Redefining Education: Focusing on ‘What’ We Teach for Lifelong Impact

A lot of work over the last decade in education has been focused on pedagogy – how we teach. Informed by the meta-data analysis of Melbourne University academic John Hattie, teachers’ conferences have often focused on strategies in the classroom. In fact, the Victorian government has based their pedagogical strategy around Hattie’s High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) for the past five years. When teachers are trained at university they look at these data-informed strategies and they are encouraged to use them in the classroom to ensure engaging and purposeful learning.

All our teachers at the College know about ‘HITS’. But we’ve been working since 2011 partnering with Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education – Project Zero – and focusing more on metacognitive strategies and a ‘Culture of Thinking’. All our new staff are given a basic introduction to Dr Ron Ritchhart’s Thinking Routines, and these routines are implemented in our lessons. They’re enhanced by our longer, 80-minute lesson format in years 5 to 12 which gives genuine time for direct instruction, thinking time, collaborative time, and implementation of learning (completing tasks).

Sometimes it’s important to step away from the ‘how’ of teaching, and get back to the basics of ‘what’ we teach. It’s always interesting to ask adults what they remember learning from secondary school and often it’s not much! There is a general understanding that the ‘experience’ of learning was important in shaping everyone as successful lifelong learners. But the actual, individual facts – how much do they really matter?

Our Heads of Learning think that they do matter. This year we have embarked on a major curriculum mapping exercise using the ATLAS online curriculum system so that we have a more efficient, central database of all our curriculum. Content is mapped to the Australian Curriculum, but is not limited by it. This mapping will allow all of our teachers and Heads of Learning to get a holistic understanding of what we teach. It allows us to make judgements about the suitability of content. It also enables better cross curricula collaboration, noticing similarities in content between subject areas and enhancing them for the benefit of all students.

Most of all, we want to better map and assess our curriculum as to what learning is life-worthy. How can the content that students learn in lessons inform their development as young people? How does our learning content develop our student’s characters? Using this software allows us to move past just a discussion about pedagogy, and ensure our students experience the beauty and challenge of a truly rich curriculum.

Charles Neave 

Director of Pedagogy