Professional Growth

Professional Conversations

‘The formal and informal dialogue that occurs between education professionals including teachers, mentors, coaches and school leaders, which is focused on educational matters.’

What do teachers talk about professionally? Where do these conversations happen, when do they happen, and what are the conditions that are needed to make them more effective? Most importantly, what is the impact that they can have on developing teacher expertise and improving student outcomes?

Effective professional conversations

In a literature review commissioned by AITSL, Professional Conversations and Improvement-Focused Feedback, Helen Timperley, University of Auckland, found that there were six clear enablers that supported educators to have effective professional conversations: 
Processes, Knowledge, Culture, Relationships, Resources and Context.

The diagram below introduces you to these enablers - from here, continue down the page to find out more about the Professional Conversations Project.

PGP diagram whole lge 9 Oct

The Professional Conversations Project

The Professional Conversations Project sought to answer our questions about professional conversations by exploring the literature and asking teachers in schools across Australia about their experiences with professional conversations.


The literature review

Helen Timperley, Professor of Education at the University of Auckland, was commissioned to undertake a literature review examining the research on professional conversations in schools.

The result, Professional Conversations and Improvement-Focused Feedback, drew on national and international research and examined the characteristics of the different types of professional conversations educators engage in. These characteristics were then synthesised into common themes and the enablers (see diagram above) and barriers to effective professional conversations identified.


Professionalism and adaptive expertise

Two assumptions underpinned Dr Timperley’s analysis of the articles:

The first assumption was that professional conversations should promote the learning of the participants in ways that influence thinking and practice. Secondly, it was assumed that the type of expertise promoted through the conversations in these articles was not that of routine expertise where skills are refined though repeated practice but of adaptive expertise where the education professional constantly seeks to improve their practice to improve outcomes for their students.

The data

Nearly 3,000 teachers from 43 schools in all sectors and contexts across Australia took part in data collection for the Professional Conversations Project. In order to give us a ‘snapshot’ of current practices in schools, teachers completed online questionnaires and a series of ‘audit and reflection’ tools. Keep an eye on this page for the report from the data collection stage of the project.

The next step
The literature review and the data report will be used to inform the development of resources to support effective professional conversations. 

Explore further

Professional Conversations and Improvement-Focused FeedbackExplore the Professional Conversations and Improvement-Focused Feedback literature review and find out more about the studies Professor Timperley drew on in her synthesis.

Read about the enablers (and barriers) to effective professional conversations - are these applicable to your context? Consider your own professional conversations – what type of expertise would you like to be developing?

Professional Conversations and Improvement-Focused Feedback 1.3MB PDF

Enablers for Effective Professional ConversationsThe Enablers for effective professional conversations A3 diagram gives an overview of the main themes and findings of the Professional Conversations and Improvement-Focused Feedback literature review.

Keep this guide to use as a reference next time you are talking about practice with your colleagues.

Enablers for Effective Professional Conversations 102KB PDF

What do you think?

Tweet @aitsl or comment on our Facebook page with the hashtag #profconv and let us know your thoughts and ideas on effective professional conversations. Don’t feel like hashtagging? Email your thoughts to us: