Teacher Staffroom Episode 53: Exploring topics important to you

This podcast from Teacher is supported by MacKillop Seasons, whose Seasons for Life project supports schools with loss and grief following a suicide and other loss event.

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Teacher Staffroom, where we catch you up on the latest evidence, insight, and action in education. I'm Dominique Russell.

Our annual reader survey just concluded for another year. This is now the ninth year we’ve asked you for your feedback in our survey, and it’s certainly a highlight for our team when we’re able to read through all your responses.

This year, quite a few of you let us know you’d like more content on the topic of AI. You also let us know more about your concerns around the teacher shortage and managing your own workload, your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your students. So, in this episode, I’m going to highlight a range of stories we’ve published recently, that you might find useful, based on these areas of interest.

And, like all episodes of Teacher Staffroom, I’ll be sharing some other highlights from content we’ve published during the month, and I’ll also be posing some questions throughout the podcast, so feel free to pause the audio as you go, gather some colleagues, and discuss together how these stories might be relevant to your school context. Let's jump in.

st before, a major theme to emerge from this year’s reader survey was AI. For example, one of you said you’d like to see more content on the topic in order to ‘[Continue] the conversation around AI and see how we can teach with AI rather than just banning it so that it becomes a tool like Google or Wikipedia.’ Another reader said they’d like to know more about ‘AI and its ability to assist with work-life balance for teachers.’

This is certainly a new theme to emerge in our survey, and we’re already working on bringing you new content on this topic. Our Deputy Editor, Rebecca Vukovic, recently caught up with Cameron Paterson and David Howard from Wesley College in Melbourne about the AI learning coach they’ve introduced. Cameron’s the Director of Learning at the school, and in the article, he told us all about the AI learning coach, Wesmigo, that’s powered by ChatGPT.

Essentially, it's a pre-engineered chatbot tool housed within the schools learning management system and it’s been specifically designed for use in schools, with age-appropriate prompts that aim to develop students’ skills and confidence using AI.

Rebecca also spoke with David Howard for the article, the Head of Digital Learning and Practice at the school. He shared with us that the school saw the benefit of using AI as a coach or a questioning tool to help a student or a staff member when they were stuck for an idea and didn’t know how to move forward.

There was one quote in particular from the article – it was from Cameron, and here’s what he had to say:

…of course, we also have teachers that are a little bit nervous about using AI themselves or using it with their students and in their classroom. I think that's the reality of where we are at the moment right around the globe in relation to artificial intelligence and that's a good thing. We have continually pushed the line that none of this is compulsory, but we encourage people to play, and I think using the term “play” and “playful” is helpful here.

So, that brings me to a question for you to think about. How do you see AI improving the way you approach your work as a teacher? Do you see the potential for it to save you administrative time?

You also let us know in the survey that you’re enjoying our series, Researching Education: Five further readings, where we share a quick summary of 5 resources on a particular topic. This past edition, we shared 5 resources on the topic of learning progressions in mathematics and literacy. You can read the full article to access an ACER paper on bringing learning progressions down to 2-year-olds in reading and maths, and a paper that proposes a model of bounded learning progressions.

As in previous years, your survey responses also made it clear that you really enjoy our infographics. We recently published a new infographic on the topic of managing workload, which shares pieces of advice you’d share with a fellow colleague. Unsurprisingly, with teacher workload being front of mind for a lot of you, you were focused on sharing your wise words on this topic.

You’ll find the full infographic on our website, www.teachermagazine.com, under the ‘infographics’ tab, but here, I’d like to share a couple of quotes we included.

'Perfection can be a problem for teachers because the work is never ending and honing lessons can be never ending. Strive for the best within the time you have.'
‘Don’t take it all on. Share the load.’

You’re listening to a podcast from Teacher magazine, supported by MacKillop Seasons, whose Seasons for Life project supports young people affected by suicide and other loss events throughout Australia. Free for Australian high schools and based on the strong evidence-base of the Seasons for Growth change, loss and grief education programs, the Seasons for Life project builds wellbeing, resilience, social and emotional coping skills, and strengthens supportive relationships.

Another key theme that has emerged from our survey for the past few years is diversity and inclusion. In case you haven’t had the chance to listen to it yet, the latest episode in our Research Files podcast series shares my conversation with Associate Professor Suzanne Rice from the University of Melbourne.

Her research interests centre around attracting and retaining teachers and she’s the lead author of a new report which looks at the current state of diversity in Australia’s schools. It also explores initiatives and strategies schools and policymakers can put in place to increase diversity in staff.

In the episode we spoke in-depth about the strategies schools can employ to retain a diverse staff – like a well-designed, comprehensive induction program, culturally responsive mentoring and support networks, targeted pathways to leadership positions, workplace accommodations, and ensuring workplaces are inclusive and culturally safe.

I also asked Suzanne to explain the positive impact a diverse staff can have on student outcomes, and I’d like to share a snippet of her response with you here:

I mean a key finding is that it does improve learning, most particularly for the ‘outgroup’, whatever that particular outgroup is, if we can refer to them that way. But also, interestingly, there's recent research suggesting it does for members not of the outgroup, so that a more diverse teaching workforce can help support raised outcomes across the board. The sorts of mechanisms through which this occurs – teachers from an underrepresented group tend to have higher expectations, so there's considerable evidence now in the United States, for example, that black teachers are more likely to refer a black student to a gifted program; that they're less likely to punish them for behavioural infringements. So there are higher expectations there. There's obviously the role model effect that students are seeing someone at the front of the classroom who's like them. There's a clear message that academic excellence is able to be achieved by people in my group.

So that brings me to another question for you. Think about the students in your classroom. This year, did they have the opportunity to be exposed to a role model with a background similar to theirs?

And finally, I’d like to share a recent Expert Q&A from us on the topic of navigating difficult conversations with parents. Relationships with families, and more specifically, conversations with parents, is another area that’s been raised by you over the years in our survey.

In this Q&A, we spoke to ACER Research Officer Simone Griggs and her colleagues Greta Rollo, who leads the Primary, Early Childhood and Inclusive Research team, and Research Fellow Dr Kellie Picker, about a resource they’re developing to help practitioners build strong partnerships with families, including how to navigate difficult conversations.

In the article, they answer questions like what teachers should do if a conversation with a parent isn’t going well and issues around defining partnerships between educators and families. What I’d like to highlight with you now though, is a section of their response on how educators can establish common ground and agreement on the way forward in working towards a good outcome for the child. Here’s what they had to say:

When an educator discusses strategies or adjustments they have put in place for the child at school, these can be discussed with families to see if they have ways to support these areas at home. We can’t expect families to implement all of the strategies, but by discussing them together it can help families to see their important role and this process supports shared decision making. These discussions can also support a follow-up prompt, where educators can ask families how they would like to be updated on how the strategies are working. This follow-up prompt also supports timely modifications of strategies and is a way to provide clear evidence when internal school or external allied health support is needed.

So, the mention here of a follow-up prompt, where educators can ask families how they would like to be updated about the success of strategies that you’re employing in the classroom to support their child, brings me to some final questions for you to reflect on. Is this something you already do? If not, how will you introduce it into your own practice?

That's all for this episode. You’re now all caught up on the latest evidence, insight and action. Links to all the content and the resources I’ve mentioned will be in the transcript of this podcast available over at our website, teachermagazine.com.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast channel wherever you get your podcasts from, so you can be notified of any new episodes as soon as they land.

You’ve been listening to a podcast from Teacher, supported by MacKillop Seasons, Seasons for Life, supporting schools and young people affected by suicide and other significant losses. Visit mackillopseasons.org.au.