Learning that lasts a lifetime

Wednesday 26 October, 2016


Once upon a time, but not too long ago, learning looked like this: Compliant children sat in neat rows and diligently copied down information written on the board at the front of the classroom. Questions were rarely encouraged and all learning power rested in the teacher. Children had few choices and even less say in what was going on.

For most of the 20th century, this was the classroom. It’s certainly what my learning experiences were like at school, and most likely yours as well.

How pleased I am that times have changed. As a result, no longer is the classroom all about the teacher. It’s about the learner.

Here are five way Pymble teachers encourage learning that lasts a lifetime.

  1. Appreciating learning, not just knowledge

There’s a subtle difference here. Once, the sheer ability to repeat facts and figures was enough to earn a student a high grade.

But real life isn’t rote-learned. It’s experienced and understood and nuanced and reflected upon – and as a result, learning has evolved too.

These days, assessment is still how we understand that learning has taken place – and marks certainly still matter.

However, it’s the love of learning that great teachers also foster, because that’s the skill which will equip our students for life.

  1. Developing multiple learning strategies

Extensive academic research has taught us that there’s more than one way to learn.

The ‘chalk and talk’ approach of the teacher up the front is just one way. There are many others, such as group discussion, independent research or quiet reflection. There are strategies that suit different learning styles, and approaches that best match different developmental stages.

A great teacher will ensure that learners experience multiple ways to attack a task, answer a question or develop her understanding. In doing so, they’re helping students to develop a powerful toolbox of strategies they can use in the future.

  1. Encouraging questions

Inquiry is a buzzword in education for good reason. It’s where critical thinking and the ability to analyse begins.

For too long, education lived in the paradigm that questioning somehow signified disrespect. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Asking questions demonstrates the utmost respect for learning and enables a student to progress her understanding of a topic.

Great teachers will encourage questions because they show a student is grappling with new material. From these questions will come new approaches to problems, ideas and innovation  and, most importantly, renewed passion for learning.

  1. Loving co-learning

You can’t be a great teacher without being a learner, too.

At Pymble, every teacher is required to be a learner, and we encourage this by offering one of the most extensive professional development programs for teachers in Australia.

That sentence alone doesn’t do justice to what we deliver here. For years, we’ve drawn on the expertise of international experts in various fields – from Harvard, Yale and beyond – to ensure our teachers share a common framework that defines learning at Pymble. We’ve debated, explored, researched and travelled, all to advance our shared experience.

  1. Negotiating choices

This is certainly a topic hotly debated.

First, let me explain what negotiating choices is not. Having the right to choose is not about a lack of discipline. It’s about encouraging ownership.

Great teachers – wise teachers – will identify just a small number of choices that will give learners an opportunity to place their mark on their environment and their learning. It could be where they sit or a topic they might choose for an assessment piece. Choices are limited by developmental stages and class context.

Choice is a wonderful way to teach our learners how to balance respect for themselves and others, and to learn self-confidence within safe boundaries.

It’s a powerful tool that empowers our learners to feel in control.

Arguably, there are many other hallmarks of great teachers that you’ll observe at Pymble.

Our coaching culture, just as one example, means Pymble teachers are actively and thoughtfully walking alongside your daughter, empowering her to rise and succeed. Likewise, I believe our great teachers understand the importance of holistic pastoral care and wellbeing.

Above all, great teachers inspire others to try harder, go further and dream bigger. For life.