Your Professional Learning Journey: A new year, new challenges and a new Academy 

10th March 2014

Have you developed your professional learning plan for 2014 yet?
With the introduction of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (AITSL, 2013), teachers and teacher librarians are now responsible for charting a course to meet their own professional learning goals. These standards provide you with a point of departure for reflecting on what you achieved in the past year, then identifying those areas you wish to develop further. The expectation is that professional learning is now a far more individualised and formalized pursuit as teachers identify, engage and document what they have learned against the standards.

Education systems, professional associations and professional learning providers are now faced with the challenge of providing teachers and teacher librarians with more personalised and customised offerings to assist them in meeting their own professional learning goals for the year. This is no mean feat, given the specific and diverse needs of tens of thousands of teachers in Australia!

Introducing the Syba Academy
In response to this challenge, the team at Syba decided to extend its Seminars Program to develop a suite of new professional learning programs across a wider range of formats for 2014 educators in Australian schools. A new division of Syba has been established to develop and manage these programs, and it has been branded Syba Academy, to better reflect the quality and diversity of our educational services. Figure 1 presents a screenshot of the Academy’s new website.

Figure 1: Syba Academy homepage

In 2013, the Academy gained NSWIT/AITSL endorsement as a provider of professional development. A complete list of our course offerings to date can be found at All of our 2014 seminars, workshops and courses are accredited to ensure participants receive endorsed credit for relevant professional learning hours, complete with a Syba Academy certificate of completion, and access to a digital badging facility for those who wish to record the progress of their professional learning journey on an e-portfolio, professional website, personal blog, or social network sites such as Google+ or LinkedIn.

Our challenge: Providing effective professional learning for schools 
Designing effective professional learning experiences for individual teachers, individual schools, regional teacher and TL networks, and school districts is our core business. We are also partnering with state associations, education systems and educational agencies to host co-sponsored events. The focus of our program is to provide customised learning experiences based on the specific needs of those individuals, groups or organisations we work with. In other words, personalisation and customisation are our key drivers in the provision of professional learning. That is our challenge. Our design of professional learning (PL) programs has been informed by the research literature, the pool of evaluation data from past Syba PL seminars and events, and the results of Syba’s 2013 professional learning survey. In particular, findings from Desimone’s (2011) analysis of the empirical research on characteristics of teacher professional development associated with changes in teacher knowledge and practice, and student achievement has informed our thinking. Desimone identified five core features of effective professional development: content focus, active learning, coherence, duration, and collective participation (p. 69). Additional elements identified in the Victorian Office of School Education’s Professional learning in effective schools (2005) blueprint, has also informed our approach to designing PL for schools, as presented in Figure 2 (below).

Figure 2: Principles of Highly Effective Professional Learning (Vic OSE, 2005, p. 18)

Aligning effective professional learning principles with course design
Based on the work by Desimones (2011) and the Victorian Office of School Education (2005), the Syba Academy has devised a set of seven principles to inform their design of effective professional learning programs. These are listed below, along with an overview of how our courses have been informed by these principles. This also gives the reader an idea of the range of formats on offer and professional learning needs being addressed to date.

Figure 3: Syba Academy’s Seven Principles of Effective Professional Learning

Content & student focused
Professional learning activities are focused on subject matter content and how students learn that content

Our Australian Curriculum (AC) series of seminars and workshops provide teachers and teacher librarians with instruction on how to develop units of work that integrate inquiry learning principles and digital tools across key learning areas of the AC, and how to design ebook and curation programs and services to effectively resource AC units.

Our Digital Citizenship online extension course (OEC) explores the design of interdisciplinary policies and programs to support students’ development of digital citizenship knowledge, skills and dispositions across the curriculum and across grade levels.

Research and evidence-based
Professional learning is informed by the best available research on effective learning and teaching. Evidence needs to be collected regularly at the student, teacher and school level to help focus teacher learning.

All of our seminars, workshops, OECs, and masterclasses are informed by research evidence. Presenters and facilitators draw upon their own evidence as well as that of others to provide a strong empirical foundation to the professional learning experience of participants.

Our Evidence-Based Practice series provides participants with EBP models, methods and strategies for gathering, analysing and reporting on school-generated data. We also encourage participants to compare their own evidence with other research literature and findings from the professional practice of others. Designing for evidence is central to our masterclass series.

Active learning 
Teachers have opportunities during professional learning activities to actively engage with new concepts, models, principles and strategies, and receive feedback.

Our seminar and workshop programs include individual and group-based learning tasks. For example, our Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) seminar series requires individuals to undertake the completion of an EBP planning template throughout the day to ensure all participants leave with an action plan for EBP in their school.

While two thirds of the program for our curation workshops involves individual hands-on activities to design, create and populate topic-based curation sites. Our Masterclass programs follow a similar format, with our workshops and masterclasses being capped at 30 participants to support more individualised instruction.

Embedded in practice
Professional learning should be built into the day-to-day work of teaching, where new learning is trialled and reflected upon as part of a teachers’ daily practice.

Our Digital Citizenship online extension course runs over a six week period where participants are required to plan, implement and evaluate digital citizenship policies, programs and initiatives within their school, and they receive formative feedback from the facilitator throughout the course.

Our Consolidating Learning in Practice (CLiP.) program was designed specifically with this principle in mind! CLiP provides participants with the opportunity to extend the professional learning they gain from attending a Syba Academy seminar, workshop or masterclass. involves applying one’s new learning in their school and documenting this within one month of attending the seminar, workshop or masterclass. This documentation is then submitted for assessment to receive endorsed credit for those professional learning hours completed.

What teachers learn in any professional development activity should be consistent with other professional development, with their knowledge and beliefs, and with school, district, and state reforms and policies.

Our Australian Curriculum series of seminars and workshops are specifically designed to help schools design and resource curriculum units that meet learning area content descriptors and skills, the general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities as articulated by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

We also offer customised in-school inservicing programs for individual schools drawing upon the expertise of our Academy speakers to meet the specific PL needs of a school community.

Collaborative participation and collective responsibility
Groups of teachers from the same grade, subject, or school should participate in professional development activities together to build an interactive learning community. By working in teams, teachers take collective responsibility for solving the complex problems of teaching and learning and improving student outcomes.

Our guided inquiry, and inquiry learning and Web 2.0 technologies seminars have been designed for school-based teams of teachers, teacher librarians, and learning area and/or e-learning coordinators to help build a school’s capacity in designing inquiry learning units that address Australian Curriculum outcomes.

Our curation workshops and use of the hashtag #sybacuration are designed to encourage collective participation in curating for the Australian Curriculum across the teacher librarianship profession (Hay, 2014).

Our customised in-school inservicing program for individual schools is also designed to address this principle.

Ongoing, long term and sustained
Professional learning is ongoing, long term and fully integrated into the culture and operations of a team, school or system. Professional development activities should be spread over 6 months and should include 20 hours or more of contact time.

Our range of seminars, workshops, online courses, masterclasses and in-school inservicing program provide individuals, groups, schools, education systems and professional associations with the opportunity to build their own professional learning program for 6 months or a year by enrolling in a selection of offerings. By taking the option for a minimum of two of our offerings, an individual teacher can easily gain more than 20 hours of endorsed professional learning credit within a 6 month period. The Syba Academy team are available to consult with individuals, teams, network groups, schools, systems and associations to develop a long term, sustained program to meet your professional learning needs.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (2013). Australian professional standards for teachers. Retrieved

Desimone, L.M. (2011). A primer on effective professional development. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(6), 68-71.

Hay, L. (2014). Digital curation: An essential skill for teacher librarians in 2014. Syba Academy News. Retrieved

Leadership and Teacher Development Branch, Office of School Education. (2005). Professional learning in effective schools: The seven principles of highly effective professional learning. East Melbourne, VIC: Department of Education & Training, State of Victoria. Retrieved

Keep up to date with eNews
News, Promotions and more