CHAPTER 1: The Learner of Today Needs A
Teacher Focused on Tomorrow
Dr Jake Madden
Principal, St Augustine’s Primary School
As governmental and educational authorities continue to focus on teacher practice as a
vehicle to improve student performance, the consequence is on schools to address/review
their mechanisms for supporting teacher improvement. This chapter highlights the need
for teachers to become more responsible for their own learning in order to meet the
growing learning needs of their students. A new era of learning calls for new teacher
skills to embrace a new pedagogy in the classroom. Consequently, this paper proposes
an approach used by St Augustine’s Primary School to improve school outcomes guided
by a comprehensive roadmap for focusing on implementing curriculum reform and the
pedagogical underpinnings needed to achieve such reform. It also offers direction for
assessment reform, employment of the 21
century teacher and the need for appropriate
tertiary training strategies, the leadership development of staff, and the role of
collaborative technologies in engaging professional learning. It argues the way forward
for improving teacher practice, at the school level, requires a renewed look at how
professional development is not only seen by educators but also how educational systems
offer professional development.
As educational leaders grapple with conflicting directions and expectations imposed by
governmental and educational systems, it is the responsibility of teachers in schools to be
vigilant to the needs of their students. Even though research on effective schools
highlight the classroom teacher is best placed to impact more deeply on learning
outcomes for our students (Crowther, 2012; Hattie, 2003; Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2001),
the mandates, policy and directives handed down to schools overshadows the classroom
teacher. To this end, our support (as principals and system authority leaders) for the
classroom teacher needs to take on renewed vigor. The complexity of school life in an
era of increased accountability necessitates greater support for teachers to ensure we
meet student needs.
As we become more in tune with how students learn, we begin to focus on the ‘how’ we
are delivering learning to meet their needs. With the advent of the internet paradigm, a
new educational era is developing. The access to knowledge is now, not only at our
fingertips but also, at our own discretion and choosing.
With the growth of technological devices and the gradual low cost access, society is
embracing the entertainment and immediacy value of the internet. Through the growth
in tools such as ‘applications’ and web 2.0 tools, students are spending increasing
amounts of time on the entertainment aspect of such programs. Educationally, with the
opportunity for 24/7 access the internet offers learners on demand access allowing
learning to occur not only out of school time but also external to what is being taught in
Teachers Talk About What's Important&
the classroom. For instance, if a child has an interest in dinosaurs they do not necessarily
need the school to provide any information on dinosaurs. Access to websites, online
groups, following experts on twitter and the like will aid the child in quenching their
thirst for ‘dinosaur’ knowledge.
This ‘out of school’ learning is beginning to impact upon learning inside school. Student
use of the internet to keep up to date both socially and professionally fosters not only
student use of the internet but a deeper understanding of the technology. Not surprising
is the fact that teachers who are not engaged with the technology are losing touch with
their students (Prensky, 2010). Disappointingly, with the lack of discussion and debate,
schools are continuing to ban and/or limit internet use as a means to control the
inevitable “inappropriate use” by students. Countering such views in some schools is the
movement towards Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). While it is suspected, the motive
for many schools is more financial than educational; it is a move in the right direction.
The rise of the internet paradigm has major implications for schools and the nature of
teaching. The question of what constitutes learning and what students need (ie the
purpose of schooling) at the end of their time at school in order to take up their place in
society as a productive citizen is challenging schools. That is, what are the skills and
values that one will need to enter the workforce? And how should the school cater for
learning these skills?
Here we have guidance from research and the trends in employment/industries.
Evidence abounds that employers are looking at a specific skill set, often referred to as
century skills (ie. problem solving, showing initiative, collaboration, self directed,
strong interpersonal skills, etc). It is reasonable to deduce that for schools to address
such skills greater professional development will be required. Furthermore, it provides
significant implications for schools implementing and operating in an industrial view of
In using the internet as a vehicle to enhance learning, the traditional methodology of
teaching is now under threat. As our students grow and learn in a different world, so
must the way teachers deliver learning needs to grow and change.
Thus springs a need for a new pedagogy to meet the changing needs of how students
learn. Consequently it raises our first issue of engaging teachers not only in defining the
new pedagogy but also investing time and effort into learning it.
Working with teachers, who in their undergraduate years were educated during the
“traditional” tertiary teaching programs and developed the industrial teaching habits, is a
challenge. While some researchers (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2007; Dinham,
Ingvarson, & Kleinhenz, 2008; Lynch, 2012; Smith & Lynch, 2010) argue for a rethink of
the undergraduate teacher education program, the reality of the aging teacher workforce
is problematic for schools trying to ‘re-educate’ current teachers. It is these teachers,
educated in a stand and deliver era, that are often barriers to embracing a new model of
teaching and learning.
“If we teach our children as we did yesterday we rob them of the future” (John Dewey)
It is clear that education has changed and that technology is seen as the catalyst for the
change. In the workplace, a new model of professional learning is occurring. Led by
companies like Google and Apple the focus is on working collegially and in an
environment that values conversation, creativity and collaboration.
Consequently, employers are seeking graduates with attributes such as higher order
thinking skills, problem solving, critical thinking, independence and interdependence.
Employers look for graduates who show initiative, have resilience and are confident
within themselves. Notwithstanding the need for strong intellect, the shift away from the
‘knowledgeable’ employee to the employee who can access knowledge in a ‘just in time’
world is becoming more desirable.
Consequence for Schools
In an era where the workforce was dominated by the industrial era, the role of schools
was to produce graduates to fulfill those roles. However, our understanding of how
students learn has evolved. Students today are multi taskers, technologically engaged and
readily adaptable to meet the challenges in front of them.
If we want students to graduate from schools with the skills employers are craving for,
and we have a deeper understanding of how students learn, then the building of an
environment that supports the pedagogy required to foster the learning of these skills
needs urgent attention.
When discussing the purpose of schooling today there are a number of references
(Cameron, 2011; Ministerial Council on Education Employment Training and Youth
Affairs, 2008) that guide the conversation, however, for the practitioners - principals and
classroom teachers, the concern is on improving classroom practices that facilitate
student learning, that in turns prepares our students for the globalised workplace.
Every teacher must be a professional in his or her approach to teaching; Professional in
the sense of the corporate world - meeting goals, meeting students’ needs and being held
accountable for student learning.
There are a number of factors that are forcing a change in the shape of schooling,
• Digital technology and accessibility – the increased volume of knowledge; the
ease of access to it; and transformed communication, collaboration and
connectivity. There is a paradigm shift in learning (industrial to 21
century – role
of the internet). In his book “Whatever! School 2.0: The Pedagogy of Learning in
Teachers Talk About What's Important&
the 21st Century”, Mark Treadwell outlines the new education paradigm which is
being driven by the growing opportunities provided by the internet (Treadwell,
• Global Financial Crisis – education budgets across the developed world are
tightening, while developing countries have limited opportunity for the kind of
investment in public services historically enjoyed by the developed world.
• Globalisation – communities, economies and education itself are now globally
connected. With rapid advances in technology, increases in global trade, and the
availability of highly educated workers from around the world, our future
workers will increasingly need advanced skills to remain competitive.
• Demography – rapid population growth in developing countries is increasing
demand for education, while the developed world’s ageing population will require
lifelong learning to remain current.
How should education be structured to meet the needs of students in this 21
world? How do we now define “School”, “Teacher” “Learner” and “Curriculum”?
Students and adults themselves are becoming more reliant on social networking
technologies to connect, collaborate, learn, and create. This is an important fact and one
that educators need to mindful of when implementing school improvement programs.
Furthermore, it is imperative that in designing educational change for schools, educators
take into account the changes that are occurring outside school.
As learners change, the concept of a teaching model built for an industrial era is now
antiquated. The industrial model of education allows for one way of teaching and for one
style of ‘learner’. The teacher centred delivery of learning narrows the learning
opportunities for the student. With the advent of the internet revolution, life outside the
classroom has become more engaging and inspiring and students are able to navigate to
learning of their choice.
As employers adapt to a changing globalization way of doing business, they are looking
for new sets of skills. Unless the way schools do ‘business’ changes they won’t be able to
produce graduates that meet both the expectations and the needs of employers.
It is here that the conundrum for educators occurs. The need to implement static
curricula without pedagogical input leaves teachers following the same path they have
always trod. The world is collaborative and schools need to be collaborative. As teachers
we need to work in groups, to problem solve and to be critical thinkers. Academic
development is one thing, strong interpersonal skills and being able to get along are
Not all students learn in the same way. There are different modalities of learning
(listening, doing) as there are different intelligences (musical, spatial, kinesthetic). With
the view that we are all good at something, connecting to what we are already good at
would enhance our learning.
With schools, particularly in the primary sector, reimaging the fabric of both the physical
and educational learning structures in the school the question on staffing needs is raised.
The classroom teacher of today, as iterated previously, needs a different skill set from the
teacher trained in an era for an industrial viewpoint of schooling.
Unfortunately, the view that if teachers are not engaging technology they won’t be
teaching using the technology is a reality for most schools. This disconnect between what
students are engaged without side school and what they are participating in the school
hours 9.00am – 3.00pm, is proving to be problematic. “If the rate of change outside school is
greater than the rate of change inside school, we are moving backwards!”
Nature of teacher learning
There have been tremendous rumblings around the role of higher education in preparing
the teacher graduate for schooling today. Literature response in this area is growing with
a strong argument for a renewed pedagogical approach to undergraduate programs (L.
Ingvarson, 2006; Smith & Lynch, 2010).
It is incumbent upon both the school and tertiary sector to work collaboratively to
ensure our new teaching graduates are able to attend to the 21
century learner. We need
21st century teacher learners to engage with 21st century student learners.
McCrindle & Wolfinger, in discussing the differences between the six generations co-
existing in Australia (more generations living and working together than ever before)
believe that 'Generation Alpha' is the latest to arrive (McCrindle & Wolfinger, 2010) and
will need specific learning environments to cater for their learning needs.
When reflecting on students we often refer to the adolescent but as David Warner (2006)
“And what of those young people just starting their school years? We now have five year olds
who can install and play sophisticated computer games and use sophisticated learning tools on
CDs; seven year olds who first look on the internet for information they want; fifteen year olds
downloading films produced solely for internet users” (Warner, 2006, p.24)
This sentiment is further explored by Brown (2001):
“Today’s digital kids think of information and communications technology (ICT) as something
akin to oxygen: they expect it, it’s what they breathe, and it’s how they live.” (Brown, 2001,
This being the case, how we address their learning needs is (if not already it should be)
the key question educators are searching answers for.
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As learners are changing so should schools. If research is accurate, our students are
spending an increasing proportion of their ‘out of school’ time on technology related
activities (using mobile phones, internet usage, online gaming). This being the case, it
would be logical to ensure that the ‘in school’ classroom instruction should engage
similar type strategies for learning. Schools may need to model student life on their
‘outside the classroom’ activities to foster greater in class student engagement.
Web 2.0 tools offer new skills needed for emerging industries. Globalisation is
encouraging creativity as traditional occupations (accounting, insurance, banking)
become more global interactive. Such trends in the employment sector, as this
interaction orientated economy drives competition, is placing pressure on school systems
to produce graduates with a specific 21
century skill set to support the demands of the
There has been a lot written about the need for schools to address the issue of 21
century skills. Lee Crockett
argues the skills students need to acquire to succeed in the
21st century have been written into nearly all education system curricula. For example,
Australia’s national curricula label these “General Capabilities”; New Zealand houses
them under “Key Competencies”.
Each of these curriculum frameworks incorporates a 21
century skills set that enables to
the students to develop capabilities in:
• Problem solving and decision making
• Creative and critical thinking
• Collaboration and communication
The end goal is for students to be independent learners who are self-reflecting and self-
regulating leading to a lifelong learner who is both flexible and able to adapt to change.
To do this we need educators who model such attributes.
Building A Collaborative Staff Conversation
Often for teachers, when talking about supporting student learning, the focus is on the
student and not the teaching. It takes time to develop a culture around teaching practice.
When engaging a professional community approach (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many,
2010) suggest a couple of key pointers to help the conversation lead to improved
1. When discussing observation on student learning – focus on the grade as a whole
and not simply spending the majority of time on individual students.
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2. The whole purpose for Professional Learning Communities (PLC) is to focus on
action and not on excuses or the reasons (outside of school) why the child is not
achieving success. This is called the “If only…” syndrome.
3. PLCs should focus on the strengths and should not be ‘deficit’ model thinking.
Teachers should start the conversations with celebrations of success and then
move towards conversations on how to improve learning in their cohort.
4. The professionalism of the teacher is more effective than implementing a
‘program’ (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012). Effective teachers have expertise and are
able to discern what students’ needs are. Trust is an important commodity in
All teachers have a desire to be excellent, effective teachers who want improve their
instruction. Yet, Knight (Knight, 2013) puts forward an important question in his book
titled High-Impact Instruction:
“If teachers desire to be excellent, then why, some might ask, does it seem some are no longer
interested in that quest? Why aren’t more teachers excited about the opportunity to learn?”
(Knight, 2013, p. 3)
He goes on to state:
“One reason why many teachers aren’t striving to be their best is that poorly designed
professional learning can actually inhibit growth by de-professionalizing teachers, treating them
like workers on an assembly line rather than professionals doing emotionally complicated
knowledge work.” (Knight, 2013, p. 3)
Providing opportunities for teachers to share their opinions about learning in forums like
PLCs opens the doors to shared understanding and fosters community building; a critical
ingredient for increasing teacher efficacy.
Understanding the Nature of Professional Development
Teachers report serious constraints around the common forms of professional
development (in particular inservice, conferences, guest speakers) including cost, timing,
However, with the rise of social media, the role of and access to professional
development for teachers is vastly changing. Improving teacher practice requires a
renewed look at how professional development is seen by educators. Evidence highlights
that teachers learn best from their peers. The proviso is that the teachers from whom
they are learning must also be focused on best practice.
For Richard Elmore, teacher learning occurs as part of their day to day work (Elmore,
2004). Elmore notes that “improvement is a function of learning to do the right thing in
the setting in which you work” (p.73).
Teachers Talk About What's Important&
There has been an increased focus on the nature of collaboration in fostering school
improvement. The rise of professional learning communities (PLC) is being touted as a
vehicle for improving student learning. The core focus of the PLC is student
achievement and the discussion centres on teacher’s professional practice. The
assumption is that if you improve teacher practice you will improve student learning.
However, research educators note that it is not sufficient for teachers to work out
collaboration on their own (Fullan, 2010). There needs to be a collective capacity for
collaboration focused on and supported by relevant professional learning for teachers
that helps them employ new teaching strategies. This needs to be a whole school
A process for developing expectations of practice, requiring strong collaborative
measures by staff, is the promotion of professional learning communities. In PLCs, the
use of collaborative time together with agreed structures for discussion, will progress the
‘whole school’ implementation of the new pedagogy.
While the very essence of PLCs is a focus on and commitment to improving student
learning, it is the ‘how’ (ie the work of teachers) that begins the path to improvement.
Focusing on individual teacher practice, making changes to their teaching strategies and
differentiating learning to meet individual students’ specific needs becomes part of the
PLC discussion agenda.
However, improving teachers individually is one stratagem. There have been many
examples/models of inspections/feedback that focuses on the individual. In a cohort
framework of teaching, the need to move from an individual focus to a group focus is
Daniel Pink, in his book “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us” offers the view
that the need to encourage educators to reflect honestly, meaningfully and with some
rigor on feedback is a pivotal part of the teacher improvement process (Pink, 2010). It
enables the educator to identify gaps in their learning leading to fostering the processes
to improve teacher performance. Pink goes on to explain that feedback should be
frequent and this brings us to a second issue. Unfortunately, schools might provide
professional feedback once a year (if at all). Further, the feedback given is often pastoral
and not meaningful or useful in leading to an improved teacher performance.
If the focus is on 21
century skills then it is expected that the lesson/delivery of learning
should be structured to incorporate activities to attain the 21
century skills (ie if
collaboration is essential, opportunities to collaborate are essential, if critical thinking is
essential then higher order questions/graphic organisers should be common place).
In focusing on the new pedagogy the next step is to support teachers in implementing
this new order. This involves working with teachers strategically to identify areas of
improvement in their teaching practice and then to provide intervention to enable the
teacher to address the improvement areas.
The question arises! How do we support teachers, who trained in a different era, develop
the skills necessary to implement the new pedagogy?
Initially, our research indicates that staff will need the inner desire to change their
practice (Madden, 2012a, 2012b; Madden, Wilks, Maoine, Loader, & Robinson, 2012).
Unless the teacher has the will to make changes not much will change in the classroom.
This inner desire is influenced by teacher commitment to the change and this is
determined by whether the teacher sees value and meaningfulness in the change. More
importantly teachers need to have a deep understanding before they will embark upon
the change. To do this the intensive attention to professional development is necessary.
A focus on a renewed view of professional development emanating from the
complexities of teaching and learning has been on the agenda for a number of years. This
is evidenced in the following:
‘‘The vision of practice that underlies the nation’s reform agenda requires most teachers to
rethink their own practice, to construct new classroom roles and expectations about student
outcomes, and to teach in ways they have never taught before” (Darling-Hammond &
Taking this further, aligning the delivery of effective professional development is not the
need to focus on what needs to be taught (curriculum) but rather on the how to teach
(pedagogy). With the focus on teacher practice (see Australian Institute of Teacher and
) moving to de-privatisation of teaching practice is seen as a means to
support the spotlight on pedagogy (Madden et al., 2012).
It has been argued that technological advances in recent years has seen not only an
increase in teacher workload but also a need to shift the delivery of learning from teacher
centred approach to one where the student is the centre of learning. The nature of
students entering school is changing and the need to change teaching methodologies to
accommodate a new era of student learning is evident.
Improving professional learning for teachers is a fundamental component in improving
student achievement. To meet new Federal Government requirements and public
expectations for school and student performance, a renewed focus on teacher learning is
needed. For this to occur, schools, with the support of their education systems, need a
sustained whole school approach.
Teachers Talk About What's Important&
While there have been many efforts to define what constitutes ‘good professional
development, there is agreement that most effective professional learning practices
engage teachers in identifying what they needed to learn and planning the learning
experiences (Cameron, 2011; Goe, Biggers, & Croft, 2012). As teachers learn new skills
they need time to test them in the classroom, make adjustments and share their learning
with colleagues. Effective professional development include “activities that lead teachers
to deprivatise their practice and gain feedback about their teaching from colleagues” (L
Ingvarson, Meiers, & Beavis, 2005, p. 16)
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