Professional Learning - a Journey to America

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Learning from each other is something we are all encouraged to do from the day we are born and it never stops even when we leave school and enter the workforce.

The same can be said about our teachers who are continuously updating their skills and knowledge with colleagues near and far.

Principals and teachers from the Catholic Learning Community of St John XXIII and St Mark’s Catholic College (CLCSJXXIII&SM) and Mary Immaculate Primary School, Quakers Hill decided to spend their break during the last school holidays to learn from fellow teachers in the USA.

CLCJXXIII&SM Principal Dr Peter Webster and teachers Caroline Doolub and Susan Langford said it was an amazing trip with the opportunity for team building and deep learning.

The first school they visited was the home of Project Based Learning, Napa New Tech High School, which is in California and is a ‘wall-to-wall’ Project Based Learning (PBL) school.


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“We managed to do a full tour of this school, spoke to students and sat in on lessons,’’ Mrs Doolub said.

“We had the opportunity to speak with the teachers and heard how they collaborate on their lessons.

“They are very focused on how they can implement what they learn into the wider community - the real world, which is something we can further develop.

“We felt very privileged to have been given such access to the staff, students and principal for the whole day."

The next school they visited was Ross Elementary School.

“This school was just outstanding and really demonstrated to me how Service, Deep and Transfer works in the classroom,’’ Mrs Langford said.


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“I had learnt how Service, Deep, Transfer learning works, but to see how it is done in a classroom and seeing the results in the students just reinforced it for me and I have been able to implement that in my classes this Term already.’’

Next stop on their road trip was a visit to the School of Environmental Leadership (SEL) a ‘’school within a school’’, located within Terra Linda High School in Marin County, California.

The school is a project-based, environmentally-focused program that emphasizes development in leadership and 21st century skills: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity.”

“It has a one stream class of 30 students in each year and is heavily focused on community and the environment. One of their projects actually changed local government policy,’’ Mrs Doolub said.

Design Tech, which was developed with the support of Oracle and in memory of Steve Jobs.


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“The Design Thinking process was very engaging and the project based learning initiative focused on using clean technology, like 3D printers, not dirty technology like wood or metal,’’ Dr Webster said.

“This school was doing some really impressive things in their amazing facilities and reinforced for me that we are doing some pretty spectacular things in our school too.’’

Next on their journey was another “school within a school”, Bulldog Tech, a high school in California, where 10% of the students cannot speak English, yet through using such technology as Google Translator the students were functioning at an “extremely high level’’.

To cap off their travels, the group visited Google, Stanford University and got a tour of its D Design School, and Autodesk.

Mrs Doolub said the challenge now is how the learning leaders can pass on some of this knowledge and it be implemented in the schools. However pleasingly, in the first few weeks back this term, the evidence is in the classrooms of students taking their learning to new heights and staff learning and collaborating together to improve student outcomes across the whole K-12 College.

“I got so much more out of this journey then I ever expected.’’


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Dr Webster said this trip highlighted to him that the learning taking place in CEDP schools is in many setting as good as any in America or the world.


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“We also learnt we can challenge our students to become more precise with their learning and we engage with our community in providing real world experiences for our students to make a difference in.’’