Primary Connections interim research report No. 8: January 2007 professional learning facilitators’ workshop.
Australian Academy of Science
Place of Publication
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Education
The workshop attracted a most appropriate sample of participants from all jurisdictions, sectors and geographic locations and were highly experienced and well qualified except for science discipline studies. The independent school sector was under-represented in the sample with only five per cent of participants. This appears to be a reflection of this sector’s approach to providing professional learning by school rather than as a system. Most participants had a primary teaching background. There was a high proportion of professional learning facilitators (PLFs) drawn from central and district offices and a much lower proportion of PLFs drawn from primary schools than in the 2006 cohort. Non-school based PLFs are likely to have greater capacity to deliver workshops to schools than those restricted by daily teaching commitments. The 2007 cohort of PLFs was confident about their own science teacher, however, not quite as confident as the 2006 cohort. A greater proportion of 2007 PLFs had experience of primary science and literacy facilitation, and had delivered more days of professional learning, than the 2006 cohort of PLFs. The participants’ beliefs about the purpose of primary science teaching, the characteristics of effective science teaching and beliefs about effective teacher professional learning were consistent with the research literature (e.g. Goodrum, Hackling & Rennie, 2001; Senate Inquiry, 1998) and with the focus of the Primary Connections project. The participants’ personal goals for attending the workshop were consistent with the aims of the workshop. The main factors likely to influence uptake of Primary Connections identified by the 2007 PLFs were similar to those identified by the 2006 cohort (priority given to science within jurisdictions, resourcing, support provided by administrators and time), however, the influence of other curriculum issues and agendas was also identified as a key factor. Time available in busy workloads for preparing and delivering workshops, resources and support of line managers were the key factors identified by PLFs that are likely to limit their effectiveness. There is therefore a need for continued advocacy to make science a high priority within jurisdictions, districts and schools to ensure good support from line managers who ultimately determine access to resources and time. The January workshop increased the confidence and self-efficacy of participants for facilitation. At the end of the workshop only nine per cent had low or modest self-efficacy. Very strong gains were made in confidence with facilitating Primary Connections workshops. Gains were larger than for the 2006 cohort and the mean confidence scores were also higher after the 2007 workshop than after the 2006 workshop. The workshop was evaluated very positively by the PLFs and more positively than the 2006 cohort evaluated the success of the January 2006 workshop. No less than 77% rated achievement of the workshop aims in the two highest categories of a five-point scale, and 88% indicated they were very well or well prepared for their facilitation role. The professional learning resources were also rated very positively and feedback suggests no obvious areas in need of improvement. After the PLFs have had experience with working with the resources it is likely that they will be in a better position to provide informed views on how to improve them. Given the quality of the workshop and resources, and the richness of the professional learning that occurred for the PLFs, it is likely that the PLFs will be effective as facilitators. Given that a large proportion of the 2007 cohort are based in central or district offices they will have more flexibility in their work commitments than teachers and a greater capacity to work within schools as facilitators. They will also have the advantages of position and communications networks to gain access to school principals and advocate for the program. Follow-up workshops will provide an opportunity to gather further data to determine the extent to which they are successful as facilitators, and a focus group would be a valuable approach to gathering data about improvements that could be made to the resources once they have experience of using them. Further consideration needs to be given to supporting the uptake of Primary Connections in the independent schools sector.