The 2023 Teacher Education Expert Panel report, authored by Mark Scott, provides key insights into how to make teachers highly effective. Our Catholic Education Group’s approach is closely aligned with the report, which is based on the Science of Learning.
We are in the third year of a professional development program for all our teachers that aims to teach all teachers how children’s brains learn. Teachers receive coaching and support in the areas of pedagogy, curriculum and assessment that combine their knowledge of individual students and the science of learning and reading.
It is encouraging to read the report’s first recommendation: establish core content in universities that reflects evidence-based practices. When I started out as Director of Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, I felt the students were not fulfilling their potential. This led us to examine the available evidence on effective classroom pedagogy and the science of learning. There is a way brains acquire knowledge that can be efficiently supported by great teaching combined with cognitive psychology and brain research.
We now clearly understand that the teacher is the most important learner in our system and that the education of the teacher is vital to the quality of the learning we are able to provide. If we support the teacher as the most important learner, he will take care of the students. Teachers must have a thorough knowledge of the science of learning and reading.
There are many capable graduates of university teaching degrees. Unfortunately, some courses do these teachers no favors – sociology and theories about the place of education in society should not be the most important part of a teacher training course. You should not shift the focus and time to the knowledge and skills teachers need to be effective in the classroom. How the brain works and how children learn should be the focus of ITE, and I am pleased that the Scott Review supports this fundamental reality.
We are committed to providing all of our teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to be highly effective. The feedback from teachers and students in our system is that the practices we have adopted are paying off. We are now seeing great results for students. We hear stories from children who couldn’t read after many months of effort, from their teachers who can now read, supported by our changed practice and evidence-based intervention.
St. Bernard’s Primary School in Bateman’s Bay is now achieving student results that seemed unimaginable two years ago. At one of our ACT schools, the proportion of students who underperform the national reading standard has increased from about 60 percent to just 15 percent through explicit instruction based on the science of reading. I often hear comments from parents that their child enjoys going to school now because they are engaged in learning.