Principal's Blog - 20 February 2020

18 Feb 2020

A Contemporary Marist Education – What does that look like?

Dear members of the Marcellin community,

On Tuesday this week I attended a Principals’ Workshop led by Professor John Hattie. Professor Hattie's work is internationally acclaimed. His influential 2008 book, Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement is believed to be the world’s largest evidence-based study into the factors that improve student learning. Hailed by the Times Education Supplement as “teaching’s Holy Grail”, this ground-breaking study involved more than 80 million students from around the world and brought together 50,000 smaller studies. One of the outcomes of the study was the publication of a range of factors that can be measured to indicate their impact on learning, either positively or negatively. In regard to the things that can enhance learning, Hattie’s research, along with other contemporary studies, is giving us a clearer picture of what works. It’s not one simple thing of course – there are many variables. But the research is providing compelling evidence for us to consider.

Here at Marcellin, some of the findings are a ringing endorsement of what is already happening, while others provide a catalyst to look at factors that can potentially have a greater impact on student learning. A current example at the College is the introduction of Learning Mentors for students engaged in the Depth Stage (Years 9 & 10) of our learning framework, Polaris. At the Principals’ Workshop it was noted that one of the most significant positive impacts on a student is for someone at the school to have a conversation with them beginning with the question; “Tell me what it is like to be a student at our school?” If this develops into a regular conversation about the student’s learning, then it becomes even more effective. The role of the Learning Mentors is thus a crucial addition to the learning environment for our students.

An ongoing learning conversation began this week for the young men in Years 9 and 10 with their Learning Mentors. The journey is underway and as the relationships develop and trust is established, each young man will become more aware of, and take more responsibility for, his learning. Our hope is that this will lead to a willingness to 'have a go’, to take risks and embrace errors as opportunities for learning, within a supportive environment.

Setting high expectations on the back of building strong relationships has always been a tenet of a Marist education - it is what we refer to as Presence. Teachers have demonstrated this at Marcellin over many years. This approach is summed up beautifully in the Marist document, In the Footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat:

We educate above all through being present to young people in ways that show we care for them personally. We make time for them beyond merely professional contacts, getting to know each one individually. Personally, and as a group of adults, we seek to establish relationships with them, founded on love, which create a climate for learning in an educational setting, for passing on values, and for personal growth. In the Footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat #99

The inclusion of Learning Mentors into our structure not only demonstrates we are in sync with what the latest research is telling us, it also fits perfectly within our Marist pedagogy.

Blessings for the week ahead.

John Hickey