Professional learning: leading culture

This excellent and engaging seven-page resource is part of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s Essential guide to professional learning series. It is useful as a discussion document for leadership teams who are inquiring into the structures and approaches they have for teacher professional learning and development (PLD).

It opens with a quotation from a paper by Auckland University’s Professor Helen Timperley: When there is a learning-oriented culture with effective conditions, support and structures to enable adult professional learning, teachers and school leaders can learn and thrive together. The leadership activity found to have the greatest influence on student outcomes is leaders’ promotion of and participation in teachers’ professional learning and development. 

The guide encourages school leaders to consider their roles as professionals leading culture and change. It links closely to New Zealand work about the critical role of leadership in supporting adult and professional learning (for example Kiwi Leadership for Principals, Leading from the Middle, and Timperley's research on professional learning that makes a difference for students).

The resource examines a range of priorities for leading a professional learning culture in a school.

Each school must have:

  • a holistic learning culture
  • continuous learning
  • consideration of teachers and how they prefer to learn
  • how teachers as adults learn.

There are examples of effective strategies, features of effective professional learning, and an example in action of what leadership of a professional learning culture looks like.

The resource reminds us that changing the practice of teachers is all about improving outcomes for students. It also reminds us that supporting teachers’ opportunities for reflection on what they are doing is important, which means the involvement of teachers in planning and implementing changes.

There is a useful reference section as well which includes well known writers and researchers in school change.

Reflective questions

  • How do you and your leadership team support and encourage the learning of others around you?
  • How can you use the Adults learn best… (p.3) diagram in planning approaches to PLD?
  • What are the different circumstances of your students, their ways of living that you and your teachers need to take account of in planning teacher learning that will advantage student learning outcomes?
  • How do you develop and maintain an effective culture of continuous learning and collective responsibility for change among your teachers?
  • It is not straightforward for you and the leadership team to bring about changes the improve teaching and learning, so how do you achieve a balance in your school between established ways of doing things and innovation?


The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Leading Culture. A resource prepared by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

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