More than a thousand beginning teachers are set to benefit from a $5 million four-year agreement between the Australian Government and the University of Newcastle to expand the award-winning Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR) program.

QTR brings teachers together to learn from each other and improve their teaching. It involves groups of four teachers working through a process of observation and analysis of teaching practice, which has been shown through rigorous research to improve the quality of teaching and student academic achievement.

The project, announced today by Federal Education Minister Jason Clare, is a commitment of the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan. It will involve new teachers participating in QTR alongside experienced colleagues to enhance their induction into the workforce, with aims to improve job satisfaction, retention and the quality of teaching and learning.

Director of the University’s Teachers and Teaching Research Centre in the School of Education, Laureate Professor Jenny Gore said graduate teachers needed strong professional support to ensure they were set up for long, successful careers.

“We are in the midst of a teacher workforce crisis and we know the first five years are a critical time in teachers’ careers,” Professor Gore said.

“Providing an opportunity to participate in Quality Teaching Rounds at the start of teachers’ careers builds their capacity for quality teaching and creates valuable professional networks with colleagues. Our evidence shows that just one experience of QTR (four days spread over a school term) improves teaching quality and lifts outcomes for students and teachers alike.”

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky AO said it was wonderful to see QTR recognised for the great impact it was continuing to have in schools around the country.

“The University of Newcastle has played a key role in building the teaching workforce across Australia – and in helping those teachers excel. QTR is about empowering teachers and schools to grow and improve collectively and I am delighted that the Federal Government has announced such a significant agreement to expand the program.”

A “transformational experience” for beginning teachers

Kaitlin Heggen’s final year of university was significantly disrupted by COVID-19. She completed her internship teaching online at Hambledon Public School – a highly multicultural primary school in Western Sydney – during the long 2021 Sydney lockdown. When she started working at Hambledon the following year, other teachers in the school only vaguely remembered her as “the online student”.

“I don’t think my colleagues realised I was only in my first year. I’d done some casual teaching the year before where I was supervising students of essential workers during lockdown and then got the full-time job after I graduated.”

During her first year, she had the opportunity to participate in QTR with three more experienced colleagues. According to Kaitlin this was a transformational experience.

“It was great, all the teachers in my group were from different grades. When I was in their classrooms I saw so many things I could use in my classroom. With the older students there was a lot of great lesson content and behaviour management strategies and things I could reflect on in my practice,” Kaitlin said.

“It was super valuable to make and strengthen collegial relationships, especially after Covid. I still go to ask questions and advice from the teachers in my group, be social with them and from that have been connected with more teachers in the school. QTR was our foundation.”

Hambledon Principal, Judy McEwen, has been running QTR to support beginning teachers since 2021 and describes it as a “really powerful professional learning opportunity.”

“It has opened up opportunities for our teachers to observe staff they normally wouldn’t see in action or engage with professionally,” Judy said.

Building a positive school culture in far west NSW

Recruiting experienced teachers is a challenge at remote Cobar High School in far western NSW. Staff tend to stay, on average, just two years in the community before transferring out to metropolitan areas.

“Lots of new teachers come to Cobar for a permanent job, moving a long way from their families. If they stay for three years they can put in their transfer. I don’t begrudge them, that’s how our system works, but with the staffing crisis we need to hold on to the teachers we’ve got,” said local teacher, Nick Short.

Nick didn’t know anything about Cobar when he arrived on a NSW Teach Rural scholarship six years ago and didn’t expect to stay as long as he has.

“You really get to know the kids and their families. It’s an easy place to build connections and we have a lot to do with the community, it’s nice like that,” he said.

“The opportunities you get out here as a teacher are amazing. I’ve had the chance to do things that wouldn’t be possible at a big school or in a city.”

QTR is part of a long-term strategy to support new and experienced teachers alike at Cobar High. Nick believes that by building strong relationships and improving their teaching, QTR encourages staff to stay longer and ensures their students receive high quality learning experiences.

“We really want to get the most out of our teachers for the time we have them, and hopefully by participating in QTR we will be able to keep some of our teachers a bit longer,” Nick said.

“Through QTR, teachers are building relationships and becoming invested in their colleagues and their students, and that will encourage them to stay. They see that there are opportunities here and they can improve. They can do a lot of good while they’re here and become better teachers at the same time.”

Australia’s largest education randomised controlled trial

The Teachers and Teaching Research Centre is in the final year of a major five-year program of research, including multiple randomised controlled trials, funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation to investigate the impact of QTR on teachers and students.

The findings to date indicate that QTR improves student achievement in reading and mathematics by at least two months’ additional growth compared with students in matched control groups. QTR also improves the quality of teaching and, critical to this new project, enhances teacher morale, efficacy and confidence and supports meaningful collaboration between teachers from across experience levels, subjects and grades.

The evidence that QTR improves teaching and learning is compelling, said Professor Gore.

“In successive randomised controlled trials QTR has been found to improve student academic achievement, the quality of teaching, teacher morale and school culture.

“Thanks to the support from the Government we are excited to see such benefits for beginning teachers and their students across Australia,” she said.

Teachers and schools can register interest to participate in this exciting new project here.

This media release was originally published by the University of Newcastle on 27 July 2023 and republished under a Creative Commons license.