We know that teachers work tirelessly to improve the learning outcomes of their students. It is widely accepted that professional development (PD) is key to making a difference.
However, billions of dollars and countless hours are spent on teacher PD that doesn't necessarily make a difference to student learning (Kraft et al., 2018; Wei et al., 2009).
Demonstrating the link between PD and improved student achievement is not easy. In the few cases where this link has been found, the PD has focused on a single subject area or specific teaching strategy. It is even more difficult to find links between student outcomes and PD focused on improving pedagogy across all subjects and grades. Yet, finding effective ways to improve teaching practice more broadly is crucial to empowering teachers to enrich the learning of all students.
At the University of Newcastle's Teachers and Teaching Research Centre (TTRC), we conducted research into our most recent randomised controlled trial that investigated the impact of Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR) PD on student outcomes.
From our previous research, we already knew that QTR has significant positive effects on teaching quality, teacher morale, and teachers' sense of recognition (Gore et al., 2017). Now we've been able to demonstrate that QTR improves student outcomes as well.
We found that the students whose teachers participated in QTR achieved 25 per cent additional growth in mathematics during the eight-month intervention period.
What is Quality Teaching Rounds?
Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR) is a low-cost, scalable form of PD relevant for teachers in every subject area, working in every grade, at every career stage. QTR empowers teachers to enrich student learning through collaborative, teacher-driven analysis and refinement of practice.
After taking part in a two-day workshop, teachers return to their schools and form professional learning communities (PLCs) of four teachers to conduct a ‘set of Rounds'. A ‘Round' typically occurs over a day, involving a professional reading discussion, a lesson observation coded through the lens of the Quality Teaching model, followed by deep analysis and discussion of the lesson. This process is repeated on separate days until each teacher in the PLC has taught an observed lesson.
Built on a foundation of trust and respect for teachers, QTR is designed to be non-hierarchical and non-judgemental. QTR values teachers' capacity to collaboratively analyse and refine their own practice. The Quality Teaching Model provides the PLC with a shared language and conceptual framework to guide the coding and lesson analysis. Through processes that maintain confidentiality among PLC members, QTR has been shown to build relationships and rapport among teachers and develop their confidence (Gore & Bowe, 2015).
Our 2019 cluster randomised controlled trial involved 165 Stage 2 (Years 3 & 4) primary teachers and more than 5000 students from 125 New South Wales government schools (Miller et al., 2019).
The initial data was collected in Term 1 and included whole lesson observations and coding using the Quality Teaching Model, as well as student and teacher surveys and interviews with teachers and school leaders. ACER Progressive Achievement Tests (PATs) in mathematics, reading and science were used as a robust tool for measuring student learning growth between the beginning and end of the year.
Schools participating in the study were randomly allocated by an independent statistician into QTR, peer observation or control groups. Peer observation was used as a comparative, collaborative intervention and given the same amount of funding and dedicated PD time as the QTR group.
In Term 4, eight months after the initial data collection, we repeated the data collection. In total, our researchers conducted 33 407 PATs and 791whole lesson observations, as well as conducting and analysing 11 924 surveys with students, and 803 surveys with teachers and school leaders.
The RAND Corporation, a global non-profit research organisation, provided ongoing independent oversight to ensure our processes aligned with the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) guidelines. RAND independently verified the analysis and results of this study.
Significant impact on student achievement
This study demonstrated that participation in QTR had a statistically significant impact on student attainment. When compared to the control group, the students of teachers who participated in QTR achieved an additional 25 per cent growth in mathematics achievement, equivalent to two months of learning over the eight-month research period.
While the peer observation group achieved some growth, it was not significant. Our findings show that peer observation and discussion alone are not enough to substantially shift student outcomes. The common language and comprehensive framework provided by the Quality Teaching Model enrich collaborative professional learning conversations and support teachers to refine their practice in ways that positively impact on student learning.
Most exciting is that students from disadvantaged schools made slightly greater academic gains than their peers in more advantaged schools. This finding further demonstrates the power of QTR to improve student learning and help achieve national goals to substantially narrow equity gaps.
A cost benefit analysis by Deloitte Access Economics found QTR to be a very low-cost intervention that achieves a positive impact on student progress, returning at least $40 to the economy for every dollar invested (Deloitte Access Economics, 2020).
An identical study in a second cohort of 80 NSW government schools, planned for 2020, has been postponed until 2021 due to the impact of COVID-19. We are currently undertaking a pilot study of QTR in Queensland, with a randomised control trial to follow in 2021. Plans for research in Victoria are currently on hold until COVID-19 restrictions lift.
This program of research is funded by a $17.1 million grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation and supported by the NSW Department of Education, as part of the Building Capacity for Quality Teaching in Australian Schools project.
Supporting teachers and leaders
More than 1700 teachers and 150 000 students from hundreds of NSW schools are already benefiting from Quality Teaching Rounds. Thanks to the funding and support we've received, we can expand the reach of QTR across Australia, including for teachers in rural and remote communities who might struggle to access high-quality PD.
This week, we are launching our Quality Teaching Academy. Our vision is quality teaching for every student, every day. The Academy aims to build the capacity of teachers, schools, and systems through high impact evidence-informed professional learning. It translates rigorous research into practice, advocates for the profession and creates a community of educators connected by a shared vision of quality teaching.
Deloitte Access Economics. (2020). Quality Teaching Rounds: Cost Benefit Analysis.
Gore, J. M., & Bowe, J. M. (2015). Interrupting attrition? Re-shaping the transition from preservice to inservice teaching through Quality Teaching Rounds. International Journal of Educational Research, 73, 77–88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2015.05.006
Gore, J. M., Lloyd, A., Smith, M., Bowe, J., Ellis, H., & Lubans, D. (2017). Effects of professional development on the quality of teaching: Results from a randomised controlled trial of Quality Teaching Rounds. Teaching and Teacher Education, 68, 99–113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.08.007
Kraft, M. A., Blazar, D., & Hogan, D. (2018). The effect of teacher coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence. Review of Educational Research, 88(4), 547–588. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654318759268
Miller, A., Gore, J. M., Wallington, C., Harris, J., Prieto-Rodriguez, E., & Smith, M. (2019). Improving student outcomes through professional development: Protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial of quality teaching rounds. International Journal of Educational Research, 98, 146–158. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2019.09.002
Wei, R.C., Darling-Hammond, L., Andree, A., Richardson, N., Orphanos, S., 2009. Professional Learning in the Learning Profession A Status Report on Teacher Development in the U.S. and Abroad Technical Report School Redesign network at Stanford University Professional Learning in the Learning profession; a status report on teacher development. Dallas, TX
You can find out more about the Quality Teaching Academy by visiting www.qtacademy.edu.au