Our Teacher Academy - advancing the model for 21C PD

AUGUST 15, 2017 / Articles

21st Century teacher professional development at One School has a focus on building collective teacher efficacy as we strive to reinvent the way we teach. The goal is to build self-direction, independence, and self-responsibility in the learner.

The Teacher Academy serves this reinvention and applies a sophisticated approach that integrates international best practice, neuroscience, and visible thinking strategies.

In 2017, our Professional Development programme was successfully launched through the Leading Remarkable Learning conference. Our teachers participated in customised workshops with the conference presenters, which also included One School colleagues from around the world.

The next step has been a series of three-day masterclasses for smaller groups of around 20, led by Teacher Academy Director Karen Boyes. The venue is Massey University in Palmerston North, and the facilities have worked well, Karen says. (In the future, workshops will be held in a new, purpose-designed centre at our National Office.)


What happens in the masterclass

On the first day, the foundations are laid. A symbolic gesture is to place a chair at the front, where traditionally we might have looked for the teacher, and imagine a student sitting there. This is a technique advanced by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, whose latest research is a source of insights for the masterclass.

A key introductory message by Karen stresses the importance of getting comfortable with failure. For further reference, we can check out the work of Art Costa and Judy Willis. She explains: “We have a generation now that is used to believing that life is easy. We need to help them to understand that it’s the struggle that makes them stronger … that it’s OK to make mistakes when learning and the only failure is not to participate.”

Next we brainstorm and evolve consensus on the 21st Century skills that we are helping our students to develop. We’ve set the scene for this with a reminder of key influences like:

  • Ubiquitous education that happens 24/7.
  • A future where two billion current jobs will be gone, many of our students will be self-employed and most will be working in jobs that haven’t yet been invented.
  • A fusion future, bringing together techniques and ideas from different sectors.

At the end of first day, Karen asks us to identify the teaching strategies she’s used. Multiple responses come rapidly:


“Peer sharing”


“Ideas expression”

“Multiple intelligences – writing, moving, music”

“Variety of presentation styles – verbal and visual”

“Making mistakes”

“Questioning - What makes you say that? Give me more …”



“Wait time”



“Back to back”

“Individual conferencing”


“Active listening”

Karen’s aim is to be a role model for effective teaching strategies in a modern learning environment. She’s satisfied that the feedback demonstrates understanding.

“There’s a neuroscientific reason for everything I do when I’m training.” This includes regular breaks to stretch and breathe deeply, which gets oxygen flowing and stimulates our brain activity.

Over the next two days there are more collaborative activities to provide variety. But it is also a time for focused work as we develop individual Inquiries to address a challenge of our current practice. Karen consistently reminds us that the student should be at the heart of our Inquiry focus. The key parameter is to understand what makes a difference to their learning.

We’ll continue to work on our Inquiries in the weeks after the masterclass. The output will be a videoed TED-style presentation, which can be shared with colleagues across New Zealand and the world.

“It’s exciting to contemplate the outputs of at least 100 different Inquiries,” Karen says. “They will provide multiple ways for our teachers to adapt their practices and continue to grow our students as self-directed learners.”

The added value of the process is in building collective teacher efficacy. We’ll let Prof John Hattie have the final word: “When teachers share a belief that they can make a difference over and above the impact of home and communities, it outranks every other factor in regard to student achievement. So fostering it should be at the forefront of strategic effort.”