Teaching our teachers:  a better way

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Learning First is pleased to release a package of papers and resources that address a major concern in school education around the world: how to improve teacher education so that it adequately prepares new teachers for the profession. In both Australia and the United States, among other countries, a disconnect between what teachers learn in their preparation and what they do in a classroom means that too many have little idea how to teach fractions, for example, in a way that an average 11-year old would understand.

Over the last two years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded Learning First to run a global community of practice, involving teams of university and school system leaders from the US, Australia, Brazil and Finland. Each team piloted a reform that sought to improve teacher education by building deep partnerships among teacher education faculties, schools, and the governing bodies that run schools -- states in Australia, districts and states in the US.

Four papers that capture the lessons from the teams’ pilot work are published here, along with resources that educators in this field can use, including a list of insightful literature, and two interviews with leading figures in teacher education reform: Akihiko Takahashi and Elham Kazemi.

Writing in The Australian Higher Education Supplement, Learning First CEO Ben Jensen and Manager Danielle Toon show why it is vital for teacher education faculties and schools to work together to design, deliver and evaluate the beginning teacher’s journey, from university to practical training to early professional development. Since 1980 more than 20 state and federal reports in Australia have called for university education faculties and schools to forge stronger links. Yet nearly all these reports have stayed generic and high-level, when success only comes when schools and universities collaborate on the specifics of how students learn fractions, for example, and how new teachers learn to teach them.

Preparing to Lead - Learning First report on training new principals out now

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In recent decades school systems have spent huge sums on leadership courses for aspiring principals, but they have not got the value they need. Preparing to Lead, a new Learning First report written for the Washington-based National Center on Education and the Economy, shows how four of the world's highest-performing systems in PISA tests -- Ontario, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong -- have developed leadership training that uses deep knowledge of their individual system to prepare aspiring principals. Writing in The Australian Financial Review, Learning First CEO Ben Jensen and Senior Associate Phoebe Downing show how too many school leadership programs are generic and not targeted to the needs of schools. In the four high-performing systems discussed in the Preparing to Lead report, learning for aspiring principals is concrete, targeted and embedded in schools and the system. It might be the future of leadership training everywhere.

Download the report here.

Read the article here.

Australia’s primary challenge: how to lift teacher quality in early school years

Learning First’s May 2017 report shows how Australia can learn from four of the world’s highest-performing school systems – Hong Kong, Finland, Japan and Shanghai – all of which strongly emphasise teacher specialisation and subject expertise, even in primary school.

On our blog, Katie Roberts-Hull explains what subject specialisation might look like in primary school, and how Australian primary teachers can remain generalists while developing deep subject expertise. A series of further posts from Learning First associates shows how Australian primary school teaching can learn from the experiences of Japan and of medical education.

Read the international version of our report, published by the Washington-based National Center on Education and the Economy.

About Learning First

Learning First is a global organisation of education researchers, consultants, policy advisors and teachers. We provide:

  • research that has global impact, showing how schools and school systems can better develop their teachers and school leaders to continually improve student learning
  • consulting services to schools and school systems. We focus on the steps schools need to take to continually improve teaching and learning, and then identify how each part of the system must operate to make change happen. We work closely with school systems to develop their strategy and implementation plans so that they can improve:
    • Teacher preparation and professional development
    • Leadership strategy and development
    • Data systems, evaluation and accountability policies
    • District and regional structures and roles
  • training for people at all levels of systems, from school to the head office. For example, we run training programs for district and regional staff on how to best work with schools to create continuous improvement.

A new approach to school education

There is no shortage of new ideas about how to improve schools.  But education reform is difficult and around the world sustained improvement is patchy. We therefore work closely with education leaders to tie policy reform at the highest level of government to deep change in the classroom.

Our staff employs its extensive experience in government, policy research, think tanks and classroom teaching to advise governments and organisations in Australia, the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Our clients include numerous state and national governments, multi-national organisations such as the OECD, and organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Centre on Education and the Economy in the United States.

Founded by Dr Ben Jensen and based in Melbourne, Australia, Learning First is committed to spreading and deepening global best practice. We combine leading research with practical approaches that have made a difference in school systems around the world.

Successful school reform requires trust and a commitment to staying the course. We have long-term relationships with our clients based on honesty, integrity and deep experience and expertise. These relationships enable us to help our clients further develop the skills and capacities of their own people.

Click below for more information on our research, consulting and development work, and our clients. Or write to us at info@learningfirst.com


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