New learning: Tools and approaches

Ideas you can choose from and adapt for your situation.

General suggestions

  • Design and set up systems and processes that will support teachers to collaborate to explore why a new strategy might work, try it out, review it with others, and modify it to try again.
  • Ensure learning remains connected to the purpose at all times and is not just about strategies.
  • Acknowledge the need for time. Research indicates one year is a minimum; two years is better; three years of intensive, engaged effort moves towards transformed learning environments.

Effective professional learning environments

Developing high quality learning environments for adults, including teachers and leaders, is just as important as developing high quality learning environments for young people.

The chart suggested for scanning can help. Ask teachers to identify the extent to which the OECD's 7 principles of learning are present in their learning environments.

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Collaborative analysis of student work

There are many possible ways to promote professional learning in teams. One is collaborative analysis of student work. Each teacher brings some student work that presents a puzzle of practice to the group.

Here is one way to organise this activity to promote professional learning.

PLC protocols (Word 2007 29 kB)

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Professional conversations

One of the most important attributes of effective learning environments is professional conversations.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) recently commissioned a review of professional conversations.  

The review identified the following key attributes of effective professional conversations.

Key attributes


Resources, in the form of tools and expertise, to help identify effective practice and relevant evidence. 

Tools and expertise provide high quality information about the content and support people to engage in challenging conversations.


Relationships of trust, challenge and mutual respect to develop agency for improving outcomes. 

Relationships are developed throughout the conversation and do not need to exist prior to it.


A clear purpose and structured processes that engage and test different ideas about possible causes and the way forward. 

Processes resolve the dichotomy of ‘asking questions’ versus ‘telling’ through treating all views as hypotheses, testing their validity through deep inquiry and developing integrative solutions.


Develop and use refined, revised or new actionable knowledge for practice. 

Knowledge must be directly applicable to the participants’ contexts.


A culture focused on inquiry and problem-solving, with collective responsibility for solving problems and making a difference. 

A culture focused on improving outcomes provides purpose. Attributions shift from a focus on others to a focus on own interactions with others.

Effective professional conversations – Helen Timperley

For more information visit the AITSL website:

Professional conversations

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