The University of Newcastle, Australia

New Department of Education funding launches research into improving educational expertise in schools

Monday, 26 August 2019

Project to develop a 'thought leaders network'.

Kylie Shaw

Researcher with the School of Education and the Centre for the Study of Research Training, Impact & Innovation (SORTI), Associate Professor Kylie Shaw is leading two new research projects aimed at enhancing educational expertise in NSW schools.

An $80,000 grant from the NSW Department of Education funds a project to develop a ‘thought leaders network’ (TLN), a collaborative community of practice focused on learning and engaging with real-world educational problems within a school network. Professor John Fischetti, ProfessorAllyson Holbrook, and Dr Scott Imig are also on the research team.

The TLN will be made up of NSW Department of Education Executives and Directors from the Hunter and Central Coast region. Associate Professor Shaw said the TLN aims to stretch the expertise of educational leadership in the region.

“Through the TLN we want to grow expert learning leadership networks and build stronger capacity around innovative practice and social entrepreneurism to further support school excellence,” Associate Professor Shaw said.

“This pilot project trials a new approach to learning at the senior leadership level within the NSW public school system,” she said. “This shifts the traditional model of professional learning from a knowledge acquisition mode to a more personalised approach.”

Associate Professor Shaw has been granted a further $30,000 for another project that aims to improve formative assessment practices in schools, with an emphasis on supporting school leaders through cognitive coaching and to develop strategies based on their unique school context for school improvement.

Associate Professor Shaw and Dr Scott Imig will work with  secondary schools across 4 regional directorates in the NSW Department of Education, drawing on a diverse population of students.

Titled ‘Enhancing leadership of learning through a collaborative approach to improving formative assessment across a school network’, Associate Professor Shaw said the projectaims to implement and evaluate changes to assessment for learning practices utilising a collaborative approach across school networks.

“We’ll use a cognitive coaching framework in schools to promote the development of a learning organisation, build a foundation of trust and develop teachers’ cognitive skills to reflect, analyse, and improve practice,” Associate Professor Shaw said.

Research suggests that improved assessment for learning (AfL) practices need to be addressed at three levels: personal (teacher knowledge and beliefs); micro (local school influences); and macro (forces external to the school).

“Teachers need sufficient depth of understanding of assessment for learning (AfL) practices and aligned values to implement strategies across the school, the school context needs to be conducive to professional change and the external environment should be supported through academic partnerships and stakeholder involvement,” Shaw said.

“We will build an academic partnership with key stakeholders, being the Directors of Educational Leadership and School Services, to determine whether cognitive coaching is effective in changing teacher beliefs and practices at the school level and if a collaborative partnership approach improves innovative learning and assessment practices in schools,” she said.

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