Three recent reports discuss how teacher professional development (PD) needs to be able to bring about embedded change.  When the Institute first developed the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program (SSLP), this is exactly what we had this in mind.   We recognise that our programs need to provide both the motivation and the strategies for teachers to make embedded, ongoing changes in classroom practice.

We believe this is why our Stronger Smarter Leadership Program (SSLP) alumni continue to tell us that our programs should be a compulsory part of every school’s professional learning.  These recent reports validate why the SSLP is so important, and why our programs continue to be just as relevant and well-received 18 years later as they were when we first started.

The Stronger Smarter Institute should be a compulsory part of every school’s professional learning.  It is a safe environment that allows for questions and answers to be considered without judgement.   
Teacher, NSW (SSI alumni survey 2022[1])

Supporting teacher effectiveness

In January 2023, the Productivity Commission released a report on the Review of the National School Reform Agreement [2], a joint agreement between the Commonwealth, States and Territories that aims to lift student outcomes across Australian schools. 

Throughout the Review, the need for quality PD to support teacher effectiveness at all career stages is a recurring theme. In particular, there is mention of PD to support teachers and school leaders to create culturally safe environments for First Nations students, described as ‘cultural safety training’ or ‘cultural responsiveness training’.  There is a suggestion that for principals appointed to remote communities, this training should be on an on-going yearly basis (Productivity Commission, 2022).  

The Review references the 2022 AITSL report on building a culturally responsive Australian teacher workforce [3] which also highlighted that PD relating to the cultural responsiveness should an ongoing component of a school’s professional learning program.

[school] leaders need to ensure that the development of cultural responsiveness is a core competency of each staff member’s professional development and learning. School leaders must also articulate the importance of cultural responsiveness to all staff and include their school community in the process. Most importantly, school leaders must lead by example.  
(AITSL 2022 p. 14)

What makes a quality PD

The Review and the AITSL report don’t provide a great deal of information on what this PD should look like.  However, they do provide a few suggestions that this PD should include 

  • critical self-reflection – more than re-learning history to unlearn biases, requiring teachers and school leaders to reflect on who they are and on their preconceptions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, while having the capacity to actively listen (Productivity Commission, 2022)
  • building relationships beyond the school gate with students and their families so that teachers can better understand their needs (NRSA Review p.175)
  • ways to address the fact that the uptake of cultural responsiveness practices can be constrained by personal factors including a fear of failure and fear of offending (AITSL, 2022).

A report from the UK by Sims et al (2021) [4] looked at the characteristics of teacher PD that is effective in improving student outcomes.  They found that programs were more likely to be effective if they contained content that included a balance across four groups of general principles about how people learn and change their practice:

  • Helping teachers gain new insights
  • Motivation to pursue new behaviours
  • Acquiring new skills or techniques
  • Embedding these changes in practice.

The Stronger Smarter Leadership Program

The Stronger Smarter training gave me more confidence in myself and my abilities. It gave me tools for building relationships with colleagues and understanding how shared values play a vital role in a positive work place culture. 
Teacher, NSW (SSI alumni survey 2022)

These reports all help explain why the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program (SSLP) continues to be so successful.   Anyone who has undertaken the SSLP will know that our program manages the issues of fear of offending by building safe spaces for self-reflection.  We run our programs over four days to ensure enough time for participants to reflect on materials being offered to gain new insights and gain the motivation to change their classroom practices.  We provide the tools for building high-expectations relationships both within the classroom and beyond the school gate as the building blocks to inclusive and safe school cultures. 

SSI gave me the tools to be more holistic in planning, engaging and implementing culturally authentic and inclusive programs in the classroom and across the school. 
Principal, NSW (SSI alumni survey 2022)

The SSLP sits in a space of supporting cultural competence, that, as suggested in the Review of the National School Reform Agreement, clearly continues to be a need for educators at all levels.  By provide the balance across the four areas recommended by Sims et al (2021), the SSLP provides the insights, motivation and strategies to embed changes into practice.

If you haven’t undertaken the SSLP, or even if you have and would like to enrol again, there are still places available in programs for 2023.  You can join our growing alumni who are working in their schools to support inclusive school cultures and student wellbeing.

The Institute runs Stronger Smarter Leadership Programs across the country.  Find out more or check our program calendar for a program near you.

See our submission to the Review of the National School Reform agreement at Submission DR114 – Stronger Smarter Institute (SSI) – National School Reform Agreement – Commissioned study (


[1] SSI alumni survey 2022
[2] Productivity Commission (2022).  Review of the National School Reform Agreement, Study Report, Canberra.
[3] AITSL (2022).  Building a culturally responsive Australian teaching workforce: Final report for Indigenous cultural competency project.
[4] Sims, S., Fletcher-Wood, H., O’Mara-Eves, A., Cottingham, S., Stansfield, C., Van Herwegen, J., Anders, J. (2021). What are the Characteristics of Teacher Professional Development that Increase Pupil Achievement? A systematic review and meta-analysis. London: Education Endowment Foundation. The report is available from:

 *All images shown on this page were taken at our Strong Smarter Leadership Programs.