Must have qualities to achieve a strong professional development culture


Touchstone’s last article focused on the top 3 characteristics of schools with a strong professional growth and development process (PGDP). These being a strong implementation plan, robust leadership and accountability. For more information on these top 3, click here. However for optimum success of professional development in schools, decision makers must also incorporate the following:


1. A constant focus on improving student outcomes

Schools with a strong PGDP culture all exhibit a similar focus on continually improving student outcomes, through improving the quality of teaching in the classroom. This becomes the number one focus of the school and all other distractions are minimised. They believe that ALL students can learn and it is not the final results we use to measure effectiveness, but more importantly the learning gain from the beginning to the end of the school year. This holds firm also for teachers. Through the PGDP process and the resultant professional learning the intention is that teaching will continue to improve throughout the year on the same tangent as student outcomes.

2. A supportive coaching/mentoring environment

When one looks at the people who are the best in the world in their chosen field, whether they be musicians, actors, sports people, doctors or business people there is usually one ongoing constant that helps them continually improve: ongoing feedback. Daily, weekly, nightly, every show, operation or game. The constant for those who excel is a strong coach/mentor/ director/friend who continually gives them feedback and suggests ways to improve. Schools who have developed a strong PGDP culture have developed, fostered and encouraged a supportive mentoring environment which includes observation, feedback, discussion and research on ways to continually improve. The great All Black Captain, Richie McCaw, who won two World Cups, was world player of the year 3 times, had an 88% win rate as captain and was lauded for his performances around the world, often spoke of self-reflection and review after both good and bad performances. After 148 Test Matches for New Zealand he was still seeking to play the perfect game. By his own admission he never got there…but that was the goal. What a wonderful goal for our teachers in schools!

3. A collaborative and supportive staff

Schools and in particular teachers, by nature are an eclectic group of individuals put together in a staff room. Generally speaking, those who work in the same industry can be described as fairly homogenous. However, in a teaching staff room we have Geographers, Musicians, Thespians, Mathematicians, Artists, Scientists, Sportspeople, Historians and Technology experts to name but a few; who all bring differing views of the world, of education and in many cases their own particular discipline. Those schools excelling in their PGDP have developed ways to bring all these cross disciplines together to learn from and support each other. The NSW Quality Teaching model lists Knowledge Integration (ie demonstrating the links between and within subjects and key learning areas) as one of the key indicators when coding a lesson. In running such a coding lesson observation myself, with up to 8 teachers in room, what struck me was the number of times teachers themselves expressed surprise at what the Maths teacher learnt from watching the PE teacher or vice versa across a range of subjects. Collaboration and support; this cannot be underestimated.


Over the past month, I have had the pleasure to meet with nearly 50 schools throughout Australia over the last month in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart. It has been a privilege to listen to and work with schools on strategies and processes to improve their annual performance development plans for teachers.

At CIRCLE, we use the knowledge we gain in working with schools, together with the latest research and our own experience to help schools improve their professional learning / goal setting process for their staff. We partner with schools on implementation strategies, coaching, developing collaborative teams, using data, middle leader development, staff goal setting and holding courageous conversations; whatever the needs of the school are strategically at that point in time. We also provide software to assist schools to embed a proven process of self-review and goal-setting into a flexible and easy to use online environment.


How effective is your school’s current professional learning program in improving staff performance & student outcomes?

To learn more about Touchstones CIRCLE’s very own professional development software, click here!

Or email me directly at to initiate a conversation.

By Brett Foster, Senior Professional Learning Consultant at CIRCLE Education