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News > School Newsletter > Staff Features- 19 August 2022

Staff Features- 19 August 2022

Director of Faith and Identity, Mrs Libby Parker, discusses our immersions program and how our students deepen their understanding of Australia's First Nations Peoples, their culture and spirituality.
19 Aug 2022
School Newsletter
Staff Features
Staff Features

Ignatian Pedagogy and Transformative Immersions at Loreto Normanhurst

Libby Parker | Director of Faith and Identity

Transformative education is something that all educators and educational communities strive to achieve. Educators across the board are constantly trying to create learning opportunities that have a high impact on the learner and create experiences that transform the worldview of the learner through concrete and real-life and real-world experiences.

Loreto Normanhurst is a holistic educational community that is grounded in the Mary Ward tradition. At the heart of this tradition are the principles of Ignatian Spirituality and the deep desire to find and see God in all things. We strive to provide opportunities for holistic education through faith experiences, academic experiences, community experiences and extra-curricular experiences, hence the term we use consistently, the FACE curriculum. However, there is much more to this than meets the eye. The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) forms the basis of the pedagogy of learning, and this is most notably present in the Immersion Program. We apply five key Ignatian principles to the learning that takes place: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. This happens while on immersion and in the follow up and continuation of learning after the immersion experience.

Immersion programs are not a new concept. Many schools and educational learning communities provide optional immersion experiences for their students. This is usually done in student vacation time and is an optional extra and an opt in or opt out experience. At Loreto Normanhurst Year 9 have engaged in the Far North Queensland experience (FNQE) for 15 years. The two-week program is designed and embedded across the curriculum. FNQ is a cornerstone and foundation piece of the Loreto Normanhurst’s Student Growth Model (LNSGM). It incorporates outreach and community service and allows students the opportunity to learn about themselves and at the same time learn from others in a collaborative and companionship manner. Students grow in self-awareness along with an awareness of the people and the world in which they live. The compulsory two-week immersion to Far North Queensland has as its overarching theme 'Caring for Country, Walking Beside.’

The impact of the Year 9 immersive experience has been long lasting and over the past 15 years has had palpable transformative effects on each student and their growth as a person, a learner and on the community as a whole. The past two years, with the impact of covid, allowed us to feel the void left as a result of this experience not being lived out within the school community.

This year, after many years of research and discernment, Loreto Normanhurst launched a school-wide immersion program that includes compulsory immersion experiences for Year 8, in the form of Songlines, Year 9 in the FNQE, and Year 10 and Year 11 in a 9-day experience on Indigenous homelands across Australia. Each of the immersions were created to build on the previous context and knowledge of the students in relation to First Nations Peoples and incorporated every aspect of the wider curriculum.

So, what is the purpose of such a large undertaking? What are the outcomes that are being achieved and how does this impact the learner and their worldview? How does it enhance the curriculum within the classroom and beyond? Are the outcomes worth the effort?

The purpose is to provide ethical and justice-based experiences that are based in real life experiences that enable the student to experience, reflect and put into action what it means to be fully human in the world we live in and to develop the tools to respond to this world through the application of our values. It allows our students to see the world through a different lens by accompanying others. Accompaniment is a key element of Iganatian spirituality. Students live with and walk beside First Nations Peoples and listen to and question the experiences they have. It allows them to see the wonder and awe of God’s Creation and recognise and learn about different communities, different ecosystems, see the challenges faced by Australians through their lens and question and draw conclusions about freedom and justice in regional and remote communities in our own backyard here in Australia.

Year 8 Songlines explores our local Indigenous sites, culture, language, and country. It develops an appreciation of a person’s civic responsibilities while being open to growth and open to change. This develops skills and insights that allow students to be instruments of justice right now and into the future. Year 9 Far North Queensland encompasses every aspect of Australia’s histories, cultures, ecosystems, agriculture, and challenges faced in health and education across regional and remote Queensland. Year 10 and 11 Homelands is a first-hand experience of the traditional cultures of Australia’s First Nations Peoples. Students hear the stories of people who experienced and were part of the stolen generations, they learn about their spirituality, language, culture, sacred sites and lore from the traditional owners within each region. Each immersion stretches and challenges the students and staff, all who are learners, to view the world in which we live through a different lens through accompaniment. A key aspect of the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm is to focus on the context of those in your care, it is about the personal care of each individual and we adapt our teaching and learning to the context in which the individual comes to the experience.

Each of the immersion experiences have holistic learning tasks designed by our teachers to work through on their return. These tasks allow time for reflection, discernment, and action. In some cases, this action may be immediate, however the action can often surface years later in their careers, workplaces, and communities. We often say, ‘you need time for the experience to catch up to your soul’. Classroom work of course follows but there is no greater classroom and learning than immersive experience of the real world. At this particular moment in time, we recognise the great potential of those in our care to transform the world in which we live. I know of no other school that undertakes this large scale, systematic and transformative approach to learning through these whole cohort immersion experiences.     

At Loreto Normanhurst we have chosen not to allow traditional modes of education to limit our learning and growth. We want to and will provide opportunities for students to have leadership opportunities, to grow and transform justice, and it will change our world.  

If you would like further reading on the power of immersive experiences across a range of industries, you can access the following readings:

  1. Ignatian Leadership and the Contemporary Leadership Landscape An Exercise in Counter-Cultural Engagement Thomas M. Kelly, Ph.D.1 and Jennifer Moss-Breen, Ph.D.
  2. Ignatian Leadership and Immersions: Formation in the “School of the Poor” Thomas M. Kelly, Ph.D.
  3. From Spirituality to Responsible Leadership: Ignatian Discernment and Theory- U Patrick Nullens

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