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Two passions, two courses: a professional learning case study

Two passions, two courses: a professional learning case study

Feature 5 minute read

Educator Nikki Sandilands comes alive when she talks about her job.

As a targeted teaching program coordinator with the Kimberley Schools Project, her role combines two of her biggest passions – literacy and Aboriginal education.

She works with 23 Kimberley schools ranging in size from seven to more than 1000 students, helping teachers to deliver explicit instruction lessons and daily reviews, with a focus on literacy.

One week, she could be coaching in a remote community school in the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 300km from the nearest post office.

The next week she could be in Fitzroy Crossing, 400km east of Broome, while the week after that she may be stationed at an urban school in Broome.

‘It’s my dream job,’ Ms Sandilands said. ‘There’s lots of travel, so I get to see lots of the beautiful country up here and meet lots of wonderful people.

‘I love that I still get to teach – I model to the teachers how to do daily lessons and daily reviews – but then I get to observe teachers and give feedback.’

‘I still get the classroom contact, but I get to travel this amazing part of the world and learn so much from teachers as well,’ she said. ‘It’s an amazing, unique, rewarding job.’

All 23 schools Ms Sandilands works with use Progressive Achievement Tests (PAT) differently.

To help improve her understanding of PAT, Ms Sandilands decided to sign up for some professional learning with ACER.

First she completed Getting Started with PAT – a foundation course for educators, teachers, leaders and admin staff who are new to PAT and want to understand the theories that underpin PAT, the scoring systems and PAT reports.

Ms Sandilands then went on to complete Data-Driven Decisions: PAT, which aims to help participants use PAT data as a diagnostic tool to make informed decisions about teaching and learning in the classroom.

‘It helped me no end,’ Ms Sandilands said. ‘It was so good to be able to really drill down on the data.

‘Being able to have the ability to have those conversations with teachers and helping them to unpack and use the data has made it so much more meaningful for the teachers too.’

Ms Sandilands said it had been 16 years since she studied formally, and the notion of returning to it was daunting at first. However, she found the experience extremely rewarding.

'I had surface-level knowledge of how to use the data, but the course really made me drill down further and analyse it on a deeper level, so I was really grateful it made me stop and really look at it, rather than just brush over it,’ she said. ‘It took me a little while to get my head back in the game, but the learning assurance tasks tied everything together and really consolidated that understanding for me.

‘I would absolutely recommend it to others.’

Ready for a new challenge?

If you’re looking to progress your career, ACER offers a suite of online professional learning courses about PAT. Sign up for PAT professional learning today.

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