Australian Education Award Finalist - Learnership Case Study

It has been my pleasure and privilege to collaborate with teachers and leaders at Asquith Girls High School (AGHS) in Sydney since 2019. Together we have created a powerful and innovative program to nurture growth mindsets and develop learnership in their 650 students. And I am absolutely thrilled that Asquith Girls High School has been recognised as a finalist in the 2022 Australian Education Awards for best student wellbeing program.
Known in the school as AIM (Asquith Individualised Mentoring) the program pairs each learner with a teacher mentor to support them in creating and articulating their learning goals. The program draws on my work to nurture a growth mindset, build learnership capabilities and develop the Habits of Mind in students. I have provided staff with ongoing professional learning and the structures and resources to help them effectively implement these ideas in every classroom, every day.

The school has done an...

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Every Mistake You Make is NOT Progress – Every Mistake You Correct Is Progress

How learners understand and respond to mistakes is an important aspect of Learnership.
There’s been a lot of well-intentioned hype surrounding the role of mistakes in learning on social media, in parenting groups and even among teachers and administration. And while the concept is good, the application isn’t quite right. In fact, when it comes to the role of mistakes in learning, we’ve been getting it all wrong.
If social media is to be believed teachers should be praising, even celebrating, their students’ mistakes. They should even be encouraging students to make mistakes with the idea that this is the path down which real learning lies. But I think what social media has to say about mistakes has largely missed the point.

Not All Mistakes are Equal

Social media and parenting groups tend to oversimplify the role of mistakes in learning. For example, "every mistake you make is progress" is simply not true. Often a mistake is unintended...

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Future Proof your Students: The Role of Learnership and Habits of Mind

The Habits of Mind are one of the true classics in education. Described by Art Costa and Bena Kallick, these 16 dispositions define the effective, efficacious thinker. They are the dispositions of an expert problem solver, a thoughtful decision maker and a creative thinker. They promote strategic reasoning, insight and perseverance. And they describe how successful problem solvers behave when they are in their Learning Zone.

It’s not surprising that the Habits of Mind should form a central role in Learnership. In fact, fostering a good understanding and appreciation for these Habits of Mind is an important part of how teachers can help students become skilful learners. As part of my Learnership Intensive I’ll show you how to work with the Habits of Mind help your students become more skilful learners.

Habits Of Mind and the Skilful Learner

How do the Habits of Mind help turn students into skilful learners? First, it provides a shared language...

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Safe and Supportive. But not easy

As a teacher you care about our students. You understand how tough Covid has been for many of them, and you’ve seen the reports about increasing rates of stress and anxiety amongst students. As a result, you’ve become increasingly focused on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and creating "safe and supportive" learning environments in our schools.
This week I’d like to share a personal story, as a metaphor for why we need to think carefully about how we create safe and supportive learning environments – lest "Safe and Supportive" gets in the way learning.

A few years ago, a group of friends and I took up indoor rock climbing. It was a lot of fun and great exercise. And like anything, it got easier as we got better at the techniques.

One day I decided that I wanted to challenge myself and try a new route. In rock climbing, difficulty is ranked by colour, and this would be the first time that I would be going up the more difficult blue route.

I got started...
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Are your students unmotivated, or de-motivated? And how to help

As an educator, you probably have students who just won’t engage in learning. They sit back, totally disinterested. They don’t answer questions. They avoid challenges. And they fail to put much effort into their learning.

But the real problem is… they lack motivation.

How do you motivate students?

If you’re wondering how to motivate your students, you’re not alone. Motivating students ranks as one of the biggest challenges for teachers. We’re all working towards the same goal.

But before we can understand how to motivate students, we need to understand why they lack motivation in the first place. And to do that we need to understand the reason for the lack of motivation – are the students un-motivated or de-motivated?

Unmotivated students - "I don't want to..."

Sometimes students simply don’t want to learn the things we’re trying to teach them. They are completely disinterested. They’ll say things like, "when am I...
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Teachers make a difference. But students make a BIGGER difference

Ever since John Hattie’s paper, “Teachers Make a Difference, What is the research evidence?, and his subsequent publications on Visible Learning methods, teachers have been hearing the same message over and over again…

Teachers are the single most powerful influence on student achievement.

But that begs the question – are we? Are we really the most powerful influence on student achievement? What about the students themselves? What role do they play in the learning process? And how does that impact student achievement?

Teachers make a difference. Students make a BIGGER difference

Hattie believes that the greatest source of variance that can make a difference to student achievement is the teacher. And it’s his belief that we should improve the quality of teaching to “improve the trajectory of all students”. This line of thinking has been widely accepted in education, and has led to a huge growth in teacher development.

Hattie identifies...
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The Struggling Student: Why Do Some Students Simply Give Up?

As an educator, you will have faced students who seem to give up easily. Students where it seems like the moment things get even a little difficult, or require a bit more effort, they just call it a day. Compare this to the students who seem to have the ability to stick to challenges or projects for hours, lasered focused despite difficulties. These students are far more persistent and continue to press on, despite facing challenges and struggles.

So what’s the difference? Why is it that some students simply give up (and apparently so easily), while others persist even when it requires hard work and effort? And more importantly, what do we do about it?

Why Do Some Students Simply Give Up?

When we’re faced with these students, it’s easy to draw conclusions. It’s a simple solution to believe that they’re just lazy (and human nature to draw that quick conclusion). But actually that’s probably not the case.

In fact, BOTH students are likely acting...
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How to Beat Teacher Burnout

When I worked as a teacher, I was given an incredibly useful, insightful and simple piece of advice. Never work harder than your students.

This is important advice because as teachers we work hard. We push ourselves. We care and we fret. We’re constantly learning and striving to give the students in our care the best educational experience. But all this can lead to burnout. And when teachers are burned out, the children suffer as well.
We’ve Been Focused on the Teachers

In recent years our industry has been increasingly focused on what teachers do in the classroom. We’ve created the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers framework. John Hattie—professor of education and the director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne—has had his work translated into High Impact Teaching Strategies for teachers. And educational researchers like Bob Marzarno...
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Habits of Mind – Focusing on the “How” of Learning

Do you have students who get stuck in their learning?

I’m not talking about being stuck on a particular problem. I’m talking about students being stuck in their learning. These students “try hard” but constantly struggle, finding it difficult to grow and reach new standards each year.

Often, these students slowly fall further and further behind.

These are also the students who take up more of a teacher’s time. At first, we need to scaffold their learning. Then, we need to give them extra support and “hold their hand” as we guide their learning. Eventually, it may seem as though we’re dragging them through the entire learning process – spending more and more of our energy helping them as they achieve less and less.

As a result, teachers feel exhausted.

At some point, these students may simply give up. Having struggled and failed for so long, they stop trying. There is a learnt sense of helplessness. Rather than face the struggle and...
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Challenges – Do your students have a good relationship with Challenges?

How many times have you heard a student ask, “Do I have to do this?” Or, “Can I do something a bit easier?”

Do your students look for the easy options, seeking the “path of least resistance”?

Do too many of your students focus on completing work rather than completing it well? Do they ask, “Is this good enough?” Or, “Is this going to count”?
Perhaps your students are inclined to give up as soon as they begin to struggle, even just a little.

Do your students sometimes stre-e-e-e-e-e-tch the time they spend on tasks to avoid attempting the hard problems at the end of the lesson? 

If this sounds familiar, then your students don’t have a good relationship with challenges. They look for the instant gratification of doing something easy instead of the long-term gain of doing something difficult.

Students with a poor relationship with challenges need to be led, and sometimes dragged, through the learning process. They need...
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