Leading school-based change: The Knox School 2019-2020

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In 2019, Drs Kathy Smith, Jennifer Mansfield and Megan Adams worked with Middle School Leaders to explore their leadership roles in ways designed to support personal professional learning and also strategically support the continued development and effective implementation of the Knox Personal Learning Strategy (KPLS) as a school wide initiative. Working as critical friends, the academics initially used  strategic professional dialogue to draw from the reality of the school context and assist leaders to reconsider how their professional thinking informs the action that characterises their professional leadership.

However, in 2020 in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic the research focus shifted as all classes at The Knox School moved online. This was an unprecedented event. Teachers at all levels of the school worked to move teaching and learning from face to face conditions to online, virtual classes in response to the COVID stage 4 restrictions in Victoria. The Monash team then  worked to support school leadership by conducting  research to capture teacher learning during this experience. The school leadership team was particularly interested in understanding how teachers’ experiences with virtual classes impacted their teaching and what learnings teachers would take forward into their future teaching. In response, this research focused on the following questions.

  • How did the experience of online education impact teacher thinking and practice?
  • What if any insights were gained which could be used to inform future teaching?

This project follows on from previous research (Smith, 2017) which identified that it is reasonable to assert that teacher professional learning needs to be less about the construction of a ‘program’ and more about conceptualising a process of learning. In this project, professional learning (PL) is conceptualised as being ‘what professionals do and as a consequence learn about their own knowledge of practice’ (Loughran, 2010, p. xiii).


Loughran, J. (2012). What expert teachers do: Enhancing professional knowledge for classroom practice. Routledge

Smith, K. (2017). Teachers as self-directed learners. Singapore: Springer