Sunday, 27 November 2016

Disneyland, Differentiation & Self-Determined Learning
Have you ever been to ‘The Most Magical Place on Earth’? I remember arriving at opening time and being one of the last to leave Mickey’s Magical Kingdom. I experienced a new level of excitement and enthusiasm for exploring. But I know what may be exciting and engaging for one, may not be felt by others.

So why am I remembering the excitement level of Disneyland? I have been fortunate to work with a teacher who candidly shares her level excitement about teaching regularly. She proudly says, "I just love my job!" It is not only her words that display her excitement but also her actions and reactions to her students and their learning. Her passion is evident. Hattie (2012) maintains that teachers’ beliefs and commitments are the greatest influence on student achievement over which we can have some control. According to Steele (2009), passion relates to the level of enthusiasm that the teacher shows, the extent of commitment to each student, to learning, and to teaching itself. When teachers talk about student learning, their passion is evident and as a coach, I'm fortunate to be privy to this passion. According to Hargreaves and Fullan, (2012) the level of enthusiasm and passion largely depends on the school community in which that teacher operates. Coaches dedicate themselves to the cascading effect of enhancing others, which results in the progression of student learning (Costa, Garmston, Hayes & Elison, 2016, p. 5).

It would be unrealistic to expect all students to be passionate and excited about everything they are learning, but the long-term goal is for them to be excited, engaged, and vocal about their learning. Simply put, we want them to love learning! Students are located at different points on the learning continuum regardless of the subject. So teachers differentiate accordingly. We all have our strengths and challenges and it’s important for us as educators to recognise and accommodate through differentiation. So how well do we differentiate teacher learning?
We know differentiation is essential in the classroom and it is also essential in the staffroom. Teachers' professional learning needs to be personalised and self-determined. Wiliam (2016, p. 3) states that the major contribution for improving teacher quality must come from improving the quality of teachers already working in our schools. We use the viewpoint that 'one size does not fit all' for our students and this is applicable to our teachers too. Substantial evidence indicates that the typical kinds of professional development being provided to teachers are known to be ineffective (Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, Richardson & Orphanos, 2009). Coaching values self-directed learning and what is vital in this professional learning approach is self-reflection and goal setting. We encourage students to hold ownership of their learning, by promoting metacognition (thinking about thinking), reflection and goal setting. These skills are also applicable to teachers.

To sustain their passion and excitement for learning and teaching, it is vital to respect teachers as professionals and provide ownership of their learning. According to Hattie (2012), school leaders and teachers need to create schools, staffrooms and classrooms environments where errors are welcomed as a learning opportunity. Additionally, teachers should feel safe to learn, re-learn and explore knowledge and understanding. As a coach, my goal is to sustain that passion for teaching, by supporting and promoting self-directed learners and leaders with the disposition for continuous, lifelong learning.


Costa, A., Garmston, R., Hayes, C., & Ellison, H. (2015). Cognitive coaching. Victoria: Hawker Brownlow

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad. National Staff Development Council. Retrieved from

Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. London: Routledge.

Steele, C. (2009). The inspired teacher. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiliam, D. (2016). Leadership [for] teacher learning. Victoria: Hawker Brownlow