Curriculum Matters

With a short first term, the pace has been frenetic with so many exciting learning opportunities in progress over the seven weeks for both students and staff.

This year, we have further heightened our ongoing focus on the idea of continuous improvement and look to maximise every opportunity for members of our community to learn and grow. This is happening across the school in co-curricular and academic areas, but I would like to focus on some of these more classroom-based opportunities in this edition.

For students, there has been a sharpened emphasis on the importance of taking every opportunity to improve. Staff at every level have been reinforcing by word and deed the importance of students optimising their progress by completing every piece of homework on time, ensuring that all learning activities are done to the best of their ability and ensuring that their best learning behaviours are consistently present. These messages have had a renewed urgency this year and by all reports the students have risen to the challenge across the board.

We have continued our development of opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning and set goals for future improvement. This has happened for a number of years in the secondary school when students formally reflect on their semester reports and set goals that they share with their pastoral mentor. This year we will be extending this initiative into Grade 6 in our Junior Schools.

Our secondary faculties have set goals for 2016 and are explicitly developing more opportunities for students to reflect and goal-set as a regular part of their learning. This is in keeping with our Learner Profile that lists reflection as a goal for our learners. This is also a target quality in the International Baccalaureate, one of our senior study pathways with a progressive and rigorous academic curriculum and philosophy, which also informs our teaching and learning across the school. When students reflect on their learning it deepens their understanding and furthers their progress.

A community of learners does not just include students, however. Our staff are all learners as they continue their life long quest for growth. Over recent years, Tintern Grammar has blazed a trail in cutting-edge teacher professional development with our Peer Partnership program. This involves staff working with a peer to set a goal using research-based classroom teaching practices and inviting their partner to observe them use it in class. They then meet to de-brief and discuss feedback after each session. In 2015, all secondary and primary staff were participating in this program after we had rolled it out in stages, learning from each stage and improving our processes based on staff feedback and input.

In 2015, we embarked on the next step by trialling an enhanced staff learning model that included a second annual learning goal. This goal is centred around staff Knowledge goals, to complement the existing Practice goal, which a staff member also works towards with a partner. This time they collaborate in a team with a dedicated Coach to help guide the goal setting, learning, feedback and reflection cycle. After a successful trial, a larger pilot is running in 2016 with the intention to roll it out for all primary and secondary teaching staff in 2017.

Essentially this program involves staff in annual collaborative, action-research projects, which align the school’s strategic aims in optimising student learning with staff-driven goals based on their own reflection and feedback. These initiatives have attracted interest in other leading schools across Australia and we have had a number of inquiries and visits from schools in Victoria and interstate to investigate our leading approach to staff learning.

For the staff and students engaged in these learning programs this term has been a busy but rewarding one as we all strive to find and take every learning opportunity. But for the next few weeks…have a well-earned break!

J McManus2

 

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