ERO spoke with school leaders responsible for planning Professional Learning and Development (PLD) and looked at a variety of documents in 242 state or state-integrated schools (excluding kura) reviewed in Terms 3 and 4, 2018. ERO made an overall judgment about how well school leaders were determining PLD priorities and evaluating the impact of PLD.
Strong leadership was the determining feature in schools where there was a learning culture. This supported teaching as inquiry and evaluative thinking. The extent to which teachers’ knowledge and practice improved depended on how well schools identified and managed their PLD priorities. The involvement of trustees, principals, senior leaders and teachers helped to focus the school’s PLD plan on improving teaching practice and student outcomes.
Most school leaders used data to determine PLD priorities and were aware of the impact of PLD on teachers’ confidence and knowledge of curriculum content. However, they had collected little evidence about the impact of PLD on shifts in teaching practices, and if and how those led to improved student outcomes.
In most schools, internal evaluation was not learner outcome-focused, but was more about inputs and outputs. Some schools also lacked a plan to ensure continuity when there was senior leadership or staff change which had implications for teacher learning.
A good system for internal evaluation provides a framework for schools to know what is working, and where school leaders should place their future efforts. Analysis of student achievement data and timely feedback on teaching practice are key evidence bases from which to plan and manage effective PLD.
In particular, schools need to know what data to collect and how to analyse it to understand what it is telling them. Schools need support to strengthen their knowledge and use of data to inform their PLD priorities. With improved data literacy, schools should be better able to use internal evaluation to identify the impact of PLD on teaching practices and student outcomes.
Access to PLD was often a challenge for small and rural schools. Costs of travelling to PLD and finding a relieving teacher often had a negative impact on these schools’ limited resources. Often, school leaders chose in-school PLD with an external facilitator as a way to overcome this. However, the lack of or unavailability of an external facilitator was sometimes a constraint. Frequent staff changes also had implications for continuity of teacher learning and consolidating changes in teaching practice.
About one-third of schools did not have a PLD plan or their PLD plan was not robust and/or linked to strategic priorities. The quality of PLD planning is an area where schools need more support.
It is essential for schools to understand the impact of PLD on improving teaching practice and student
ERO recommends the Ministry of Education work with PLD providers to:
about one-third of schools had not considered the impact of PLD, or had only anecdotal evidence of impact
internal evaluation tended to be more about inputs and outputs, than outcomes (inputs refers to the means used to achieve educational objectives such as teachers and financial resources; outputs refers to the direct results associated with inputs such as the number of PLD workshops teachers attend.)
examples of impact were often about teacher confidence and knowledge, without looking at what this meant for learners
strengthened professional relationships and collaboration was a common unintended, but positive consequence of PLD.