One of major influences over the years has been our partnership with Ruth Deakin-Crick, Bristol University with The Effective Life-Long Learning Inventory” (ELLI) and more recently with University of Technology Sydney and CLARA still with Ruth. The notion of learners having a range of Learning Powers which are able to be measured and more importantly able to be grown was a major clue for us about the nature of how people learn. The correlation of these Learning Powers with a measure of Learner Resilience ranging from complete autonomy to learnt dependence consolidated our understanding further.
We have data reaching back 10 years now on the learning of our students and teachers which provide a wonderful longitudinal narrative as our learning is shaped by various influences. Clearly there is a close connection between the Learning Powers and the General Capabilities.
The other exciting outcome is that working with Ruth Deakin Crick and her team from UTS our staff came to identify the Drivers for educational change to meet the needs of our students acting as resident agents of their own learning. We have to understand clearly the which actions are Drivers and other actions which are not.
Several years ago Holy Family was invited to participate in an inquiry by a group of government schools in Northern Adelaide into the viability of adopting the principles of Positive Education in our schools. To cut a very long story short, we played a significant role in drawing in lots of schools and hundreds of teachers into large scale professional learning around Martin Seligman’s work at Penn State. Geelong Grammar’s Positive Education Institute facilitated four-day workshops training staff members in the principles and practices of positive psychology in education. A senior leader in the Education Department asked me to describe the process we followed to get positive education going in our school. I answered by saying that “its in the fabric”. I immediately conceded that might sound somewhat trite. The person immediately commented that she understood completely what I was saying and that she felt that this was the ultimate strategy and outcome. Each staff member in the school has participated over time in four days personal training in Positive Education.This commitment of resources involved some risk and not a lot of certainty regarding what would flow from this investment. The clues and insights I gained from the roll-out of this program include:
- Our faith is a hopeful tradition. I saw the commonality of Seligman’s psychological principles and practices with the Christian ethos. I saw it as a contemporary vehicle for inculcating the very values and practices that we embrace as Christians
- I didn’t go into this project with a pre-ordained strategy or fixed mind-set of how the learning of the teachers would flow through to the children and the families. The agency I extended to the staff paid dividends in un-choreographed ways. The staff intuitively used the language of positivity, growth mindsets, character strengths and gratitude with the children, In turn, the children shared this language with their families and caregivers
- People ask me why I place so much emphasis on positivity as a starting point. My reflection is that the principles and insights of positive education has the effect of opening people’s hearts and minds to change. This work is a pre-cursor to introducing new insights, challenges and practices. When people have the “language” of growth mindset embedded in their psyche they seem to self monitor and regulate their own fixed mindsets about change.
An outstanding example of positive education “in the fabric” at Holy Family is the structure of the “Welcome Circle” in which we “shout out” into the circle the pillars and values of our school that we hold so dear. Another favourite is “Whats Going Well!” when we go around the circle sharing our “specks of gold” from the day. Personally I find these insights inspirational and humbling.
Im sure others from inside and outside the school can add further to these insights…