AERO is working to inform design and delivery of professional learning programs.

About this project

Research has identified many of the building blocks that make professional learning effective, but there are gaps on how to make these work in practice in a way that is affordable and accessible for schools and early childhood services. AERO is working to fill these gaps to help inform design and delivery of professional learning programs.

Professional learning is an important pathway to improving use of evidence-based practices in schools and early childhood services and enhancing learning outcomes for children and young people. But there are gaps in our knowledge about how to deliver effective and accessible professional learning to support increased use of evidence-based practices within an Australian education context.

AERO’s professional learning research began with these pressing questions:

  • How can professional learning best support teachers and educators to implement what they have learned in a practical and sustainable way?
  • How can effective professional learning be delivered so that greater numbers of teachers and educators across more educational settings can be offered opportunities to improve their practice?

AERO is partnering with education systems and sectors, as well as professional learning providers, to develop and deliver studies that will help answer these questions.

Professional learning collaborations

Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia (AISWA)

This research collaboration focuses on how teachers can implement and maintain practice changes following professional learning. Research suggests that professional learning is more successful when it is sustained in duration. Additional sessions support teachers to deepen their learning and navigate the implementation of new practices. Access to practical social support is also important, as this can help teachers to refine and embed new techniques.

AERO is collaborating with the Association of Independent Schools Western Australia (AISWA) to investigate the effect of a specific addition to their existing High Impact Practices (HIPs) program. HIPs is an evidence-informed program focusing on instructional strategies that have been shown to enhance teaching practices and student outcomes.

Findings will inform guidance on how to sustain increased use of evidence-based practices following professional learning. This could be used by schools, systems and sectors to incorporate research insights into practice and support more effective planning and delivery of professional learning. Our research will test whether adding a 'booster' to professional learning programs supports teachers to adopt and sustain evidence-based practices. The booster will include webinars and peer support activities to facilitate continued use of the high-impact instructional practices.

All participating teachers will complete AISWA’s High Impact Practices (HIPs) program. After completing the HIPs program, some teachers will be randomly allocated to receive a professional learning booster.

AERO will examine the impact of the booster by comparing outcomes for the group that received the booster with the group that did not. Specifically, we will compare and track teachers’ knowledge, confidence and use of evidence-based practices over time. We will also monitor teachers’ perceptions of student outcomes, such as engagement and academic performance.

At the end of the study, the professional learning booster will be offered to teachers who did not receive it as part of the study.

AERO and AISWA are conducting this study with AISWA member schools from 2023 to 2024. For further information, please contact [email protected].

Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF)

Our research with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) commenced in February 2023. ALNF’s professional learning includes the evidence-based Early Language and Literacy (EL&L) program as well as training and guidance in using the Early Language and Literacy Development Index (ELLDI) formative assessment tool. Participating teachers and educators learn about evidence-based early language and literacy practices and receive support to implement their new skills and knowledge into practice.

We are examining a new, more accessible, delivery approach where ALNF provides their professional learning to a portion of early childhood teachers and educators within a service, instead of most staff. Two groups are being compared:

  • The educational leader and one other teacher/educator with a service
  • The educational leader and three other teachers/educators within a service

These participants are then guided to share their newly acquired knowledge and skills with their colleagues through peer mentoring and collaboration.

AERO is exploring how varying the number of teachers/educators enrolled in ALNF’s professional learning affects other teachers’ and educators’ knowledge and use of evidence-based practices. We are also investigating how these variables in turn impact learning outcomes for children. In addition, AERO is examining the role of the educational leader and how they can lead collaboration and sharing of knowledge and skills within a service.

This study will contribute to professional learning research by allowing us to evaluate whether the trialled delivery approach is an effective way to upskill teachers and educators in early childhood services. Findings will inform practical guidance on the design and delivery of professional learning programs so that professional learning can be delivered in way that enables more early childhood educators and teachers to participate and develop their evidence-based practices.

AERO and ALNF are conducting this study at early childhood services in Western Sydney during 2023 and will report on findings in 2024. If you would like information about this research, please contact [email protected].

Department of Education Western Australia

Our research with the Department of Education Western Australia investigates how best to implement professional learning programs. This research looks at the Centre for Excellence in the Explicit Teaching of Literacy’s professional learning program (CFE program). The CFE program is an evidence-based professional learning initiative to strengthen explicit teaching of literacy in primary schools. 

Guidance based on our findings will support school, system and sector leaders across Australia to plan and design professional learning that translates to practice change. Findings will also help refine future delivery of the CFE program to benefit schools, teachers and students across Western Australia. 

Our research examines how the CFE program is delivered and implemented in practice. In the program, schools with demonstrated excellence in using evidence-based literacy teaching practices partner with other schools to directly support their professional learning. We will examine how teachers and leaders can collaborate effectively to share their knowledge within and between schools. 

To help understand whether the CFE program is achieving its objectives, AERO will explore the program’s impact on teachers’ knowledge and use of explicit literacy instruction, as well as on student progress in literacy. AERO will compare these outcomes for schools currently participating in the CFE program with those of similar schools not participating in the program. 

AERO and the Department of Education Western Australia are conducting this study from 2023. For further information, please contact [email protected].

Science of Language and Reading (SOLAR) Lab

Our collaboration with the Science of Language and Reading (SOLAR) Lab in the School of Education at La Trobe University examines the impact of providing school-based coaching alongside online professional learning courses on teaching practice and student outcomes. The study will focus on examining the overall effectiveness of coaching, as well as identifying which aspects of coaching are most effective. The evidence-informed coaching and online professional learning are targeted at Foundation to Year 2 teachers, education support staff and educational leaders and focus on supporting the implementation of structured and explicit early reading instruction.

The study findings will inform the delivery of resource-intensive professional learning (specifically coaching) at scale. These findings could be used by teachers and leaders, professional learning providers and policymakers to make informed decisions about participating in, organising and funding professional learning for sustained practice change.

Foundation to Year 2 teachers, support staff and educational leaders across all participating schools will receive online professional learning (SOLAR Lab online short courses in structured early reading instruction) and structured literacy resources, in addition to participating in an online workshop demonstrating effective use of these resources. Teachers at about half of the participating schools will also engage in regular coaching through the SOLAR Lab coaching program. We will measure teachers’ knowledge, confidence and evidence-based practice regarding structured literacy, as well as literacy outcomes for their students over the course of the study. 

To examine the impact of coaching, we will compare outcomes for participants in coaching schools with those of participants in schools where coaching was not provided. We will also explore participants’ experiences of the professional learning and coaching, with a focus on identifying enablers and barriers to successfully implementing evidence-based practices for structured and explicit early reading instruction. 

AERO and the SOLAR Lab are conducting this study with schools in Victoria from 2023. Twenty-two schools have been recruited for the study – this sample is representative of the government, Catholic and independent sectors in Victoria. For further information, please contact [email protected].

Training 24/7  

Our research with Training 24/7 investigates whether adding demonstration lessons to an online professional learning program improves the way reading is taught. In this study, Training 24/7 will deliver professional learning to Foundation to Year 2 teachers on teaching synthetic phonics. The professional learning provided is high-quality, evidence-informed, and practical for the classroom. It is aligned with the Australian Curriculum and tailored to the needs of primary school teachers.  

All teachers participating in the research will complete Training 24/7’s online professional learning course on synthetic phonics instruction. Teachers will also receive a range of resources to support their teaching, including additional training modules to help them revise key areas and Q&A sessions with Training 24/7's expert teachers. 

Teachers at half of the schools will also be provided with access to recorded demonstration lessons that show effective phonics instruction in practice. These lessons are recorded in various classrooms, with different teachers and contexts, but follow a consistent research-informed approach to teaching.  

AERO will examine the impact of these online demonstration lessons by comparing outcomes for the group of teachers receiving demonstration lessons (in addition to the synthetic phonics training) with the group supplied with training and resources alone. These outcomes will include changes in teachers’ knowledge, confidence and use of effective phonics instruction practices over time. AERO will also examine student progress throughout the study, to investigate whether the online demonstration lessons affect students’ literacy learning. 

Guidance based on our findings will support school, system and sector leaders across Australia to plan and design professional learning that can effectively translate into practice change. Findings will also help refine the future delivery of online professional learning that could benefit schools, teachers and students across Australia. 

For further information, please contact [email protected]

Collaborating with us

AERO is working to establish research collaborations with other education systems and sectors as well as professional learning providers. We will announce these on this page as they are finalised.

If you would like to contact us about a potential research collaboration please email [email protected].

Keywords: professional development, teacher development, evidence-based education, evidence-based teaching