Collaborative Professional Learning in Action: An Australian Showcase

Peter Hayes and Peter Noonan


The need to translate school improvement and effectiveness literature and academic research into practice in schools and classrooms within networks of schools and across systems, led Peter Hayes and Peter Noonan to develop the Collaborative Professional Learning and Collaborative Professional Learning in Action models.  These conceptual frameworks were first introduced to the ICSEI community in Limossal, Cyprus in 2011 along with earlier research showing the positive link between teacher driven, student focused, in-situ professional development and improvement in student outcomes.

The following presentations and papers by Peter Hayes and Peter Noonan have been included in the ICSEI congress agenda. 2011-2013


Research paper

Linking teacher's knowledge with student performance with Sandy Heldsinger


Collaborative Professional Learning:  Helping teachers to find their voice

Poster presentation

Collaborative Professional Learning in Action



Supporting ongoing pedagogical renewal: a conversation about some challenges

Poster presentation

The Collaborative Professional Learning model


Research paper

Success stories of Collaborative Professional Learning

Showcase abstract

The interplay between system direction and localised school action in improving student outcomes is a challenge.  Enabling school autonomy while ensuring that system and government agendas and directions are met is a delicate balancing act.

Over the past eight to 10 years, the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at supporting schools in their endeavours to ensure the best possible outcomes from students.  These initiatives, whilst successful in improving teacher knowledge of instruction or curriculum content, in developing collaborative cultures or in focussing leadership effort towards teaching and learning, fell short of being implemented system wide given the lack of school-wide investment in the strategies.  This was mainly because the initiatives were developed without wide consultation, directed from the office and lacked accountability at the school site.  When these initiatives failed to raise student outcomes, the strategy or method of deployment was often the culprit and the schools moved on to other initiatives.

In 2009, with the injection of considerable federal funds, came the opportunity to 'do as we always did' or seek a new solution to support greater ownership and accountability at the school site.  The targeted funds, as part of the National Partnership Literacy and Numeracy scheme was aimed at supporting schools improve student learning and associated outcomes in literacy and numeracy.  Rather than parachute in 'expert groups' to restructure or improve the school or flood few schools with much needed cash in order to develop short term, unsustainable strategies, the Catholic Education Office explored opportunities to promote school-based solutions to the issues of teaching and learning at each school site.  In so doing, funds were used to accelerate the process of adoption of processes and procedures to build collaborative cultures and communities of inquiry.  

This showcase recounts the journey of a community of schools as they work towards shared system-wide accountabilities, language and processes and explores the leverage points that allow this to happen.  Informed by research and literature in the area of school improvement and effectiveness, teacher professional learning and leadership for change, the Catholic Education Office embarked on a bold plan to develop communities of learning, focused on solving instruction and improving teaching in and across over 120 schools.  

An infrastructure of support in and across schools to support teacher leadership, inquiry learning and the development of professional learning cultures and the impact of this infrastructure will be explored.  Through regular visits, discussion and relationship building, School Support Consultants were able to develop a deep knowledge of schools and their personnel and were able to act as a nexus between individual schools and the system ensuring alignment and improving the system's ability to tailor directions and learning programs to the needs of every school community.

Context of Catholic Education in Western Australia

The Catholic education system in Western Australia provides a dynamic, student centered approach to education for more than 72,000 young people in 157 schools across the state.  With a focus on the development of the whole person- intellectual, spiritual, social, physical and emotional development- Catholic education is the state's second largest education sector, educating some 18% of all school-aged children in Western Australia.

Western Australia is Australia's largest state and, while the majority of the population live in the capital, Perth, a significant number of people live in regional, rural and remote communities across a total land area of 2.5 million square kilometres.