From the Principal

As we are now well and truly into Semester 2, I plan to map out a few of the initiatives currently in play to improve the learning and teaching landscape at De La Salle.

You have probably heard me speak at various functions or at least write in Duce and other publications about our vision to drive improvement in student outcomes. This remains our unambiguous goal and all of us – staff, students and parents have a role to play. I will outline below the programs and initiatives we are working on as a teaching group but I’d also like to mention a little about how parents play such a critical role in their sons’ learning. Since arriving in 2014, I have been very vocal on the need for a positive three-way partnership between staff, students and parents and I look forward to your continued support, especially in raising the standards of our boys’ learning.

At present we are working on or implementing the following initiatives, geared specifically to make a positive difference to the quality of teaching and learning and in turn, student outcomes. These represent a snapshot of a variety of initiatives being pursued in 2017.

Each VCE teacher has undertaken a mid-year reflection and strategic planning process to analyse their students’ Semester 1 progress and plan for growth and progression leading up to the September trial exams and final VCAA examinations.

Three teams of teachers are engaged in Working Groups to develop:

  • A generic Rubrics template and process based on aligning all assessment to the Standards in the Victorian Curriculum,
  • Learning and Teaching Protocols to develop clarity, consistency and quality around classroom pedagogy and
  • Teachers’ Position Description to spell out expectations, standards and responsibilities integral to our roles.

We are in the final stages of selecting an educational leadership program for our middle leaders. Learning Area Team Leaders and Year Level/House Coordinators will all be involved in a formal training program involving 360 degree feedback, analysis and application of leadership styles, building capabilities, developing and leading teams and creating a preferred culture.

Over 90% of staff have now completed our internal Digital Learning Certificate, designed to equip all teachers with the skills required and the familiarity with the whole suite of software and systems we use on an everyday basis. The primary goal is to ensure all staff are up to date and capable of using ICT in the classroom to support and improve students’ learning. Next year is the third and final year of the notebook rollout which means all nine Year Levels will be using their devices in class each day. This generates almost unlimited possibilities and opportunities to exercise independence, creativity and critical thinking in their learning.

We are very excited about the Year 9 In9quiry program’s focus on Semester 2’s Rural Experience. Working in groups of three the boys pursue effective research into a driving question; giving, receiving and using feedback to improve the research process. The five day expedition in the Snowy River National Park in Term 4 is an opportunity to bring the research to life, as well as face some physical and mental challenges. Activities include hiking, camping, cooking, caving, abseiling, climbing, rafting and service.

Working with the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), De La Salle has developed an explicit improvement agenda, which links in with the nine elements of the National School Improvement Tool (NSIT). Key strategies from the NSIT such as Analysis and discussion of data, A culture that promotes learning, An expert teaching team and Effective pedagogical practices underpin our current work in staff Professional Learning Teams as we embed the Victorian Curriculum in Years 4 – 10 with its associated Standards. These principles are certainly applicable at VCE as well.

I have this week been reading through Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research. A report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth for the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau 2012.

I am always looking for opportunities for parents to be involved in and support the work of the College and the most relevant and personal ways parents can support us is in relation to their sons’ learning. Teachers and Learning Areas are now more explicit in their expectations around the standard of work expected and the required level of commitment to studies in order for boys of all ages to perform at their best. How can parents support us in this critical area?

The research indicates the key to facilitating positive change in a child’s academic attainment is the engagement of parents in learning outcomes in the home.

International research has shown that parental engagement (of various kinds) has a positive impact on many indicators of student achievement, including:

  • Higher grades and test scores,
  • Enrolment in higher level programs and advanced classes,
  • Higher successful completion of classes,
  • Lower drop-out rates,
  • Higher graduation rates, and
  • A greater likelihood of commencing postsecondary education.

Beyond educational achievement, parental engagement is associated with various indicators of student development. These include:

  • More regular school attendance,
  • Better social skills,
  • Improved behaviour,
  • Better adaptation to school,
  • Increased social skills,
  • A greater sense of personal competence and efficacy for learning,
  • Greater engagement in school work, and
  • A stronger belief in the importance of education.

The next question may be, “What does ‘parent engagement’ in schooling mean and how is it exercised?” This can, of course, take many forms but a few suggestions include:

  • Communicating with children about parental expectations for education and about the value and enjoyment of learning,
  • Discussing learning strategies with children,
  • Linking school work to current events and other topics,
  • Fostering educational aspirations and making preparations and plans for the future,
  • Providing a stimulating home learning environment and making learning enjoyable and rewarding, and
  • Focusing on activities which are directed at building students’ decision-making and problem solving skills and affirming their growing autonomy, independence, and academic abilities.

I find that parents working with teachers through open communication and reinforcing with their sons the expectations the staff have for work completion, the standard of work, punctual submission, guidelines for revision and assessment is an effective mechanism.

A very complex area with endless possibilities but I hope the above provides some food for thought and generates some discussion around the dinner table in the coming weeks!

Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 11 - 3 August 2017