Teaching and Learning
Improving student learning through consistent practices, principles and beliefs about learning that are evidence based and consistent across year levels and subject areas is the key goal of our Secondary School Learning and Teaching Framework. Based on Marzano’s Dimensions of Learning (DoL) and informed by the work of John Hattie, the central focus of this framework is on explicit instruction and formative assessment. The enactment of this framework is underpinned by the notion that fostering learning is the academic imperative and it enables us to live out our mission of “Celebrating the Gospel, Nurturing the Individual and Empowering Lifelong Learners.”
St Andrews is committed to being a community of learners dedicated to the pursuit of excellence and wherein Learning and Teaching is central. Our College has developed a range of processes which support the enactment of this framework. Our intentional approaches to collaborative curriculum development, planning and delivery; feedback on professional practices and professional learning partnerships, use of student data to reflect on learning and achievement underpin quality teaching at St Andrews. All of this occurs within the context of our Christian faith and values.
The Secondary School Learning and Teaching Framework template (as shown above) is based on Dimensions of Learning and the Positive Education approach to wellbeing articulated by the acronym PERMA (Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment) and underpinned by the four tenets of a St Andrews education. The template has been developed by the Curriculum Leadership Team and College teaching staff. It ensures that clear and explicit learning goals and intentions are established and that relevant student data is used to differentiate learning in order to support students in achieving these goals. A range of cross-curriculum priorities including; literacy, numeracy, higher order thinking skills, and knowing students as people and as learners (‘nurturing the individual’) are implicitly a lived experience at St Andrews.
The Teaching and Learning Framework provides the College with a clear and consistent way for us to develop programs that ensure quality teaching and learning experiences and outcomes for our students. It also informs our everyday practices and gives us a common language to articulate our shared beliefs about students and their learning. This ensures that student learning is supported in a consistent and coherent manner.
A Secondary-wide approach to lesson observations, feedback and evaluation of practice for teaching staff fosters an open, collaborative and supportive professional culture of reflection and continuous improvement. Regular observations and feedback for all teachers is framed around a reflection tool linked to this template and focused on supporting the ongoing development of teacher expertise and modelling lifelong learning.
What is Dimensions of Learning?
Dimensions of Learning (DoL) is a framework, not a curriculum. It provides teachers and learners with a guide to curriculum planning and delivery. It synthesizes the latest research, including the work by John Hattie, on cognition, and the work of the human brain and adopts a learner and learning centered approach. The framework acknowledges the importance of the environment in which learning occurs and students’ attitudes and active participation in learning. It also places a strong emphasis on the use of complex reasoning strategies (higher-order thinking) and the five dimensions are holistic by nature to give expression to how learners and teachers engage in the process of learning. Dimension 1: Positive attitudes and perceptions about learning Our academic programme encourages our students to be confident and interested learners. This dimension is based on the principle that students’ attitudes and perceptions influence learning. This dimension focuses on both students’ attitudes and perceptions about classroom environment and classroom tasks. At St Andrews we work to ensure a safe, supportive learning environment where students are encouraged to adopt a Growth Mindset and to take academic risks to extend their learning knowing that they are engaged in purposeful work. Working within this dimension- answering yes to questions such as: Do I feel safe and accepted? Is this information useful to me? Can I do this? Do I know what is expected? is linked to effective learning and teaching. Dimension 2: The acquisition and integration of knowledge This dimension focuses on the thinking needed to acquire and integrate knowledge. DoL offers a very deliberate approach for learners to construct new knowledge. It promotes the importance of shaping or organizing new knowledge to embed learning and to encourage rich connections to prior learning. An emphasis on deliberate plans for steps towards that goal is emphasised through good teaching and opportunities to reflect on learning. Knowledge is broken into two broad categories:
Declarative knowledge includes what we want students to know: facts, concepts, and principles.
Procedural knowledge is what we want students to be able to do: processes and skills.
It is important to understand these two types of knowledge because we learn them differently. The process of acquiring and integrating declarative knowledge involves constructing meaning for, organizing, and storing the facts, concepts, and principles. Acquiring procedural knowledge requires learners to construct models for, shape, and internalize the skills and processes. Dimension 3: The extension and refinement of knowledge Learning, of course, involves more than just knowing many things. Learners need to be able to develop their own knowledge, relate it to other learning and use the process to make distinctions and reach new conclusions. This dimension encourages learners to extend and refine their knowledge. Learners who engage in mental processes that help them gain new insights about information, see new connections, and make new discoveries are highly effective. These processes, at times referred to as higher-order thinking skills, include comparing and contrasting, classifying, making inductions and deductions, constructing support and analysing in various forms. Dimension 4: The meaningful use of knowledge The real goal of learning is to encourage students to use their knowledge and understanding in meaningful ways and situations. Learner-directed complex reasoning requires planning and also calls on strong participation and self-responsibility on the part of the learner. They might include: decision-making, problem solving, investigation, experimental enquiry, and invention. These sorts of learning tasks are intellectually challenging, engaging and stimulating for the learner. Dimension 5: Habits of Mind Habits of Mind, the fifth dimension, positions higher-order thinking as a feature of the learner not of the task. Habits of Mind is about knowing how to behave intelligently when you don’t know the answer. It means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known and when challenging conditions demand strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity, and craftsmanship. The critical attribute of intelligent human beings is not only having information, but also knowing how to act on it. Dubbed ‘intelligent behaviours’ the Habits of Mind as identified by Costa and Kallicks acknowledge 16 habits that typify effective, independent learners with both the skills and the internal motivation to be successful.
The 16 Habits of Mind identified by Costa and Kallick include:
- Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
- Managing impulsivity
- Gathering data through all senses
- Listening with understanding and empathy
- Creating, imagining, innovating
- Thinking flexibly
- Responding with wonderment and awe
- Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
- Taking responsible risks
- Striving for accuracy
- Finding humor
- Questioning and posing problems
- Thinking interdependently
- Applying past knowledge to new situations
- Remaining open to continuous learning
St Andrews is guided by one overarching aim – an improvement in student learning. In the Middle School that means practices and structures that promote active engagement and a love of learning amongst early adolescents inform our program. Our timetable structures in the Middle School have been planned to cater for the significant differences that exist between students in Year 7 and students in Year 9 and ensure that our teaching is both age-directed and age-specific.
All students have an allocated Learning Advisor who has primary responsibility for their academic supervision. In Year 7 these Learning Advisors work in pairs to teach the four ‘core’ subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Study of Society & Environment (SOSE). Students in this year level will also focus on learning the organisational skills of time management, prioritising and study skills that will enable them to flourish both in their current year and in the years to come. Year 7 students also have specialist lessons in Art, Music, Health & Physical Education, ICLTs (Information Computing Learning Technologies), eLearning and Numeracy/ Problem-Solving. They also study either German or Japanese. Additionally, students in Year 7 have an opportunity to select two subjects from the College’s vertical elective programme.
In Year 8 students will also have a number of their ‘core’ subjects taught by their Learning Advisors. In addition to specialist lessons in HPE, eLearning and Numeracy/Problem-Solving, students in Year 8 have the opportunity to select four subjects from the College’s elective programme and to continue their study of German or Japanese. Students in Year 8 may also select to be part of an extension individualised research project.
Students in Year 9 have a more diverse range of teachers in keeping with adolescents’ need for broader stimuli and in preparation for senior study. Learning Advisors will generally teach at least one of the ‘core’ subjects. Students continue their study of Health & Physical Education; however, they will have the opportunity to select six subjects from the College’s elective programme. In keeping with the College’s Christian Ethos all students in the Middle School study Christian Studies as an integral part of their timetable.
Middle School Electives Program
St Andrews Middle School operates an extensive vertical elective program enabling extension and enrichment of a wide range of key learning areas. As students progress through Years 7-9 the opportunities they have for selecting electives increases affording them chances to develop their passions and expertise in certain areas while still having the flexibility to explore subjects they may not have tried previously. At the ‘Base Camp’ level students from Years 7-9 work alongside each other in subjects from across the Key Learning Areas gaining a wide range of fundamental skills. Ultimately students from Year 9 will undertake subjects that will enrich and challenge their learning and provide a launching pad for potential future senior studies. A PDF copy of the current electives is available from the menu bar on the left of the screen.