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INNOVATIVE AND EFFECTIVE PROFESSIONAL LEARNING FOR STUDENT ACCOMPLISHMENT. Professor Stephen Dinham Research Director – Teaching, Learning and Leadership ACER CURRICULUM CORPORATION Melbourne 19 th June 2008. The ‘Born’ Teacher: Who needs Professional Learning?.

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Professor Stephen Dinham

Research Director – Teaching, Learning and Leadership



Melbourne 19th June 2008

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The ‘Born’ Teacher: Who needs Professional Learning?

  • The ‘born’ teacher: The Media Fixation

    • The heroic individual

    • Innate attributes, traits of individual teachers

  • Linda Darling-Hammond describes the belief that ‘good teachers are born and not made’ as one of education’s ‘most damaging myths’; one that has gained the standing of a ‘superstition’, with harmful consequences for teacher education and schooling (2006: ix).

    • Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Powerful Teacher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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The Importance of the Teacher

  • Many empirical studies have confirmed that the individual classroom teacher is the major in-school influence on student achievement. (see Hattie; Rowe; Mulford)

  • Accounting for Variance [Hattie*]

  • Student 50%

  • Homes 5-10%

  • School 5-10%

  • Peers 5-10%

  • Teacher30%

  • Major focus on Quality Teaching from late 1980s

  • Hattie, J. (2003). ‘Teachers Make a Difference: What is the Research Evidence?’,

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Prof John Hattie Uni of Auckland

  • Over 750 Meta-analyses of over 50,000 international studies

  • Hattie, J. (2007). ‘Developing Potentials for Learning: Evidence, assessment, and progress’, EARLI Biennial Conference, Budapest, Hungary.

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Note on Effect Size

  • Effect size (ES) is a name given to a family of indices that measure the magnitude of a treatment effect. Unlike significance tests, these indices are independent of sample size.

  • ES measures are the common currency of meta-analysis studies that summarize the findings from a specific area of research.

  • The larger the ES, the greater the influence of the treatment effect.

  • As a guide, ES < 0.0 negative impact; 0.0 > 0.2 no/weak impact; 0.2 – 0.4 small, possibly significant impact; 0.4 – 0.6 moderately significant impact; > 0.6 large, significant impact

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Mobility (shifting schools)-.34



Summer vacation-.09

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Open v Traditional.01

Multi-grade/age classes.04

Inductive teaching.06

Reading: whole language.06

Perceptual-motor programs.08

Out of school experiences.09

Distance education.09

Web based learning.09

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Ability grouping.11

Teacher training.11

Diet on achievement.12

Teacher subject matter knowledge.12

Gender (boys-girls).12

Multi-media methods.15

Problem based learning.15

Home school programs.16

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Extra-curricular programs.17

Family structure.18

Co-/team teaching.19

Learning hierarchies.19

Aptitude/treatment interventions.19

Individualised instruction.20

Charter schools.20

Religious schools.20

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Class size.21

Teaching test taking.22


Summer school.23

Competitive learning.24

Programmed instruction.24

Within class grouping.25


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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size



Audio-based teaching.28

Home visiting by teachers.29

Reducing anxiety.30

Principals/school leaders.30

Ability grouping for gifted students.30


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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Inquiry based teaching.31

Simulations and gaming.32

Reading: exposure to reading.36

Bilingual programs.37

Teacher positive expectations.37

Computer assisted instruction.37

Enrichment on gifted.39

Integrated curriculum programs.39

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Adjunct aids.41

Hypermedia instruction.41

Behavioural organisers/adj questions.41

Self-concept on achievement.43

Frequent/effects of testing.46

Early intervention.47

Motivation on learning.48

Small group learning.49

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size


Cooperative learning.49

Reading: Second/third chance programs.50

Play programs .50

Visual based/audio-visual teaching.51

Outdoor programs.52

Concept mapping.52

Peer influences.53

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Keller's mastery learning program.53

Reading: Phonics instruction.53

Reading: Visual-perception programs.55

Parental Involvement.55

Peer tutoring.55

Goals – challenging.56

Mastery learning.57

Social skills programs.57

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Socio-economic status.57

Home environment.57

Providing worked examples.57

Reading: Comprehension programs.58

Direct instruction.59

Time on task.59

Study skills.59

Acceleration of gifted.60

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size

Problem solving teaching.61

Teacher professional development.64

Reading: Repeated reading programs.67

Reading: Vocabulary programs.67

Meta-cognition strategies.67

Teaching students self-verbalisation.67

Creativity programs.70

Prov. Formative evaluation to teachers.70

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Student Achievement

InfluenceEffect Size


Teacher-student relationships.72

Prior achievement.73

Reciprocal teaching.74

Quality of teaching.77

Classroom behavioural.80

Absence of disruptive students.86

Self-report grades1.44

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Overall Influences

Effect Size




Student .39

Home .35



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Activator or Facilitator ?

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‘Guide by the Side’ or ‘Sage on the Stage?’

  • A damaging and demeaning dichotomy

  • Good teachers have always been both

  • Findings from Successful Secondary Teachers Study:

    • Expert teaching is student centred and teacher directed.

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Underpinning Teacher Effectiveness

  • Educational Leadership

  • Teachers’ Professional Learning

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Types of Teacher Learning


  • Formal pre-service

  • ad hoc, on the job

  • Professional associations

  • Informal self-directed

  • Formal in-service

  • Formal postgraduate study

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Types of Teacher Learning

Alternative Approaches

  • Action research

  • Action learning

  • Formal mentoring

  • Professional standards/accreditation (mandatory, voluntary)

  • Professional learning modules

  • Learning communities

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Teacher Learning since the mid-1970s

From ……………………… To


System responsibilityIndividual, collective responsibility

Off the shelfTailored


Off site, apartOn site, embedded



External expertExternal partner

Individual learningCommunity learning

Theory basedProblem based


Changing thingsChanging people

Learning by seeing, hearingAction learning

Using researchDoing research

Broad focusStudent/learning focus

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The Learning Community:Ideal and Reality

Case Studies: The Evidence Base

  • HSC Teaching Success


  • Australian Government Quality Teaching Program (NSW)

  • NSW Quality Teaching Awards

  • None of these projects was about learning communities per se, but each shed light on the dynamics of the phenomenon.

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How is a Learning Community Developed and Sustained?:

The Learning Communities examined in the case studies were developed and sustained through

  • Focus on Teaching and Learning

  • Individual and Collective Belief and Support

  • Problem Solving

  • Internal Expectations and Accountability

  • Leadership and Outside Influence

  • Overall Dynamics

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A. Focus on Teaching and Learning

  • Learning communities have a focus on learning and a desire to learn about learning; there is use of pedagogic terminology, models, evidence and theory.

  • Members of learning communities see themselves and their students as going somewhere, with learning being an on-going process; learning becomes contagious, with others catching the ‘bug’.

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Focus on Teaching and Learning

  • Within the group there is recognition that it is necessary to change the way people think if there is to be change in how they act, and thus learning, reflection and questioning are important.

  • Members of the group are concerned with establishing and maintaining upward, continuous cycles of improvement; they are not satisfied with the status quo.

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B. Individual and Collective Belief and Support

  • Group members possess and demonstrate belief and respect for their profession and discipline; they believe in, even love their area and communicate this to others.

  • Members of the group pay attention to social maintenance, trying to make their school, department, or faculty a ‘good place’ (MacBeath, 2006); members care for each other and their students as people and social and professional relationships are important.

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C. Problem Solving

  • There is an emphasis on problem or issue based learning and recognition of what is important, with dialogue around identified issues and potential solutions.

  • Experimentation, risk taking and innovation in teaching and learning are encouraged and are a feature of learning communities; there is questioning rather than acceptance of constraints.

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Problem Solving

  • Teaching and learning are context and person specific, with efforts to contextualise and modify as necessary externally derived solutions or approaches.

  • There is on-going reflection on and evaluation of existing and new measures within the learning community, coupled with data-informed decision making.

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D. Internal Expectations and Accountability

  • The group creates a climate of high expectations and professionalism which members rise to, not wanting to let anyone down, not least students.

  • Members of the group empower each other to take the lead in learning, in turn enhancing individual and group leadership capacity and effectiveness.

  • Accountability is to the group, more than to externally imposed accountability measures; group accountability and self-accountability are powerful influences on the learning community’s ethos, and action.

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E. Leadership and Outside Influence

  • Leadership outside and within the group is important in stimulating and facilitating the learning community.

  • While learning communities can develop without stimulus or action from above or outside, assistance, guidance, resources and encouragement from others within and in some cases outside the organisation can facilitate the learning process.

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F. Overall Dynamics

  • Overall, what seems to work most effectively is a combination of external understanding, advice, assistance and recognition, coupled with a focus on internal issues, with teacher and group learning to address these through empowerment and with internal action and accountability.

  • Time, place, space and language are important elements in creating a learning community.

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Putting it Together: The Student Success Triangle

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Implications and Conclusions

  • There are many who advocate the development of learning communities.

  • The research evidence on learning communities and how these can support teachers’ professional learning and improve student achievement is encouraging.

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Implications and Conclusions

  • However, learning communities cannot be mandated, built or maintained in a technical, mechanistic sense.

  • Rather, these need to be encouraged, nourished and sustained in the manner of an organic system.

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Implications and Conclusions

  • Building a learning community is more like agriculture or gardening than engineering or chemistry.

  • Educational leaders cannot, nor should they attempt to, mandate the development of learning communities. Leaders can however assist organisational members to come together, focus and collaborate on issues of importance.

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Implications and Conclusions

  • Some organisations and groups suffer from learning disabilities. These need to be assessed/diagnosed/treated in the same way we would with a student.

  • Educational leaders need to ensure that teaching and learning are central concerns of the educational organisation and do all in their power to ensure that nothing is allowed to obstruct or distort this central focus.

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Implications and Conclusions

  • There is a challenge for educational leaders to deal with situations where learning has atrophied.

    McBeath has noted (2006: 19):

    “It is hard for teachers to shed an outer skin which has calcified over many years in the classroom where dialogue is a rare commodity no matter how hard teachers strive for it, and in which ‘instruction’ is the norm”.

  • However building a learning community is not about ‘fixing’ teachers but improving teaching and learning.

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Implications and Conclusions

  • Dialogue and innovation around quality teaching and learning have emerged and re-invigorated jaded mid-late career teachers who are now active participants in learning communities.

  • Latent leadership potential has emerged and in turn facilitated further change and improvement in the groups/faculties/schools concerned.

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Implications and Conclusions

  • Finally, teacher professional learning needs to be built upon an evidential foundation of what works in teaching, not fad, fantasy, idealism, ideology or rhetoric. Further evidence needs to be gathered to inform and enable this professional learning.

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Some References

Ayres, P.; Dinham, S. & Sawyer, W. (2000). ‘Successful Senior Secondary Teaching’, Quality Teaching Series, No 1,Australian College of Education, September, pp. 1-20.

Brady, L.; Aubusson, P. & Dinham, S. (2006). ‘Action Learning For School Improvement', Educational Practice and Theory, 28(2), pp. 27-39.

Dinham, S. (2007). Leadership for Exceptional Educational Outcomes. Teneriffe, Qld.: Post Pressed.*

Dinham, S. (2007). ‘The Dynamics of Creating and Sustaining Learning Communities’, Unicorn Online Refereed Article, ORA43, pp. 1-16.#

Dinham, S. (2007). ‘The Secondary Head of Department and the Achievement of Exceptional Student Outcomes’, Journal of Educational Administration, 45(1), pp. 62-79.

Dinham, S. (2005). ‘Principal Leadership for Outstanding Educational Outcomes’, Journal of Educational Administration, 43(4), pp. 338-356.

* For the complete AESOP series see:

# Main reference for this paper.

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Contact Details

Professor Stephen Dinham

Research Director - Teaching and Leadership


Private Bag 55

Camberwell Vic 3124

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 03 9277 5463


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