Mrs A's Blog

My Rambling Thoughts on Teaching and Learning

Research Project – The Start of the Journey

Reflection on My Masters Journey

My interest in online personalised learning, which is self-paced and differentiated, started when I was an eLearning Facilitator. At the time, my daughter was in Year 8 and became extremely ill. She spent the next few years in and out of hospitals and attended numerous medical appointments as we attempted to get a diagnosis. During this time, she tried to keep up to date with her schooling. This led me to think about my own classroom and how I catered to students’ needs. At the time, I was reading “The differentiated classroom” (Tomlinson, 2014) and started investigating ways I could achieve a self-paced personalised course for my economics students. My first attempts were manageable if I only had one academic class. This led me to enrol in my Master of Education with a specialisation in Online and Distributed Learning.

Each of the units I have enrolled in contributed to my thinking about how I could improve how students proceed through the course work and how to manage 25 different learning styles, needs, and points of learning while working a full-time teaching load. Knowing that students must complete the same assessment simultaneously is a sticking point for self-paced differentiated learning, as students should be able to show mastery when they are ready rather than when the assessment calendar indicates they should be ready. During the height of the Covid pandemic, I studied Online Pedagogy in Practice (EDU8114). As part of my studies, I choose to investigate my ideas on Online Personalised Learning. My early research brought up an initial issue that there are many definitions of what personalised learning is. All the research seemed to agree on that personalised learning was about the student. After that, some research suggested it was a process (Keefe, 2007), some suggested it was an approach or pedagogy (Johnson et al., 2012), and other research described it as a philosophy (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017). This challenged some of my earlier ideas, especially as The Horizon Reports (K-12 Edition) (Adams Becker et al., 2016) suggested that it might not be possible to implement personalised learning without overhauling the education system. This was due to the process being exceptionally labour intentive (Jacobs, 2016) or being pushed along by suppliers without an educational background wanting to promote their latest tools (Adams Becker et al., 2016). A report by UNESCO International Bureau of Education (2017) on personalised learning and my understanding of how learning management systems can be utilised in schools provided me with renewed belief that personalised learning is a possibility. Creating or implementing a framework that would make online personalised learning, which is self-paced and differentiated, a reality, would take time.

My current thinking about online personalised learning is that my research needs to investigate a concrete definition and possible frameworks that can work in a high school environment. From my initial research, there is limited empirical evidence of online personalised learning in high schools, and this is the area I want to investigate.

Initial Research

N Reference 3 Points Relevant to Research Topic
1 Adams Becker et al., 2016– Challenge to define and address
– Need for evidence-based frameworks
– Implications for policy, leadership or practice
2 Bernacki et al., 2021 – Definition to policy to implementation
– Adaptive learning technologies
– The challenge for personalised learning designers
3 Bingham, 2017 – Case Study
– Organisational change
– Implications for a model of personalised learning
4 Bishop et al., 2020 – Practices that characterise teaching in a personal learning environment
– Teacher Roles in personalised learning environments
– Role conflict
5 Childress & Benson, 2014 – Definition of personalised learning
– Teachers as curators
– Approaches to personalised learning
6 Consortium for School
Networking, 2022
– Defining personalisation
– Pandemic as a driver
– Tips and recommendations
7 Dagger et al., 2005 – Adaptive course construction methodology
– Addressing the personalised eLearning problem
– Course composition for personalised eLearning
8 Feldstein & Hill, 2016 – Personalised learning as a teaching practice
– External forces
– Steps for a successful strategy
9 Jacobs, 2016 – Case study of blended, personalised learning
– Self-paced learning
– Typical staff and student day
10 Johnson et al., 2012 – Defining personal learning environments
– Relevance for teaching, learning or creative inquiry
– Personal learning environments in practice
11 Keefe, 2007 – History of personalisation
– Personalisation programs
– Defining personalisation
12 Lee, 2014 – Levels of personalisation
– Essential features
– Design principles
13 Lin et al., 2019 – Effects of class size face to face
– Optimal class size for online self-paced courses at high school
– Effects of class size for specific subjects in online classes
14 Misko, 2000 – How information is learnt
– Effectiveness of self-paced learning techniques
– Model for implementing self-paced learning programs
15 Pane et al., 2017 – Case studies of personalised learning
– Obstacles of implementation
– Implications and policy recommendations
16 Shemshack et al., 2021 – Components of personalised learning models
– Tools and systems
– Data and Learning analytics
17 Thalmann, 2014 – Categorisation of learners
– Relationship between adaptation needs and learning materials
– Adaptive learning criteria in eLearning
18 Tomlinson, 2014 – Key principles of a differentiated classroom
– Instructional strategies that support differentiation
– Tools to guide planning
19 UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017– Conceptual framework
– Strategies for personalised learning
– Use of creativity, inquiry and challenge
20 West, 2012 – Defining personalised learning
– Studies on effectiveness
– Importance of teachers


Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummins, M., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSn horizon report: 2016 (K-12 ed.). The New Media Consortium.

Bernacki, M. L., Greene, M. J., & Lobczowski, N. G. (2021). A systematic review of research on personalized learning: Personalized by whom, to what, how, and for what purpose(s)? Educational Psychology Review, 33(4), 1675-1715.

Bingham, A. J. (2017). Personalized learning in high technology charter schools. Journal of Educational Change, 18(4), 521-549.

Bishop, P. A., Downes, J. M., Netcoh, S., Farber, K., DeMink-Carthew, J., Brown, T., & Mark, R. (2020). Teacher roles in personalized learning environments. The Elementary School Journal, 121(2), 311-336.

Childress, S., & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized learning for every student every day. The Phi Delta Kappan, 95(8), 33-38.

Consortium for School Networking. (2022). Driving K-12 innovation: 2022 hurdles + accelerators. Consortium for School Networking. Retrieved April 5, 2022 from

Dagger, D., Wade, V., & Conlan, O. (2005) Personalisation for all: Making adaptive course composition easy. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 8(3), 9-25.

Feldstein, M., & Hill, P. (2016). Personalized learning: What it really is and why it really matters. Educause Review, 51(2).

Jacobs, J. (2016). High school of the future. Education Next, 16(3), 45-50.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). NMC horizon report: 2012 (K-12 ed.). The New Media Consortium.

Keefe, J. W. (2007). What is personalization? The Phi Delta Kappan, 89(3), 217-223.

Lee, D. (2014). How to personalize learning in K-12 schools: Five essential design features. Educational Technology, 54(3), 12-17.

Lin, C.-H., Kwon, J., & Zhang, Y. (2019). Online self-paced high-school class size and student achievement. Educational Technology Research and Development, 67(2), 317-336.  

Misko, J. (2000). Getting to grips with self-paced learning. National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Pane, J. F., Steiner, E. D., Baird, M. D., Hamilton, L. S., & Pane, J. D. (2017). Informing progress: Insights on personalized learning implementation and effects. RAND Corporation.

Shemshack, A., Kinshuk, & Spector, J. M. (2021). A comprehensive analysis of personalized learning components. Journal of Computers in Education, 8(4), 485-503.

Thalmann, S. (2014). Adaptation criteria for the personalised delivery of learning materials: A multi-stage empirical investigation. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(1).  

Tomlinson, C. A. (2014). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners (2nd ed.). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

UNESCO International Bureau of Education. (2017). Personalized learning (IBE/2017/OP/CD/04).

West, D. M. (2012). Personalized learning. In Digital schools: How technology can transform education (pp. 20-32). Brookings Institution Press.  

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Rationale for Consultation and Collaboration

            Teachers are constantly aiming to improve their pedagogy, ultimately to improve student outcomes (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2012). In an attempt to improve student outcomes, schools have engaged in school-based consultation. School-based consultation focuses on assisting consultees (usually teachers) to improve knowledge and skills through the use of a consultant (an internal or external specialist) in order to be more effective with their clients (usually students) (Brown et al., 2011a; Erchul & Martens, 2010; Warren, 2018). Within education, it is necessary to develop a rationale for consultation to support educators to build their capacity to employ instructional and behavioural interventions that are effective and sustainable (Truscott et al., 2012). This rationale will discuss solution-focused consultee centred (SFCC) approaches to consultation within an independent K-12 co-educational college on the southside of Brisbane. Section one will analyse the context and need for consultation, along with current trends and initiatives that impact the environment and the nature of the triadic relationship within consultation. Section two will critically review the SFCC model of consultation and finally section three will justify the need for collaborative consultation, potential barriers for implementation and possible solutions to these barrier.

Section 1 Contextual Analysis

Contextual Description

            The Year 9 Heath and Physical Education (HPE) subject coordinator (consultee) is an experienced teacher who is new to the college. The teacher works in the secondary school within the HPE and Science faculties. They had attended multiple professional learning (PL) sessions provided by the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert on staff. After reviewing the Year 9 HPE course in line with the Australian Curriculum, it was believed that the General Capabilities were not incorporated to the extent that they should be, especially the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2021). As a result, the consultee approached the MIE Expert (consultant) about improving the safe partying unit. The focus of the improvement was to change the assessment piece from an essay to a multimedia response which would align with what students (client) might use outside of their school environment. The consultee had gathered many ideas from the various PL sessions they had attended on infographics, movie making, social media, digital inking, rotoscoping, web design, and problem-based learning. The main reason for the collaboration was that the HPE teacher had the subject area knowledge while the MIE Expert had the technological knowledge and skills. The nature of the triadic relationship was to provide the consultee with the knowledge, skills and confidence to determine the best course of action to incorporate ICT into the unit (Truscott et al., 2012).

Current Trends and Influences

            Legislation, policies, and current trends in technology, teaching and learning impact the use of consultation in this context. As a Queensland school, teaching and learning programs must be prepared using the Australian Curriculum and the P-12 curriculum, assessment and reporting framework (CARF) (Education Queensland, 2020; Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2021). This includes embedding general capabilities, cross-curricular priorities, and 21st-century skills (Education Queensland, 2020). For this consultation, the need to include the ICT capability into health and wellbeing education is a priority to meet the legislative requirements. Likewise, the school’s policies outline that the Australian curriculum and the Queensland CARF influence its curriculum, incorporating student interest and abilities while preparing them to be socially capable and globally mindful citizens (John Paul College, 2021). Over the last ten years, many trends have influenced technology use in education. The main trends include personalisation, learners as creators and authentic learning experiences (Adams Becker et al., 2016; Consortium for School Networking, 2019, 2020, 2021; Dahlstrom et al., 2017; International Society for Technology in Education, 2021; Johnson et al., 2014, 2015). The impact of authentic assessment was a focus for this consultation as the consultee wanted to improve students’ higher-order thinking while offering choice, personalisation and real-world experience using technology (Dahlstrom et al., 2017; Koh, 2017; Koh et al., 2012). The other area of focus for the consultee was that students would construct their knowledge and create an artifact that was meaningful for themselves and their peers while ensuring learning was active and improved knowledge retention (Adams Becker et al., 2016; Consortium for School Networking, 2019).

Section 2 Theoretical Model for Integrated Service Delivery

Service Delivery Assumptions and Approach

            The model for integrated service delivery being utilised in this scenario is SFCC. SFCC is a consultee centred, solution-based approach to consultation where the consultant acts more like a coach or facilitator to help the consultee achieve their goal (Brown et al., 2011c; Lloyd et al., 2016). It is an economical, time-sensitive, practical and rational technique to solving the problem a consultee has identified (Simmonds, 2019). In this case, the HPE teacher identified that the problem was in meeting the curriculum requirements for the Year 9 unit. Characterised as a short term, interactional intervention with the aim to improve a consultee’s knowledge, skills and ability to work with a client by utilising the strengths, abilities and successes the consultee already possesses (Bond et al., 2013; Lloyd et al., 2016). The consultant supports the consultee by encouraging them to explore the ideal future using the miracle question, scaling, and looking for exceptions tools (Lutz, 2014; Simmonds, 2019; Visser, 2013). The HPE teacher already possessed the knowledge to devise the assessment and required the consultant to improve their skills and confidence. The problem-solving process involves five main steps (Scott et al., 2015). The process begins with the consultee explaining the issue, including what has been tried so far to solve the problem and the consultant determining if there is a motivation for change by the consultee (Scott et al., 2015; Simmonds, 2019; Visser, 2013). This leads to goal setting and exploration of perspectives, exceptions and potential solutions (Brown et al., 2011c; Scott et al., 2015). Step four is an opportunity for the consultant to provide feedback, praise, and ideas about the next steps (Brown et al., 2011c; Scott et al., 2015). The last step in the process is for the consultee to evaluate their progress using a rating scale and identify their next step (Scott et al., 2015). The consultation continues until the consultee has achieved their goals (Brown et al., 2011c). For SFCC to be successful, it relies on several assumptions. As there is no one way to solve any problem, the central assumption is that the consultee is the expert and has the capacity and resources to solve the issue (Simmonds, 2019; Wheeler & Vinnicombe, 2011). SFCC also assumes that the client will be enriched due to the consultee advancing their skills, knowledge and abilities (Brown et al., 2011c).

Direct and Indirect Services

            Within the SFCC model, the triadic relationship is evident as the consultant provides indirect services to the client through the consultee (Brown et al., 2011a). The needs of all stakeholders are met by improving the teacher’s skills, thus benefiting the students (Scott et al., 2015; Truscott et al., 2012). In this scenario, both direct and indirect services are provided; however, the focus is on indirect services. The indirect services include the PL sessions provided by the MIE Expert (consultant), which the consultee attended, along with the consultation sessions where the consultant and the subject coordinator collaborated to improve the unit assessment piece utilising the information they had learnt in the PL sessions (Scott et al., 2015). Followup sessions were also utilised to upskill and ensure the comfort of the consultee to present the assessment task to the Year 9 cohort. During the SFCC process, the consultee identified that they were unsure how to explicitly teach the assessment task’s technology component. As such, the consultant offered direct services to the students (client) by modelling the correct pedagogy and language in a co-teaching scenario and providing in-class support to troubleshoot where the consultee was missing the skill set (Brown et al., 2011a).

Section 3 Justification of Professional Practice

Professional Standards and Expectations

            No teacher has the knowledge or skill to serve all students they teach (King-Sears et al., 2015). However, according to AITSL (2011), teachers have the most significant influence on student learning than any other program or policy. As a result, all Australian governments, universities, schools, and teachers are responsible for working together to support high-quality teaching (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2011). Collaborative consultation encourages and empowers all stakeholders to work together in an interactive process to utilise the diverse expertise to find and generate creative solutions to support students (King-Sears et al., 2015; Simmonds, 2019). The professional standards for teachers encourages collaborative consultation through the Professional Engagement domain, which looks at the interactions between colleagues, parents/carers and the community (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2011). In this scenario, both subject and technological expertise were pooled, benefiting students by bringing the expertise to them (Brown et al., 2011a; King-Sears et al., 2015). The benefits of this collaborative consultation include the new assessment piece being more successful than if only the consultee had developed it, leading to long term sustainability (King-Sears et al., 2015). All team members advocated for the client’s needs, leading to ownership of student learning (King-Sears et al., 2015; Scott et al., 2015). As there was a willingness by all stakeholders to participate, teacher confidence and skill improved, leading to the client’s overall success (King-Sears et al., 2015; Scott et al., 2015).

Barriers to Implementation

            There are three main barriers to implementing collaborative consultation within SFCC in this scenario. The first is a lack of knowledge by the consultee (Brown et al., 2011b; Erchul & Martens, 2010). Essentially, the HPE teacher does not know what they do not know; the solution is for the MIE Expert to supply the missing knowledge (Brown et al., 2011b). Another is a lack of self-confidence; this can be resolved through the provision of support, assurance and, if required finding other colleagues who can support the consultee as required (Brown et al., 2011b; Erchul & Martens, 2010). The last barrier is the additional responsibilities for the consultee due to the consultation (Erchul & Martens, 2010). Teachers have limited time in their day to find time for lengthy collaborative consultation; with SFCC, the solution can be a 15-minute consultation which is followed up with an email conversation so the ideas can be fleshed out and the consultee has time to process the ideas (Erchul & Martens, 2010). Additionally, the consultant can assist by actively finding resources or offering peer coaching (Erchul & Martens, 2010).


            If teachers are to continue to improve their skills, knowledge and student outcomes, they need to embrace school-based consultation. Within the context of the HPE teacher needing to improve a Year 9 unit to meet the national curriculum requirements, SFCC was the best model for integrated service delivery. The consultee knew what they needed to do and required the consultant’s expertise to improve their skills and confidence. Though there were three barriers to implementing collaborative consultation, the consultant offered solutions, including offering support, resourcing and peer coaching. By undertaking collaborative consultation, the HPE teacher has met the requirements of the professional standards for teachers.


Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummins, M., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSn horizon report: 2016 (K-12 ed.). The New Media Consortium.

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2021). Information and communication technology (ICT) Capability: The Australian curriculum. Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. Retrieved 29th December from

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2011). Australian professional standards for teachers.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2012). Australian charter for the professional learning of teachers and school leaders.

Bond, C., Woods, K., Humphrey, N., Symes, W., & Green, L. (2013). Practitioner review: The effectiveness of solution focused brief therapy with children and families: A systematic and critical evaluation of the literature from 1990–2010. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(7), 707-723.

Brown, D., Pryzwansky, W. B., & Schulte, A. C. (2011a). Introduction to consultation and collaboration. In D. Brown, W. B. Pryzwansky, & A. C. Schulte (Eds.), Psychological consultation and collaboration: Introduction to theory and practice (7th ed., pp. 1-15). Pearson Education Inc.

Brown, D., Pryzwansky, W. B., & Schulte, A. C. (2011b). Mental health consultation. In D. Brown, W. B. Pryzwansky, & A. C. Schulte (Eds.), Psychological consultation and collaboration: Introduction to theory and practice (7th ed., pp. 16-44). Pearson Education, Inc.

Brown, D., Pryzwansky, W. B., & Schulte, A. C. (2011c). Solution-focused consultee centered consultation and collaboration. In D. Brown, W. B. Pryzwansky, & A. C. Schulte (Eds.), Psychological consultation and collaboration: Introduction to theory and practice (7th ed., pp. 71-80). Pearson Education, Inc.

Consortium for School Networking. (2019). Driving K-12 innovation: 2019 accelerators. Consortium for School Networking.

Consortium for School Networking. (2020). Driving K-12 2020 hurdles and accelerators. Consortium for School Networking.

Driving K-12 Innovation 2020 Hurdles and Accelerators

Consortium for School Networking. (2021). Driving K-12 2021 hurdles and accelerators. Consortium for School Networking.

Driving K-12 2021 Hurdles and Accelerators

Dahlstrom, E., Krueger, K., Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., & Cummins, M. (2017). NMC/CoSn horizon report: 2017 (K-12 ed.). The New Media Consortium.

Education Queensland. (2020). P–12 curriculum, assessment and reporting framework. Department of Education Queensland. Retrieved 14th December from

Erchul, W. P., & Martens, B. K. (2010). School consultation: Conceptual and empirical bases of practice (3rd ed.). Springer Science+Business Media.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2021). ISTE standards: Students. Retrieved 30th December from

John Paul College. (2021). College handbook: Organisation. John Paul College. Retrieved 29th December from

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2014). NMC horizon report: 2014 (K-12 ed.). The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC horizon report: 2015 (K-12 ed.). The New Media Consortium.

King-Sears, M. E., Janney, R., & Snell, M. E. (2015). Collaborative teaming (Third edition. ed.). Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Koh, K. H. (2017). Authentic assessment. In Oxford research encyclopedia of education.

Koh, K. H., Tan, C., & Ng, P. T. (2012). Creating thinking schools through authentic assessment: The case in Singapore. Educational assessment, evaluation and accountability, 24(2), 135-149.

Lloyd, H. F., Macdonald, A., & Wilson, L. (2016). Solution-focused brief therapy. In Psychological therapies and people who have intellectual disabilities. The British Psychological Society.

Lutz, A. B. (2014). Learning solution-focused therapy: An illustrated guide. American Psychiatric Publishing, a division of American Psychiatric Association.

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2021). Prep-year 10: Queensland curriculum and assessment authority. Queensland Government. Retrieved 29th December from

Scott, J., Boylan, J. C., & Jungers, C. M. (2015). Practicum and internship: Textbook and resource guide for counselling and psychotherapy. Routledge.

Simmonds, S. (2019). A critical review of teachers using solution-focused approaches supported by educational psychologists. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 5(1), 1-8.

Truscott, S. D., Kreskey, D., Bolling, M., Psimas, L., Graybill, E., Albritton, K., & Schwartz, A. (2012). Creating consultee change: A theory-based approach to learning and behavioral change processes in school-based consultation. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 64(1), 63.

Visser, C. F. (2013). The origin of the solution-focused approach. International Journal of Solution-Focused Practices, 1(1), 10-17.

Warren, J. M. (2018). School consultation for student success: a cognitive-behavioral approach. Springer Publishing Company.

Wheeler, J., & Vinnicombe, G. (2011). Some assumptions of solution-focused practice. Context, 118(December), 40-42.

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Capacity Building for Professional Learning: A Collective Intelligence Construct

My workplace is an independent K-12 co-educational college grounded in traditional values. The current professional learning program is underpinned by a performance and development framework developed for the college based on the AITSL documents – Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2012b) and the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2012a).  The program centres around a professional growth program and an appraisal process.  I have successfully undertaken the AITSL HALT Certification, and I am a Lead Teacher in the secondary school.  As an informal leader, I am a member of the Humanities Faculty and the Year 11 Academic Welfare Team.  I am also a recognised Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and on the management committee of the Queensland Economics Teachers’ Association. This paper will discuss the strengths and areas of improvement of the professional learning within my workplace in relation to Dr Joan Conway’s (2008) six forms of engagement, an interrogation into the Collective Intelligence of my organisation and how I, as an informal leader, can add to the professional learning culture of the college.

Strengths of Professional Learning

The professional learning process at my school has strengths in four forms of engagement.  The first of these is recognising, valuing and engaging diversity.  Our workplace values are centred on mutual respect, where accepting and celebrating diversity and individuality is key.  Everyone is different and has something to contribute based on their professional experiences (Conway, 2008).  Staff are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise through student-free days, professional learning communities (PLCs), instructional rounds and whole staff sessions.  Leadership within a teacher’s area of expertise is about passion, commitment and energy (Snell & Swanson, 2000).  At the college, many staff have become experts in an area they are passionate about and regularly share this with colleagues in formal and informal professional learning settings.  Within the secondary school this year, we have had teachers who are passionate specialists in technology, feedback, differentiation, Indigenous perspectives, teaching boys, metacognition, and cognitive verbs provide workshops to staff who want to learn more.

The second area of strength is forming relationships and seeking harmony of differences.  The use of support networks and professional learning communities within the workplace allows learning from each other (Conway, 2008; Harper-Hill et al., 2020; Stoll & Seashore Louis, 2007).  The sharing of achievements and concerns, and interactions between colleagues, lead to a culture of openness that improves teachers’ pedagogical practice, regardless of the stage of their career (DeJesus, 2021; Durksen et al., 2017; Harrison & Killion, 2007).  Within our workplace, this is achieved both formally and informally.  Each year PLCs are built around the areas of school improvement, and teachers participate in their chosen communities.  As time is built into our Monday afternoon meeting program, teachers have the opportunity to share their understandings and build on the experience of their peers regularly.  In the secondary school, all staff share a single open-plan office space; as a natural consequence, there are frequent ad hoc conversations around pedagogy and student achievement. I know that if there is an issue I am experiencing with a student, there will be up to seven other teachers of that student who may have strategies or ideas I can leverage.

The next area of strength is responding to the unexpected with resilience and persistence.  By using the unexpected as an opportunity to learn more and improve practice, the interactions between individuals and the environment will create new meanings (Conway, 2008).  It requires teaching staff to be patient and persistent.  Within an effective professional learning culture, collaboration and supportive environments need to be encouraged as they promote teacher resilience as teachers persevere and even have the opportunity to thrive despite setbacks (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2021a; Durksen et al., 2017).  At the college, staff can engage in instructional rounds where teachers open up their classrooms in the hope to build a culture of learning rather than criticism.  These instructional rounds are a four-part process.  It starts with an observing teacher identifying an area of their practice that requires improvement, participation in an instructional round where they view four colleagues, participate in a debrief and then reflect upon their instructional practices in light of those they observe.  The idea is that it builds resilience into their own practice.  Having participated as an observing teacher and an observed teacher, it relies on the observing teachers to believe that their pedagogy isn’t perfect and that they can learn from others in the process.  The only area of improvement would be to give the observed teacher feedback from the observe so that further professional conversations can occur.

An area that my workplace does exceptionally well is planning and monitoring procedure.  The use of data and the action research cycle to identify the next area for school improvement (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2020; Conway, 2008; Nixon, 2016; Tichnor-Wagner et al., 2017).  Individual teachers regularly use plan-do-study-act cycles to improve their practice.  Our Performance and Development Framework includes a future focus where teachers are encouraged to participate in action research to ensure they are exposed to new and emerging practices and the literature that goes with them.  Data is central to all we do; we have access to a data wall for each year level in the secondary school.  This data wall has every student in the year level ranked with their grade point average (GPA), NAPLAN results, predicted ATAR score.  For my classes, I have created a spreadsheet with their previous subject results that impact the subject I am teaching them, their GPA, IEP/PLP details, and the learning support tier.  The data wall, my spreadsheet and the anecdotal information I have collected inform my teaching practice to improve overall student achievement.  Without data and a cycle of inquiry, it is tough to measure the impact on student achievement (Gordon, 2013; New South Wales Government, 2021b).

Areas of Professional Learning Improvement

While there are areas of strength, there are areas in which my school needs to improve. For school-wide improvement to occur, there needs to be mutual trust, shared purpose and respect and freedom for individual teachers to investigate and try new things (Conway, 2008; Conway, 2015; Conway & Abawi, 2013). According to Conway (2008), the third engagement area is fostering a culture of trust and hope. The trust that new ideas and skills are being learnt and refined by the teaching staff and the hope that it will work (Conway, 2008).  According to Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (1998), trust is confidence, hope and reliance on the words and actions of colleagues are in the best interest of all involved.  The degree of trust within the teaching staff and between teachers and the principal affects the success of school improvement (DeJesus, 2021; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 1998).  The trust that the principal will act in the best interest of the teachers and the teaching staff believe they can rely on their colleagues’ integrity when difficulties arise (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 1998).

The second area of professional learning improvement is the sixth form of engagement, capturing a heightened consciousness of the creation of significant new meaning.  Teachers must have the opportunity to experience the aha moment, express what has been learnt and the implications with colleagues (Conway & Andrews, 2016; Conway, 2008; DeJesus, 2021).  It is also about capturing the collective intelligence and continuously creating and advancing ways of improving student achievement (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2020; Conway, 2008; Conway & Abawi, 2013; New South Wales Government, 2021a).  Many great moments occur at the college; however, many go unnoticed, and as such, not all teachers get the opportunity to share their learning with colleagues.  In most cases, those who are the most vocal about their epiphany get noticed and asked to share.  It is not to say that their understandings are not valuable; it means that those who like to keep their accomplishments to themselves do not get the opportunity to discuss their discoveries and contribute to creating significant meaning for the organisation.  It also potentially means that the proverbial wheel gets reinvented by other teachers over and over again.  Capturing best practice is essential for the organisation to continue to grow collective intelligence (Conway, 2008).

Collective Intelligence

According to Conway (2008), collective intelligence within a school context is achieved when all six forms of engagement converge. A community of teachers develops the ability to create new knowledge, meaning, and pedagogy to improve student achievement (Conway, 2008; Meza et al., 2018).  The ability to solve the problem is more efficient and effective when working collaboratively than as isolated professionals in our classrooms (Cornu, 2013; Secundo et al., 2016).  Often the solution to improving student achievement lies within our colleagues.  However, when working in isolation, we often do not realise that the answer lies in a conversation between colleagues about how best to work with a particular student or group of students. It is the conversation that creates the know-how (Conway, 2008; Cornu, 2013).  It is hard not to improve student outcomes by harnessing the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and the teachers’ years of experience at the college (Salminen, 2012).

Within our professional learning program, the professional learning communities (PLCs) allow collective intelligence to exist on a small scale.  Within these PLCs, better decisions are made as all perspectives, ideas, and feedback are accepted (Friedrich et al., 2016; Wilson, 2018).  While improving the teacher efficacy of those involved, it is not ‘captured’; the benefits are not as far-reaching as is believed as individuals are not inclined to share what they have learnt (Cornu, 2013; Eckert, 2018; Organisational Psychology Degrees, 2021).  With efficacy comes increased motivation and self-direction; this, in turn, becomes infectious, and responsibility becomes shared for the solutions to be implemented (Wilson, 2018).  As a result, the outcome is successful and sustainable (Cornu, 2013; Wilson, 2018).

For collective intelligence to thrive at the college, the organisation needs to move away from a hierarchical leadership structure to a more distributed style of leadership where teachers are leaders (Wilson, 2018). Interactions need to be fostered outside of the department walls so that authentic relationships can thrive (Conway, 2008; Wilson, 2018).  These relationships would ensure that innovations could be implemented quickly as the power structures are not in play (Friedrich et al., 2016; Wilson, 2018).  When communication becomes multi-directional, transparent, and inclusive, the community feels like a team; the six forms of engagement can be activated and sustained, leading to collective intelligence (Conway, 2008; Cornu, 2013; Friedrich et al., 2016; Wilson, 2018). 

While the benefits of collective intelligence far outweigh any of the costs, there are some unavoidable issues.  According to Noubel (2007), there is a point when collective intelligence becomes ineffective as it meets a natural limit.  Once that limit is reached, the interactions become complex and create distractions rather than results (Klein, 2007; Noubel, 2007).  With a large staff, we may have reached that natural limit.  The secondary school staff currently share a single open-plan staffroom, while the primary school staff are in small staffrooms in each year level building.  A strong argument for the success of collective intelligence is that the college staff need to be physically close in order to interact naturally and adjust their behaviour as the circumstances require (Klein, 2007; Noubel, 2007).  Noubel (2007) says that as we continue to seek knowledge and technology improves, these limitations are hastily diminishing, provided the participants see personal growth and the value to both themselves and society.  Other conditions that need to be met include creating an essential agreement and an information system connected to the internet that can capture the group’s collective memory (Noubel, 2007). 

The ultimate aim in my workplace is to continue to improve NAPLAN and ATAR results; as such, a collective intelligence framework needs to be utilised.  As action research and plan-do-study-act cycles are currently used, an adapted version of the collective intelligence framework proposed by Elia and Margherita (2018) alongside Conway’s (2008) six forms of engagement (discussed above) would need to be implemented for us to build capacity.  Elia and Margherita (2018) have a two-part framework; part one is a problem resolution process that defines, analyses, investigates, brainstorms, prototypes and tests, before evaluating and implementing the solution (Elia & Margherita, 2018). Part two is the problem resolution matrix which informs the stakeholders of their responsibilities concerning the phases of the problem resolution process (Elia & Margherita, 2018). 

Adding Value to the Professional Learning Culture

Since being made redundant from my eLearning position, I have questioned myself as an informal leader.  As part of my transition back to the classroom full time, I successfully underwent the exemplary teacher process at my school, followed by the AITSL HALT certification as a lead teacher (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2021d).  As part of this process, I was told I was not a teacher leader, and I didn’t have the support of some of my mentors.   According to Tschannen-Moran (2014), trust between colleagues is based on perceived competency, commitment to students, and availability. As an informal leader, my first step to adding value to the professional learning culture is to take responsibility for my part in the trust breakdown (Tschannen-Moran, 2014).  This includes building more trust with my mentor and mentee within our appraisal process and aspiring HALT program by being more available to support staff.

Crowther et al.’s (2009) teachers as leaders framework outlines the key areas to add value to the professional learning culture as an informal leader.  When working with students and staff, I will strive for pedagogical excellence and demonstrate that teaching makes a difference and helps create a positive future and a better world for all students (Crowther et al., 2009).  This involves nurturing a culture of success with my students and colleagues (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2021c; Conway, 2014).  By continuing to reflect and use research to improve my classroom practice, I will also take a more active role within the professional learning communities to encourage collective intelligence with the aim to improve student outcomes (Bauman, 2015; Conway, 2008; Crowther et al., 2009; Meza et al., 2018).  In particular, as an area of passion, I will continue to work with the cybersafety committee alongside all staff and students to find solutions to the issues the cyber world presents us with every year to ensure safety.  By demonstrating the teachers as leaders framework, I can add value to the professional learning culture at my organisation.

Ultimately I will be the most effective and add value to the professional learning culture by being relevant, collaborative, reflective and student outcome-focused (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2021b).  According to Bauman (2015), for sustained school success to be achieved, teacher leaders need to use autono-collaboration.  The cyclical process of working collaboratively with colleagues and then taking the time to reflect on how it will work in my classroom and altering it to suit my students (Bauman, 2015).  Thus aligning classroom practice with research and theory.  The value will be seen as a curriculum specialist or instructional specialist as I open up my classroom and practice for feedback from colleagues (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2021b; Bauman, 2015; Harrison & Killion, 2007).  I will also take the time to observe others and what they do in the classroom (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2021b; Harrison & Killion, 2007).  I will also build a learning community between schools to help focus on best practice with economics teachers around the state (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2021b).  Lastly, I will draw on my expertise as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and provide professional learning opportunities on using technology and data in the classroom.  By doing so, I hope to be a catalyst for change (Harrison & Killion, 2007).


Working in an independent co-educational college, the professional learning program aims to centre around professional growth in all staff.  This paper has analysed the strengths and areas of improvement based on Dr Joan Conway’s six forms of engagement and discussed my workplace’s collective intelligence.  The strengths of the professional learning program centre around recognising, valuing and engaging diversity; forming relationships and seeking harmony of differences; responding to the unexpected with resilience and persistence, and planning and monitoring procedures.  The areas of professional learning improvement are fostering a culture of trust and hope and capturing a heightened consciousness for the creation of significant new meaning.  While we are working towards collective intelligence, we still have a lot of ground to cover.  In particular, we need to foster more conversations between colleagues about our classroom practices and take the time to try new things with our classes to see what works and what doesn’t.  This paper finished with a discussion on how I can add to the professional learning culture.  It is evident from the research and my practice that we have a long way to go if we will utilise collective intelligence to improve student outcomes.


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A Professional Learning Community – A Personal Reflection

Evaluation of Learning

            While professional learning is a requirement to keep current in any profession, within education, it is essential in the quest to improve academic achievement and transform schools. Professional learning has been thought of as an individual pursuit within the educational field. However, In recent years schools have realised that there is a need to take personal knowledge and convert it into institutional knowledge (Basten & Haamann, 2018). This paper will discuss the how and the why of learning as part of a professional learning community within an independent K-12 school context. After a brief discussion about my knowledge and understanding of professional learning within educational organisations, the strengths and weaknesses of professional conversations, in particular, my own skills will be examined. Finally, this paper will examine where my workplace is in the journey of building capacity both for professional conversations and professional learning communities, along with my growth as a leader throughout this process.

A Rationale for Professional Learning in Educational Organisations

           To be a successful educator, you need to commit to lifelong learning; this has been my philosophy since I started as a high school accounting and economics teacher in 2005. It has always been a personal pursuit to expand my pedagogy, ultimately to improve my students understanding, enjoyment and results within my subject areas. Since then, my journey has expanded to include a professional learning network and, more recently, the realisation that it needs to include a community of practice. I have subscribed to Jarche (2014) Personal Knowledge Mastery framework, which involves the continuous process of seeking, making sense of and sharing knowledge through networks. This is supported by Corcoran (2018), who explains that an expert network, a peer network and a transfer network are required for learning to occur. Individuals within organisations will learn even if there is no systematic learning approach (Basten & Haamann, 2018). Organisational learning aims to use targeted activities to change organisational practices (Basten & Haamann, 2018). In contrast, professional learning communities aim to use critical reflection of the human experience to create knowledge (Stoll & Kools, 2016; Vescio et al., 2008). For schools to transform, it requires school leaders to encourage the growth of the whole community if the change process is to be successful, as change requires every member to make a change (Stoll et al., 2006). Trust and respect is the centre of this process (Bradshaw & Cartwright, 2012; Carpenter, 2015; Stoll et al., 2006). Learning organisations need to take all their members’ experience, talents, and capabilities and incorporate continuous improvement (Business News Publishing, 2014; Schein, 2013). Continuous improvement cycles require the whole school to be involved in frequent and deliberate adjustments to classroom practice to transform experience into knowledge, provided that it is relevant to the organisation’s core business – teaching and learning (Schein, 2013; Senge et al., 2011; Tichnor-Wagner et al., 2017).

            If schools are serious about being a learning organisation or even a professional learning community, every member of the establishment needs to be involved. An area my school struggles with is the inclusion of the leadership team within the professional learning community. Over the years, this removal from the professional learning community has led to a destructive environment that leaves teachers wondering why they bother. Carpenter (2015) suggested that this toxic culture enabled reduced job satisfaction and ineffective collaboration as teachers opted out. For professional learning communities to exist both structural (time to meet and talk, physical proximity, interdependent teaching rules, communication structures and teacher empowerment and school autonomy) and cultural conditions (social and human resources, openness to improvement, trust and respect, cognitive and skill base, supportive leadership and socialisation) need to be met (Fullan, 2006). While my workplace has successfully ensured that the structural conditions have been met, they have failed to guarantee the cultural conditions. The staff are given plenty of opportunities to hold conversations around pedagogy and research as we are all part of a single staff space. Through our appraisal system and classroom observations, staff have access to de-privatised practice and dialogic conversations where pedagogy and knowledge are shared, analysed, and refined. It falls short because the leadership team mandates it, and often staff believe that there will be punitive consequences. While a genuine sense of community exists within my department where shared values and vision, collective responsibility, and collaboration exist along with the promotion of group and individual learning, the benefits of the whole community are not supported as an entire school (Bradshaw & Cartwright, 2012; Stoll, 2012).

Evidence and Evaluation of Personal Learning

           Professional learning communities are based on open and honest communication. In developing a professional learning community for this paper, a focused conversation was carried out using Conway and Andrews (2018) protocols. The protocols are based on three key aims (Conway & Andrews, 2018). Where I excelled here was around using my individual experiences to contribute to the shared meaning and respecting the contribution of others, and attempting to build on them where I struggled was around the need to balance sharing my position with inquiring into my colleagues’ views (Conway & Andrews, 2018). This was a result of being too focused on trying to make sure I shared my position. In preparation for the focused conversation, I had gathered my notes around the framework questions we had determined as a group. Unfortunately, in preparing, I had taken a more theoretical approach to the topics rather than a practical approach as the rest of the group appeared to have taken. This left me feeling unprepared for the conversation. I realise that I should have clarified this further as the conversation unfolded. As we progressed, when I got lost in the discussion, I asked group member 1 (the recorder) to revisit what had just been discussed (Conway & Andrews, 2018). As the monitor/observer, I was very aware of making sure the no blame protocol was maintained and ensuring all participants contributed (Conway & Andrews, 2018). This was accomplished by subtly asking group member 1 about her experiences in nursing without drawing attention to the fact that she hadn’t been involved in the conversation. On the other hand, I should have tried to draw group member 2 into the conversation more by interjecting at appropriate points by asking the group to open up to all contributions (Conway & Andrews, 2018). I struggled to balance the observer’s role with making sure I contributed to the conversation. Throughout the focused discussion, I learnt just how adaptable I am and how much of my experiences and knowledge were beneficial to the progression of the group understanding.

My understanding of professional learning and professional learning communities improved as the conversation progressed. Listening to the experiences of group member 1, group member 2 and group member 3 and the knowledge that they possessed has improved my comprehension of professional learning in educational organisations around establishing a professional learning community. My key takeaway was around how much organisational culture and structure affects the building of trust and respect. It was interesting that trust and respect are the keys to success in building capacity for learning within educational organisations, whether that was part of coaching and mentoring, reflective practise or the setting up of a professional learning community. The need to have buy-in at all levels of the organisation is essential for a learning organisation to flourish and have effective collaboration (Carpenter, 2015).

Discussion of Learning and Aspirations for Leading the Development of a Professional Learning Community

            The continuum of professional conversation ranges from raw debate to dialogue (Conway & Andrews, 2018; Senge et al., 2011). Within my workplace, all levels of the continuum have been displayed. In professional conversations in my department, we tend to move between polite discussion and skilful discussion. While we tend to have skilful discussions when discussing our goals around feedback, collaboration, and reading comprehension, the goal is to come to an agreed census as to what this looks like in our classrooms (Conway & Andrews, 2018). On a few occasions, we have tried to conduct a focused conversation to investigate what good teaching looks like, however without an observer to draw the quieter members of the department into the conversation, the issue of ‘ping ponging’ occurred (Conway & Andrews, 2018). When the lead teachers meet, we tend to move between focused conversation and dialogue; each discussion has clear goals and involves exploration, discovery, and refining ideas and knowledge (Bohm & Nichol, 1996; Conway & Andrews, 2018). A couple of times within the secondary school, I have seen the highly adversarial raw debate occur within a professional conversation, especially when staff are passionate about the topic (Senge et al., 2011). While we all embrace professional learning as part of the requirements to remain registered teachers, most conversations are not used as a way to explore ideas and build meaning (Conway & Andrews, 2018).

            Leadership and the need to build capacity for professional learning has changed within educational organisations. The traditional view of leaders is no longer the way forward; leadership no longer sits with the person at the top of the hierarchy but rather with teacher leadership (Copland, 2003; Senge, 1990; Timperley, 2012). As a leader within my school, learning to be a designer, steward and teacher will ensure that I can develop and build capacity within the professional learning community (Business News Publishing, 2014; Smith, 2001). As a designer, I must help develop shared values and vision to foster lifelong learning (Business News Publishing, 2014; Smith, 2001). Stewardship runs on multiple levels, the stewardship of people and stewardship for the larger purpose and vision once created as part of the professional learning community (Senge, 1990; Smith, 2001). The final element, leader as a teacher, refers to the coaching and facilitating of learning within the learning organisation; as part of professional conversations, it is about taking the personal knowledge and convert it into institutional knowledge (Basten & Haamann, 2018; Smith, 2001). Shared leadership is central to professional learning communities. It starts with those in senior leadership taping future leaders on the shoulder and allow them to help build the organisations capacity for professional learning within educational organisations (Carpenter, 2015; Fleming & Thompson, 2004; Timperley, 2012).


           This paper has reflected on my knowledge and understanding of professional conversations, professional learning communities and professional learning within educational organisations. My philosophy and commitment to lifelong learning sets me up to be a leader within a learning organisation. While I still have lots to learn, I see the potential of setting up a professional learning community within my school. For it to work, both structural and cultural conditions will need to be met to ensure that the toxic culture does not develop. The benefits of having the entire school as part of the professional learning community can be experienced once these conditions exist. As I practise the protocols within my department and with the other lead teachers, my professional conversation skills will continue to improve. As I continue to develop as a leader, these skills will become more of a part of my practice.


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