This podcast is our first of what we’re calling the “spotlight” series. Every so often, we’ll reaching out to schools who are doing intriguing progressive practices that could inspire and influence others to do the same. Each has a twist on how their school is operated, and we’re bringing in students and teachers to talk about it. They’re not all perfect, and they’d all acknowledge there are things they’d change; but there’s so much to learn from these schools as we reimagine education in our communities.
We are joined by students and faculty from Assumption College, a Catholic co-ed 7-12 secondary school located in Kilmore, Victoria, Australia, featuring 1,200 students, some of whom board on campus. Assumption is doing a lot of fascinating work that would interest people interested in progressive education and reform measures. In the last few years, they’ve transferred to the “MyMAP” program, which stands for Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. Instead of assigning students to traditional classes, students have the option between many different classes that are then mapped to traditional graduation needs. This means that students that have an interest in the arts will have a drastically different curriculum than say, engineering.
To learn more, we’re talking today with Kate Fogarty, the principal; Vaughan Cleary, the Deputy Principal; Kendall Aglinskas, Professional Practices Coordinator and Learning Leader; and Bel Luscott and Billy Carlin, both year 11 students. All of these folks have been at Assumption before and after their self-directed curriculum began.
Assumption College, a Catholic co-ed 7-12 secondary school located in Kilmore, Victoria, Australia
Chris McNutt (00:06):
Hello, and welcome to episode 106 of our podcast at Human Restoration Project. My name is Chris McNutt and I'm a high school digital media instructor from Ohio. Before we get started, I want to let you know that this is brought to you by our supporters. Three of whom are Jordan Becca, Rachel Lawrence, and Lisa Sharpstein. Thank you for your ongoing support. You can learn more about the Human Restoration Project on our website, humanrestorationproject.org or find us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
Chris McNutt (00:33):
This podcast is our first of what we're calling the spotlight series. Every so often, we'll be reaching out to schools who are doing intriguing, progressive practices that could inspire and influence others to do the same. Each has a twist on how their school is operated and we're bringing in students and teachers to talk about. They're not all perfect. And I think they've all acknowledged that there are things that they change, but there's so much to learn from these schools as we reimagine education in our communities today.
Chris McNutt (01:11):
Today, we are joined by students and faculty from Assumption College, a Catholic Co-ed 7-12 Secondary School located in Kilmore, Victoria, Australia. Featuring 1,200 students, some of whom board on campus. Assumption is doing a lot of fascinating work that would interest people involved in progressive education and reform measures. In the last few years, they transferred to what they call the myMAP Program, which stands for mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Instead of assigning students the traditional classes, students have the option between many different classes that are then mapped to traditional graduation needs.
Chris McNutt (01:46):
This means that students that have an interest in the arts, while a drastically different curriculum than say engineering. To learn more, we're talking today with Kate Fogarty, the Principal, Vaughan Cleary, the Deputy Principal, Kendall Aglinskas, Professional Practices Coordinator and Learning Leader, and Bel Luscott and Billy Carlin both year 11 students. All of these folks have been an Assumption before and after this new self-directed style curriculum began.
Kate Fogarty (02:13):
Thanks, Chris. It's lovely to be with you and to be able to share a little bit of what's been happening here at Assumption. So Assumption is a Catholic day and boarding school in Australia. In Australia, Catholic schools are also government funded. So we're not a private or an independent school, we are within the system. And we have about 1,350 students. And about just over a 100 teachers and about another 80 other staff on site. We do have day students, predominantly day students, but about 70 students who are boarding, who live here on site. So we're just to the north of Melbourne, we're in a country town, Kilmore. A number of our students come out of the suburban areas, but the vast majority come out of little country towns in about a 100 kilometer radius of us. So a lot of them are on the bus for an hour or so before they get to us each morning.
Chris McNutt (03:08):
It's a very interesting model because it reminds me a lot more of a Liberal Arts College as opposed to a traditional school.
Kate Fogarty (03:16):
We're a big school. We're on an enormous campus. We've got four Australian Rules football fields or cricket pitches, which I know won't be familiar to a lot of your listeners, but are big, big playing fields for our students. 12 tennis courts, a big hockey pitch where we've got a big sport and cultural program, we run a farm. So we have an agriculture program as well with large animals and small animals from snakes through to big cows and everything in between. So we've got a lot going on. We say we're a juggernaut, we're a really big school and we go 24/7.
Chris McNutt (03:48):
Very, and you raise snakes?
Kate Fogarty (03:48):
I know, we've got a couple, it is a thing. The kids studying to be vets apparently.
Chris McNutt (04:04):
So take a slight pause here. Here's an overview of the myMap curriculum from Assumption College.
Automated myMAP overview (04:19):
MyMap acknowledges that students learn at different speeds and have different strengths. It provides learning opportunities across six semesters or three years that align with four levels. In myMAP, the four distinct colors of our college crest represent the four levels of learning. White is the first level, so it represents the foundational courses assessed against level eight of the Victorian curriculum. Yellow courses provide a more enriched experience and typically relate to level nine. Light blue courses aligned to level 10 and dark blue courses are designed to extend students and are mapped to level 10 of the Victorian curriculum and beyond.
Automated myMAP overview (05:00):
In addition to subjects that align to one particular level of the Victorian curriculum, some courses will be multi-level. For example, a subject such as visual communication and design could be offered to students across both the white and yellow levels. Other subjects may even align with two learning areas. An example is the science of sport, which connects both physical education and science. Subjects like this are designed to prepare students for future courses that have similar knowledge and skills. In this example, VCE physical education and VCE physics.
Automated myMAP overview (05:37):
Complementing our academic program is myBeing. A three year program where the social and emotional development of each student is fostered. MyBeing explores topics, such as personal relationship building, learning to learn, food nutrition and education, safety online and in person, vocational pathways and mindfulness.
Kate Fogarty (06:02):
So about six years ago, Vaughan, myself and Kendall and a number of the other leaders of the community were watching our student data really plateau and they didn't seem to be progressing in their learning. We were running a very traditional curriculum and our cultural data that we were receiving from large scale surveys was showing, particularly in those middle years, the 12, 13, 14, 15 year olds, they were just getting more and more disengaged in their learning. So we looked at all of that data, spoke to a number of institutions around the place and organizations, and really reflected ourselves and thought we need to do something radically different here to get our students back on track and really invigorate and be able to demonstrate growth for these kids and provide them with interesting and exciting pathways.
Kate Fogarty (06:55):
So we put in place some sub teams who were looking very closely at various areas of the school curriculum, so that included everything from, we were looking at a stage not age learning, we saw some real possibilities there. We were looking at the data that we had available and really how well or not we were sharing that with students and helping them to understand their learning journey. And we were looking at just how much breadth we could offer and really still hone in on those key skills that the Victorian government, our state government, but also what we knew in our hearts needed to be a part of our kids' curriculum.
Kate Fogarty (07:35):
We put everything on the table. We tried to be as courageous as possible saying we don't have to do things the way they've always been done. We kept using the mantra of students at the center. Whatever we do has to meet the needs of our students and help them really engage in their learning in new ways so that we could really help them to be the best that they possibly could be.
Vaughan Cleary (08:00):
So, Chris, just to also add in a little bit of a background. One of the things that we found at Assumption is that the narrative that was quite common in the staff is that the kids were not motivated. And in many ways, the way that a traditional curriculum was set up, meant that student really struggled to engage with classes and curricula that perhaps didn't suit their needs. So one of the things that we wanted to do is to try to create a program that actually met the needs of the students. And hence the origin of myMAP really is the work of Dan Pink and his work drive, focusing on mastery autonomy and purpose.
Vaughan Cleary (08:42):
And it really is a take on self-determination theory from Deci and Ryan, where we want to do is create environment that meet the needs of the students. On top of that too, a lot of the research that we looked at, such as stage environment fit theory from Eccles and colleagues, basically indicated that the way secondary schools are set up were not conducive to meet the needs of students. Other factors such as identity formation, relationship building, et cetera, again, we're just not being met by what was a very traditional curriculum. So what we have is a four year myMAP program where the students come into secondary school from over 50 different primary schools or elementary schools around the state. And they start a semester program that we call quaere and quaere means to seek. So our seekers are our curious learners who basically engage with all the different learning domains. And by the end of their first semester, they're ready to select a personalized learning program based on their strengths, interests and needs at that point in time.
Vaughan Cleary (09:48):
So what the students can do is basically select their own personalized program. We ask our students to select an English of their choice. They've got about 10 different types of English to pick from. A religious education of their choice and the same thing we've got over a dozen of different RE options. And they also engage in a mass pathway program, which is basically a digital program that's personalized for them. In the addition to that, between the middle of year seven, right through to their senior pathways, students get to pick about 25 different mastery courses. And these mastery courses are not aligned to a traditional year level. They're actually aligned to a different color. And our college colors include sandstone, white, yellow, light blue, dark blue. And our mantra is as the colors intensifies so does the learning experience. So our students can engage with different learning domains with different colors at a level of their choice.
Chris McNutt (10:47):
This is fascinating because it's really exploring changing systems that in most environments are not being tackled, especially implementing multi age learning and changing how we view curriculum and choice. To quickly understand about how you established those classes. Let's say that you have 10 English classes on a variety of topics. How did you then come up with those 10?
Kate Fogarty (11:09):
I guess the biggest thing when we were going to transition to myMAP was the importance of collaborating as teams. We needed to make sure that every one was on the same page and everyone had buy in to that vision that we had. Because I think that was something that some of the teachers were a bit hesitant about, but I think coming together was a really important part of that. So for the English faculty, for instance, we had a lot of meetings with all of us there. A lot of the time we do have meetings with everyone, but a lot of the times they meet in little team groups or things like that. So coming together as a large team for three or four weeks in a row was a time commitment for all of us.
Kate Fogarty (11:47):
And we just spoke about what was working well in the current program, what techs we really enjoyed, what the kids were really engaging with. We did a lot of Google forms with the kids to get some feedback about what was working well, even, better, if. And just some dreams that they had. If you could choose to study anything, what do you think you'd like to study? And so we heard from a lot of students about quest narratives, so adventure stories or science fiction, which we really hadn't covered in the curriculum before. So that was really interesting to us and fantastic. So when we started to look at this, the progression from year seven, our tech selection and what units we were studying right up to our mandated VCE curriculum and what we have to do at our senior secondary school. We tried to sort out where those gap were. So looking at what genres were we potentially missing, or what periods of history were we potentially not looking at?
Kate Fogarty (12:40):
Have we got enough female voices? Have we got enough male voices? Have we got people from different cultural backgrounds? Do we have Indigenous Australian techs? Have we got Australian narratives that we are hearing as well? So we've really tried to look at those and had for English a book club. So everyone kind of went, okay, cool. Let's go speak with our experts, the librarians who read very regularly. Let's speak to our students about what they're reading and really enjoying. And we were just passing around books and thinking, "Okay, well, where do these fit in?" So the 10 subjects came from, they're thematic based. So we have for instance, at a yellow level, so a traditional level nine something cool to adventure. So it's all about quest narrative. So they watch the film Rango with good old Johnny Depp there with the chameleon.
Kate Fogarty (13:27):
They read a lot of these quest narrative stories where they're seeing this adventure happen and then recreating that. And we found those sorts of things were really engaging to our students. And they just were able to have that choice with what they were studying rather than everyone being told, you're reading this book the whole year level is doing it. And there wasn't a lot of choice in that. That was how we came up with those as well.
Kendall Aglinskas (13:52):
I think what I enjoyed of watching this process of these new courses being developed was that staff were able to bring their own passion. So suddenly we had science courses or humanities courses or whatever it might be where staff were able to share their passion with students too. And very often that when teachers can teach from their point of passion, rather than from a textbook or from a curriculum that's been handed to them from somebody else that brings another level of aliveness for the students to what's being learnt together.
Kendall Aglinskas (14:29):
So we had subjects being thrown up as suggestions to. There was a committee who ultimately decided was that meeting the standards, the government standards? Did it fit in with a line of progression from the junior level learning right through to what needed to be done for the students to receive their final certificate? Did everything fit together? But it was so surprising to us, the variety of subjects that our staff were able to take from their own passion or from what they'd been working on with kids and seeing a spark of interest in. Then create still sticking to the government prescriptions, these amazing subjects. We've seen a wholesale change of students flooding into the science subjects in a way that we couldn't have predicted because these subjects are now tailored to pathways and they're tailored to interest as opposed to let's just do year eight science. So, that's been really pleasing to us that, that's an outcome has come that people's passions been reignited from staff right through to students.
Chris McNutt (15:37):
And I would guess that because there's more passion from the teachers, it's then a more intriguing class, because there's certainly things that I currently teach that I'm not passionate about. Although I might try, it's still pretty meh experience. So then you also have this color system that corresponds with a difficulty level of the courses. Is choosing that difficulty, something that students choose to gauge and then tackle based off what they want to accomplish, or is it a recommendation from the advisor that's sort of negotiated upon?
Vaughan Cleary (16:11):
Chris, at the end of the day, it's ultimately the student's choice. We wrap a series of layers of support around the students. And we've used the metaphor of journey via myMAP with our students. And we say the adults in the kids' lives are their tool guides. So sometimes they need to nudge, push, maybe sometimes hang back students in regards to the sorts of subjects they should pick. We have learning mental teachers that are walking alongside the students, along their journey. And because they're with the students from the start of year seven, they ultimately know and love these student in incredible depth and engaging the parents as well, as well as the subject teachers. So ultimately having the students, having choice gives them the power to make good decisions for themselves.
Vaughan Cleary (17:07):
We know that every decision that a student makes is perhaps ideal for a more perfect and that's okay, we're teaching the students to make decisions to self regulate, to have ownership in their learning. You know, if they do make mistakes, that's okay. They see out the subject and they pick something different the next time. So I think ultimately 99% of the cases they're making good decisions and giving them those choices works out in their favor.
Kate Fogarty (17:38):
One of the portions we haven't talked about here though, is we are of course doing some standardized testing of the students. We have a national standardized testing program, but we do, do some additional testing. And one of the real keys to this program working well was the work that we did with learning mentors. So our staff to work with each student so that they understood their own data. So they could see where their progression points were against a standardized set of data. So they could read their own school reports from their teacher properly and understand what was being fed back to them. So that they and their parents, so we included the parents in those discussions, and that happens a few times a year. They're not going in and just saying, I want to do all whole lot of sport and that's all I want to do.
Kate Fogarty (18:24):
There are adults walking with them and helping them make wise choices. But also as Vaughan said, nudging them where they need to be pushed a little bit ahead or perhaps even held back in a subject or perhaps literacy's not going so well. How about you take two Englishes this semester rather than just the traditional one. So there is a lot of very rich conversation happening around the individual student and what we know about them and where their passions are. But also what a whole range of other sources of information are telling us about their learning.
Chris McNutt (18:59):
I would imagine then, as a result of not restricting the challenge, that many students who are very passionate about a subject, but perhaps historically, we're labeled as not being able to accomplish a difficult course are then able to rise to that occasion because they have an interest in it. And of course in the exact same way, if you really don't like something, you can just take the easy course and get it out of the way.
Chris McNutt (19:29):
Apologies for brief ad break. But I wanted to share a second about our upcoming conference to restore humanity 2022. If you're listening to this before July, 2022, I've got great news. HRP is hosting a virtual conference soon. Conference to Restore Humanity is an international invitation for K through 12 and college educators to engage in a human-centered system, redesign. Centering the needs of students and educators toward a practice of social justice. Through a conference designed for virtual learning participants will engage in a classroom environment that mirrors the same progressive pedagogy we value with students. After selecting a track educators will be placed with like minded cohorts over four days to imagine and build new ideas together.
Chris McNutt (20:10):
We have keynote conversations with Dr. Henry Giroux, founding theorist of Critical Pedagogy. Dr. Denisha Jones, educator activist, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter at School and the Circle Keepers from Harvest Collegiate High School, a student collective focused on social justice. Plus our tracks push a new narrative for education, with topics, including anti-carceral pedagogy, disrupting discriminatory linguistics, designing for neuro divergence and promoting childism in the classroom. It's from July 25th to July 28th. And as of recording early bird tickets are still available. It's $150 for four days with discounts available for the BIPOC, AAPI, trans and disabled communities, as well as group rates. Plus we'll award certificates for teacher training and continuing education credits. See our website, humanrestorationproject.org for more information. And we hope to see you there.
Chris McNutt (21:02):
I would like to turn to the students who are joining us today. Can you describe what is a day in the life for you all? What are you experiencing? What does this look and feel like?
Billy Carlin (21:13):
So essentially we, school starts at 8 45, when we all make our way to homeroom. We get our name marked off at homeroom. It goes for 15 minutes. Miss will talk us through the whole day. If there's any announcements, we'll do the morning prayer. Then we'll move on to period one. Three classes for each subject each week. So we'll have period one, recess period two and three back to back, lunch and then period four. So there's only four periods in a day and then...
Chris McNutt (21:45):
And of those four classes, so these are all fairly unique, I think. What's like one that stands out to you as being especially interesting.
Billy Carlin (21:55):
So I do systems engineering, which is just like mechanics and stuff. I find that really interesting.
Chris McNutt (22:02):
Really and turning, same question to you Bel.
Bel Luscott (22:05):
I like to do a bit of everything and I found that's kind of where myMAP has led me. So I did a bit of everything in myMAP, but now even when I'm in year 11 doing my senior school studies, I've chosen a bit of everything. So I do two Englishes, English and literature. I do two maths, so methods and we call it further maths. And then I also do a science, chemistry and a PE. So I kind of like having a variety.
Chris McNutt (22:39):
Yeah. I was looking at your schedules before the podcast and you're basically virtual opposites. What's interesting about all of this is that both of you were enrolled at Assumption prior to the school shifting to this, myMAP philosophy. What was that transition like? Was it simply a traditional school day transitioning to something with choice? Or was it something else?
Bel Luscott (23:01):
I found that it was a pretty easy transition. So even though we'd all completed two years of that traditional learning where you got told what to do, and you had to pick. You had to do everything ranging from drama and dance to PE and humanities. When you had to transition to picking your own subjects, it was really easy because even in those traditional base programs, you did have your favorite subjects and the stuff. You knew, what you didn't like, and you knew what you liked and you had interests outside of that. It was an easy transition because you followed with what you'd previously known you enjoyed.
Chris McNutt (23:48):
Yeah. And I'm assuming it's the same for you, Bill, easy transition over to that.
Billy Carlin (23:53):
I noticed that even when, the transition was fairly easy, because the days were still the same no periods were changing, time wasn't changing. But I found in the actual classes it was a lot easier to focus because you're doing things that you enjoy. Everyone else in the class was doing things that they enjoy as well. So there was a lot less behavioral issues. Even the teacher was more engaged in the class, I found.
Chris McNutt (24:17):
Yeah. I say this, not to take anything away from what you all are doing, but that concept just seems so common sense. When you really cut back on all of this, if you provide students choice in what they do during the day, of course, they'd be more interested and engaged in learning. When we remove some of that bureaucracy and I suppose, industry from the classroom curriculum and change these systems, this idea of, "Hey, we should just, let's students sign up for the classes that they want to sign up for," of course, leads to better results all around. Let's talk a little bit about the mentoring and class selection process. Let's say that you're interested in English or maybe engineering. Do you have to take a certain number of classes in certain subject areas or are there mandated classes? What does that look like?
Billy Carlin (25:07):
Yeah, you have to do an RE and English and then the math pathway program. The math pathway program is also from year eight to 10, and then everyone just pretty much does their own thing. The teacher helps guide us and we follow our path in that, in terms of what we have to do, is it seven electives?
Vaughan Cleary (25:30):
Yeah. Roughly per year, Billy. So over the three and a half year journey, it equates to about 25 different mastery courses of pure choice.
Billy Carlin (25:41):
Ample selection, but very small limitations on what we have to do, which is really awesome. And in the English, as an RE, you also have a choice.
Chris McNutt (25:54):
And I would imagine that the English and math portions are required because of standardized testing, which makes sense. And to me, that's inspiring because that means that these reform measures are possible in places other than Assumption College. I mean, that's a very common problem in most places. Let's talk then about choice in terms of difficulty, are you all taking the hardest classes possible? Are you mixing and matching your courses?
Bel Luscott (26:20):
Yeah. Acceleration was a big part in decision making. So I'd found, I knew I was more advanced in certain areas, mainly speaking like English. From a traditional classroom, it's where everybody's at the same level. So you could be in a classroom where the majority are at, for instance, in year eight, year eight English, you've got kids who are year nine or above, but you've also got kids who are below. So I found through myMAP, I could push myself in certain areas. So I was surrounding myself with other students who were at my own level, which made a massive difference in my schooling. Because you could not only was the classes different and it was more engaging because you were doing stuff that challenged you on a daily basis. But it was also, it was really good to be able to work with kids who were at your own level, bounce ideas off people. The teachers were, it made teaching easy because you were teaching a core group of kids who were all at that same level, because they'd all picked to be there.
Chris McNutt (27:36):
It reminds me a lot of, some of my experiences in school. I guess like mostly educators, I was a pretty decent student. I took mostly honors or AP courses, but I just really disliked science. So I took the typical science class and I never felt like I was in more of a holding cell than that course, because the lack of choice meant that almost no students wanted to be there. Students were there because there was nowhere else to go. I was fortunate in kind of a twisted way that most of our assignments at school were able to be done at home. And frankly, I was truant multiple times because I just didn't like going to school in general, let alone those science classes. A lot of learning just felt like someone was just trying to control the class through a lot of constant work, as opposed to any sense of wonder or discovery or even fun for that matter.
Chris McNutt (28:25):
It's very interesting how then curriculum and discipline and choice all tie together. Question for you Kendall, seeing this from a teaching and learning angle. From your perspective, is that transition for teachers the same, because I would imagine that this may appear overwhelming to transition to these types of courses to some that I've taught in a very specific way?
Kendall Aglinskas (28:48):
I think we were quite shocked at the lack of issues we actually had in transitioning with the staff. I think we were very prepared in the way that we went about, I guess, getting these different groups around the school to buy in. We did a lot of small team discussions. So really getting in those core groups of people who we knew were going to be really important voices in their offices or in the faculty area to jump on board. So we really sold it in that way. And when the transition happened, as Kate mentioned before, there's staff members now that are teaching archeology, that was never even a course. And that's something they did at university and really loved. And we've got kids that are just flooding to those courses or journalism, for instance, or things like that, where in a traditional system you wouldn't have had that opportunity to do.
Kendall Aglinskas (29:36):
I think that buy in from staff was really key. We had a lot of hesitancy in terms of the timing and teachers, our one big thing is always time, where's the time to do this. And I think they were a little concerned about the time to write courses because pretty much all of our courses were going out the window with the traditional curriculum. And we were creating these really great new myMAP courses. So while you might have kept a couple of units here and there largely they were being rewritten. So I think the hesitancy in that regard was definitely present. And we put a lot of emphasis in 2020, in our first year on the time for staff and really taking back our professional learning and giving them the autonomy to meet as teams, work collaboratively together, to create these courses. The time to also play around with what was working in those courses, what wasn't and adjust them as they went. So now we're seeing that in a few years, a couple of years down the track and that's really evident within the classrooms and how engaged the students are as well.
Vaughan Cleary (30:40):
Another thing that was really important, Chris, from a change management perspective is the fact that when Kate and I were talking to staff about this change program, we're really, really open with explaining the why. Our staff and students and parents have been absolutely outstanding in actually understanding the philosophy behind the program and once that was explained and understood, it meant that the staff themselves could develop courses of their choice. We also sent a really strong message to our community that we are going to eradicate the hierarchy of subjects. So the first time ever the visual arts teacher was given the same amount of time in the curriculum, than a high performance basketball teacher, than a math teacher and an English teacher. So it really did say to our staff that their own learning domain that they're passionate about is of equal importance. I think that really sent a strong message to everybody that they're all valued. So that was a significant part of our, I suppose, support for our community.
Kate Fogarty (31:50):
And I guess the other part of that as we were preparing staff, is there was a bit of anxiety around you. What do you mean I'm going to have 13 year olds and 16 year olds in the same class, how is that going to work? How am I going to manage these kids who are different levels? Within about a week, not even, within a few days of us starting that question just completely disappeared. All staff were seeing was the group of students in their class who were there to do the subject. So that anxiety around what a multi age class was like was taken away completely, for the staff, by their experience. The students, I know we had a handful of students and families who were quite worried about that too, before the start. And that, again, those voices just fell away within the first week or so because these kids, as Bel said, they got into their classes, they were there with like minded students who were pitched about the same level in their learning.
Kate Fogarty (32:48):
They had these passionate teachers and these awesome new subjects. You know, you just have to cast your eye. I encourage people to look at our website and cast your eye over the names of the subjects. So they just are, they're very exciting, they're all still matched to our state curriculum. So they all provide a pathway, but they actually, because they're much more particular topics they really just were engaging. So the students, I think students by and large have stopped noticing what year level they are in, they've still got their friends who might be from the group who they first entered the school with, but there are a lot more multi age friendships. There's certainly multi age learning going on in every classroom, every moment of the day. That weird distinction of batching kids by their age for their learning has more or less been eradicated.
Kate Fogarty (33:43):
As reflecting as an educator, who's watched the system for a number of years it just makes such sense batching kids by their age for a whole range of reasons, lets a whole lot of kids down. And this really has, as you keep using the word eradicated, eradicated a lot of those problems because students are with like minded students with a teacher, an interesting topic, but they're learning at a level that is pushing them in their particular subject. They can double down in a particular area of school learning. They can let go others that don't have an interest or a pathway for them. They can really tailor a curriculum that's going to take them into, keep it broad. So they've got lots of options or tailor it very specifically into an area that brings them great joy and passion and advancement in their learning.
Chris McNutt (34:32):
Yeah. The conjunction between choice and difficulty level, choice and discipline, multi age learning, it all comes together. How are you supposed to learn what it means to be a 16 year old if you're always surrounded by people who are, let's say 14 years old, it's just not a natural learning experience. If you're 25 years old and you entirely exclude people who are, let's say 35 years old, that would be really weird. And I want to ask about how all these different things are coming together. I think someone who listening in might see this almost like through rose tinted glasses, like nothing is wrong, that there's no issues with this new system. Are there difficulties that you all are facing?
Vaughan Cleary (35:16):
Chris, it's an interesting question and you know, to be quite honest, I think we're all pinching ourselves. You know two and a half years later that we seem to have transitioned so seamlessly into this program we've obviously had COVID thrown at us during this time. And I think to be honest, Chris, if something was going to derail us it would've already happened. But during COVID where we did a lot of home learning and my new, Victoria was one of the most lockdown jurisdictions in the world, that we didn't have one complaint from a teacher or students about a lack of appropriate work. I think we've found a sustainable model and a sustainable framework that's going to be great moving forward. One of the brilliant things about our program is that we know it will evolve over time and it's not going to remain stagnant.
Vaughan Cleary (36:02):
So any good curriculum will change. Yet we know we've got some subjects that may fade away from the framework and we've also brought in another 15 new subjects this year that are engaging students. So we see, it will develop and mold over time. As I said, I think we've got a sustainable framework. So cross our fingers let's hope that our community can be still doing myMAP in the future. But I think the level of engagement with the research and having really good answers about why we're doing that has meant that we're focused on the goal of a student centered education, as Kate mentioned.
Kate Fogarty (36:41):
And I think, I imagine there's some administrators or principal listening who are going, how on earth did they afford to do this? We're not a wealthy school by any stretch. We're very, very, very middle class and even low middle class in terms of our families. We are actually running this slightly less expensively than we did the traditional curriculum. So our average class size is just over 20. And really what's happened there is it's evened out the class sizes across the school from year seven to year 12. So in the past, we might have had some really big groups at the junior levels like thirties, our 27, 28, 30, and then much smaller groups up higher because you're offering more specialty subjects. In fact, offering these specialty subjects across the whole curriculum has reduced our cost of staffing. The little extra cost that comes in that is obviously been a bit over the first few years is making sure we've got spaces set up for all of these different classes.
Kate Fogarty (37:42):
But what it's really taught our teachers is you don't need the textbook. You don't need to rely on the textbook. You can build a really good rigorous curriculum around a whole range of things. That specialty equipment multi cross faculty subjects work really well. And that has really been another inspiration for a lot of our staff, that those cross-curricular subjects where resources can be shared, has increased their capacity to offer a bigger range of subjects. One of the favorite ones we've got going is paddock to plate where the agriculture and the food technology courses are running together. And kids are literally following their sheep from little babies right through to the great meal that's had. And the science team have done some really amazing work with across all the faculties building cross-curricular courses.
Kate Fogarty (38:36):
So in fact in terms of sustainability long term, I don't see any significant issues in that space, I guess, really for us, it's feeling like the sky's the limit. And we are really looking at now, how do we build more relationships with other organizations outside of Assumption so that these subjects have even more real world pathways. Whether that's through to university or through to the TAFE sector or through to business or the community sector where we're open for anything and actively exploring all of these options for partnerships in really new ways, compared to what we did when we were under a traditional curriculum.
Chris McNutt (39:15):
Yeah. That's great to hear because a lot of this type of stuff tends to be reserved for those who can afford it and your school does charge a tuition, but it is relatively, at least quite low. I wanted to conclude with this because this model I believe is worth spreading. There's a lot to learn from this, from the student perspective why would you all say that schools, other schools and other teachers should consider this model?
Billy Carlin (39:43):
One of the main things I've noticed with myMAP program is the connection that I've created with teachers. Had same teachers since I've been in year eight all the way now through to VCE. And I've created a bond with them that's helped me push myself and to help me succeed in the subjects. Even if it's not about the subject, we still get along as friends. However, I still do have their respect for them as a teacher. They're helping me now through VCE to try and guide me through the very tough years of year 11 and 12. Even if it's just giving me an idea of what I should do for a project or setting me on the right track to succeed all the way through. So that's my main thing about myMAP, that I've enjoyed.
Bel Luscott (40:36):
Is the most engaging school program on offer. And that not only does it engage students and make them enjoy coming to school each day, but it also provides them with immense opportunities going further as you reach senior school pathways, whether that's acceleration or anything. It makes kids want to come to school, but it also benefits them in ways that are just incredible.
Chris McNutt (41:13):
Thank you again for listening to Human Restoration Project's podcast. I hope this conversation leaves you inspired and ready to push the progressive envelope of education. You can learn more about progressive education, support our cause and stay tuned to this podcast and other updates on our website at humanrestorationproject.org.