Chris and myself have been hard at work getting our head around what a really good VCAL program at TC in 2013 would look like. We thought that some people would appreciate an update of where we are at and what we are working on at the moment.
The plan was to spend Term 3 working out the conceptual framework for the new program – starting with the question “what are the main principles/elements we want to include?” and then at the beginning of term 4, present this to staff and get expressions of interest to be involved in the program next year. During term 4 is when we will work with the interested staff to plan the nuts and bolts of the program.
So, where are we?
We have some guiding principles that form the basis of our investigation which have come from the VCAL design as well as our own reserach into engagement and how people learn. We will be trying to implement a program that;
– is AUTHENTICALLY engaging for students – seen as meaningful and they have a personal involvement with it
– is PROJECT based – students a big concept that they need to explore and unpack to work towards
– has links to the REAL WORLD – students research, work on, develop things outside of the school/class
– involves student choice and promotes AGENCY – the student being active in independantly seeking and constructing their own learning.
Our next step was to identify the types of programs that could be implemented that would involve these elements – each of which has it’s pro’s and con’s. We identified 3 broad options.
Integrated class project that contributes to the running of the school (running deb ball, running canteen).
This would involve a class of students using a big, useful, practical activity to work towards most of their VCAL outcomes. It is likely that all students would do a VET that is linked to the project and a work placement that is also relevant. School time would be split between running the project, doing projects that reserach aspects of the project and contribute to VCAL outcomes, and participating in some ‘masterclasses’ which focus on VCAL outcomes that are difficult to integrate into the project.
We visited the Grange P1-12 school in Hoppers Crossing where VCAL students ran the canteen. There were a number of factors that we really like and some which we did not think were applicable to our needs.
This would involve students identiying areas of personal interest and working with an ‘advisor’ instead of a teacher. Each student has a ‘Learning through Internship” (LTI) where they have a community mentor in their interest area and their work at the their internship is linked to what they are doing at school. This is slightly different to the curent work placement arrangements as the work they do in their interneship is linked to their project at school. They each design a personal learning plan with their parent, advisor and mentor and spend a large portion of their time at school working on their own research projects within their interest area.
This structure is centred around the idea of student ‘agency’ and the idea that “the way to learn how to be an adult is to do adult stuff”. It is based on the ‘Big Picture’ Model of schools which began in the US in the late 1990’s and is now starting to take off in Australia. We attended a Big Picture network meeting yesterday to see what they are all about and were quite impressed with how things work and the results they are getting. This model would give us the best opportunity to incoporate the principles mentioned at the outset but is the most aspirational – higher levels of staff understanding and training would be required to use this model.
We spoke with Elliott Washor who founded the first big picture schools in the US via Skype yesterday who showed us the story of Caine’s arcade which illustrates perfectly the idea of student agency and the type of things we would like to see our students being able to do.
Our third option is a mix of the two. An overall theme/project that applies to every VCAL student, with some common activities, projects that every student does, but with an individual element that each student can work on. An example of this could be a school business that produces and then sells goods and services to the community. Students would continue developing some of the skills they have been learning this year through the virtual enterprise program and take turns to have roles within the business, and do research projects to increase their understanding’s of certain areas. Each student would also need to construct or provide some service for the business. Some students might make and sell coffee’s another could build chairs etc.
Our inspiration for this idea was from Nagle College in Bairnsdale. They have a school e-store where the public can buy products online using their credit card. We are still intending to visit Nagle but have ben unable to to so far.
If you have any feedback, ideas etc based on what we have so far, please feel free to let us know. We will be making a decision in consultation with the leadership team about which of these is the best models, and presenting this information along with explanations, rationale’s etc to staff in Week 2 of term 4. Once the overall details are finalised, we will be able to start involving interested staff in the planning process.
Also, any advance expressions of interest in being involved based on what we have so far are welcome.