Contemporary schooling needs to be seen to be believed

When schools and systems have the audacity and courage to challenge the status quo, they are often labelled as experimental or worse, irresponsible.

Our system has copped its fair share of criticism over the years for taking an ‘experimental’ approach to learning and teaching. While some in the wider community may view it as experimental, everything we have done and continue to do has been guided by contemporary theory and research combined with best practice. It’s as close to being experimental as Vegemite on toast.

All of this has been driven by a deep commitment to making schooling more engaging and relevant for our learners. But somehow contemporary schooling is misunderstood as students Googling their way through schooling on their own. In fact, we say that teachers working collaboratively are critical in today’s technology rich world.

In these spaces, students are not viewed as empty vessels to be filled up with facts and figures. They are engaged in solving real-world problems, they are sharing their learning with others and they are creating new knowledge. While I continue to advocate for this kind of learning, it is always more powerful when others see the learning in action for themselves. Here’s a snippet from an email recently forwarded to me:

We just returned from our granddaughter’s primary school (St Monica’s Primary, North Parramatta). Her little group has just completed their first-ever project-based learning (PBL). She was excited to see her Nan & Pop and was busy sharing her learning. On her and her partner’s hand-drawn poster are two trees. Nanna says, “Oh I like your trees, this tree has lost its leaves and this tree is yet to lose its leaves”. Our granddaughter then explains “No Nanna this tree is deciduous, and this tree is evergreen”.

Yes, we could smile and laugh, but what tremendous learning! Here are 5-year-olds happy to share their learning; two wonderful young teachers having the strength and intellect to invite parents and grandparents to celebrate in the rich learning that has occurred; the wonderful leadership of a great Principal who trusts her teachers. We are over the moon with these results.

I defy any critic of learning and contemporary pedagogy to tell me that PBL needs justification.

Our challenge is to make this the story of every school community!

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