School Improvement Success School Improvement
Teacher learning teams
As discussed above, ICT integration is an important component of curriculum delivery in schools and, as such, should conform to best practice. This section explores information regarding school improvement in general and relates this to the particular issue of ICT integration.
If teachers have control their own learning agenda, a high degree of responsiveness to new developments in ICT is allowed. It means that teacher learning communities can rapidly experiment with new ICT and quickly communicate their ideas to related teacher groups. In large systems this can result in a responsive approach to new opportunities. In recent decades there has been widespread attention to school reform The system provides overall curriculum direction and guidance with in various nations, provoked by concerns about student achievement. A teachers responding quickly in taking advantage of new developments. body of literature has emerged in recent years regarding school Systems also have a role in providing resource support to learning improvement and there is a growing consensus about the attributes of teams. In such an environment systems must to provide tools to facilitate effective school systems. In the US and UK and to some extent in the sharing of ideas, and infrastructure flexibility to enable schools to Australia, standards based reform has been prominent. Standards based utilise new ICT. reform involves, in part, external testing of student performance to 'Teacher learning teams are the most effective long term means of recognise high performing schools and to identify, support, and professional learning, but their success depends on an appropriate sometimes sanction low performing schools. school culture that is supportive. Teacher learning teams require A modified and more nuanced position which is at variance with simplistic accountability.' standards based reform, supports schools retaining a large measusre of School improvement strategy autonomy in relation to curriculum delivery and professional standards. This emerging central position accepts both teacher professionalism and A recent report, “How the best performing school systems come out on responsibility to develop and maintain their expertise along with top,” reinforces the essential elements of this approach to school accountability for student performance through external reviews, improvement. The report, prepared by McKinsey and Co in cooperation assessment and monitoring. with the OECD and based in part on PISA results, examined a number o school systems, in particular Finland, Boston, Singapore, England and "This emerging central position accepts both teacher South Korea, and observed the following: professionalism ... along with accountability for
student performance through external reviews, assessment and monitoring." There is extensive literature on school improvement. In their book Breakthrough, Fullan et al cite research that found: '... only tenuous links between professional development and classroom instruction for many teachers. Most teachers seemed to experience a disconnection between their professional development experiences and their day-to-day classroom experiences.'
To improve instruction, these high-performing school systems consistently do three things well: They get the right people to become teachers (the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers). They develop these people into effective instructors (the only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction). They put in place systems and targeted support to ensure that every child is able to benefit from excellent instruction (the only way for the system to reach the highest performance is to raise the standard of every student).
This disconnection between teachers’ day-to-day practice and their professional learning is a significant issue.
These unremarkable conclusions translate into quite a distinct culture within successful schools:
In The New Meaning of Educational Change, Fullan wrote:
At the level of individual teachers, this implies getting three things to happen:
'Numerous studies document the fact that professional learning communities or collaborative work cultures at the school and ideally at the district level are critical for the implementation of attempted reforms.' The evidence regarding the value of local professional learning communities is now merging with a professional approach to the use of external review of schools and standards based improvement using external testing. Richard Elmore is a leading proponent of this approach. In his essay, Building a New Structure for School Leadership, Elmore argues that the prevailing view of teaching for several decades has been that it is a 'loosely-coupled' activity, where teachers work with a high degree of independence. '[loosely coupled teaching] cannot be clearly translated into reproducible behaviours, it requires a high degree of individual judgment, and it is not susceptible to reliable external evaluation.' The loose-coupling argument continues that the administrative superstructure of the organisation (principals, board members, and administrators) exists to 'buffer' the weak technical core of teaching from outside inspection, interference, or disruption. The result is that teaching is largely a private activity buffered from external influence.
Individual teachers need to become aware of specific weaknesses in their own practice. In most cases, this not only involves building an awareness of what they do but the mindset underlying it. Individual teachers need to gain understanding of specific best practices. In general, this can only be achieved through the demonstration of such practices in an authentic setting. Individual teachers need to be motivated to make the necessary improvements. In general, this requires a deeper change in motivation that cannot be achieved through changing material incentives. Such changes come about when teachers have high expectations, a shared sense of purpose, and above all, a collective belief in their common ability to make a difference to the education of the children they serve.  The three elements (openness to critical reflection, authentic classroom based demonstration, and motivation based on student outcomes) mirror Elmore’s findings regarding the central role of collaborative learning teams. The McKinsey report also emphasises that well managed systems ensure consistently strong performance. The report found that high-performing systems consistently used external monitoring to measure the quality of teaching and learning, generally by examinations and school reviews, but that some top performing systems have largely dispensed with national examinations, conducting only periodic assessments of student performance.
Elmore observes that this excessive privacy of individual teaching practice has provoked the imposition of sometimes ruthless external testing in an attempt to bring about improvement in school performance. The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood He claims that this rather brutal application of standards does not build a Development’s “Seven Principles of Highly Effective Professional system that improves itself on a long term basis. Learning” applies the philosophy discussed above; that is:
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"...this rather brutal application of standards does not build a system that improves itself on a long term basis."
The focus is on student outcomes, and teachers and schools are accountable for them. The professional learning is largely school-based, focused on the day to day work of teaching. For the most part the professional learning revolves around collaborative learning teams and influencing the individual teacher’s practice.
Elmore's  studies show that schools that have received fail grades in high stakes external testing literally do not know what to do to improve. Working harder at their current practices will not work. It is only when teachers engage in collaborative work, based on high quality analysis of The Victorian Department’s Seven Principles are as follows:  their practices coupled with external examples and support, that they are able to make sustainable improvement. This type of professional learning 1. Professional learning is focused on student outcomes (not just will not occur in a threatening environment. individual teacher needs). 2. Professional learning is focused on and embedded in teacher Elmore advocates the development of systems that open up teaching practice (not disconnected from the school). practice to analysis by learning communities of teachers, featuring a 3. Professional learning is informed by the best available research o clear focus on student results combined with external standards based effective learning and teaching (not just limited to what teachers assessment that promotes a culture of improvement. already know). 4. Professional learning is collaborative, involving reflection and Focus on student outcomes feedback (not just individual inquiry). 5. Professional learning is evidence based and data driven (not Student outcomes include a broad range of intended learning, including anecdotal) to guide improvement and to measure impact. some that are difficult to measure. As mentioned in ICT Professional 6. Professional learning is ongoing, supported and fully integrated Learning Past, much ICT-related professional learning has focused on into the culture and operations of the system – schools, networks improving teachers' personal ICT skills in order that these will later be regions and the centre (not episodic and fragmented). applied to good use in work with students. Such a gap, between 7. Professional learning is an individual and collective responsibility a immediate purpose (teacher ICT skills) and ultimate purpose (student all levels of the system (not just the school level) and it is not outcomes), results in aa lack of relevance in much of teacher ICT optional. learning. A central thrust of the work of Fullan and Ellmore around school improvement is that teacher learning should be directly connected learning to improved student outcomes. This finding has particular relevance to learning how to apply ICT in the classroom.
The adoption of a national approach to school improvement that focuses on student outcomes and teacher professional learning would provide a much needed concentration of energy in the integration of ICT into the curriculum and associated professional learning.
"...teacher learning should be directly connected learning to improved student outcomes." Use of ICT is often focussed on low level skills that relate to the technology itself rather than learning about deeper principles such as skills and attitudes for problem solving and lifelong learning.
 No Child Left Behind. 2009. U.S. Department of Education. http://www.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml  Education Reform Act. 1988. Office of Public Sector Information. http://www.psi.org.uk/publications/archivepdfs/Recent/CENLOC4.pdf  Fullan, M. Hill, P. Crevola, C. 2006. Breakthrough. 23. Corwin Press.  Fullan, M. 2001. The New Meaning of Educational Change. 74.New York: Teachers College Press.  Elmore, R. Building a New Structure For School Leadership. 2000. The Albert Shanker Institute. Recovered 2/2/09 http://www.ashankerinst.org/Downloads/building.pdf  Elmore, R. Building a New Structure For School Leadership. 2000. 6. The Albert Shanker Institute. Recovered 2/2/09 http://www.ashankerinst.org/Downloads/building.pdf  OECD Improving School Leadership Volume 2, Case Studies on System Leadership 2008, p44 recovered 1/2/09 http://www.oecd.org /document/18/0,3343, en_2649_39263231_41165970_1_1_1_1,00.html  Fullan, M. 2001. The New Meaning of Educational Change. 74.New York: Teachers College Press.  Elmore, R. Building a New Structure For School Leadership. 2000. 6. The Albert Shanker Institute. Recovered 2/2/09 http://www.ashankerinst.org/Downloads/building.pdf  Barber, M. Mourshed, M. How the best performing school systems come out on top. 2008. McKinsey. Recovered 2/2/09. http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/resources/pdf/Worlds_School_Systems_Final.pdf  Barber, M. Mourshed, M. How the best performing school systems come out on top. 2008. McKinsey. 13. Recovered 2/2/09. http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/resources/pdf/Worlds_School_Systems_Final.pdf  Barber, M. Mourshed, M. How the best performing school systems come out on top. 2008. McKinsey. 27. Recovered 2/2/09. http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/resources/pdf/Worlds_School_Systems_Final.pdf  Elmore, R. Building a New Structure For School Leadership. 2000. The Albert Shanker Institute. Recovered 2/2/09 http://www.ashankerinst.org/Downloads/building.pdf  Barber, M. Mourshed, M. How the best performing school systems come out on top. 2008. McKinsey. 38, 40. Recovered 2/2/09. http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/resources/pdf/Worlds_School_Systems_Final.pdf  Barber, M. Mourshed, M. How the best performing school systems come out on top. 2008. McKinsey. 36. Recovered 2/2/09.
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http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/resources/pdf/Worlds_School_Systems_Final.pdf  Professional Learning in Effective Schools: The Seven Principles of Highly Effective Professional Learning. Leadership and Teacher Development Branch, Office of School Education, Department of Education & Training. Melbourne July 2006. Recovered 2/4/09. http://www.sofweb.vic.edu.au/edulibrary/public/teachlearn/teacher/ProfLearningInEffectiveSchools.pdf
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'Teacher learning teams are the most effective long term means of professional learning, but their success depends on an appropriate school...