School improvement and peer-based learning

Educators have gathered on the Gold Coast to share their work on school-based improvement projects, reflecting on the successes and challenges they've encountered along the way.

The Excellence in Professional Practice Conference (EPPC) is an opportunity for teachers and school leaders to be the presenters as well as the delegates. This approach allows educators from across Australia and around the world to benefit from a unique environment of peer-based learning.

Stephen Dinham – Professor of Instructional Leadership and Associate Dean (Strategic Partnerships) in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne – delivered the opening keynote.

He started by talking about the challenges of upscaling. ‘I put it to you that we've got a pretty good idea of how teacher expertise develops, in fact what a good teacher looks like and what good teachers do,' the academic noted. ‘Our biggest problem is variation, and in some ways variation in schools is getting bigger. The fact that we know what good practice looks like is very helpful but upscaling is the big challenge – how do you get a quality teacher in every classroom?

‘… How do you make best practice common practice? We've got best practice – we've got the best teachers in the world, the best schools in the world, the best leaders in the world, but it's not uniform.'

Dinham told delegates the best schools are the ones that focus on both the learner and the person. ‘In some schools the focus is more on the learner – academic results. In other schools, often low SES schools, the focus is more about the person. ...The best schools do both.'

He spoke about the importance of leadership, not only from the principal but also across the school. ‘Initially our thoughts on leadership were people in formal positions, principals and deputies and so forth, but increasingly we've recognised that leadership is distributed in schools. In fact, every teacher is a leader: when they take a class, sit on a committee, take a sporting group or music group, that's leadership. … You can't have a good school without good leadership.'

Dinham also tackled common misconceptions of how students learn, including the learning styles myth, the danger of pigeon-holing students as being ‘gifted' or ‘not bright', and the findings of a project in New South Wales he was involved in looking at leadership for exceptional educational outcomes.

EPPC 2017 is hosted by the Australian Council for Educational Research. More than 70 presentations, case studies and workshops take place across the two days. Sessions on day one included staff at Dakabin State High School sharing details of their pedagogical framework and explicit instruction guide known as ‘The Hive' model, an update on a student voice program at Pakuranga College in New Zealand and a case study on collaborative professional learning at Campbelltown Performing Arts High School in New South Wales.

Professor Nan Bahr will deliver the closing keynote on day two, when she'll talk about the hidden qualities in quality teachers.

Stay tuned for more articles, podcasts and videos featuring EPPC 2017 presenters. You can follow the highlights from day two via the Teacher Twitter feed and the hashtag #EPPC2017

To read about previous EPPC presentations, and the impact the projects are having on student outcomes, visit the Teacher archive.