Principal's Blog - 28 March 2019

24 Mar 2019

Dear members of the Marcellin College Family,

Last Friday I was very fortunate to meet with Greg Miller, Principal of St. Luke’s College, Parramatta. Greg is a highly experienced and innovative educator who has been a leader in developing ground breaking educational programs in schools over many years. Greg was introduced to us through the Future Schools Alliance of which Marcellin College is a member. Our conversation about education was both stimulating and encouraging. I felt in Greg we had found another kindred spirit in the work we are trying to do to engage and connect our students with learning in a contemporary context.

Greg was very keen to see learning in action at Marcellin, so we took a learning walk through our College. It was wonderful to witness some of the creative and thoughtful pedagogical practice which is taking place in our College every day across the various classrooms we visited. One such example occurred in a Unit 3 Biology class facilitated by Rob Aston. As we entered this science classroom, I noticed that all the students were engaged with each other in small groups. They were drawing diagrams and concept maps on the writable glass surfaces which cover the walls of the room. In speaking with the boys, I discovered that they were discussing the biological wonder of cellular structure. It was inspiring to see the way the boys worked together to develop their understanding of this concept. It was also clear to see the use of soft skills such as problem solving, collaboration, analysis and critical thinking as the students worked to develop their understanding of this foundational aspect of biological studies.

It was interesting also to observe the role of the teacher in this learning space. At first it was hard to find Rob in the room. He wasn’t to be found in that most traditional places for the teacher, the front of the classroom. Instead, I found Rob at the back of the room listening in on one of the groups of boys. They were explaining to their teacher the various diagrams, equations and concept maps they had drawn and how these images helped them to understand the concepts put before them. Rob, did not lead or direct them, he worked more as a guide and facilitator, asking questions and challenging the boys to extend their knowledge of the concept they were studying. It was clear to see who the owners of learning in this classroom were – the boys themselves. The positive energy and enthusiasm of the students in this learning space was palpable. They demonstrated all the hallmarks of self-directed, independent and self-determined learners.

These are not necessarily new ideas in pedagogical practice, however, they are becoming increasingly essential elements of learning as we prepare students for a world that is beyond our imagining. In a recent paper presented by the Australian Industry Skills Committee titled, Future skills and training – A practical resource to help identify future skills and training it states that…”systems that enable knowledge exchange in two-way learning within education and training settings are increasingly preferred”. It speaks too of the need to develop students as intrinsically motivated life long learners who demonstrate the ability to attain and apply new knowledge and use new technologies. All these concepts and skills were on display in the Year 11 Biology class we visited.

Other ideas presented in this article speak of the need to develop learning ecosystems which are collaborative, fluid and cross disciplinary. I was very encouraged by the tone and content of this article as it, along with much current educational thinking, sits very comfortably with the new learning direction our College is taking.

The Polaris ecosystem recognises and develops young men in our care as truly whole persons. It is about growing autonomous, competent and relational people in a safe and nurturing environment where all are supported to develop their independence, self-awareness, character and academic competence to enable them to meet the challenges of a constantly evolving world.

Our staff continue to commit themselves to this goal both in the work they are doing in the classroom currently and the all-important planning they are doing to bring our new learning ecosystem to life for future students of our great school.

Mark Murphy