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  • Writer's picturemartinthomasemo

What enables teachers to learn?

Updated: Apr 23

In research I undertook in 2018 for my Masters in Education I found a number of factors when looking at teachers learning music technology within the New Zealand High School context. Below are three of them..


It’s obvious, but learning a new skill takes time. Musicians spend a large amount of time learning instruments. For some, a large part of that was done in childhood, and so they don’t accurately recall what that process was like. For example; how long it took to see noticeable improvements in their skills on our chosen instrument. Learning software is like learning an instrument, and requires regular ‘practice’. Research findings into the quantity of time required for effective teacher professional development shows that a single day has less impact than a series of events over a period of time. This is a challenge for school management and teachers to reflect on when planning how to spend professional development budgets.

New models of learning

As educators, we know that the nature of teaching and learning is change. This also includes how we learn new skills as teachers. 10 years ago, I don’t think I could have anticipated running a series of online tutorials via video with teachers from around New Zealand, without worrying about internet bandwidth or sound quality. It was recently mooted that more people learn an instrument via Youtube, which only began in 2005, than in person. Taking advantage of new and developing models such as Blended Learning and remote video conferences emerged from my research as key vehicles to upskill teachers.


The person designing and leading the professional learning development is also important. One study I looked at, showed that if the presenter was also a teacher, then the participant-teachers increased their perceived success of the training by 25%. That was regardless of how well the actual training went. What the study partially correlated this to was a strong relational trust that was formed between the presenter and teachers due to their common background and shared knowledge of their community.

What does this actually mean for you as a teacher reading this editorial at the start of 2019? It means you have to plan what you are going to learn this year, and how you are going to do it. When making that plan, ensure that you set aside regular time to work on your learning; consider new models of learning that you might not have used before; and choose wisely about who is facilitating it. I’ll be doing this as well, as I head onto PHD study.

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