A Class Act
Leading the charge towards a new era of teacher education and professional development
University of Newcastle’s pedagogy expert, Professor Jenny Gore, is building a world-class model of education excellence that helps support both teachers and students.
Co-founder of the landmark pedagogical model, Quality Teaching (QT), Professor Gore’s work is being used in government, catholic and independent schools throughout Australia, and especially in NSW and the ACT.
A+ Quality Teaching
The quality of teaching is the single biggest factor over which schools have control that can positively impact on education and the nation’s productivity, according to Professor Gore.
“All children can learn and all teachers are capable of delivering great teaching,” Professor Gore said.
“Our aim is for the Quality Teaching Rounds research to produce definitive ideas about how to support teaching quality for all teachers so it has a powerful positive impact on all children.”
Professor Jenny Gore is Chief Investigator on a $600,000 research grant for a gold standard randomised controlled trial focusing on the implementation of Quality Teaching Rounds in New South Wales schools.
Informed by medical education models or ‘rounds’, Quality Teaching Rounds, developed with PhD student and colleague Julie Bowe, brings teachers together in small and highly focused ‘professional learning communities’. Each participant teaches a lesson and is observed by other teachers who code the lesson using the Quality Teaching model and materials to guide the observation, feedback and discussion.
The 18 element QT model is adaptable for different school environments, with the coding aimed at generating powerful professional conversations rather than an atmosphere of judgement.
“Teachers traditionally don’t receive much support or feedback once they leave university, besides the odd review from a principal or senior teacher that will tend to give a satisfactory or unsatisfactory mark,” Professor Gore explains.
“Imploring teachers to teach better or asking them to learn by simply watching other teachers is akin to telling a budding golfer to go and watch Tiger Woods,” she said.
“Unless someone breaks it down regarding what is happening and how it works, they are not going to learn as effectively as they might.”
The success of Quality Teaching Rounds can be seen in the way participating schools are excelling, such as in New South Wales, where National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results have improved considerably for schools taking part.
Some of the most satisfying feedback has been from teachers, according to Professor Gore, with Quality Teaching Rounds leveraging high performers, helping to retain teachers and most importantly, giving teachers new energy and confidence in their career.
“One of my favourite quotes from our research came from a teacher with around 20 years’ experience who had been working with Quality Teaching for a couple of years at the time he was interviewed. He said ‘this is the first time in my career I feel I am actually teaching students, until now I have just been giving them work to do’.”
Experience is not the best teacher
“There are many systemic reasons why teachers struggle, but interestingly experience is not one of them,” Professor Gore said.
Professor Gore and her team found that it did not matter if the teacher was in their first year or thirtieth year - they could still deliver the same quality.
“How you teach is inseparable from what and who you are teaching. Any teacher can produce high quality teaching, regardless of how experienced they are,” Professor Gore said.
The Quality Teaching Rounds approach builds on more than a decade’s work by Professor Gore in pedagogy, including the Quality Teaching model, commissioned by the NSW Department of Education and co-authored with fellow University of Newcastle academic Associate Professor James Ladwig, that identified the key factors of quality teaching.
As Professor Gore explains, there are three key features to quality teaching, “ensuring high intellectual quality, establishing a quality learning environment and making learning significant.”
A former high school teacher who has been working in the tertiary sector for more than 30 years, Professor Gore is internationally renowned for her work in teaching and teacher education and has been cited nearly 6,000 times.
Under her guidance as former Head of the School of Education, education at the University of Newcastle is listed as 127th amongst the world’s best in the global QS subject rankings.
A driving factor for Professor Gore’s teaching and research is bridging the equity gap. Mapping the education in NSW public schools over the course of four years through the Quality Teaching model, Professor Gore and her colleagues found that students from low SES backgrounds were receiving poorer teaching.
“Schools don’t just reproduce societal inequality; schools contribute to the production of inequality. The Quality Teaching model helps articulate ways for all teachers to focus on providing teaching that is intellectually demanding, supportive of learning and connected with kids’ lives and the world beyond the classroom,” she said.
“Our research has shown that these children are the ones who make the greatest gains when they get better quality teaching. The Quality Teaching Rounds approach will help achieve this goal and our Aspirations study will hopefully find ways that we can help guide children to more fulfilling careers.”
In a first of its kind, Professor Gore and her team are annually surveying more than 6,000 students from Years Three to 12 across 85 NSW schools as part of a four year study, Aspirations, which began in 2012. The study also involves surveying and interviewing parents and teachers and conducting focus groups with students to help tease out what influences children in their educational and career aims.
Traditionally, aspiration studies have focused on the career choices of late high school students, but research shows that aspirations form much earlier than this.
“Our research is showing that children in primary school have higher or more prestigious aspirations than students as they start high school. What is interesting is how what they want to be when they ‘grow up’ changes as they enter high school,” Professor Gore said.
The study is investigating differences between girls and boys, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and students from different socio-economic status backgrounds. Understanding how best to support these groups is one of the study’s key aims.
Professor Gore said the three studies - Quality Teaching Rounds, Quality Teaching model and Aspirations – all aim to contribute to a better education system.
“We are building ways to better support and engage our teachers. We are helping teachers make school more compelling for the students, and we are finding the best ways to set children on educational and career paths that are the most fulfilling and productive for them.
“It is the absolute commitment to supporting students and teachers, regardless of where they come from or where they are positioned in the system, that will benefit education and, ultimately, benefit society.”