The narrative about learning at our school is changing and parents are increasingly in on the secret. Students are asking the question of their teachers: how do I learn how to learn (in this subject)? Parents are asking their children to explain to them what they are learning about learning too. One wonders what their answers will be in six years time when they complete the HSC. What will they know about the process of learning by 2018 and how much of a difference will it make for their life chances?
Year 7 are truly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the moment. Their high school journeys have commenced and all is new and exciting. Our school wants to impress upon our youngest students that their potential is near-unlimited and that learning is something we all can do successfully. Providing these students with knowledge and skills, strategies and wisdom to assist their understanding of how they learn is one of the highest priorities of our school. We wanted to start the year with a bang to really emphasise the importance of this learning agenda, especially for this new cohort of students.
A memorable series of workshops by John Joseph of Focus Education exceeded our expectations with Year 7 this week. More importantly, the students loved it. John has the presentation skills, knowledge, resources and experience to really put on a show that works. His ability to create an engaging narrative complements the message enshrined in a series of kinesthetic learning activities the students complete. They were introduced to some key concepts that will help them begin to understand the nature of learning in a more sophisticated manner. They dissected and drew brains but more importantly, John engaged the students with ideas they could relate to about learning and motivation. His stories, and ability to use the microphone effectively, revealed him to be a showman as well as a scientist.
The images from the day tell the story of student concentration and the challenging activities completed with aplomb:
We know that “one-off” events are not the answer to our students needs but the quality and intensity of the day long workshops this week really allowed students to start thinking about how learning works. John’s presentation to staff this afternoon was well-received and the data collected over the last two days will be shared with parents too. The staff have had a series of professional development activities over the last 4 years and now we are ready to go to the next stage. We know that many of our students need a great deal of assistance and concrete strategies to effectively assist their learning but critically, many lack self-confidence about their abilities, even the most capable of the cohort. The teachers know they can make a difference with skilful teaching and nurturing of our students.
We have made more progress in a week with Year 7 than expected. Many students wanted to talk with John at the end of each session. I am certain that many fires were lit and the conversations at home will be excellent tonight. John (and learning) certainly gained the big thumbs up from Year 7 even if not everyone enjoyed the dissecting activity!
How does your school help students to learn about learning?