Queensland’s independent schooling sector is contributing to a growing body of evidence that confirms the significant role the nation’s most accomplished teachers are playing in student and school improvement in Australian education.
A new research paper commissioned by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) and authored by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) sheds further light on how the nation’s growing contingent of nationally certified Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers (HALTs) demonstrate their impact on student learning, peer professional growth and school improvement.
To date, 86 Queensland independent school teachers have achieved HALT standing. They are among almost 900 nationwide.
Another more than 70 Queensland independent school teachers are currently working towards certification at the two most advanced levels of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – Highly Accomplished and Lead. Three of these teachers have shared their reflections on their journey towards HALT certification below.
ISQ Chief Executive Officer Chris Mountford said the new research was the second stage of a three-year collaborative project with QUT that delved into how HALTs evidenced their impact in the classroom and beyond.
Mr Mountford said key findings from the second phase of the project confirmed that despite the diversity of contexts in which teachers worked, there were common characteristics of “quality evidence of impact” and that HALT aspirants could be supported to apply these common principles to maximise time spent on developing their portfolios.
Lead researcher QUT School of Teacher Education and Leadership Associate Professor Jill Willis said the three-year project confirmed HALT impact on student outcomes, teacher growth as middle leaders and school improvement, while providing evidence-based practical guidance to streamline the certification process to encourage more teachers to put their hands up for HALT.
“When teachers know and can tell others about their impact in compelling and convincing terms, it not only helps teachers deepen their self-awareness about why their practices are effective, but it can inspire colleagues to learn from their experience,” Dr Willis said.
“In a country as big as Australia with its many diverse school communities, acknowledging more HALTs is essential,” she said.
“Certified HALTs provide expert, site-based and differentiated professional support for early career teachers, colleagues who are new to the school, and lead peers and teams in spreading innovative practice. We need to do all that we can to support these great teachers to share their stories and be recognised for their contributions.”
The QUT research report is available to ISQ member schools and staff on the ISQ Member Hub.
ISQ is a recognised HALT certifying authority by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) which oversees the prestigious national program.
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Reflections: Teachers Working Towards HALT Certification with ISQ
Paul Hemphill, Saint Stephen’s College (Gold Coast)
Year 1 teacher | 20 years’ experience
I love teaching in the classroom and undertaking the HALT accreditation pathway allows me to stay doing what I love but to also work with others to refine our practice.
I believe, that while so many aspects of education have and will remain the same, education is in an exciting time of renewal. Understandings of cognitive science, a changing world and digitisation are allowing teachers to do what they do best: connect and teach.
This is where I want to be during this transition in education and I believe HALT certification is allowing me to do that. The process of certification has been a journey of reflection. It has been challenging and it has helped me to identify areas of refinement.
For example, Standard 2.4 in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers has prompted me to better promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through understanding and respect. With a background in environmental education, I am leading a project where the native plants in our College are being identified with QR codes that link to student-created webpages about the natural and social significance of each plant.
Identifying myself in the standards is highly rewarding, however, addressing the nuances of the standards can be confronting. It is in this zone of unease that I am growing as an educator.
Amanda Kuhnemann, John Paul College (Logan)
Secondary teacher (German, Spanish, Geography, History) | 30 years’ experience
Our students are always front and centre of all that we do. I saw the HALT certification process as an avenue to continue researching and investigating ways to be a positive and productive educator - always learning.
The certification process has highlighted for me, the powerful impact teachers have on young people every day. I love working with these amazing educators. I feel that it is important, therefore, to make sure that I constantly adapt and adjust my practices to consider the ever-changing world of education. Anything that I can do to improve students’ results and inspire their “need to know” is worthwhile.
Each new challenge, whether it be catering for student needs or refining my pedagogical approaches, motivates me to improve my practice to enhance student outcomes. HALT has highlighted the importance of the professional relationships with my colleagues, educational experts and practicum teachers. I am grateful for the specialised collaboration time with my colleagues. Their expertise sparked me to develop new approaches to teaching Modern Languages through Comprehensible Input as well as designing differentiated teaching and learning practices centred on brain-based research and High Impact Teaching Strategies.
After attending inspiring professional learning, I engaged in valuable professional conversations with our College Indigenous Liaison Officer to consider and create lessons on how Songlines are used as a memory code. My students have been using this strategy of memory enhancement, which uses visuals and places, to enhance the recall of their German vocabulary and grammar rules. I enjoyed working with my students on memory devices inspired by Indigenous Songlines, vital for passing on important knowledge, cultural values and wisdom with a community.
Lachlan Libke, The Rockhampton Grammar School
Year 3 teacher | 8 years’ experience
HALT certification has had a significant impact on my teaching. It has made me more aware of using student data to influence planning. The certification process encouraged me to innovate and as a result, I have created dedicated Excel spreadsheets that automate student data into single datasheets which I can easily share with students, parents and colleagues.
The process has also given me the confidence to ask students and parents for their feedback on units of work. Through this communication I have found my units evolving each year, making for more engaging student outcomes. I have also been able to connect more with my student and parent groups as I can better communicate how their child has progressed throughout the year.
Positively, I see the need for teachers being evaluators of impact as the basis for in-class differentiation. It also makes teachers focus on interpersonal relationships between teacher/student/parent. Being aware of changing student data, student/parent perceptions is important for a harmonious classroom; especially in a primary context where you work together for an entire year.
The reason I love teaching isn’t anything to do with literacy, numeracy, humanities, technology or science. It is teaching children. Teaching them to have resilience and confidence in themselves to produce their best work. Seeing them show determination to work at their best and have the motivation and self-desire to seek out new knowledge. Creating engaging opportunities to facilitate this is why I love education.