Teachers are learners at heart

Issue: Volume 93, Number 7

Posted: 5 May 2014
Reference #: 1H9ctU

With the help of a study award, sabbatical, or study support grant, as a teacher or principal, you can expand your career and enrich your practice through further learning.

Teachers hold the key to students’ learning. A study award, sabbatical, or study support grant can help you towards qualifications or professional learning that will make you a more effective classroom practitioner, and of course that can lead to greater fulfilment in your career.

Further study can allow teachers and principals to develop a deeper understanding of their role, bestow the tools and skills needed to move into school management, or give the opportunity to learn about developing trends in teaching.

Applications for the 2015 Study Awards, Sabbaticals, and Study Support Grants are open now.

Two case studies show how being the recipient of a study award, sabbatical, or study support grant can enhance an educator’s professional ability.

Case studies

Darren Weber, St. Thomas of Canterbury College

Darren is a head of department. He received a Secondary Teachers’ Study Award last year.

Darren became aware of the study awards through word of mouth at school. He had studied previously with one of his colleagues, and their endorsement of the awards programme was good enough for him to pursue a study award of his own.

Darren used the Secondary Teachers’ Study Award to pursue a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching, with an endorsement in e-learning. Understanding the online environment and how it relates to education forms the bulk of the knowledge he’s since acquired, along with strategies in developing online teaching and learning, using both ‘all online’ and blended approaches.

When asked how his learning experience has helped his practice, and therefore his learners, Darren says that it was all about putting theory into practice.

“I think one part is that I am able to walk the talk. I am a teacher, but I am also modelling lifelong learning, which allows me to share my experiences with students. I also have a working knowledge of the online learning world and can share the knowledge and pitfalls that I faced in my learning. Directly, I am much more confident in helping students undertaking research standards in my subject, sharing and guiding them with current and solid knowledge.”

On a more personal level, Darren says that further learning has inspired new confidence in his professional ability, which has sparked a desire to learn more and share this with others. He says it’s also a pleasure and a privilege being able to help colleagues in their own practice.

“It was a stressful year in some respects, and while I had recently studied, I did feel overwhelmed by the online aspect at times and stressed by the amount of assignments and constant forum talk.

“Having said that, I also feel a great sense of achievement having completed the year very well (with Distinction) and getting grades that I did not think I could achieve. I now have a solid and working knowledge of online pedagogy. Any knowledge I have gained or am gaining, as I continue my passion for learning, I am sharing with my colleagues.”

When asked if he would recommend a return to academia to others in the profession, Darren isn’t hesitant.

“I have found the [advantages to a] study award to be two-fold. It was refreshing getting out of the classroom and igniting my desire to learn.

“I have also developed as a learner, and I enjoy being able to teach from and share my experience. It was a year of immersion in learning. As teachers, we tend to focus on teaching and sometimes forget that learning is a lifelong pursuit, which needs to be practised. I believe it is essential for teachers to keep developing professionally, then the study gives you knowledge to share and collaborate with colleagues.”

Adele Anderson, Kerikeri High School

Adele was last year pursuing a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Management, which she’s managed to finish with the help of a 32-week study award. She has now completed a research paper, and has also had the time and space away from school to complete a thesis on “relationship strategies that enhance the achievement of schoolwide goals”.

The main learning component of the research paper that Adele completed was an investigation into practice that leaders employ when trying to achieve the twin goals of building trust among the learning community, and pushing toward schoolwide goals. Her findings identified organisational and interpersonal practices, as well as personal qualities that help gain consensus and commitment from staff towards school goals. Her learning has informed an immediate change for the better in her practice.

“I am focusing on taking the strategies my thesis identified and using them with students, as many are applicable in a teacher/student relationship as well as a leader/teacher relationship. My research highlighted that building trusting relationships and addressing issues must go hand in hand – so my focus is on building trusting and supportive relationships with students while at the same time addressing behavioural issues so optimum learning can take place.”

As with many others who’ve received study awards, Adele says that, aside from the improvement in practice that her learning imparted, the personal growth she came away with made the whole experience more satisfying.

“I think having time to reflect on practice and having the opportunity to complete qualitative case study research with multiple perspectives has helped me develop in ways I was unaware of until I returned to the classroom. It has revitalised my passion for education and improving student outcomes after 18 consecutive years of teaching.”

Adele also particularly appreciated the focus that she was able to give to her studies, thanks to her study award.

“Having studied for two years to complete my Diploma of Educational Leadership and Management while teaching full time, it was great to be able to focus fully on my studies rather than having to spread my energy out. The study leave gave me time to delve down into my research and do it to the best of my ability. I achieved First Class Honours which I know would have been impossible under normal circumstances.”

Application dates differ between each award, so visit TeachNZ(external link) to find out more about how to apply, criteria, and timeframes.

  • Secondary and Area Study Awards and Sabbaticals – Applications close Monday 9 June 2014
  • Primary Study Awards and Sabbaticals – Applications close Monday 7 July 2014
  • Secondary and Area Teacher Study Support Grants – Applications close Monday 22 September 2014

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:50 AM, 5 May 2014

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