Changing education systems and systematically improving educational outcomes means nurturing effective teachers and school leaders. Effective teachers ensure that every day, in every lesson, children experience powerful learning. And that powerful learning for students comes about from having teachers with great skills. High quality teaching doesn’t just happen because governments do lots of training programs. We know that training programs without follow-up support don’t work. Coaching and mentoring within schools work best, with teachers being supported by collaborative and strategic school leaders who build opportunities into the school week for capacity building staff through ongoing professional learning.
I’m currently working as an education technical adviser for school leadership and management in a developing country of about 100,000 people, Kiribati. Kiribati consists of over 30 atolls which straddle the equator. Supporting the Ministry’s new curriculum, we’ve introduced a year-long instructional leadership program for all primary and junior secondary school leaders. The Leading Learning instructional Leadership (LLL) program consists of a series of three-day leadership events spread over a year, with ‘coaches’ supporting leaders to make take action in particular ways between these events. School leaders are regularly observing in teacher classrooms using a template developed from the teacher standards, with feedback provided at the end of each lesson. Leaders have also established teacher peer learning groups so teachers can help each other to improve through planning lessons together, doing lesson demonstrations and giving each other feedback, talking about classroom issues and examining student work and data.
At a systems level, we are tracking changes in teacher skills on a monthly basis. Leaders are also establishing with their staff some agreed whole school processes to monitor student achievement. Each school is then setting up interventions to ensure every child is learning, no matter their background, gender, disability etc.
In the leadership program events, topics such as improving parent and community participation and students with disabilities or ensuring a positive learning environment are being covered. Leaders are planning whole school changes to address some aspect of these topics, with support provided by their ‘coaches’.
Through this whole-of-education-system approach, along with other programs supported by the Australian Government, we anticipate significant improvements in Kiribati educational outcomes. Improving educational outcomes is a significant step towards so many other potential long-term benefits for Kiribati people and a positive future.