Dear Parents, Friends, Staff and Students of Caroline Chisholm College,
Students aren't the only ones who enjoy pupil free days! Teachers enjoy them, too, but not for the reason you may think! The opportunity to spend a whole day focused on improving our teaching practice and better understanding the needs of our students is so valuable, and our recent Professional Development day on March 5 was no exception. The focus of the day was to develop our capacity to design enquiry based learning experiences for students. These enquiry based experiences put the student at the centre of the learning, requiring her to develop solutions and ideas in response to a problem or a rich question. We enjoyed a presentation from The Foundation for Young Australians about the capabilities our graduates will need to thrive in a complex and competitive employment landscape. Our architect, Caroline Hart from Stanton Dahl Architects, shared the preliminary designs for some of our new learning spaces that will take place over the coming two years. These will be very student-centred, flexible, engaging and comfortable. I have included some images from her presentation in this week's newsletter. All of this learning and work undertaken by the teaching and support staff at the college on Monday is another step in our 5 Transformations agenda that I shared with you in my previous newsletter.
This week's edition of the newsletter will focus on the first of these transformations: transforming the experience of teaching and learning, also known as pedagogy.
Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta says that students in our Diocese will be engaged in the following type of learning:
… experiential learning using an enquiry model, connected for every learner every day, where learning is student-led and collaborative, not teacher controlled.
While this may look different from school to school, we know from quality research that, when learning design across the school becomes consistently more enquiry focused, then the level of student achievement and curiosity increases. Caroline Chisholm College has always had high expectations of every learner. What this transformation means for the girls at the college is that they will be expected to become more active, responsible learners who engage deeply in the learning process, and control its direction and pace. We also expect that students will find learning challenging, even difficult and uncomfortable. They will be taught how to develop the values of persistence and mental toughness, so that their learning struggle will lead to mastery.
Across the school, students will engage in real world problem solving, and will have a degree of control over the nature of the questions they choose to enquire into. They will be expected to present their learning to a range of audiences, some of whom may be practitioners from the field they are studying.
In the junior school, students will be introduced to the idea of ‘The Learning Journey’ – a symbolic representation of what it is like to move through the five stages of learning:
1.Preparing for the journey - Students develop understanding about where they are going and what they need for the journey. They learn basic concepts and skills to get ready for the journey. Importantly, they consider what they will need in their 'backpack'. The backpack is a symbol that represents the things students take with them on their learning journey: their personal strengths, values, previous learning, resources from their teacher, etc.
2.Setting Off - In this stage, students begin the process of clarifying the task or question they have been given. They revise their strategies for problem solving, collecting resources and raising questions. This stage may include direct instruction from the teacher, scaffolding and facilitation.
3.The Climb - This is the most critical phase of the learning journey. It represents the zone of uncertainty and even confusion before students make their own learning breakthrough. During the climb, students will need to draw on the resources in their backpack, the members of their team, and especially their character strengths and positive growth mindset to face the challenge and build new knowledge.
4.Summit - Having built new knowledge by persisting throughout the climb, students achieve the satisfaction of a breakthrough. This becomes the focus of assessment and reflection.
5.Next steps - A summit is not the end of the learning journey. It is an important milestone, but it leads the student towards new paths and new summits. Drawing on the learning, sharing that with others, and building mental toughness means that the student will have even better resources for the next part of the journey.
The teachers at Caroline Chisholm College will continue to explore the very best ways of making learning meaningful and powerful for the students of the college, and will, more and more, entrust students with the tools and the confidence to manage their own learning – a lesson that will equip them for life.
I would like to extend an invitation to parents of students in Years 7 - 9 to join us for the first Parent Forum for the year, focusing on the Learning Journey, and how to support our girls when the journey gets tough. The forum will be held at 6pm on 27 March in the college library. Please visit our Facebook page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend.
In the past few weeks, our students have achieved wonderful accolades in a range of areas. Abbey Slaughter, from Year 12, competed in the Commonwealth Games swimming trials in Queensland, having recently broken every college record at our recent swimming carnival. Britney Jackson (also from Year 12) was selected to represent Australia at the Oz Tag championships in New Zealand. Four of our public speakers have progressed to the next round of the CSDA Public Speaking Competition. Good luck, also to our Agriculture Show Team who will be exhibiting our animals at the Camden Show next week.
Last week we celebrated Caroline Chisholm Day, beginning with our Opening Mass, followed by a colourful carnival designed to raise awareness and funds for Project Compassion. Congratulations to the teachers and students in Years 10 - 12 who managed to raise over $10,500 in just three hours to support the important work of Caritas, the Catholic relief agency. We pray for their work of ensuring all people have their wellbeing and dignity promoted.
Lord God, you are the source of all good things,
And You hear the cry of the poor and the afflicted,
Help us to see the face of your Son in all the victims of both natural and man-made disasters,
Like the Good Samaritan, may we never turn away from our suffering brothers and sisters, but be compassionate to them,
Like the widow who gave all she had to survive, may we always be ready to share who we are and what we have,
Bless and protect all Caritas workers and volunteers where ever they are helping to save lives, sometimes by putting their own lives in danger,
Welcome into your Kingdom all who have died and console their families,
We ask all this through Christ our Lord,
Who hears the cry of the poor and the poorest.
Mr Greg Elliott