Our Mission

Providing effective professional learning for schools

Designing and delivering 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 mission. 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 below.

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.

1/ 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.

2/ 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.

3/ 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.

4/ 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. CLiP.it 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.

5/ Coherence

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 in-servicing programs for individual schools drawing upon the expertise of our Academy speakers to meet the specific PL needs of a school community.

6/ 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 in-servicing program for individual schools is also designed to address this principle.

7/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 in-servicing 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 CLiP.it 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.

Follow us and keep us informed of your needs

The Syba Professional Learning Survey is still open, so please complete this survey to help us further develop the Syba Academy’s program for 2014-2015. Simply go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RSX6B2J.

For some free professional reading, visit http://www.sybaacademy.com.au/learning/news. A new article is posted each fortnight for educators.

To keep up-to-date on what’s happening at the Syba Academy and receive recommendations for free resources and websites, simply Like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sybasigns and follow us on Twitter @SybaSigns.

All the best with charting your professional learning journey for 2014.


Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (2013). Australian professional standards for teachers. Retrieved http://www.teacherstandards.aitsl.edu.au/

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 http://www.sybaacademy.com.au/announcements/digital-curation-an-essential-skill-for-teacher-librarians-in-2014

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 https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/teachlearn/teacher/ProfLearningInEffectiveSchools.pdf

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