Celebrating learning for all

By Greg Whitby, 15 August 2018


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

A big event on the school calendar is grandparents day’. It is where students have the opportunity to invite grandparents into classrooms to showcase their learning. Like school open days, these events usually only occur once a year. Maybe it is time to think differently about this. Why not make everyday parents or grandparents day?

Why not think of today’s learning spaces as we would public art galleries, performance spaces and labs – as places where every child regardless of their learning needs, has the opportunity to demonstrate their learning to a wide audience? Some schools are using blogs and websites as ways of displaying student learning throughout the year. Students take great pride in their work when they have the opportunity to publish and display it and have it acknowledged.

Researchers tell us that self-efficacy – that is, the ability of students to feel good about what they can and are capable of achieving –  is vital when it comes to learning. When children can recognise what they’ve accomplished without external rewards, the positive effects last a lifetime. This is what schools need to be celebrating in learning spaces and at school assemblies instead of just rewarding the ‘high’ achievers.

Schools exist in an increasingly competitive environment. Too often, discussions about NAPLAN and ATAR scores tend to dominate discussions about learning. The downside to this is that we become focused, even a little obsessed, with student performance instead of mastery. We all know the absolute joy and pride that follows when students can master a difficult task, no matter what stage of learning they are at.

The focus of schools is to nurture a love of learning in every child and to cherish each child, no matter where he or she is in the learning journey. When learning spaces are open and the learning journey is shared, we send a positive message that students are not alone in their learning. It also provides opportunities for parents and grandparents and others to support, guide and celebrate the achievements of someone they love.

My hope is that the excitement that grandparents day creates for so many students is able to be felt throughout the whole school year.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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