“We don’t need PD on teaching practice – we are a Visible Learning school.” I was taken aback by this opening line from a school leader in a conversation about supporting teachers with their professional development plan, Michael Victory Executive Officer, Teacher Learning Network (TLN) writes.
The school has adopted the Visible Learning teaching model, based on the research undertaken by Professor John Hattie. All professional development in the school is now directed toward implementing that model.
Professor Hattie is Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne and Chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). A quick Google search will provide you with an entrée to his work. In my role at TLN I have been an advocate of his original research that traced the influences on student learning. The element of that research that covered the impact of teachers on student learning has now morphed into a model for classroom teaching. In this article I want to raise some issues about the impact of adopting a school wide model of teaching (any model, not just Visible Learning) on teacher autonomy and therefore on teacher efficacy.
In schools we talk about teaching being collegial and cooperative. We have curriculum teams, project teams, professional learning teams and leadership teams. It seems teaching is a team profession. However, the core of teachers’ work is done by an individual in a confined space with a group of students.
Despite new (or recycled) pedagogies for open plan learning, team teaching, digital learning and the partnership with education support staff, the most common school image is still one teacher and 20 plus children. My question is, ‘What does that teacher need in that space to be the best teacher they can be for all of those students at every moment of every day?’.
Two possible answers come to mind. The teacher may require structure and systems to excel or alternatively, the teacher may need the freedom, the skill and the knowledge to make good judgements. Before coming to a consideration of the two responses I want to take a brief detour through some Australian education history.