A recent study showed that teachers overall find working collaboratively with other teachers to be the most relevant means of engaging in professional development (PD). However, another study showed that casual teachers rely on methods outside of the school as the most common way to initiate their PD. Compare this to permanent (and temporary full-time) teachers, who tend to initiate PD through formal school-based activities.
PD is vital for casual teachers. And it is imperative that they have every opportunity to seek out, engage in, and gain quality, affordable professional development.
Launched in mid-2018, OpenLearning offers a new possibility for all teachers to access quality and affordable PD independent of the employment type or school system that the teacher is working within.
Teach.com.au is an online, affordable, subscription-based PD resource, with courses designed by teachers, for teachers. It’s also a growing community of peers, where teachers can connect, collaborate and learn from each other. All of the courses are mapped to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and NESA-certified for those teachers who are based in New South Wales.
Whether your focus is on improving student participation and learning, using evidence-based teaching and learning strategies, or building teaching methods on sound pedagogy, Teach.com.au addresses the challenges faced by casual teachers today.
Casual teachers face some unique challenges. And some of these can create strong barriers to accessing quality professional development - whether that is because casual teachers are literally not able to access PD, or in some way they are disincentivised to initiate it.
Casual teachers - like all teachers - have strong commitments to their work schedule. Casual and part-time teachers also tend to have more scheduled responsibilities outside of their work, when compared to full time teachers.
Not surprisingly, casual teachers cite responsibilities inside and outside of work as being major barriers to gaining professional development. When work and other commitments are locked in and scheduled, any PD that conflicts with this unfortunately takes second place.
The expenses involved in PD are cited, by teachers across the board, as a major reason they are not able to access it (next only to conflicts with work schedules) . This is a particular concern for casual teachers who, by the nature of their employment status, tend to have less job security and more uncertainty in personal finances.
As discussed above, casual teachers tend to go outside their school or organisation of primary employment in order to access PD. This is a particular issue, since the lack of availability or accessibility of PD is also cited as a major barrier. Lacking the support of more formal school-based avenues, casual teachers have more difficulty than most in getting quality PD. More generally, casual teachers may also find they have little to no support system, and no consistent network of colleagues and peers to engage with on their teaching journey.
Some recent studies have pointed the way to what teachers are generally looking for in PD. What will make it work for them? What will mean it is an avenue worth seeking out? What will help it overcome some of the challenges discussed above?
Teachers find PD most relevant when it involves working collaboratively with colleagues. This is not surprising, for several reasons.
Teachers know what other teachers go through. They are intimately familiar with what goes on - the good and bad - inside the classroom and in the role as a whole. They know the challenges, and can provide help, support and advice like no one else can.
More generally, everyone can potentially learn better and deeper, through collaboration. In fact, this is a core component of the OpenLearning/Teach.com.au pedagogical philosophy.
Furthermore, the sheer act of collaboration provides the potential for a network of like-minded colleagues and peers, particularly for casual teachers. This connection can open the door to further opportunities, or it can simply mean some much-needed support.
The ability to direct the learning yourself is a highly sought after quality in professional development. This is particularly true for casual teachers, who rate the relevance of self-directed learning higher than any other category of teacher. Again, this is not surprising.
Casual teachers - perhaps more than most - have schedules inside and outside of work that can be an extreme challenge. Asking anyone in this situation to commit to be in a particular place at a particular time can simply mean asking for the impossible.
Technology has opened the door to the possibility of the learner (in this case, the teacher) having much more control over how, where and when they learn. This is an opportunity that many casual teachers would like to be able to rely on today.
As mentioned above, the cost of entry is one of the biggest inhibitors to engaging in PD. All teachers, particularly casual teachers, are looking for an affordable way to maintain their skills and industry currency.
PD that is charged by course and/or by CPD-hour can be a financial wall that is impossible to overcome.
When asked for the most important features of professional development in online learning environments, teachers rate the top three as:
The ability to connect with a community of peers, to pace and control your own learning and development, and for that development to be affordable, are all important. But underpinning all of these, the professional development is not going to be worth it if it isn’t content that you can use in practice, based on rigorous research, and presented to you in a way that is going to help you learn and apply it.
Teach.com.au is an online community of teachers, committed to professional development. What does it offer the casual teacher?
Teach.com.au is a subscription service. For $29 per month, or $190 per year, a teacher gets complete, uncapped access to all Teach.com.au PD courses. They don’t need to pay per course - the teacher can complete as many courses as they like once they’ve subscribed.
This mode of access to professional development is designed, in part, to alleviate some of the financial stresses involved in a teacher’s effort to stay skilled and current. Not only is Teach.com.au one of the most affordable avenues to quality PD in Australia - it also provides a predictable cost to the casual teacher, designed to help them factor this into their finances.
As an online subscription resource, Teach.com.au offers courses that are available 24/7/365. The courses have no start or end date. Teachers simply join a course when it is most appropriate for them and their PD journey. They also complete each course at their own pace, when and wherever it is most convenient for them. All courses can be accessed on all standard laptop, tablet and phone devices.
With Teach.com.au, teachers can commit to professional development on their own terms, and around their own schedules. Casual teachers typically have complex schedules, inside and outside of school. Teach.com.au is designed to make it easier for casual teachers to access quality PD with these busy schedules in mind.
They also don’t need to worry about the time, or money, involved in the travelling/logistics necessary in scheduled face-to-face PD.
All Teach.com.au courses are designed and developed with community interactivity in mind. When a teacher subscribes to Teach.com.au, they don’t just get access to course content - they join a community of peers that are on the same journey.
This is in line with OpenLearning’s philosophy and pedagogy of social constructivist learning. All Teach.com.au courses are driven by collaborative activities, designed to enable learners to build their own learning and understanding, while sharing existing knowledge and expertise with each other. Teachers know the challenges and triumphs that other teachers face in the classroom. The social learning within Teach.com.au means that teachers can discuss, explore and unpack what’s in each course, and guide each other on how to transfer it to the classroom.
The community-based learning approach of Teach.com.au also has the benefit to teachers - particularly casual teachers - that it is a perfect avenue to connect with and expand their network of colleagues.
It’s not just in the learning community within Teach.com.au that teachers will find other teachers. It’s also in the design and facilitation of each course. That’s because all Teach.com.au courses are designed by teachers, for teachers.
Teach.com.au content and activities are evidence-based, with all courses based on the most current research and pedagogical strategies.
Casual teachers can engage in professional development with the assurance that the content, and the entire learning experience, is designed and guided by experts that know their world, and based on a solid foundation.
Teach.com.au has a range of courses on subjects like:
Subjects are organised by standards, and the casual teacher has the ability to curate the PD that’s best for them and their needs.
Every Teach.com.au course is mapped to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, and recognised by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) towards maintaining Proficient Teacher Accreditation.
This was always an important foundation for Teach.com.au - to enable teachers to not only further develop their skills and stay current, but also to maintain their necessary accreditation.
In meeting NESA requirements, Teach.com.au courses are always designed to be valuable learning experiences, based in quality content. Here are just some of the testimonials Teach.com.au has received from past and existing learners:
“I’ll take away many simple strategies that I can implement immediately into the classroom.”
“Often [in other courses] the implementation of new ideas is so cumbersome that you end up not doing it. I think the ideas in this course can be implemented easily and effectively.”
“I have been teaching for some time but I have learned a lot today. I intend to implement as much as I can from this point.”
Here is a list of existing courses included within the Teach.com.au subscription:
Clear Expectations, Better Behaviour - 3 hours
Empower students to own and manage their behaviour through clear and consistent expectation setting.
Archimedes & The Law of the Lever - 6 hours
Go beyond the curriculum by exploring the classical lever, its modern applications and activities for enriching your students’ understanding.
Empowering Digital Citizens - 2 hours
Empowering Digital Citizens 2 hours Equip students with the skills they need to be thoughtful and impactful members and creators of online communities.
Supporting Student Participation - 4.5 hours
Develop strategies to empower students to participate authentically and consistently in your classroom.
Technology for Learning, Not for Technology’s Sake - 4 hours
Develop technology implementation for your students’ learning, not because your school bought devices.
Primes, Modular Arithmetic and RSA Encryption - 6 hours
Explore how number theory makes it possible to send information safely and securely on the internet.
Curves from Apollonius to Bezier - 6 hours
Curves from Apollonius to Bezier 6 hours Discover the curve in all its historical glory, observe how modern designers use its principles to inform computer computer graphics, and inspire students to think more deeply about everyday items.
Building Students’ Self-Management Skills - 2 hours
Help students control impulses, set goals, and get organised so they can be strong self-motivators.
Growing Students’ Growth Mindsets - 2 hours
Help your students leverage the research on growth mindset and grow their intelligence.
Building Students’ Responsible Decision-Making Skills - 2 hours
Empower your students to make ethical, and constructive choices that are in service of themselves and the wellbeing of others.
Population Growth and the Logistic Curve - 6 hours
What is the future prospect for the world’s population? Explore compound interest, Euler's number, and basic notions from calculus to explore this question and inspire your students to do the same.
Routines for Learning - 6 hours
Consistently implement routines that are efficient and productive so more time is spent on learning.