Principals share their innovative learning and teaching practices at masterclass
|Greg Whitby welcomes the Parramatta diocesan principals to the masterclass|
|Jenny Allen speaks of the importance of learning and teaching principles in her school|
A Principals’ Masterclass was held on 4 and 5 May at Sebel Hotel, Windsor with the theme, ‘Theory into Practice’. All principals of primary and secondary schools in the Parramatta diocese attended the masterclass, as well as team leaders from the Catholic Education Office.
The two day masterclass was made up of several smaller workshops in which principals from schools in Australia and New Zealand were able to show how their schools were meeting the needs of young learners and their teachers.
In welcoming the principals, executive director of schools in the Diocese of Parramatta, Greg Whitby, said in order to effectively lead schools in a contemporary world, the focus had to be on how students learn in today’s world.
‘It’s all about the learning. The work is about learning not leading; if we don’t understand what learning is, then we won’t know how to lead,’ said Greg.
The five principals who led the workshops were Jenny Allen from Corpus Christi Catholic High School, Oak Flats in the Wollongong diocese; Tony Bryant from Silverton Primary School, Silverton in Melbourne; Luke Sumich from Summerland School in West Auckland, New Zealand; Mike Anderson from the Waimairi School in North Canterbury, New Zealand; and Br Patrick Howlett from Parramatta Marist High, Westmead in the Parramatta diocese.
During their workshops, each principal explained how they had led change in their school and, in particular, how they had promoted the learning needed. They addressed areas including what it was like crafting the 21st century learning experience; what processes were used at the school; what they had learnt throughout the process; and what they would do differently.
As foundation principal at Corpus Christi Catholic High, Jenny explained how their guiding principles had played an integral role in shaping the learning and teaching at the school since its beginnings in 2006.
‘It’s not just about the words on a page; we want the students to really understand what they are learning,’ said Jenny. ‘Our learning and teaching principles play an important part in this and they are printed at the front of our school’s prospectus so parents are really clear of what they are buying into.’
‘Everything we do as a school community will be derived from these guiding principles,’ said Jenny. ‘Every unit of work is evaluated through the learning and teaching principles,’ she said. ‘It will not all be pertinent to reflect upon but there is no point in having learning and teaching principles if we do not draw back upon them.’
|Mike Anderson explains how learning happens at every minute in his school|
|Luke Sumich speaks about important areas to consider in the planning process|
When he joined Waimari School, Mike Anderson found that teachers were being overwhelmed with paperwork and didn’t have time to focus on carrying out quality teaching.
‘Our focus has been to move away from documentation and actually start doing the work,’ said Mike. ‘I found that there was this checklist culture and it demoralised the work force,’ he said. ‘It’s not about nice words, it’s about taking action; we need to do the work, then capture it and document it.’
‘After speaking to Year 3 students about how they wanted to spend their lunch time, we put together a builder’s yard for them,’ said Mike. ‘We let them loose to build what they wanted and they started making some really interesting things. Without instruction, one boy put up a fence, another two worked on digging a trench to lay the piping and another student set about levelling the ground so they could build on top,’ he said. ‘It demonstrated to us that learning happens all the time.’
Tony Bryant explained that personalising the learning was integral in implementing 21st century learning practices at Silverton Primary School.
‘In the past we thought that we needed to teach this subject to that group of students,’ said Tony. ‘Now we need to personalise the learning for each individual, so teachers really need to know their students,’ he said. ‘We need to remember that we are working with individuals within that group that have different learning needs.’
At Summerland School, Luke Sumich and his leadership team focused their planning on three areas; classroom, colleagues and the community. For each area they asked themselves what they would like to be known for, what will it look like, what will it sound like and what will it feel like for us?
‘When you go down this road of implementing change in your school these things are really important to think about,’ said Luke. ‘You need to visualise the positive change in order for it to become reality.’
Br Patrick Howlett took a different approach in his workshop and instead of explaining how change had been implemented, he decided to challenge the principals in a project-based learning exercise. The purpose of the exercise was to show the principals how project-based learning is facilitated at Parramatta Marist High.
After the workshops, all the principals joined together in a mass, celebrated by Vicar General, Fr Robert McGuckin followed by dinner on the Tuesday and a Q&A session in the afternoon on Wednesday.
|Br Patrick Howlett explains the concept of project-based learning that has been implemented at Parramatta Marist High|
|Tony Bryant says that personalising the learning was integral in implementing 21st century learning practices at Silverton|
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