Vanessa – Leading teaching and learning

classroom Vanessa
“The Principal Standard motivates me to develop as a leader.”

Vanessa is an Assistant Principal at Eastern Fleurieu School, a short distance from Adelaide in South Australia. Her key responsibilities include literacy, professional learning, Faculty Leader of English, Languages and Performing Arts, and Year 10 Leader. She also teaches senior English.

Vanessa predominantly works at the 7-12 campus, however, through her role as Head of Literacy she works in collaboration with the R-6 literacy leader to support the literacy development of teachers and students across all year levels.


On a typical day, Vanessa demonstrates all five Professional Practices from the Australian Professional Standard for Principals (Principal Standard). She uses the Principal Standard to reflect on her practice and develop her leadership skills.

As Head of Literacy, Vanessa starts today by reviewing the school’s literacy data in preparation for a senior leadership meeting. She has also been collecting teacher perceptions of their efficacy around the teaching of literacy, which will inform the professional learning requirements.

To build English teachers’ content knowledge, Vanessa is leading them through a reflective process to review curriculum statements and assessment tasks and how they align with the Australian Curriculum. Vanessa guides moderation processes to ensure teachers make consistent judgments.

Vanessa also builds collective responsibility for student achievement by providing teachers with data specific to the students they teach. They then analyse the data together, identifying student learning needs to inform planning. This has been a very empowering process for staff.


Vanessa is the line manager for several teachers and plays a key role in leading the development of them and others within the school. Today Vanessa meets with Shayne for his mid-cycle performance and development conversation.

“I work with individual teachers to align their annual goals with the Teacher Standards and the school’s strategic plan. In performance and development planning meetings, we identify their priorities and the strategies that will be used to achieve them and set realistic and measurable goals. Mid-cycle reviews and end-of-cycle review meetings are used to monitor progress and help teachers to refine practice. Written feedback is provided at the end of each cycle.”

Outside of the formal performance and development cycle, Vanessa provides support to Shayne and other teachers through observing lessons and providing feedback, as well as by modelling practice on specific areas, such as behaviour management, explicit teaching, lesson structure or vocabulary.

Hear Vanessa talk about the performance and development process


Next, Vanessa meets with a group of Year 10 students, who are involved in the Beacon Project. This program provides student leaders with the chance to engage with local businesses. Through this initiative, Vanessa leads engagement with the community.

The Beacon Project student participants run and organise activities for their peers to connect them with local businesses, such as arranging breakfasts and workplace visits.This offers them and their peers opportunities to learn about the different professions and career options.

Having been involved with this program for a number of years, Vanessa has enhanced it by introducing student ambassadors to offer guidance, mentoring and skill building to new entrants. She also recently incorporated a process whereby the students undertake a mock job application process and businesses then nominate which one of them would have been the successful candidate.

Engaging with the community through this program has allowed Vanessa to make connections between local employers and vocational courses within the school.

Hear Vanessa talk about benefits for the students.


Today Vanessa is teaching a senior English class. She is modelling the explicit teaching of vocabulary for one of her colleagues who has asked for support in this area.

Using a model detailed by an expert in explicit teaching, Vanessa and the principal have identified different strategies that will be implemented across the school. She is experimenting with strategies and sharing her experiences with colleagues through the professional learning that she provides within the school.

Vanessa starts today’s lesson by detailing the learning intention and the success criteria, which ensures students understand the learning expectations for the lesson.


Next Vanessa meets with Narelle, the numeracy coordinator. As leaders within the school, they work jointly to implement the school’s strategic plan within their own subject area and across the school, ensuring that priorities align.

They work closely together to prioritise goals and to ensure that the expectations they have of teaching staff are consistent, given that teachers often work across faculties. “One of the areas we are trying to look at is ensuring that teachers have a really solid understanding of the achievement standards across faculties and how A to E grades are articulated in those standards.”

They are also working together to make sure that teachers are using similar assessment styles across faculties.

“We actually have a rubric-based assessment approach. And while it is difficult looking at literacy and numeracy, because they are very different, we are trying to make some degree of consistency within that.”

Through their collaborative approach, Vanessa and Narelle support each other, reflect together and identify where goals may not be being achieved and work out ways to resolve this.


Today ends with Vanessa reflecting on her own practice before meeting the school principal, Trevor, to review her professional development plan.

Vanessa’s performance development plan (PDP), like that of all staff, is connected to the school’s strategic plan.

“Having the performance development plan enables me to set my own targets and they actually have to be really focused and link in with the school’s priorities. So working with the principal to set those targets and to ensure they align with the strategic plan gives me a great sense of direction.”

Today Trevor is providing feedback to Vanessa on how she is progressing with her performance goals.

Hear from Vanessa.

I have recently started to use the Principal Standard as part of my own performance planning. It enables me to set appropriate targets and challenge myself effectively.

As a leader, Vanessa is able to influence teaching practices across the whole school, particularly in the area of literacy. She looks to develop teachers by influencing them “to use student data and student feedback tools to monitor the success of their own teaching.”

She leads professional learning within the school and “encourages teachers during professional learning time to share strategies and pedagogies that promote student engagement, and celebrate successes publicly.”

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