Life Long Learners

ABOVE: The new Learning Management Team L-R: Mrs Brooke McLeod, Mr Tim James, Miss Kathryn D’Elia and Mr James Sach.

The skill of teaching is forever evolving to ensure that all students benefit from a wide-ranging curriculum that is as engaging as it is relevant to the world we live in today. Nexus writer Jodie Fleming meets with our new Heads of Learning to see what future learning at GVGS looks like.

Over the years, GVGS has invested in the philosophy of not just what is being taught, but how it is taught. Working with a number of partners including the University of Melbourne, Harvard University and Independent Schools Victoria, GVGS has been looking at how students learn best through evidence-based techniques and then working with all the staff to implement those successful classroom practices to get the best out of its students. 

The school has had a focus in this area since 2010 when the then Director of Learning, Mrs Deborah Moore undertook an enormous amount of work in this space. With Mrs Moore’s retirement last year, it was the perfect opportunity to reassess the role and add in some additional resources.

There are now four teachers involved, including Director of Learning – Senior Years Miss Kathryn D’Elia, Director of Learning – Middle Years Mr Tim James and Learning Leaders Mrs Brooke McLeod and Mr James Sach. 

According to Miss D’Elia, with such a full curriculum the role is beneficial for teachers to have a team focusing on how things are being taught across the year levels and working on how to continually improve the delivery in the class room.

“It may sound silly, but teaching can be a really lonely profession because once you get into the class room you are on your own and you can end up not sharing your experience with others because you move into the next class,” Miss D’Elia said.

“So one of the things we are really trying to do is get teams of teachers together and actually say let’s have a look and see what’s happening in each other’s class rooms and genuinely collaborate on ideas.”

Tim James adds that it is all about being part of the planning group, setting strategic goals for the entire school and coming up with ideas that assist everyone.

“Part of that planning is going to visit other schools that we have identified as being leaders in some areas we are interested in and seeing how they have gone about implementing ideas and then bringing them back to GVGS,” Mr James said. 

And while finding successful ways to deliver lessons in the classroom to better student outcomes is the main aim of the program, finding those that do not work is equally as important. 

“It’s great to share the successes, but equally as important to share those things that don’t work,” Miss D’Elia explains.

“There is always something to be learnt from what hasn’t worked, so you can then all come together and say you have tried something that didn’t have the outcome you were hoping for. Sometimes it’s then about talking about how you can tweak something that will make it work in the future.”

Mr James said the overall aim of the program is to improve the effectiveness of all the teaching staff so every student in the school can benefit.

“Every student at GVGS should benefit from what the teachers are bringing into their class rooms in terms of the new ideas and evidence-based practice that we have researched and that we know has a positive impact on the students,” he said.

One of the most noticeable outcomes to date is the percentage of growth GVGS students are achieving, which can now be measured. 

“We can now see where a student started, where they ended up and really identify the amount of growth someone has achieved over a period of time,” Miss D’elia said.

“It’s that idea that a student should show a year’s worth of learning growth for a year’s worth of input. So for a year they are at school they should show a year’s worth of growth, which sounds so simple, but if you have a student who comes in at quite a high level and shows no growth, previously that could potentially go undetected. 

“And at the other end of the extreme, a student who comes in at a lower level but is working very hard you might fall into the trap of just thinking that their achievement isn’t very high, but in fact, often they might be making two or three year’s growth in a single year, which is massive. 

“I think that has been really handy to look at and to help really identify the students who are working extremely hard who may not necessarily be achieving the highest levels, but for them are achieving,” she said.  

And according to Miss D’Elia, it is this type of information that is most valuable to parents. 

“Most parents would say they are interested in achievement but most importantly, they want to know that their son or daughter is doing their best.”

“For most parents, this measurement is much more valuable.”

With Mr Sach and Mrs McLeod also part of the learning teachers dynamic, the teachers are finding the program rewarding. 

“I am finding working in this role really beneficial.

“I love that we all meet at least once a week, run ideas past each other and come up with new suggestions.

“Each of us has different connections with different schools, whether they are primary, secondary, independent, or state, so we are able to use our experiences and find out what other schools are doing and share that with each other,” Mr James said. 

“Four heads are definitely better than one!”