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Inside Teaching : April 2010
www.atra.edu.au | email@example.com 10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED... 27 this is that I’m able to learn along with my students. 09 It’s my good fortune at Badgingarra Primary School to teach with other teachers and other students. We’re very flexible, collegial, open to change and sharing. Because we’re not tied to a classroom as the learning environment we can be very mobile, which gives us a greater variety of ways to cater for the differing learning needs of students. The best collegial practices I’ve experienced are where we team teach, complete skill sessions then use these in authentic learning tasks or challenges embedded in integrated studies. We live at a time when science is at the heart of some big, and contested, global issues and that’s a good thing for science teaching, since developing science literacy and critical thinking allows people to make informed decisions for themselves. It’s important for us to be able to analyse different positions and come to a decision for ourselves as opposed to being led by what we’re told. 10 Information technologies have given us far more information than ever before, so we need the skills to be able to make a balanced judgement on issues. Yes, we need to allow our students to work with science based on facts, but we also need to allow them to work in the areas of investigation and further research where the answers to these big, and contested, global issues lie. The good news is that the ideas of the young, things that are as yet untried, are where the future solutions lie. ■ involved. The Science Summer School I attended at Flinders University in 2007 was a very inspiring learning experience. I benefited immensely from working alongside other teachers, being able to address challenging leading-edge science topics, working in an environment using new technologies, being shown different pathways for science learning and how we can move students to develop the thinking processes they need to tackle the problems facing the world in the future. I find the best professional learning experiences are the ones where you have to make some of the outcome yourself and come away with something you feel you’ve achieved. At the opposite extreme, there are those where a presenter pontificates and then tells you how good what you’re being told is. The best professional learning experience I’ve had was a week-long photography workshop – this was before digital – in a most beautiful setting. We were shown techniques in a hands-on class and then allowed to develop these further through open- ended projects with a showcase and review at the end of the day. It was very exhausting but I left feeling confident about what I’d learned. It was a good professional learning experience because it was a warts and all approach. 08 Everyone learns in a class environment where everyone supports and values each other. Every student has a strength in some area and you can use those strengths to support each student and to help other students. For example, we have a student with major learning challenges as a result of an accident but he has an incredible skill when it comes to handling and caring for reptiles. I’ve been able to use this to develop his other learning skills, and other students will come to him for advice. When we use the strengths of everyone in the class we don’t just have 23 students and one teacher but 24 students and 24 teachers. The beauty of You don’t have to road test everything. In the past, teachers probably had to be right. When they did something, it had to work. With so many resources and so much information available today, learning can involve failure as a tool that allows teachers as much as students to build new learning and understanding. 05 I use references with my students all the time, but we don’t use one set textbook. The amount of information available today is huge, and growing and changing all the time, so I want my students to develop their abilities to source and validate information. 06 Professional and industry experience is really useful. Things are changing all the time and we have the responsibility to give our students the skills to be able to participate and function in this and the future world. Much of the time we’re operating away from the leading edge although occasionally we can be the leaders, as with the Re-Engineering Australia Foundation’s F1 in Schools Challenge that gives students the opportunity to be the leaders ahead of what is being done in industry. To keep up with current developments and advances it’s important to create links or partnerships with organisations beyond your school, not only for your school but also for those organisations: our students are their future too. My experience at Badgingarra Primary School, between Geraldton and Perth, Western Australia, is that some organisations come to us wishing to make links. Other times I’ll initiate contact for a specific task, but then the students become the spokespersons or contacts. Either way, we look at what we can give back to the organisation for the assistance they give us and try to work with them, involve them. 07 The best professional learning allows you to network with others and actually undertake or be Allan Whittome is a teacher at Badgingarra Primary School, Western Australia, and the winner of the 2009 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools. Photo of Allan Whittome by Bearcage Productions courtesy of Science in Public.