Lirata research confirms TFA teachers contribute to school-level improvements

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023
Lirata research - Southern River College

Student engagement and wellbeing, pedagogy and school culture are among the areas where Teach For Australia’s passionate Associates and Alumni are contributing to school-level improvements, according to a new research project.

Commissioned by Teach For Australia, the research was undertaken independently by Lirata, a not-for-profit social justice consultancy that seeks to help organisations with charitable or social purposes achieve positive social impact.

The genesis of the project was back in 2019, when Teach for Australia set out to learn more about how partner schools are achieving their improvement aspirations, and the role that the school’s partnership with TFA played.

Lirata was engaged and four schools recruited as case study sites, representing a diversity of characteristics, including state, location, size, student diversity and types of impacts anecdotally reported to TFA. Full case studies were completed for schools in Western Australia and Northern Territory, however Covid restricted research activity in Victorian schools from 2020-2022. Instead, Lirata’s project incorporated insights from early interviews and data collection shared by the two Victorian schools.

Lirata’s research team investigate three key questions:

  1. What school-level improvements or achievements have schools experienced since partnering with TFA?
  2. How have TFA Associates and/or Alumni contributed to these improvements or achievements?
  3. How could TFA improve its support to schools and communities facing educational disadvantage?

Case study schools

Southern River College, WA Horsham College, VIC
  • Perth metro government school (Yrs 7-12)
  • TFA partner from 2015
  • 919 students
  • 32 Associate placements to 2021
  • Outer regional government school (Yrs 7-12)
  • TFA partner from 2015
  • 1000 students
  • 40 Associate placements to 2021
St Joseph’s Catholic College, NT Mill Park Secondary College, VIC
  • Remote non-government school (Yrs 7-12)
  • TFA partner from 2016
  • 244 students
  • 4 Associate placements to 2021
  • Melbourne metro government school (Yrs 7-12)
  • TFA partner from 2010
  • 1307 students
  • 52 Associate placements to 2021

“We saw a need for an independent research project that could help us assess and better understand our impact at a school level, while also pointing to ways we might boost support of teachers, schools and communities where education disadvantage persists,” Teach For Australia CEO Melodie Potts Rosevear said.

“Among the key findings, the research identified that TFA’s Associates and Alumni make considerable contributions to school level improvements, including improvements in pedagogy, student pathways and retention, students outcomes, student engagement and wellbeing, community engagement and school culture and professionalism.

“It also found TFA teachers positively contribute to a culture of improvement, but also have greater impact when it is in place. This reinforces TFA’s belief that while our people and programs can make impactful contributions, the benefits amplify when effort is collective and coordinated with other measures that similarly seek to support students, teachers and school leadership capabilities.

“However during 2020 and 2021 – like everything in school systems across Australia – our project was disrupted by COVID. Lirata, TFA’s own Measurement, Evaluation and Research staff and our four partner schools all showed great patience and tenacity, and together we accepted the necessity to divert from original plans.

“We’re delighted to now be able to share Lirata’s Summary Report along with two extended case studies completed on Southern River College in Western Australia and St Joseph’s Catholic College in Northern Territory.”

Summary Report extract

The research shows that TFA Associates and Alumni are passionate, energetic, enthusiastic, caring and committed people who bring contemporary teaching and learning practice knowledge and strong subject and industry knowledge and experience to bear on their emerging and consolidating skills as teachers. This places them well to be change agents.

Many staff commented on the flow-on effect of their energy and enthusiasm, as well as their commitment to learn, change and improve. The schools spoken to as part of this research provided clear evidence that TFA had contributed to important positive changes for students, staff and the broader school community. – p12

Teach For Australia will use Lirata’s research to guide internal continuous improvement, complementing other internal and external Measurement and Evaluation activity that is part of day-to-day delivery of TFA’s programs.

“The recommendations have highlighted the importance of TFA working closely with our partner schools, to create the conditions for Associates to develop as early career teachers. We know during COVID that many schools have had staffing challenges, including allocating time for experienced mentors to support all graduate or early career teachers. This is one example of an active challenge we are working with our partner schools on, including in our NSW pilot,” Ms Potts Rosevear said.

“Maintaining and boosting the high-quality elements of our Leadership Development Program as we scale, such as our Associate mentoring support, is vital. We are truly grateful for the willingness expressed by our partner schools that they are keen to continue helping us strengthen our program offerings.

“While this is the first time we have commissioned such work, it won’t be the last. Tackling educational inequity requires collective effort and Teach For Australia recognises that assessment, evaluation and continual improvement are critical to supporting the work we do, in service of students.

“On Teach For Australia’s behalf, I offer our sincere thanks to each of the partner schools and principals involved – Southern River College, St Joseph’s Catholic College, Mill Park Secondary College and Horsham College, and recognise the efforts of Lirata’s research team in completing this important work for us.”

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