Teach the Teacher:
in action

Read about and watch real life experiences of schools who have run the Teach the Teacher program.

Since the first pilot session in 2011, Teach the Teacher is now an integral part of the school’s yearly strategic planning process.

The first pilot was run in 2011. Since then, topics discussed have included:

  • students’ attention in class
  • teaching styles
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  • assignments and tests – having enough notice and differing formats
  • what an ‘ideal’ teacher would be like

“A key element of the Teach the Teacher program is that students involved get the chance to interact on an equal level to staff in regards to school matters, further promoting Student Leadership and Student Voice within a school. Students are able to impact directly on teaching and learning within schools from outside the established feedback models. This allows more opportunity for student opinions to be heard and considered, potentially leading to improvements in teaching and learning from both staff and students.

“As the teacher who supported the SRC to run Teach the Teacher at Melbourne Girls’ College, I received no ‘negative’ feedback as such, but some staff seemed concerned at exactly how a Year 7 student was able to teach them. I would say many staff saw Teach the Teacher as a fantastic opportunity for students to demonstrate leadership skills. There were some staff who contacted me after the first session to discuss how they were going to implement change within their teaching practice based on the sessions. I am also aware that the administration and leading teachers have taken on board some ideas in regards to implementing new strategies. Overall, Teach the Teacher was received as any PD offered to teachers is; the success of the PD was largely determined by the individual teacher’s attitudes and preconceptions and their willingness, or otherwise to embrace change.

“Students benefit from taking part in Teach the Teacher in a variety of ways. Many gain confidence to speak up more in a classroom and wider school setting, most discover a greater empathy towards teachers (having they themselves acting in that role during the sessions), and all have a heightened awareness of how they and their classmates are being taught.

“One of the strengths of the Teach the Teacher program is that students take the lead in developing their PD session and delivering it to teachers. This also ensures that the PD is tailored to the particular school’s issues and situation. Having an outside group come in would mean not having the same insight to what teaching and learning issues exist within the school.

Zack Pretlove
SRC Teacher Advisor / Head of Girls Leadership
Melbourne Girls’ College

What the students said…

The whole process was amazing. It was perfectly organised and on the actual day it ran without trouble and the teachers just talked and talked and talked. You couldn’t even traffic conduct them.
– Kiera Bulless, Year 7 and facilitator

What really surprised me was that, as a group, we found the solution to having too much homework was simply that, we – students and teachers – needed to open the lines of communication.
– Samantha Landby, Year 8 and facilitator

What the teachers said…

Often we need to be reminded as teachers that it’s not what we do but how we do it. It made our group just revisit what we were doing in class and remind ourselves of all the options out there that we can use to teach.
– Tonia Douglas-Scarfe, Teacher

What the principal said…

I was very pleased to support the idea to have the girls lead an activity that engaged them in discussion about classroom issues. It allowed us to hear their thoughts about their central relationship with staff and their learning environment.
There is no doubt that the sessions were of benefit to the students as they increased their confidence in managing sessions with adults, and gave them an indication that their voice is valued.
– Judith Crowe, (former) Principal

Narre Warren South P-12 College wanted to provide an opportunity for students to raise concerns with the teachers from a year level perspective. By running Teach the Teacher they provided a space where students and teachers could discuss resolutions and create positive outcomes.

“We have run Teach the Teacher for two years; with the year 8 & 9 students and their teachers the first year and with just the year 9 cohort and their teachers the second year.

Students brainstorm and prioritise the key issues in each of these year levels and select the 5 key areas of concern to discuss in their Teach the Teacher session. Based on these topics teachers have made 4 key changes:

Topic: Learning environments
Question: How can we (students and teachers) all work together to better improve the learning environment?
Outcome: Teachers allocating time at the end of each class to ensure each learning space is ready for the next class

Topic: Discipline
Question: Disciplinary action is threatened but it’s not always followed through. We would like to see consistency. Can we implement a 3 strike policy?
Outcome: New discipline policy introduced in 2015 – clearly outlining the 3 strike policy & consequences misbehaving.

Topic: Organisation
Question: Sometimes we have to wait a long time before classrooms are opened at the end of recess and lunch times, especially when we have electives. How we can all work together to improve organisation?
Outcome: Students are encouraged to go to the coordinators office when the music is playing to end recess, just before the bell to ensure doors are opened before the start of class.

Topic: Learning styles
Question: Every student has a different pace and way of learning. How often do we cater for these different learning styles?
Outcome: A commitment has been made by teachers to utilise different strategies and ensure a variety of these strategies are trialled in classrooms.

Through the Teach the Teacher program we have recognised the importance of listening to the students and their thoughts on how to continue to develop positive relationships within the school community. Students not only feel that their voices are being heard but that action is being taken.”

Dianne Parkinson
Student Voice Coordinator
Narre Warren South P12 College

What the students said…

It was great to see teachers as human beings!

I liked having a face-to-face discussion with teachers on an equal footing where we could hear different points of views from the teachers as well.

What the teachers said…

It’s a chance to listen to the students outside the ‘rush’ of a the classroom environment.

2015 saw Mount Waverley Secondary College involved in the Teach the Teacher program for the first time. Here they talk about their program from the very beginning.

What is Teach the Teacher for us?
Teach the Teacher is an initiative that gives us the opportunity to work with our teachers to improve the learning environment. It enables us to create positive change in the school community and allows us to strengthen student-teacher relationships through student-led conversation. This program is a school-based professional development program for teachers, run by students, which aims to clarify student voice to maximize teaching and learning, and enhance communication, trust and respect.

The Teach the Teacher Committee consists of nine Student Leaders: Year 12 Prefects: Netania Lim (Leader of TTT) and Rose Han, and Year 11 Student Leaders: Sanjna Chandra, Mihika De Bruyne, Tim Li Huang, Liz Chiem, Madu Balashanmugan, Shivani Thiyagarajah and Chester Ngan. We will also work closely with the Year 9, 10, 11 and 12 Student Leadership teams.

What is our goal?

Our goal as the Teach the Teacher Committee is to strengthen student-teacher relationships and also to maximise teaching and learning potential. We have surveyed our fellow students to get a general understanding of what can be improved. Through Teach the Teacher, we aim to create positive change based on the survey results.

Our First Training Day…

On the 2nd of June, we, the Teach the Teacher Committee, attended a training session held at the College. We were taught about the aim of Teach the Teacher, strategies that could be used in this program and what improvements this program could hopefully bring. We invited students from Scoresby Secondary College to our school, and worked with them to come up with different ideas on how we should approach the program.

There was also a role play session which showed us some possible obstacles we might face during the actual professional development session. This helped us to understand that it is not an easy task and gave us an idea as to what might happen. Besides discussions about the program, we got the chance to get to know the wonderful students and teachers from Scoresby Secondary College. We all introduced ourselves to everyone and exchanged ideas and opinions about many things. This Teach the Teacher training session was not only an informative meeting, but also an experience-sharing session that gave everyone a better understanding of each school.

What’s our next step?

Following our first training session, we are now in the process of planning the professional development session for our teachers. We also wish to survey more students, and also teachers, to assist with our planning. Moreover, we are discussing some strategies to help students and teachers understand each other better.

On behalf of the Teach the Teacher Committee, we would like to thank Emma Myers for conducting the training day as it has taught us a lot about the program and also developed our confidence in this program. We would also like to thank the students and teachers from Scoresby Secondary College who attended this training day as we had many great discussions on several topics.

By Rose Han (Year 12 Prefect) and Chester Ngan (Year 11 Student Leader), Teach the Teacher Committee

Read Mt Waverley’s full Teach the Teacher Report 2015.

Watch their Teach the Teacher PD session focusing on Growth Mindset and the importance of failing. 

Watch their Teach the Teacher PD session focusing on mental health awareness. 

Watch their Teach the Teacher PD session on effective student teacher communication. 

Watch their Teach the Teacher PD session on different learning styles. 

What’s involved in the Creating Conversations workshop…? Hao Phung from Delaney Campus tells us.

• Began with a small ice breaker game where students participated in rows of two. Each student facing opposite each other were then questioned by the mentor, in which they came up with responses. Everyone shared their responses and gave their reasons and found out many variations of answers. The answers were very entertaining thus making everyone more comfortable and confident to speak with each other.

• The mentor gave each student a survey about the Teach the Teacher program. This questionnaire consisted of questions about what we seek by taking this program and how we want to change our school. This program is made to help accomplish these problems and how to develop a student and teacher relationship.

• Students were then given a sheet of paper to brainstorm Student Voice and Student Representation. Many students spoke of Teachers and Students sharing their opinion and how they both need to adapt in order to create an efficient way of teaching and learning.

• The mentor handed out laminated cards with multiple topics. We were given the instructions to place each cards into three different groups. The three groups that indicate if our school does something really well, just alright, or needs work. Many of the topics that appeared in the ‘needs work’ group were: Technology, Parent & Community Engagement and School Structures.

• What is Teach the Teacher? Students were required to ask questions on things that they were not knowledgeable on and wanted to make sure was answered before the end of the day. Then the program was expressed as a way of working together with teachers and students to improve the learning environment and an opportunity to share ideas and strategies in how a students’ learn best. This allows students and teachers to give their thoughts and opinions in a more negotiable manner and reach a positive resolution.

• Students then began focusing on a topic that they believed to school needs to improve on. Students listed the pros and cons on a resolution, keeping in mind of teacher input. They then changed these points to develop questions that could be proposed to a teacher or authoritative member of school, without being confrontational.

• After developing the questions eight students were chosen to role play. They each had to bring up the topics and give a brief summary on it. Thus, the other members attempted to get involved and ask questions. This was a great negotiation with a lot of different perspectives on the topic. Afterwards, the role played meeting was reflected upon. The mentors outlined the problems that occurred during the meeting, then suggested some options that can be implemented. Things such as each person at the meeting, having a role to play; the preparation and strategic aspects that need to be planned in order to run an effective meeting; things that can help improve the result of having a meeting between students and teachers.

• After the lunch break, students were given an Action Planner sheet as a way to jot down future actions and setting a certain time limit to complete the following task. This helped set goals and improved decision making among the many students.

Everyone managed to learn something from Teach the Teacher workshop and walked away more knowledgeable about planning and having key ideas to work towards. The program was a great learning experience to create a pathway that’ll bridge the gap between students and teachers.

As a school representative council (SRC) we were lucky enough as a school to take part in a Teach the Teacher program with Lorne Aireys Inlet P-12, Apollo Bay P-12 and Lavers Hill P-12, forming the Otway Cluster of schools. We had a day taking part in the program which enabled us to think about issues of importance within our school. We learnt how we could raise this with staff in a safe and comfortable way.

The idea is to improve the school from our perspective, by working with Apollo Bay P-12, Lorne P-12 and Lavers Hill P-12 we were able to identify and understand the common themes facing students in our region.

We have identified a few issues that we would like to address with the staff. We have sent the information out to teachers before the meeting so they could consider it before the agenda items are raised tonight;

Bullying

  • Why does it continue to be an issue?
  • How do we need to address this as a school?

Student engagement in classes

  • Why are students not engaged in classes?
  • How can we address this as a school community?

Creating viable parent and community links

  • If we were to look at parent and community links as a significant area in need of improvement, how can we address this?
  • Why are these links important?

With a purpose to support and encourage young adult learners to achieve their maximum potential, Point Cook Senior Secondary has used the Teach the Teacher program to engage and support students and to foster continuous growth for all.

Back in September 15 students from Point Cook SRC attended the Teach the Teacher Creative Conversations workshop run by VicSRC with 12 students from Suzanne Cory High School.
Students worked together to identify the best aspects of each of their schools, and what areas they would like to see enhanced.

4 goals were identified:

  • to improve student-teacher relationships and build a better foundation for open communication and feedback
  • achieve the objective of student leadership meetings and coming to a positive conclusion
  • to get the external locks of the toilet doors open, so students don’t need to ask for teachers’ permission
  • reduce the prices of the school canteen

With these goals in mind students planned a professional learning session for their teachers, with the help of Student Engagement Coordinator, Laura Newman. New to this role, Laura has identified the need for strong student voice in a structure appropriate to a senior school, that assists student transitions into the school from schools in the area and abroad and fosters students having more responsibilities,

“I wanted to get our students involved in Teach the Teacher as it was a leadership program that allowed students the space to develop ideas and projects that were specific to their situation and needs. It fitted a senior school environment” – Laura said.

Students invited leading teachers to the PD, and introduced the topics, however students noted the session started off as a quietly and awkwardly. To break the ice and to encourage more teachers to talk, one student quickly wrote and performed a rap on what student voice means to them. And the conversations begun!

By creating an opportunity for open dialogue, students were able to discuss the topics and teachers were able to respond and identify why some things were the way they were.
Students learned:

  • that teachers aren’t responsible for everything that happens at school, for example the canteen operates as a separate business
  • that teachers are regularly having meetings to discuss the different ways they teach
  • that there are leading teacher who are responsible for teaching and learning at the school, who regularly updates teachers on professional learning opportunities
  • the reason the toilet doors were locked in the first place, which was due to excess littering

The program allows students to sit down with their teachers to have a conversation and give and receive feedback, a process that hadn’t previously been done before.

Students at Point Cook Senior Secondary College are happy to report the following outcomes from their PD:

  • all external toilet doors have been unlocked, which will significantly reduce interruption to the staff room
  • more appreciation of the roles of the teacher and their continued learning and development for the benefit of students
  • recognition and understanding of school governance and the way the school operates;
  • that teachers aren’t responsible for making all the decisions
  • the perspective, from students and teachers, on what makes a teacher more approachable

and reflected,

“We reduced the social distance between us and the Assistant Principal and a leading teacher”
“Us, as students, were able to communicate and voice our opinions”
“It’s a constructive and judge free environment”.

Students have scheduled a second PD session with teachers in a student leadership role, who want to become more involved and will continue to run the program next year.

“The students are proud to be involved in giving feedback to teachers – and even though they get a lot of in house monitoring and leadership training, there is a different impact from having outside facilitators come in as well” – Laura Newman.

As published in Connect issue 214