|13 May 2022|
In the busyness of our lives and amidst the tumult that a pandemic presents, it can become difficult to lift one’s head above the mire and fix our gaze on what we truly value. Ironically, it is essential that we give ourselves permission to slow down, breathe, reflect and recalibrate during such times of flux.
I had the privilege of having one such moment at a recent professional learning opportunity with the Association of Independent Schools. The keynote for the day was Professor John Fiscetti, Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Newcastle. Professor Fischetti presented a series of provocations to his audience of educators, challenging us to be curious and to ask some hard-hitting questions about the education systems that we inhabit. The day provided me with a much-needed moment to raise my head above the mire and to reflect on our school’s learning trajectory.
A key moment in Professor Fiscetti’s presentation was his argument that the current industrial and standardised approaches to learning and assessment are out of step with what truly matters in our global context. To illustrate his point, he provided us with a snapshot of the current climate in recruitment, and a glimpse into the trajectory of future workplace demands. He displayed a recruitment advertisement for an Apple/ANZ partnership role, which listed the successful candidate's key attributes as: the need to know people, see around corners, approach problems flexibly, drive what matters and stay curious. The dissonance that this advertisement created when considered within our current educational systems compelled me to embrace the opportunity to table such provocations with our Loreto Normanhurst teachers. As such, at our recent staff day I posed the question: do our current approaches to education develop graduates who can see around corners?
A few weeks later this provocation was reinforced in the Australian Financial Review, with the publication of the article “Why these high achievers can’t afford to relax at post-work drinks.” The article features our very own Loreto Normanhurst graduate, Katherine Coffey (2017), and paints a picture of a changed marketplace. A current graduate program is described where recruiters assess a candidate based on their ability to “understand and structure an approach to solving a new problem or challenge”. The candidates are observed in a social setting that showcases their emotional intelligence and communication skills. The program celebrates those graduates who are well-rounded and can demonstrate engagement with community and extra-curricular pursuits. This recruitment approach perfectly mirrors the mandate that we need to enable our students to grow holistically and to see around corners.
We would be foolish to believe that these provocations only pertain to the employability of our young people; the imperative for change extends far beyond, as these provocations are in fact about the future of our world. Sir Ken Robinson’s reflection, A Future for Us All, which was his final gift to the world before his passing in August 2020, presents his plea to us all. Robinson calls for a groundswell in education to challenge the industrial model that we have inherited. He urges educators to cultivate conditions and cultures that are responsive to our current global needs and foster creativity and curiosity in our students. Teachers and parents must model the courage that is required for change to ensue; if we expect our students to do so, then we must show them the way.
Consequently, our teaching staff at Loreto Normanhurst are embracing change through our involvement in the global network: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning. This network provides our teaching staff with the opportunity to work in collaboration and consultation with the Association of Independent Schools and other educators. Our focus is on revitalising our practice using the Deep Learning methodology. This methodology, developed by educational researchers Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn, provides teachers with a framework to develop deep and robust learning opportunities that are real-world, authentic and therefore engaging; the Deep Learning methodology is synergistic with our school philosophy of learning and aligns seamlessly with our Integrated Learning programs across Years 5-10. It is our commitment that our Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model, coupled with Michael Fullan’s imperative that we must “engage the world...to change the world,” will propel our staff forward, equipping our Loreto graduates to raise themselves above the mire and to move into the future with the ability to see around corners.
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