Tony Moffa – Senior School Learning Leader

Recently I had the privilege of attending the Scholarship Ceremony for the Adelaide University Principals’ Award to see Jacqueline Smith (2018) receive her award.

This scholarship is for new University of Adelaide students of high academic merit who have also made a significant contribution to their school and/or wider community.

Jacqueline met both criteria by taking responsibility for her learning, setting high standards and maintaining a balance between academic, social and community life.

Increasingly, tertiary institutions and employers are valuing the contribution young people make to their world and not just how well they do academically. What stands out in Jacqueline’s resume, besides her well organised and self-directed approach to learning, is her involvement in extracurricular activities and interactions with a wide range of people. In other words, her willingness to connect.

This led me to ponder what we want for our students when they depart through the gates of Cornerstone at the end of six years of secondary education.

An article I read recently by Michael Fullan on Deep Learning, makes the point that with the introduction of high-stakes comparative testing, like the Program for International Testing (PISA) and NAPLAN, we have had a frenzied approach to increasing achievement scores and lost the sight of the human wellbeing goal of connectedness.

Similarly, Vygotsky (1978) believed that learning does not occur in isolation, rather it is a social process, guided by interactions with others.

At Cornerstone we continually strive to find the balance between supporting students and creating an environment that challenges them, while fostering goal setting and collaboration in their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).

For those unfamiliar with Vygotsky’s theory, the ZPD is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help.

From Fullan’s perspective we need to redefine the moral imperative to have “high expectations for all students in both academic performance and in connectedness in life”, or in other words having healthy connections in one’s life.

So how do we go about transitioning students from being reliant, to independent and interdependent learners?

I believe the teacher’s role is to facilitate the learning process rather than direct it, by creating an environment that fosters goal setting and collaboration in the learner’s ZPD. This, I hope, provides students opportunities to develop from teacher reliant into independent learners and live out our learning vision to Wonder, Think and Act.

For those wanting to find out more about Michael Fullan’s ideas around Deep Learning, I recommend his book, Nuance: Why Some Leaders Succeed and Others Fail, A Joint Publication With the Ontario Principals’ Council and the B.C. Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association.