Virtual Symposium: Clarity on the work of effective learning improvement

28 Oct 2021

The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) hosted the second annual Faith in the Future Virtual Symposium on Wednesday 27 October with a keynote presentation by international educational expert Dr Lyn Sharratt (pictured below) focusing on educational improvement.

The symposium, founded last year, is held to mark World Teachers’ Day celebrated in Australia on Friday 29 October, and is the final national event for the celebration of the Bicentenary of Catholic education in Australia.

Dr Sharratt’s keynote address titled,‘This is the WORK!’, explored the need for alignment, focus and resolve by teachers and leaders to ensure every student can meet and exceed their potential.

“It starts with system alignment from a diocese perspective through to the school and into the classroom so that each teacher and leader knows the big picture and the smaller picture of who the students are in their care,” Lyn said. 

With Michael Fullan Lyn has researched what it takes to improve both system and school improvement and has identified 14 parameters that need to work together for system alignment (see below).

14 Parameters

“These areas aren’t new to you, but what might be is that they all need to work together for system alignment,” Lyn said. “And there are three of those parameters that are non-negotiable – shared beliefs and understandings, shared responsibility and accountability… and a case management approach where we put ‘faces on the data’ and know how to teach each student.”

“Our shared responsibility is to own all the faces in our care. If everyone is responsible for every face and even cares about the faces of students down the road as much as they do about the faces in their own school then accountability will follow naturally.”

In looking towards ‘future sustain-ability’, Lyn says teachers and leaders must:

  • Stay the course with relentless consistency
  • Measure your impact: individually and as a team
  • Use student work as evidence of growth
  • Scrutinise student data to make wise decisions
  • Use the five questions to determine ‘precision in practice’
  • Integrate the 14 parameters everywhere

A panel discussion moderated by renowned Australian broadcaster Geraldine Doogue AO unpacked the keynote address and explored Lyn Sharratt’s work as it is being applied in schools.

The student and school leader panellists from across Australia were Year 11 students Hayley O’Connor and Wasim Farah from St Andrew’s College, Marayong; principal Ros Oates from Our Lady of the River Primary, Berri; principal Patricia Hales from St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar and principal David Adam-Jones from St Therese’s Primary, Bentley Park.

In ‘putting faces on the data’ student Wasim said, “the first thing we must do is inculcate a sense of self awareness in who we are as students and educators”. He said this sense of self-awareness was made palpable by his college principal around each student setting high expectations for themselves.

Fellow student Hayley agreed saying they were encouraged by their teachers and leaders to “reach for the stars and try as hard as we can, because at the end of the day as a student that’s the most important thing that we should be able to do”.

Ros Oates said Lyn’s work and the Clarity Learning Suite is a handbook that leaders can use to get effective learning happening in classrooms.

Ros said it helped create a sense of ‘systemness’ in her diocese and when she walks into another Catholic school in South Australia they are “all talking the same language”. The work has had a profound impact on her as a rural principal because she is “inline and walking with knowledgeable others” in the work.

In making the difference for students principal Patricia Hales said it is the “sharp focus” that Lyn speaks about and not trying to do everything, but “narrowing it down to say what are those strategic goals we are looking at, and what data are we drawing on to establish a goal that we know is going to have a positive outcome for all our students”.

Principal David Adam-Jones said, in the Catholic context, clarity is about kinship.

“Kinship is about a bond…and the important relationship with the child and the relationship with the teacher in the context of the Catholic school,” he said. “And we do that really well.”

In response to Geraldine’s question, “has learning become an adventure?” Hayley said, “I feel like learning is an adventure, but I do feel like the HSC in itself has become a bit outdated and I don’t want to say it’s ruining the adventure… but it needs to be updated… because we are really changing the way we are learning, but we are not changing the way we are being assessed.”

National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins said the symposium is an opportunity for school leaders and staff to engage in a broader professional discussion.

“Catholic education serves one in five students and we recognise the work of our leaders and staff who are committed to lifting learning standards for over 777,000 students across 1,755 schools in Australia,” Ms Collins said.

“Over the past two years our school communities have responded extraordinarily to the additional demands of remote learning and teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we continue to face an unpredictable future, opportunities like the Virtual Symposium and our national conference to be held next September in Melbourne, will provide additional professional opportunities for educators and leaders to share their expertise and experiences in our collective work of improving learning for students,” she said.

Watch the recordings


Pioneer Catholic Educator remembered

Pioneer Catholic Educator remembered

Image: Fr John Neill OP OAM with Blackfriars Priory School students in 2016.  For 200 years Catholic schools have been established and staffed by pioneer clergy, religious and lay educators, many of whom devoted their entire lives to Catholic education.  "Let us not...

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