Building professional capacity in teachers

Tips and tricks help teachers do their current work more effectively but school improvement involves significant change at many levels of the organisation. Whether the focus is on whole of school approaches to literacy or the development of an anti-bullying culture, many systems are involved in effective change.

Real change takes time. It involves new perspectives and different ways of doing things. It often requires a reassessment of what’s important and may leave people feeling uncertain for a while.

Change requires a developing understanding of a wide range of issues relating to professional practice. Tips and tricks reinforce current ways of functioning.

Take punctuation as an example. It is useful for all teachers to have a framework for understanding how to punctuate effectively since everyone has a contribution to make to support the development of students’ writing. Among other things, this involves providing feedback on student work and modelling appropriate practices.

A tips and tricks approach would perhaps focus on a few high frequency errors – some do’s and don’ts about commas and apostrophes perhaps.

In a professional development approach, teachers are exposed to the principles of punctuation more broadly – for example, learning that punctuation signals and reinforces relationships already present in the written words, and that conventions differ significantly depending on the purpose and the context of the writing.

This more open ended approach lacks the certainty of a package of tips and tricks but it offers both teachers and students a broader and more powerful range of responses to punctuation in their writing practice. It invites reflection and engagement and encourages real learning with permanent long term outcomes.


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