Many factors come together to make inspired learning - factors both inside and outside the school gate. Once students are in our schools, however, their performance is most closely influenced by teacher quality.
The time for a renewed focus on great teaching for inspired learning is now. The challenges of today's increasingly complex and global society require our students to have different competencies and our teachers to have different capabilities. Today's students need to be able to access information globally available, work collaboratively and apply innovative solutions to problems. Teachers need to know how to develop these capacities in their students in ways that inspire students to be lifelong learners.
The knowledge, understandings, skills and values young people need
In today's schools, 21st century knowledge, understandings, skills and values must be at the heart of great teaching and inspired learning. Young people must also develop a core of academic content knowledge, see the relevance of their learning and develop a love of learning in their classrooms to be inspired to remain lifelong learners.
Learning to collaborate with others, solve problems, think creatively and connect through technology are essential competencies for success in work and in life. Employers are looking to recruit young people with these competencies, but they are not always adequately developed in schools. There is an urgent need to transform learning and teaching in our schools before we get too much further into the 21st century.
Education experts and the broader community agree we need to develop in our young people:
- confidence to know they can learn as part of a group and on their own
- the ability to solve problems both as individuals and collaboratively as part of a team
- the capacity to analyse what they see and hear, and know the difference between fact and myth
- confidence to use technology in all parts of their lives and to understand that technology should be a tool to enhance communication, learning and the quality of life
- the ability to communicate and express ideas in a clear and rational way
- interpersonal skills to enable them to relate effectively and appropriately to others
- creativity to help them look at the world and be innovative in dealing with challenges and making the most of opportunities
- ethical values, social responsibility, wellbeing and engaged citizenship.
Young people must also have a depth of core content knowledge. Deep learning and genuine understanding of subject matter and the ability to use, critique and apply it appropriately provide the foundation for inspired learning.
The knowledge, understandings, skills and values teachers need
Great teaching doesn't just happen. Teachers need to be developed, supported and rewarded to create the inspired learning that will develop lifelong capacities in students. Teachers need the capabilities to collaborate with and learn from others, assess their own practice and respond to feedback, and leverage technology to improve student learning.
There is no one single effective teaching method or strategy. Teachers need to be proficient in many teaching practices and, more importantly, be able to assess their impact on students and adapt their teaching practices to assist students if they are not responding or engaged. Effective teachers are highly proficient in assessing student needs and talents, evaluating their impact, intervening using multiple methods and providing feedback to students on their learning. The most effective teachers are the ones who can adapt their practice in an ongoing manner because they evaluate the impact of their teaching on student learning.
Great teachers know the content of the subjects they teach and have a deep understanding of how learning happens. Great teachers are role models of learning. Great teachers are also those with the personal attributes, dispositions and values that engage students and inspire them to learn and achieve.
Every student deserves teachers who:
- are committed to excellence and have high expectations for every student
- make learning relevant to students, make cultural connections and engage with the community in which the students live
- generate a love and passion for learning, and can excite and motivate students to share that passion
- are excellent communicators with students and parents
- have the patience to work with struggling students, compassion and humour to help students deal with life's challenges and disappointments, and resilience to persevere when things are difficult
- have a passion for and deep understanding of their teaching content - this makes for better teaching and models a passion for learning and discovery that we want young people to experience and value
- engage with and work within the local school and broader communities
- value ethical behaviour in themselves and others
- take responsibility for their own professional learning and value and model opportunities to improve their teaching practice and learn from others.
Great teachers believe their work with young people helps to build a better and stronger society and this drives them to discover and nurture each child's unique talents.
The actions outlined in this paper are made with the single intent to ensure that every NSW student in every school and in every lesson is inspired to learn by great teachers and great teaching.