Standard 6 – Engage in professional learning.

Focus Area 6.1 – Identify and plan professional learning needs.
Graduate level: Demonstrate an understanding of the role of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers in identifying professional learning needs.

Focus Area 6.2 – Engage in professional learning and improve practice.
Graduate level: Understand the relevant and appropriate sources of professional learning for teachers.

Focus Area 6.3 – Engage with colleagues and improve practice.
Seek and apply constructive feedback from supervisors and teachers to improve teaching practices.

During my first placement I was present on a student free professional development day and was fortunate to be invited to attend the training which centred around early literacy (Artefact 1) (6.2).

Artefact 1 – David Hornsby Professional Development Day

I was teaching in a Prep class for 3 weeks in a state school in Cairns and they were in the process of transitioning their literacy program from a synthetic phonics to a whole language approach. To prepare for this change, the school had enlisted David Hornsby to do a full day workshop via Zoom with the Prep – 2 teaching team. David Hornsby is a literacy consultant with over 53 years’ experience in the Australian education system. He is passionate about early-childhood literacy and is an advocate for a whole-language approach, openly criticising what he sees as the current fascination with “abstract and robotic” synthetic phonics programs in schools (Hornsby & Wilson, 2010).

The Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) mandates 20 hours per year Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as a requirement for practising teachers (QCT, 2017). The Australian Institute for School Teaching and School Leadership recognises that quality teaching relies on continuing professional learning and reflective practice (AITSL, 2023). In order to effectively pinpoint where I needed to focus my learning needs, I reflected on my practice during placements and I also completed the AITSL self-assessment tool (AITSL, 2017) (Artefact 2) (6.1).

During this placement I also attended the weekly department meetings with the other Prep teachers, the Principal, the Deputy Principal and the Head of Curriculum (6.3). These meetings were an excellent opportunity for me to hear how the curriculum was implemented, how lessons were planned and to listen to collegial discussions on the impending literacy changes. Despite teaching to the same texts, each Prep teacher had their own personal style and methods, so it was an important learning experience for me to observe. I was also invited to share my own perspectives as a student which gave me the chance to receive feedback on my ideas and input (6.3).

The result of attending the training and meetings was that I have acquired a lot of knowledge around the highly debated and intricate world of early literacy acquisition. It has opened my eyes to the issues that teachers face navigating the politics of the process and juggling the needs of the different stakeholders. My practice was improved as I had a better understanding of the building blocks of language, the grapheme-phoneme correspondence and practical strategies for teaching these to Prep and Year 1 students. (Artefact 3)

On reflection, I am still not sure where I stand on the ‘reading wars’ debate as I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with everything in the workshop but have also watched personally my son’s leaps and bounds in reading and writing under a synthetic reading program in Year 1. David Hornsby’s presentation and workshop were very motivating and inspirational – David even gave me a topic for a PhD should I ever choose to pursue the issue further – “what is the link between the introduction of NAPLAN and the drop in literacy standards?” For now, though I will continue to research the different ways that children of all abilities, backgrounds, and cultures learn to read, and stay up to date with the ever-changing landscape of literacy learning. I will ensure my knowledge base remains current by joining the Australian Literacy Educators Organisation and by taking advantage of the resources and the professional development courses on the Australian Government Department of Education funded Literacy Hub website.