The south-east Queensland school of around 1000 students is on a mission to put professional development back in the hands of staff through the formation of Peer Learning Groups (PLGs) – little professional learning communities that band together to undertake research on a classroom strategy of choice.
Burridge worked alongside master teacher Dr Patsy Norton and two classroom teachers to evaluate a means of improving students’ enjoyment of, and stamina for, reading.
As a key driver of the schools’ action learning revolution, Norton says the self-directed PLGs have really taken professional learning to the next level for staff.
“[It’s] meaningful to them, they choose what they do so they have ownership or agency and all the evidence and research from practice shows that the sharing is immediate and effective,” she explains.
Taking a “systematic approach” to their project, the foursome decided to trial the effect of 10-15 minutes free reading time at the start of each lesson to assess the impact this might have on a Year 8 and 9 class.
“The visibility of the strategy was extremely important,” Norton says.
“…so that the teacher-librarian or I would go in and talk to the kids ... about books we liked, students put up star lists, (which sounds very ‘primary school’ but it worked!) where they nominated books that they liked so that other students would then go and pick those books up.”
Tucking into background research was a crucial component of the collaborative exercise, Norton reflects, because it gave validation to their undertaking.
“…that kind of background theoretical knowledge is really important, and maybe made teachers think a little bit more about whether they could afford to ‘waste’ that time, because that could have been a perception.
“There is so much out there in the theory to support the enjoyment and engagement of reading, and the improvement in vocabulary…”
Following rounds of classroom observation time, peer discussions and reflective evaluations, the group collated their findings to produce an academic paper of their own.
The significance of having officially joined the academic world was not lost on the educators.
“The joy of having a journal in your hands and seeing your name on a paper is great for teachers in the classroom and gives them a little bit of celebration of having done something and done it well…” Norton shares.