How can high performing teachers become even better and drive school improvement? How can teachers use evidence to improve their practice? And what is the most effective form of professional learning for teachers? Our recent series of evaluations of Teacher Professional Leave for the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development shed substantial light on these questions. Teacher Professional Leave (now replaced with Teacher Led Research) provided up to 40 days of time release for teacher-led inquiry into improving their practice. The initiative allowed for such a diverse set of teacher research projects that our evaluation had to effectively respond to this complexity. Our most recent report for 2013 found that:
- TPL remained a strongly transformative experience for many teachers and their students’ learning
- The structure of time release for teacher-led inquiry aligns with the practices of global high-performing education systems
- Short-term outcomes for students were generally stronger when the inquiry directly involved and affected classroom practice
- There was an ideal balance between having time to reflect, and having time to implement changes
- More use of evidence in inquiries meant more evidence-based changes to teacher practice
- Successful teacher-led inquiries required in-depth support from the school and access to expertise.