Horsham's professional learning network

Melissa Twaddell

Leading Teacher, Horsham College

Working in partnership with Bastow, Melissa Twaddell led the establishment of a professional learning network in the Wimmera region.

​​​​​​​​​​As a leading teacher in a regional school, Melissa Twaddell is keenly aware of the difficulties that schools outside Melbourne face in accessing quality professional development, especially to support new teachers to meet the challenges of their role and to grow into successful leaders.

“It was clear to me that we had a lot of talented new teachers, in our school and across the region, too often taking on leadership roles without having the support to develop their capabilities,” Melissa says.

In 2013 Melissa participated in the Leading and Sustaining Change in Your School course. Over five months, she learnt the valuable skills needed to motivate and enable her school community to commit to sustained, long term change to improve teacher practice and student outcomes.

Melissa’s experience at the course also inspired her to explore ways that relevant professional learning could be made more accessible for teachers across her region.

Her opportunity to make a positive change came when Melissa worked closely with Lisa Black (Manager, Regional Partnerships) and other Bastow staff to assess the learning development needs of teachers in her region and design the inaugural course.

“Regional partnerships mean that school leaders across rural and regional Victoria now have the opportunity to participate in high quality, contextualised leadership development delivered in situ,” says Lisa. “Working with motivated leaders like Melissa means that Bastow can help support learning networks to connect to expert facilitators and collaborate on common local issues that affect their schools.”

“The Developing Self and Others course appealed to me as it was for emerging leaders and staff new to leadership responsibilities,” says Melissa of choosing a course for her region. “It allows leaders to reflect on their professional self and its impact on others to build their capacity as a leader.”

As a result of this collaborative effort the customised two-day Developing Self and Others course became the first Bastow course to be delivered at the Wimmera learning network, launching Horsham College as a regional professional development hub.

“The course was intense, with a strong focus on looking at what drives your colleagues, what their strengths and weaknesses are and how those strengths can be utilised. These factors combined are what made the course so effective,” says Melissa.

Course evaluation data and feedback shows that participants feel more empowered as leaders and are more reflective of their practice and the way they communicate as a result of attending the program. Melissa has also noticed this impact at her own school.

“Horsham College has noticeably improved communication, higher levels of awareness of the impact of our leadership approach on others, and an increasingly collaborative culture overall,” Melissa says.

Her part in establishing and leading a professional learning community has also enabled Melissa to take the next step in her career and, importantly, put her leadership capability into practice. At the beginning of 2015 Melissa started as Assistant Principal, Building Teacher Capacity at Horsham College, and is excited about the future.

“Educators across the region can’t wait to do the next course because they can see the value of learning how to lead as a community of practice. They can see the impact leadership development can have on individual and collective practice.”

Based on the success of the Developing Self and Others course, Bastow Changemakers is also being delivered at the college in 2015 to 40 participants. This course provides support, strategies, tools and techniques to empower emerging leaders to make effective and positive change in their schools.

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