21st Century Learning
The MLC School Difference at the Junior School
The MLC School Difference means refining the definition of teaching, learning and even knowledge itself. Rather than just being transmitters of knowledge, teachers are now in a transactional relationship with their students.
Teaching is viewed as both an art and a science in that teachers are constantly identifying what students already know before starting work in a particular unit of work and understanding when and how to intervene in the learning process so that meaningful learning takes place.
The Junior School provides an exciting and stimulating learning program. Girls may learn almost any musical instrument, play in ensembles, perform in concerts, debate, play chess, learn speech, act in plays, participate in gymnastics, dance, swimming, diving or tennis, take part in the Mathematics Olympiad, be a Crusader, go camping and participate in excursions, just to name a few activities on offer.
The Influence of Reggio Emilia
One of the ways we have explored how the MLC School Difference can look in daily practice is to consider the philosophy and practice of the schools of the Reggio Emilia region of northern Italy. This style of learning is based on the belief that young children possess rich levels of understanding and competencies. Teachers and parents also play an important part in making this competency visible through the documenting of the children's thoughts, beliefs, feelings and their relationships to each other and their community.
The educators of Reggio Emilia have responded to their knowledge about children by:
- Documenting children's actions, interactions, ideas and questions
- Collaborating with other teachers and parents to share interpretations and suggest ways of supporting and advancing children's learning
- Supporting the development of strong relationships between children
- Providing opportunities for children to investigate and plan together in small groups
- Helping children develop skills so that they can communicate in a democratic way, where everyone's voice is heard and respected
- Creating environments that celebrate and help share the work of children, teachers and parents
Collaborative Learning Projects
Integrated units of work are studied through an adaptation of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, where girls, as powerful learners, explore, investigate, research and respond to their learning through several ‘languages’ including visual arts, drama, dance, music, writing and speaking.
Fundamental Movement Program
In recognition of the vital link between the development of fundamental movement skills and the learning of key literacy and numeracy concepts, our youngest students participate in an early morning gross motor session three mornings a week.
The regular use of information technology is a part of every class program. Library research skills and IT management skills are developed through explicity teaching and then applied across the curriculum, particularly during our Collaborative Learning Projects. The opportunity to connect with children across the globe and innovate on introduced programs, makes interactive learning with technology all the more powerful. Our use of laptop banks across Year 1 to Year 3 (each girl from Year 4 owns their own laptop) enables our students to learn anywhere and any time.
Exchanges in class help teachers record the girls learning journey and levels of understanding.
Flexible Learning Structures
We aim to provide flexible pathways through the learning of literacy and numeracy fundamentals. Because each student learns differently, we do away with some of the traditional learning structures that can often hinder the rate of progress. The aim is to continually reflect on the nature of each learner; to use the data gathered through formal assessment and observation and to group students according to their needs. In mathematics and in all aspects of literacy, this means that girls have the opportunity to work at a level that matches their ability in the different areas of content. For teachers, it means knowing students better, and using different strategies and tools to guide each learner to the next level of understanding or skill.
In all primary years, specialists from our Educational Support Services (ESS) Department to work alongside teachers, particularly in the focus areas of mathematics and writing, to cater for the range of differences that we find in our students – differences in interest, ability, learning style and motivation, just to name a few. The coordination of these programs is shared by a Learning Support Specialist and a Gifted Education Specialist, each of whom plays an active role in the learning studios, working alongside students and planning with teachers. It is these structures and our commitment to making a difference for each learner that really set our programs apart.
Assessment and Reporting
Assessment and reporting is about knowing your daughter – how she likes to learn, her strengths and the areas in which she requires further assistance. In essence, assessment determines the way forward in teaching and learning. The ongoing collection of information helps to identify specific student needs along the learning continuum for all students.
Formal assessment and reporting to parents is just part of a continuous assessment cycle in the Junior School that includes standardised testing, pre and post unit assessments for learning, observation of the way children approach the learning process and anecdotal information gathered from day to day learning activities. Parent-teacher interviews are held in the first few weeks of a new school year. These present opportunities for parents to share information about their daughters and discuss goals for the year ahead. Formal reports are prepared for the end of Semester 1, with follow up interviews scheduled for early Term 3. A final online report is sent at the end of the year.
However, there are many opportunities for parents to visit the learning studios and participate in activities. Learning Celebrations held at the end of integrated unit sessions, are led by the girls – they often take on the role of teacher and share with their parents what they have explored.
Nurturing the Whole Person
Our Pastoral Care framework, under the banner of Support and Repair, underpins all that we do in the learning studios and the playground in regard to maintaining positive and productive relationships.
When things do go wrong, Junior School students and teachers use a variety of tools to make things right and keep them right.