Every teacher can improve

As a teacher I have always held the belief that every one of my students can improve.  As a Leader, I hold the same belief about myself and the colleagues I work with, that is, that every teacher can improve.  I like to think of myself as a ‘glass-half-full’ person and I think, it is for this reason, that I am drawn to the work of Dylan Wiliam.  For those of you who are not familiar with Dylan’s ‘Every teacher can improve’ theory, then I encourage you to watch the two minute clip in the link below.

Dylan Wiliam – Every teacher can improve

Dylan is Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the Institute of Education, University of London.  He presents and writes on formative assessment for learning and professional development in teaching and his work has made him a familiar name in many schools around the world.  As one educational leader states,

“When Dylan tweets, teachers pay attention, when he turns up to events, people flock to hear him.”

An important part of our journey to becoming a learning culture that Buzzes is supporting the professional growth of each individual teacher and leader.  The professional growth and development of the ‘individual’ is vital because the strength of each individual at Ivanhoe Grammar School, affects the quality of all layers in our school.  (For example it will affect the quality of our professional teams and school as a whole.)

Over the past 18 months at Ivanhoe Grammar School a committee (which I have been a part of) have reviewed, researched and designed an improved staff ‘individual’ learning program.  Our key objectives were to; promote the learning and growth of our school leaders, empowering them to develop and support teachers through their own growth process, to ensure quality teaching and learning in all classrooms.

Research tells us that we are more likely to develop a growth mindset towards learning in our students, if we can model a growth mindset to learning with our staff.  With this in mind, the committee decided to title our revised individual staff learning program ‘Appraisal for Growth’.

“We know that the best teachers are the best learners” AITSL

A key to any successful learning program are the underlying rules of engagement.  Quality teachers set and consistently follow clear rules of engagement in their classroom in order to maximize the learning of all students.

The Rules of engagement for our individual professional learning program (Appraisal for Growth) are not much different and they clearly define how the members of a professional partnership will interact.  Examples are:

  • bring a growth mindset to the process
  • be open to constructive feedback
  • keep conversation on task
  • be prepared for meetings

The first step in the Appraisal for Growth process is a comparison of current practice to the Ivanhoe Grammar School Professional Standards. This first step involves our staff self-reflecting using evidence from a self-reflection survey.  Additional evidence is gathered in the Leader Appraisal for Growth program from peers and in the Teacher Appraisal for Growth program from students. This information is shared with a trusted Appraiser and used to confirm a staff members current strengths and to determine any gaps or areas for improvement.


The second step involves working collaboratively with a trusted Appraiser to set a focus for improvement, to determine action/research/professional learning to be undertaken and agree on evidence that will be collected to demonstrate growth.  All teachers must include a classroom observation as part of their evidence.

Rounding off this part of the Appraisal for Growth process is an authentic discussion between the staff member and their trusted appraiser to reflect on progress and set a focus for improvement for the second year of the process, which is more informal in nature.

After substantial training of our staff and the development of an online system to support the program, we have successfully begun the Appraisal for Growth program in term three, 2016.  This is an important and exciting step for our school as we travel along the path to becoming a learning culture that Buzzes.

Kellie Sewell

Director of Staff Learning at Ivanhoe Grammar School

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