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State Conference: Leading for Progress

This year’s program featured keynote speakers and a series of workshops addressing three interrelated themes: leading self, leading others and leading learning. Edtalks will once again showcase the work of teachers who are leading learning in their schools.

Have you ever heard the term ‘conference envy’? Well that is what I’m hearing as I attend Regional Group meetings this term, as those who attended the VASSP Conference use words like “best ever” and “I’m still working through all I got out of it” and those who weren’t able to attend are feeling like they missed out. Like choosing the wrong thing in a restaurant and then looking enviously at everyone else’s food!

I think all who were at the Conference at the Pullman Hotel felt the event added to their professional understanding of how to make progress happen in their schools, and that it was invaluable to quarantine that time for their own thinking. It is a big judgement call to take two days away from the busy decision making and meetings that happen on a daily basis. You have to think that it will be more than just worth it, that it will actually nourish your professional soul and reenergise you to keep going with the improvement work. The feedback attendees gave is it did that in bucket loads.

The Executive Officer’s Report below has more detail from each speaker. There were some clear lines of interest to follow up, which VASSP will do next year through professional learning activities.

I would like to offer sincere thanks to the ED Talks presenters. It is remarkable, and nerve wracking, for Leading Teachers and Assistant Principals to present in front of such an esteemed group! However, everyone in the audience found ideas and practices that were relevant to their school. To listen to how people had taken data, developed a program and put it into action was inspiring. Thank you to the presenters from Rubicon Outdoor Centre, Noble Park Secondary College, Maryborough Education Centre, Kurnai College and Doveton College. Thanks also to their Principals for providing leadership that responds so deliberately to the learning needs of their students and creates opportunities for all students to flourish.

Thank you also to the students and staff who provided our two musical interludes. The Choir from Wantirna College and the Jazz Ensemble from Belmont High School delivered highly professional performances that were greatly appreciated.

Sue Bell

Conference Report


It is important that the professional development designed by VASSP meets your learning needs as well as building the collective efficacy of our profession. As educators we understand the continuum of learning in our classrooms and we know that the zone of proximal development will vary from student to student. It is hoped that the majority of this year’s conference was in your zone!


VASSP President Sue Bell opens the conference.

Following is a snapshot of the key takeaways from each presenter along with a link to further reading.

dot Professor Pasi Sahlberg: Leading with Small Data for Big Change

  • Small data is defined as the tiny clues found in schools that uncover important information about the relationship between teaching and learning.
  • Small data is processed by humans, informed by collective wisdom, reveals causations and understands the present.
  • Can big data make education smarter?
  • If you don’t lead with small data, you will be led by someone else with big data.

Further information is available here.

dot Dr Simon Breakspear: Agile Leadership - Leading for Progress

  • In leading for progress it is important to decide what matters; meaningful progress must be about teaching and learning, culture and relationships.
  • If this is the solution, what is the problem we are trying to solve?
  • Beware the delusion of progress!
  • Educational leaders face increasing levels of pressure, volume, complexity and ambiguity.
  • Adopt an agile approach through iterative cycles of learning: clarify, incubate and amplify.
  • Motivation is not a prerequisite for getting started; motivation is a by-product of making progress!

Further information is available here.

dot Tracey Ezard: Creating Collaborative Cultures for Progress

  • Collaboration is learning out loud, together!
  • Barriers to authentic collaboration are fear and time.
  • If we do not have trust in our leadership team – everyone will notice!
  • Leaders who model vulnerability create psychological safety for everyone else.
  • Collaboration and trust creates the momentum to deal with the tricky stuff.

Further information is available here.


dot Laureate Professor Jenny Gore: Leading Powerful Professional Development

  • The Quality Teaching model of pedagogy is not just about teaching practices, it is about the practice of teaching; it has been developed from a rigorous research base and is applicable across all year levels and subjects areas.
  • The Quality Teaching model of pedagogy encompasses three dimensions: intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance.
  • Quality Teaching Rounds is an approach to improving the practice of teaching that involves teachers working in a small, highly focused and critically supportive ‘professional learning community’, each teaching a lesson observed by the other members of the learning community, using the Quality Teaching model and materials to guide their observations, coding, feedback, discussion and planning for improvement. The emphasis is on the conversations teachers have about teaching and learning and what it means to teach well not just for the lesson observed, but for how that lesson characterises the way they teach.
  • Quality Teaching Rounds – why the approach works:
    • a mechanism for structuring the knowledge base for teaching
    • a mechanism for collaboration by flattening power hierarchies
    • a mechanism for enhancing professional relationships to build a culture of learning among teachers.

Further information is available here.


dot Rachel Robertson: Expedition Leader, Davis Station, Australian Antarctic Division

  • Respect trumps harmony – every time!
  • The Bacon War – take care of the little things
  • Antarctic winter – all workplaces have an Antarctic winter; how do we inspire and celebrate when it’s winter?
  • No Triangles – build a culture of respect and integrity

Further information is available here.

dot Dr Andrew Fuller: Neurodevelopmental Differentiation - Optimising brain systems to maximise learning

  • Teachers as neuro-architects - education is about the development of individual minds; effective teachers help each of their students’ minds achieve their potential.
  • Neurodevelopmental differentiation (NDD) involves parents and teachers helping students to increase the effectiveness of each of their brain system areas and finding ways to have students succeed by compensating for areas that are taking longer to develop.
  • The main brain systems include:
    • Concentration and Memory
    • Language and Words
    • Numbers
    • Spatial Reasoning
    • Perceptual/Motor Co-ordination
    • Thinking and Logic
    • Planning and Sequencing
    • People Skills.

Further information is available here.

dot Sophie Murphy: Leadership Talk - The power of language to drive a culture of success

  • The language of leadership is about how we communicate and how we build a shared understanding.
  • The ‘7 Cs of Communication’ is a checklist developed by Cutlip and Center in 1952 and published in their book, Effective Public Relations.
  • According to an updated checklist of the 7 Cs, communication needs to be: clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete and courteous.

Further information about the 7 Cs is available here.

dot Dr Pete Stebbins: High Performance Teaching Teams - 10 Insights for School Leaders

The 10 insights for school leaders:

  1. They link vision with action.
  2. They collaborate to drive organisational improvement.
  3. They monitor key lead indicators.
  4. They have team specific data walls.
  5. They use effective meeting protocols.
  6. They leverage diversity.
  7. They build a culture of feedback.
  8. They engage in regular team building and check-ins.
  9. They share work/life goals.
  10. They prioritise their wellbeing.

Further information is available here.

Conference Dinner: Professional Learning Awards

The recipients of the professional learning awards, sponsored by BankFirst, were announced at the conference dinner. Each award recipient receives a scholarship, valued at $5,000, to undertake a professional learning project. Damien Toussaint, Assistant Principal at Matthew Flinders Girls’ Secondary College, won the Professional Learning Award for members. Lisa McKiernan, Head of Middle School at Mount Waverley Secondary College, was the inaugural recipient of the Marion Heale Aspiring Leader Award. This award is named in honour of Marion Heale who was Executive Officer with VASSP from 2006 to 2016 and prior to that the Principal of Frankston High School. The award acknowledges Marion’s 10 years of service to VASSP and recognises her many years of commitment to mentoring and supporting aspiring leaders.

In a lovely instance of serendipity, the Principal of Mount Waverley Secondary College, Karen Wade, was mentored and supported by Marion over many years. Both awards were presented by Bernie Lloyd, Chair of the Bank First Board and Life Member of VASSP. The award recipient professional learning projects are described as follows.

dot VASSP Professional Learning Award – Damien Toussaint

Damien’s professional learning project will support the development of expertise in relation to classroom observations. Damien’s project will focus on developing practices and processes that will enable teachers to engage students as active lesson observers. Damien intends to undertake research that will build on Dylan William’s work on formative assessment and the notion of ‘making the teacher’s hearing better and making the students’ voices louder’.

Bernie & Damien

Bernie Lloyd & Damien Toussaint

dot Marion Heale Aspiring Leader Award – Lisa McKiernan

Lisa plans to undertake research that will support her leadership of the Mentoring@Mount project. The aim of this project is to improve student wellbeing in Years 10-12 by establishing formal support networks at Year 10. It is anticipated that by working closely with the Year 10 students in the development of this project a supportive network including students, teachers, parents and community organisations will be well established prior to students entering VCE. Student voice and agency will be the driving force behind the development of the Mentoring@Mount program.


Lisa McKiernan, Marion Heale & Bernie Lloyd

Vicki Forbes
Executive Officer