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Inside Teaching : April 2010
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org OPINION 7 meetings with relevant stakeholders and a review of available documentation and student work. They inevitably involve professional judgements, usually made by trained assessors with extensive experience in schools. An example of such a process is the teaching and learning audit currently underway in all government schools in Queensland. Beginning with a review of international research into highly effective schools and their characteristics, an approach has been developed that assesses eight aspects of each school’s practice. For each aspect, a judgement is made using a four-point scale: low, medium, high and outstanding. Each level on the scale is described in some detail for each of the eight aspects, and experienced principals work with schools in the audit process. Briefly, the audit addresses those eight aspects by asking the following questions. 1. an explicit improvement agenda To what extent has the school leadership team established, and to what extent is it driving, a strong improvement agenda for the school, grounded in evidence from research and practice, and couched in terms of improvements in measurable student outcomes, especially in literacy and numeracy? Have explicit and clear school-wide targets for improvement been set and communicated, with accompanying timelines? 2. analysis and discussion of data To what extent does the school place a high priority on the school-wide analysis and discussion of systematically collected data on student outcomes, including academic, attendance and behavioural outcomes? Do data analyses consider overall school performance as well as the performances of students from identified priority groups; evidence of improvement or regression over time; performances in comparison with other schools; and, in the case of data from tests such as NAPLAN, measures of growth across the years of school? 3. a culture that promotes learning To what extent is the school driven by a deep belief that every student is capable of successful learning? Does the school give a high priority to building and maintaining positive and caring relationships between staff, students and parents? Is there a strong collegial culture of mutual trust and support among teachers and school leaders? Does the school work to maintain a learning environment that is safe, respectful, tolerant and inclusive, and that promotes intellectual rigour? 4. the targeted use of school resources To what extent does the school apply its resources – staff time, expertise, funds, facilities, materials and so on – in a targeted manner to meet the learning needs of all students? Are there school- wide policies, practices and programs in place to assist in identifying and addressing student needs? Are there flexible structures and processes that enable the school to respond appropriately to the needs of individual learners? 5. an expert teaching team To what extent is the school focused on building a professional team of highly able teachers, including teachers who take an active leadership role beyond the classroom? Are there procedures in place to encourage a school-wide, shared responsibility for student learning and success, and to encourage the development of a culture of continuous professional improvement that includes classroom-based learning, mentoring and coaching arrangements? 6. systematic curriculum delivery To what extent does the school have a coherent, sequenced plan for curriculum delivery that ensures consistent teaching and learning expectations and that provides a clear reference for monitoring learning across year levels? Has the plan been developed and refined collaboratively to provide a shared vision for curriculum practice? Is the plan shared with parents and caregivers? 7. Differentiated classroom learning To what extent do teachers, in their day- to-day teaching, place a high priority on identifying and addressing the learning needs of individual students? To what extent do they closely monitor the progress of individuals, identify learning difficulties and tailor classroom activities to levels of readiness and need? 8. effective teaching practices To what extent do the school principal and other school leaders recognise that highly-effective teaching practices are the key to improving student learning throughout the school? Do they take a strong leadership role, encouraging the use of research-based teaching practices in all classrooms to ensure that every student is engaged, challenged and learning successfully? Do all teachers understand and use effective teaching methods – including explicit instruction – to maximise student learning? The primary purpose of the Queensland teaching and learning audit is not to report publicly on the performances of schools, but to work with schools to identify current strengths and areas requiring further attention. Direct school performance measures of this kind are capable of recognising high performance – that is, excellence in implementing recognised best practices – even if those practices are not yet reflected in student test scores. ■ Professor Geoff Masters is Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research.