Enhanced school culture, improved teaching quality and better student results – these are the key reasons Woongarrah Public School adopted Quality Teaching Rounds as a major initiative to achieve school improvement.
Woongarrah first implemented QTR through participation in the Building Capacity research project in 2019. Principal Leonie Clarkson said the school had used classroom observations before, yet they lacked the power of QTR.
“We’ve tried different types of observation, but it’s not as explicit as QTR, so this gives us a really good structure that’s tried, proven, tested, evidence-based, research informed. It ticks all those boxes.”
The initiative was so successful, they continued to ripple Rounds across the school.
Leonie said the staff valued that QTR is a collaborative approach with a “high level of trust and safety. Everyone wants to be a part of it now, I’ve got a waiting list,” she said.
It is deeply embedded in the school’s Strategic Improvement Plan, and Leonie has plans for every staff member to participate over the next two years.
Leonie believes QTR is the best strategy to achieve the school’s Strategic Direction 2: Quality teaching of curriculum.
“Our success criteria around that is that we’ve got high impact PL, tick, it’s differentiated, tick, it’s got an impact on the quality of teaching, tick, and we’re going to see that that’s going to then impact on student learning outcomes, tick tick,” she said.
“We’re using the language of quality teaching, we’re talking about what quality teaching is in terms of pedagogy and then talking about what it looks like in the classroom. At the same time there’s that leadership prompt that I love, that whole idea that Nichole can mentor others to mentor others.”
“When they’re in full flight, you hear that language, you hear them making the links. We’ll be doing PL on literacy or whatever and you hear them say, this is where we talk about metalanguage – they make the links.”
I would honestly say that QTR has led me to be in the Assistant Principal position where I am today
Building a culture of excellence
Assistant Principal Nichole Dempsey is a passionate advocate of Quality Teaching. She has participated in QTR at both her previous school and Woongarrah, as well as attending a number of professional development sessions offered through the Quality Teaching Academy.
“I would honestly say that QTR has led me to be in the Assistant Principal position where I am today, just that confidence that you develop as a teacher, leads into leading. It validates that you’re following the teaching and learning cycle at an expert level in the classroom,” she said.
Leonie and Nichole said all staff who had taken part in QTR similarly felt empowered by the experience. While teachers are often critical of themselves and anxious about classroom observations, the Rounds process enabled them to see they were effective practitioners and were able to share that with colleagues.
“I have definitely seen that shift in culture. There’s a willingness and openness to open the classrooms and open yourself, be vulnerable, because you’ve got a structure and a framework and a document and everything else to guide you,” Leonie said.
“It’s the fact that teachers can be observed in a safe and comfortable environment. The group builds up trust, and they’re getting quality feedback on their learning. It’s such a deep conversation that happens about their teaching, and it is so valuable to them,” she said.
Nichole shared a story of a colleague, who was anxious about visitors to her classroom as a result of negative observation experiences in her past. After participating in QTR, she now welcomes her peers and her leadership team into her room and willingly shares her practice.
When done properly, it’s so powerful. It’s definitely impactful on teacher practice and teacher efficacy, and that’s got to translate to their kids.
Woongarrah uses a range of tools to gauge impact, including the QTA sample surveys, school-based surveys and student data. Progressive Achievement Tests (PATs) have shown pleasing student growth, which has been sustained over the past three years following QTR implementation.
“We’re seeing that growth pattern in our results,” Nichole said.
“With that experience of being involved in Quality Teaching Rounds, you can see that is reflected in results. I know that it depends on a lot of other factors as well but I’d really like to think that QTR has made that impact.”
The story is just beginning for Woongarrah. For Leonie, QTR is well and truly worth the investment.
“When done properly, it’s so powerful. It’s definitely impactful on teacher practice and teacher efficacy, and that’s got to translate to their kids.”