school leadership experience and expertise in a range of Australian school settings. Many of these schools are in communities where complexities and challenges of low socioeconomic disadvantage exist.
The Forum provided Fellows with the opportunity to connect, to be challenged by new ideas, and to explore ways to share their learnings with the broader teaching profession.
I was inspired by the professionalism and commitment – both individually and collectively – of the Teaching Fellows as agents of change in Australian schools.
Here are some of my reflections from the conversations over the two days, many of which remind me of Andy Hargreaves and Michael T. O’ Connor’s work on collaborative professionalism*, and that you may also apply in your school context.
- Collective responsibility and efficacy
Focus on helping each other – and the broader profession – to be better, strengthen our schools and communities and in turn, our students. Together, a greater difference can be made. This was highlighted in the work being led by 2019 Teaching Fellow Michael Smith’s Marsden State High School in Southern Queensland where schools are working together to create opportunities to support and strengthen professional development for early career teachers. There were other examples drawing on collective wisdom where common challenges exist, regardless of state or territory borders.
- Teachers as researchers and learners
Build a culture of working together to investigate challenges and generate and use evidence to inform improvement in practice and school decision-making. Such a collaborative, evidence-based approach can also help to break down silos, empower teachers and lead to connections with other networks including universities who can provide ‘critical friend’ input and feedback, ‘walk alongside’ initiatives and validate approaches. This was highlighted by 2018 Teaching Fellow Stacey Quince’s experience in leading and bringing about change by establishing a culture of action research at Campbelltown Performing Arts High School.
- Learning partnerships
Seek opportunities to engage with and share the responsibility of education with professional, industry and community groups. Rapid and constant change in technology and society, and demand not always meeting supply for appropriately skilled teachers, creates openings to tap into expertise and resources beyond the school. Students are also important partners – promote student agency and engage them in decision-making and informing change in learning.
- The future holds new opportunities
Help equip young people to meet the changing face of the workforce with a likely focus on knowledge and/or caring and requiring skill sets which can be applied in agile and flexible ways. Some of these included STEM literacy, interpersonal skills, effective communication and self-organisation, together with mindsets which allow individuals to readily embrace change and be culturally competent.
- Power of storytelling
Storytelling was highlighted as a means to inspire, influence and teach people by building connections between people and ideas and conveying culture and values that may help unite students, parents and community.
The Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards were launched in 2016 through a partnership between the Schools Plus and the Commonwealth Bank, founded on our strong commitment to advancing education in Australia. To find out more, visit teachingawards.com.au.
*Collaborative Professionalism: When Teaching Together Means Learning for All (2018), Andy Hargreaves and Michael O’Connor.