New Learning

May 24th, 2018
New Learning
Heathfield High School in the Adelaide Hills is about to usher in a period of change.

Building further on their Visible Learning framework, from next month the school will be involved in the Transforming Schools Network.

In July, the school will open a state-of-the-art $2.5 million STEM Innovation Centre.

The Transforming Schools Network, incorporating ten schools from throughout South Australia, focuses on building and finessing student entrepreneurial skills and equipping students for a globalised world once they leave high school.

University of Kansas Professor Yong Zhao describes it as a program “designed to help each child unleash and realise their potential to become great”.

Visible Learning is based on Victorian academic John Hattie’s studies what provides the most success in teaching and encourages students to own their learning, supported by reflective teachers.

Both are heralded as game-changers in student learning, and uniquely, will be paired together in new curriculum approaches.

Principal Roy Page said it was about enabling students to be the best they can be.

With the impending opening of the new STEM Innovation Centre the school has commenced a curriculum review and since November last year has surveyed more than 200 students.

“It is linking the fact we have the STEM project providing new learning spaces, that suddenly move away from traditional teaching and towards a collaborative learning approach,” Roy said.

“With that in mind, we’ve undertaken the curriculum review – and we’ve also adopted the Visible Learning framework –making the learning really visible. Students know why they’re learning and what they’re learning about, success criteria.”

“It’s making the learning visible,” he said.

Several key dispositions have been identified as being evident in Heathfield High School students: curiosity, resilience, communication, self-motivation, creativity and being able to embrace challenge.

“We want to develop entrepreneurial skills around creative and critical thinking,” Roy said.

“We’ll be looking at what skill sets entrepreneurs actually have, and how we can get those skill sets and opportunities into the school for students.”

The new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Innovation Centre goes hand-in-hand with the learning strategy of creative critical thinking.

“Through the Transforming Schools Network, we’ll be able to analyse how our curriculum is going to enable that to happen, and how we can get students as co-constructors of that curriculum moving forward.”

The collaborative approach fosters student learning in that they are almost able to take the reins on their own education – with a little guidance, of course.

“Students will have ownership of it, but as the educators, we’ll be making sure students still get the fundamentals.

“They’re still highly literate and highly numerate individuals and they can apply these skills across a range of disciplines.

“It’s providing students with opportunities which could include students teaching lessons, and students teaching other students who might be struggling.”

Two Heathfield High School year 10 students couldn’t be more excited.

“We’ll get to be a part of it for two years,” 15-year-old Ben Barrow said.

“It’s preparing us for the future and looking into the possibilities – like saying, ‘this is what was old, and this is now how the world is developing’ and how our curriculum can be updated to reflect that,” Ben said.

His classmate, 15-year-old Constance Kilkenny-Jones, agreed.

“When I graduate, I want to do law and commerce, and I want to work in the AFL Leadership,” Constance said.

“So I think this new program will benefit my learning and journey to get there.”

Ben said that incorporating the new learning curriculum would help students develop skills from a younger age and aid them to decide what they wanted to do upon graduation.

“Young people sometimes feel there’s a dark cloud of the unknown when they leave school,” Ben said.

“You want to leave saying I’ve figured out what I want to do.”

“The program fosters creativity and curiosity in students by allowing them to be co-constructors of their own education, and will help them have a more positive schooling experience,” Constance said.

The challenge to Heathfield High School teaching staff is to help students prepare for an ever-changing world when they leave high school.

“There’s new research to say that students might have up to 17 jobs after graduating school, so it’s being adaptive to change too,” Roy said.

“It’s risk-taking. We’re building resilience in students and encouraging them to have a go,” Heathfield High School teacher Sally Vaughan added.

“Students will develop an e-Portfolio of polished work, showcasing graduate qualities so that leaving school they have more to support their SACE and ATAR score.”

“It’s trying new things and allowing them to learn about themselves,” she said.

The school has already future-proofed its students through its use of technology.

“We’re a one-to-one device school so every student has a laptop,” Roy said.

“We conduct group collaboration but also regular feedback on their learning. We aim to provide a 24/7 learning opportunity so students can access resources at home,” Roy said.

“We have podcasts and Moodle and online software that students can access at home.”

However, he concedes that Heathfield High School, and other schools like it, have some unique challenges ahead.

“The interview process suggests that students are ambivalent about technology, because they’ve just gone from writing it to typing it.

“And one of the key things moving forward is how to use technology to enhance learning, not to just do the same thing they’re already doing with pen and paper. That’s our challenge as educators.”

The program is designed to link with South Australia’s Department of Education and Training career strategy which must be implemented in South Australian schools by 2020.

“Heathfield is the lead school in the Adelaide Hills for developing career skills,” Roy added.

What are the most important skills for students to have as they begin to undertake their SACE in years 11 & 12, according to Constance and Ben?

The students looked at each other for a second.

“I think critical and creative thinking – it’s really important for students to take control of their learning,” Constance said.

“I think it’s important for students to have a general understanding of who they are, where they’re going and have those goals in place,” Ben said.

“And a purpose,” Constance added.

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