From The Principal

This past week or so there has been a range of articles, letters, editorials and opinions in the media around the concept of what schools offer their students in the way of pathways. Various schools and even sectors of education providers have had claims levelled at them around the course advice they offer students. I always find this very interesting as I am pretty sure most schools know their students, their families and their culture fairly well and do their best to support the goals and aspirations of all within.

At De La Salle our message to students and families remains the same and unambiguous. In fact, at its core, in its very essence the theme probably hasn’t changed a great deal in 105 years as we follow the now 333 year old model of Lasallian education. I hope you are aware of our emphasis on the Five Core Principles of Lasallian Education and the one most closely related to this discussion is providing a Quality Education. In simple terms we expect each student to aspire to and achieve personal excellence. That concept takes different forms for the rich diversity of students we work with in Malvern and it often means they take different pathways. However, for me there are a few key messages each student and family is expected to take on board to fulfil their obligations around the Lasallian Principle of a Quality Education.

The Lasallian School provides an education that prepares students not only to contribute to society but to transform it. “Men for others” is a phrase often used to describe our boys. We encourage all to use their knowledge and talents to critically examine and engage the world in light of the message of the Gospel. We engage in a Quality Education together as students, staff and families by thinking critically and examining our world in its contemporary context.

The De La Salle College, Malvern philosophy is to provide an education that focuses on excellence, where students work to their full potential and when they leave they’re ready to make a contribution to society as active and informed citizens. Our aim is to develop students’ abilities to use their talents in light of the message of the Gospels and to take greater responsibility for their own education.

I believe very strongly our De La Salle students will benefit greatly from paying greater attention to this last point. From Year 4 to Year 12, the capacity to work independently, take responsibility, reflect on his learning and set goals and targets can only support each student on his learning journey.

I have done some work before on supporting students to establish their own goals, then monitor and evaluate their progress in achieving these goals. Students of all abilities and all pathways find it very helpful. It is often the most organised and the most disciplined, not the most talented student who will achieve the greater success. This is a critical element of my goal for all our students – to be the very best you can be and to take the steps required to ensure this happens.

The following provides an outline of the purpose of student learning goals and frequently asked questions. Learning goals encourage students to reflect on their work, to evaluate decision-making processes and their consequences, and to employ thinking skills for learning and interacting at school.

This highlights the strong relationship between assessment as learning, not just as an outcome and the development and monitoring of personal learning goals. The awareness of learning and the ability of learners to direct the learning for themselves are of increasing importance in the context of encouraging lifelong learning. Key characteristics of learning goals and their link to assessment and progress include:

  • the sharing of learning goals between teachers, students and parents;
  • students know and recognise the standards they are aiming for;
  • student self-assessment;
  • feedback which assists students to recognise future learning goals and how to achieve them;
  • the critical belief that all students can improve; and
  • both teachers and students reviewing and reflecting on assessment data.

Personal learning goals, therefore, are an important component of the learning cycle and benefit the learner in many ways. Personal learning goals can focus on a range of learning areas, such as academic achievement; social development and interaction, and organisational skill development.

Allowing students opportunities to discuss their personal learning goals will positively encourage them to share and talk about their learning goals in a non-threatening environment. This may also provide students with an opportunity to learn from other students by observing how their peers express their goals and plan strategies to achieve them. Through developing learning goals, students take more responsibility for their own learning, develop a better understanding of their own strengths and challenges in learning, develop strategies to manage their own learning and increas independence in the learning process.

Some suggested guidelines for students developing Personal Learning Goals

1. What are my strengths?

2. What are some areas I could improve on – academic, organisational, social

  • Academic – which subjects, which areas would I like to improve? How can I demonstrate real progress? e.g. reading and analysis of English texts, research skills in Humanities, algebra problems etc;
  • Organisational – bringing all equipment to various lessons, using diary/planner, completing work, homework, assignments on time, to the best of my ability, using my time well in lessons to make sure I am learning and involved in the process;
  • Social – how do I work with my peers? Do I concentrate and behave appropriately in class? Do I cooperate with my teachers?

3. What do I expect to happen if I improve in this area – how will I know I have achieved success in my goals?

4. General ideas for my learning goals;

  • I learn best when I…
  • I am good at…
  • What I think I could do to help me improve/extend my skills/knowledge/academic performance…

The following prompts may help guide students in their reflection of their strengths and weaknesses. For each point, students reflect on how, to what degree and whether it is a strength or challenge in their approach to learning.  They can either use some of these or adapt them to suit a more specific/individual goal.

This week, I suggest students focus on academic goals as below:

  • Focus on three areas to improve my learning and level of performance in (subject);
  • Take more responsibility to ensure I learn more effectively in class;
  • Set high standards for my learning;
  • Work with my teacher to understand exactly what’s expected of me and how I can improve;
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in my subjects and plan strategies to improve;
  • Ask more questions in class to increase understanding of key concepts;
  • Contribute more to class discussion;
  • Seek feedback from my teachers and peers on key aspects of my work, assessment tasks etc;
  • Apply myself more, be more creative and think through problem solving tasks, challenging questions, issues and project;
  • Identify which activities, tasks, methods help me to learn best; both in class and doing homework and revision;
  • Use my teachers’ feedback to evaluate my performance in assessment tasks and plan for future improvement;
  • Develop my skills in ICT to improve creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking in my learning and presentations;
  • Listen more carefully to teachers and peers in class.

Lasallian Leaders Gathering

Last week I was fortunate to attend the annual Lasallian Leaders Gathering from Sunday to Tuesday in Wollongong. This is a significant annual event for the Lasallian Mission Council and an opportunity to promote the theme of Lasallians without Limits — Working for a Hopeful Future. The event provided a dynamic platform for discussion and reflection.

With 63 delegates from across all four sectors of the ANZPPNG District (Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea), the Lasallian Leaders Gathering presented a valuable opportunity to address current challenges and opportunities, welcome new school Principals and celebrate the highlights and the many successes of each sector as one Lasallian community.

The opening address by Br Visitor, David Hawke, commenced the significant gathering on day one, setting the tone for the next three days.

Br David emphasised the importance of our District identity, making the point that while we have various works and Lasallian communities across the District, each with its own identity, we do form one District community of Lasallians. The solidarity expressed between Lasallian institutions within the District has continued to shape our District identity. The capacity of the various countries to work together to support those most in need has been a hallmark of our affiliation. This is best demonstrated by De La Salle Malvern’s commitment to utilising funds from Mission Action Day to resource Pakistani Lasallian schools and the annual building/immersion visit to Bomana De La Salle High School in Papua New Guinea.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The final public hearing into Catholic Diocese and Religious Orders by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia has now concluded. On 24 February 2017, Br David Hawke wrote a letter to all Lasallian workplaces in the ANZPPNG District addressing this matter. For more information please read the message from Br David.

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day, Wednesday 8 March, we at a local level acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of so very many women to the Lasallian Mission. We shared a morning tea on both campuses, which was much appreciated by all College staff. Br David Hawke, has also sent a message to all Lasallian workplaces in the ANZPPNG District, which you can read here.

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 03 - 9 March 2017