Partners in Learning Schools Program 2011 Report


“Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid.

Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew.”


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Abstract & Summary

The Microsoft Partners in Learning schools program brings 20 of Australia’s best government K-12 institutions together into a virtual and real-time innovation hub with opportunities for sharing best practice and formal professional learning. The program, in its current format, has been in place since 2010 – and has been working in collaboration with the Australian public sector state and territory government jurisdictions since its inception.

Participating schools and colleges are selected because they are already showing leadership in the application of learning technologies and are undergoing whole school change and reform.

The goal of the program is to take these school leadership teams and work with them over the year to build their capacity as educational leaders.

In 2011, the Microsoft Partners in Learning schools program encouraged 20 leadership teams to engage in deep discussions around the creative integration of technology into the learning space, in order to personalise and contemporise pedagogy for an evolving educational and social milieu.

It also challenged them to address change management; that is, facilitating the move to productive and effective teaching through the artful application of ICT tools and resources. This meant the outcome of each school’s work was twofold: It aimed both to strengthen the quality of learning for students and strengthen the teaching efficacy of the educators who deliver it.

The participants were then asked to document and demonstrate the efficacy of their pioneering work and that of their staff. They were asked to verify better ways of teaching and, in doing so, deliver more successful, more engaging learning.

Malcolm Gladwell (2000) calls that new orthodoxy ‘the tipping point’, and those who have not adopted or embraced the new way of living or working become identified as laggards, resisters or not in keeping with contemporary standards. For the majority of practitioners, the new behaviour, idea, product or process has ‘stuck’.

In this case, Microsoft invited teams of influential leaders who could encourage that tipping point. They were people who could have maximum impact over the whole school community; people who understood the systems, the culture and the people that formed the school. These leaders were the key to leading a school over the edge of the known and traditional craft of teaching, into a new world supported by deepened understanding of learning, assessment, cognition and technology.


How the Partners in Learning schools program worked

The 2011 Microsoft Partners in Learning schools program had a number of elements. The core program was delivered over three two-day workshops in Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Sydney respectively. The theme of the 2011 workshops was student engagement and self-direction. The teams looked at ways to help students exercise their voices, discover personal entry points into learning, co-construct learning pathways, and use technology to present and showcase that learning in new ways.

Participants were encouraged to network formally and informally in and between the sessions. Guest presenters from previous programs, international speakers, Microsoft staff and other presenters all worked together to help them become inspirational leaders driving 21st century reform and innovation.

There were also opportunities to visit schools that had undertaken significant work on pedagogy and integrating technology into their teaching and assessment processes.

Most importantly, the program gave the school leadership teams some focus. With quality time to think about their work, the teams could take in the wider educational context and start to see what was important and what was possible in 21st century pedagogy.


Drivers towards radical reform

The following drivers are the elements of a multi-level push that will assist in achieving a school-wide pedagogical approach that enables each student to work at their personal best with a range of new resources that facilitate richer access to learning, as well as a more creative execution of that learning.

These drivers are as follows:

  • Students and teachers will be inspired by best practice experiences. They need to see and experience best practice in high-quality, personalised learning in an atmosphere of challenge, trust, mutual obligation and responsibility for learning design and activities. Students and teachers see examples of high-quality learning programs that draw on a range of new technology resources that assist students to undertake their learning and assessment in rich and challenging ways.


  • Standards and processes encourage educators to be their best. There is strong, explicit and shared leadership around contemporary learning. This is based on research and inquiry, with high expectations for meeting contemporary standards of teaching performance, guided by strong processes for monitoring and improving teaching.


  • A whole school strategy fosters a culture of best practice. The strategic planning work of the school or college drives learning improvement, curriculum development and fosters a culture of skilled teaching – based on agreements about best pedagogy for the learning context and the needs of students. It embeds these agreements into the culture of the school, as well as its standard operating procedures for all staff.


  • There is skilled dialogue to achieve a school-wide, shared understanding of what constitutes quality pedagogy for the 21st century student and
    high expectations for achieving widespread teacher buy-in for more productive pedagogy across the school against a set of indicators of quality teaching.


  • Curriculum guidelines, unit plans and program guides all focus teachers and students to work within an ordered and scaffolded learning program with appropriate explicit teaching sessions, guided projects and personalised assessment.


  • Authentic assessment is an integral part of the planning and negotiation for learning as well as of learning, and is a process that is continually moderated in staff teams for consistency and efficacy using state-of-the-art technology applications for the capture and analysis of student learning progress.


  • Teachers work together to co-construct a new vision of what constitutes the real and virtual learning spaces, putting the protocols and arrangements in place to enable students to access the 21st century classroom safely and successfully. Risk management and social responsibility in relation to learning in the networked world are part of the explicit curriculum and behaviour codes of schools and colleges.


  • Parents are educated and engaged in the reform work of the school, with information, programs and communication systems deepening their engagement with the school and giving them a much more intimate understanding of their own children’s learning, capacity and progress.


  • Staff engage in skilled and rigorous research methods that produce compelling evidence that the new pedagogy is effective, engaging and gets better results for all students. Colleges and schools abandon the habit of ‘jumping on bandwagons’ and embrace a more peer-moderated approach to instructional effectiveness.


  • Democratic and empowering relationships are developed between teacher and child based on personalisation and mutual negotiation, while remaining characteristic of the culture of the school or college.


  • Students are able to engage with community organisations, other people and resources outside the school as members of the global community, forming the characteristics and capabilities of responsible, culturally aware and open-minded citizenship.


  • Technology and other learning resources are readily available and accessible to students as they negotiate their programs, equipment is in good order, and is maintained and stored in ways that allow easy access, just-in-time training for use, security of use and fitness for purpose.


  • The administration, communications systems and professional learning programs of the sites demonstrate the leading edge of information and communication technologies and are used to demonstrate applications and resources in creative ways.


  • There is a breakthrough in understanding that technology in teaching is not about every student having a computer; rather, that technology permeates every aspect of school and classroom life and is to be exploited creatively.


  • Curriculum is defined in both content and process terms, with the development of a set of explicit learning capabilities as an integral part of the core that allows students to develop and demonstrate capabilities for learning as they form themselves as highly skilled learners.


  • High expectations of teachers are actively called for and supervision and support are in place to ensure that every teacher is able to demonstrate that their pedagogy is state-of-the-art, effective and engaging for students.


Reform does not mean a simple rearrangement of timetables, a redesigning of the types of learning activities undertaken or a more liberal approach to the way students are able to present their work for assessment. It is a deep shift in school culture, relationships and power, applied with new awareness about authentic learning, cognition and the assessment of that learning in ways that allow students to work towards their own personal achievements and demonstrate their capabilities.

Genuine reform demands intensive specialist knowledge and rigorous professional learning, not only about programs, tools, resources and equipment, but also about the process of teaching in a vastly more sophisticated learning environment with students who are much more skilled and able to use the resources around them than we as educators ever anticipated.

Equally, reform requires a new level of personal and professional understanding on the part of the teacher, the student and the parents. It demands a new level of professionalism in the relationships between those partners in learning. It calls for a new level of sophistication in the way teachers work with each student in order to tailor their learning to maximum potential. All of these things involve intelligence, rigorous routines, discipline and finely nuanced explicit teaching on the part of the teacher at a level that has never been demanded before.

Once the tipping point is reached, teaching and teachers move into a high-performance zone that students will expect and demand from all teachers thereafter. There is no retreat from the new learning frontiers required in the technological age.


Reform is not a choice.


To read the full report please go to the Partners in Learning Network resource here . Projects submitted at the end of the program will be uploaded shortly so join the network to explore these resources and experiences.


Microsoft Partners in Learning 2011 schools

Australian Capital Territory

Erindale College

New South Wales

Albury Public School

Campbelltown Performing Arts High School

Sydney Distance Education High School

Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College (Tumbi Umbi Campus)

Northern Territory

Rosebery Middle School


Coomera Springs State School

Kirwan State High School

Stanthorpe State School

South Australia

Charles Campbell Secondary School

Lockleys North Primary School


Campbell Street Primary School

Princes Street Primary School


Belmont High School

Buckley Park College

Mooroolbark College

Somerville Secondary College

Western Australia

Esperance Primary School

Hamilton Senior High School

Tom Price Primary School


PiL Schools Program Report 2011.pdf