The members of the Glebe Pathways Forum have completed an evaluation at the mid-way point of the Project's three-year funding.In her Foreward to the document, Dr Kitty te Riele (UTS), states:
"This self-assessment takes an honest look at those aspects of program design that have been established as being relevant for all such alternative education projects by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum. Three findings stand out for me. First, the strong commitment to counter negative assumptions and deficit views about the young people in the Glebe Pathways Project - instead putting their interests and voices at the centre of the project. Second, the genuine collaboration among a range of institutional and community partners - turning their different cultures, expertise and priorities into complementary strengths to support the Project. Finally, the hard work and good will of the staff and volunteers in the Project, who make the personal and public benefits of education more real and achievable on a day-to-day basis".
Teachers, mentors and other adults involved in the Pathways Project are encouraged to develop Learning Through Interest (LTI) projects that investigate some aspect of their practice associated with the Project. In other words, these projects are aimed at enhancing the learning experiences of both adults and students.
LTI projects replicate the same process undertaken by students. In other words, an LTI is planned and exhibited within the context of the Glebe classroom, and it is carried out beyond the classroom. Hence, LTI requires identifying and maintaining communication with a mentor and a setting beyond the classroom.
A key feature of LTI is that it produces something that can be exhibited each term. This means that it needs to be small in scale, and very well defined.
The Curriculum DesignTeam meeting every Wednesday functions like a Big Picture Advisory, providing teachers with the resources and support to conduct their LTI.
The following questions guide the development of an LTI: • What is the aspect of my practice that I want to investigate? • Why is it important to develop this practice within the context of the Pathways Project? • Where can I learn more about this practice? What are the features of a site that will deepen my understanding of this practice? • Who would be a suitable mentor to guide my learning?
This applies to the creation of a school, a skills training program, an adult evening class, a children’s playgroup, a sports program, etc. Formal learning programs do not just grow naturally, they require constant planning, attention and maintenance in order to develop and sustain the curriculum, teaching practices, leadership practices, organisational structures, social and welfare support systems, human resources, infrastructure, communication processes, etc.
As the Glebe Pathways Program is a community-based learning program, the development and maintenance of different parts of the program is a collaborative undertaking that is shared among the partners. For example, Sydney Secondary College and the Glebe Youth Service have accepted responsibility for the day-to-day running of the program. The University of Sydney is supporting the professional development of teachers and the implementation of the curriculum. The City of Sydney is coordinating communication among the partners. Community volunteers have taken up a range of responsibilities including guiding governance, mentoring teachers and students, and supporting the breakfast program.
Developing and sustaining the different parts of the program requires innovation and creativity in order to design new practices and processes tailored to the specific needs of the students within the context of Glebe while making use of the available resources.
The type of innovation and creativity that is required in a learning environment is largely shaped by the type of curriculum that is being implemented. Personalised learning requires different pedagogical and leadership practices to problem-based learning, or skills-based learning. It is sometimes possible to adopt designs that have been shown to work elsewhere but the unique setting and context of the Glebe program call for more purpose-built designs. Figuring out how to develop and sustain the parts of the program requires a number of problems to be worked on simultaneously. This requires coordination and communication.
One way to approach this complex challenge is for each person involved in the program to identify and work on a specific issue related to their practice, in other words what they contribute to the program. It is possible to liken this task to an individual learning project similar to those that are central to the Big Picture curriculum. This highlights that solving a practice problem usually requires learning something new. It also provides a means by which we can experience the type of learning we are providing for students under the same conditions.
At the last curriculum design meeting for Term 1 2010, teachers took on the task of developing individual learning projects that will allow each of them to investigate a pedagogical issue of relevance to their practice. Since they work together in the classroom, these individual projects have the potential to support their collective practice, particularly when the problems, investigations and solutions are jointly negotiated and communicated.
Examples of projects might include: feeling more connected and part of a team; developing shared strategies for supporting students’ interests; creating learning activities related to students’ learning plans. These projects have an individual and a collective dimension. Each step of an individual project has the potential to contribute to collective practice: developing a project requires identifying parts of the program than can be improved; investigating solutions requires exploration of possibilities for change; communicating what we learn about our individual practice has the potential to contribute to the quality of the learning programs we offer.
From Term 2 2010, I’d like to propose that everyone involved in the Glebe Pathways Project undertakes an individual learning project. What will your project be?
A new learning program started operating at the Glebe Youth Service (GYS) on October 20, 2009. Since that time, over fourteen young people who were not previously attending school, work or any other form of training enrolled in the Pathways Project.
We aim to reconnect these young people with a successful learning pathway that may lead back to formal schooling, a traineeship or apprenticeship, employment, or university.
We recognise the need to establish a structured and stable program, in which learners receive consistent and shared messages from adults about learning and working together.
Our goal is to provide individualised and integrated support to each young person that enables them to develop the habits, skills and knowledge for more sure footed pathways to further learning, training and work.
Working on an interest project is the centre piece of our learning program and something that all young people and adults involved in the program will be involved in. We all need to be able to answer the question: What’s your interest project?
Indigenous knowledge A number of Indigenous people are involved in various ways in the project. For example, Rebecca Mooney was on the panel that appointed the teacher staff. Jane Stanley (Aboriginal Curriculum Consultant) has been a member of the Community Engagement Team. Jane organised for Aunt Fay Carrol (Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer) and Carol Green (ACLO) to meet the project’s lead teacher (Caterina di Girolamo) and one of its academic advisors (Dr Deb Hayes) to be informed about the project and to seek their advice on the ongoing involvement of community elders. They indicated a willingness to maintain ongoing contact with the project.
In addition, Darryl Griffin (Director, EORA College, TAFE), and Annette Lamb and Linda Harding (MG MyGateway, Indigenous Field Officers) have attended a meeting of the Community Engagement Team. They offered to host visits by the students to EORA and Yaama Dhiyaan. Annette faciliated an outing for students on the Rainbow Warrior.
Michael Walker has worked on a regular basis as a teacher’s aide. Michael’s involvement is funded by TAFE and other resources.
Bruce Shillingsworth (ACLO) has visited the classroom and, together with Michael, met with some of the boys. He has indicated that he is willing to act as an Indigenous mentor.
Barbara McGready has worked as an occasional volunteer. Barbara is studying at Tranby
Dr Romaine Moreton has provided professional guidance and support to Caterina, and has been invited to participate in the project as an Indigenous academic advisor. In response to a letter of invitation to participate in the Pathways Project in this way, Romaine replied:
Indigenous ways of learning are holistic, and given this, the optimal aim would be to have Indigenous educators and community involvement in every phase of development in the Pathways Project to build a sense of Indigenous ownership and responsibility. This can only occur through outlining and adhering to appropriate Indigenous cultural protocol procedures.
Romaine has made the following recommendations: • Consultation with highly skilled Indigenous educators and community members in order to Indigenise the pedagogy and curriculum • Develop a set of protocols through the collaborative process to outline a collective (Indigenous and western) cultural vision to inform the Pathways Project • Cultural training for all staff involved in the Pathways Project • The employment of appropriately skilled and culturally trained educators to support the principal teacher • a new, better resourced space.
While recognising that the Glebe Pathways Project also caters for non-Indigenous students, it is proposed that the Community Engagement Team consult with Dr Moreton and other Indigenous educators and community leaders as a matter of priority in 2010 to find ways of addressing these recommendations.
Connecting with one student at a time Potential students for the project are identified by the Home School Liaison Officer (Louise Brennan). Most students live in Glebe, have attended either Leichardt or Balmain campuses of Sydney Secondary College, and have not attended school over a long period of time.
Students requesting entry to the project are required to participate in a Learning Plan meeting with a parent, guardian or supportive adult. The participation of a parent, usually mothers, is an important element of settling some students into the project.
All students have started to work on a visual process diary and a blog. These are the primary documents that record the development of their interest projects.
The Curriculum Design Team (facilitated by Ann King, former Principal Ashfield Boys High School and Margaret Wheeler, former Principal Pittwater High School) has met regularly on Wednesday afternoons. This is the primary means by which we are providing regular support for the teachers and adapting Big Picture principles to the Pathways context.
In 2010, we aim to match each student to an expert adult who can extend, validate and inspire their developing interest. This will require the support of volunteers who will work with students to identify, contact and communicate with their expert.
As well as the previously mentioned Indigenous volunteers and mentors, a number of other volunteers have participated in the program in 2009. Terry Clark (former Principal, Leichardt High School) has been present on a number of Wednesdays. In order to support development of this element of the curriculum, we need a process for identifying and inducting new volunteers.
It is proposed that the Community Engagement Team (facilitated by Keiran Kevans) coordinate the development and implementation of this process.
Induction of new teachers, workers and volunteers We recognise the need to introduce people who are new to the project to the ideas, practices and goals that underpin it. For some this will include participating in a Big Picture training workshop, for all it will require developing an interest project.
Teachers at Sydney Secondary College will be invited to express an interest in working as an associate teacher on the project during 2010. These teachers will be asked to attend a Big Picture workshop in January.
It is proposed that the College Principal (Doreen Wilson) will coordinate this process.
We will work towards creating a webpage to introduce new people to students and adults involved in the project. It will show the names, photos and short biographies of people involved in the project. Information will be uploaded by students, who will conduct a brief interview with workers designed to introduce workers to the students prior to commencing their involvement in the project.
Supporting young lives We recognise that young people enrolled in the Pathways project face many challenges. Disruption to their schooling reflects other disruptions in their families, where they live, and in their social networks.
In order to integrate the work of key personnel, we will explore new ways of working across organizations, and with families and communities. This is a priority issue for the program in 2010.
From the start of 2010, teachers and youth workers will meet every fortnight to share information about individual students. This meeting will establish and operate under agreed privacy guidelines and, when necessary, case conferences will be organized with young people and their families.
It is proposed that the Co-ordinator, Glebe Youth Service (Col Stokes) coordinate these activities.
We will also initiate specific training and support for teachers, youth workers and volunteers to develop consistent and shared approaches to dealing with challenging behavior upstairs and downstairs at the Youthie.
It is proposed that the Glebe Youth Service (Keiran Kevans) and the academic advisor (Deb Hayes) coordinate a workshop for all staff involved in the project early in 2010.
Structure of the program We recognise the importance of regular on-time attendance to develop commonly expected work habits. Our goal is for all students to be attending more frequently and staying longer. While five and three day programs have been trialed, this goal is perhaps best supported by a five day program.
It is proposed that in 2010 the classroom-based program will commence at 10am and conclude at 1pm. A range of afternoon options will be explored such as visits with experts, team and individual sport programs, tutoring, etc. The College Principal will continue to supervise the staffing of this program.
As well as the classroom based program, we recognise the importance of field trips. The field trips are a means by which all students can support and learn from individual interest projects. They may develop a form in which students adopt particular roles such as: photographer, story teller, commentary, sound recordist, camera operator, logisitics, etc. The collaborating teacher will assume organisational responsibility for these experiences.
The teaching assistant will assume organisational responsibility for the other experiences, such as visits to NITV, Bangarra, Yaama Dhiyaan, etc.
Connecting with community The Community Engagement Team is the primary means by which the project is attempting to connect and communicate with local community members and organisations. Members of this team include Roelof Smilde (GYS, Board Member), Goeff Hockey (Chaplain, Sydney Secondary College), Jane Stanley, Louise Brennan (Home School Liaison Officer), Rachel McAuslan (Relieving Aboriginal Education Officer). Keiran Kevans (GYS) has facilitated this group.
Sustaining the partnership The Glebe Pathways project is a broad-based collaboration between a number of organizations, including: Sydney Secondary College, Glebe Youth Service, The University of Sydney (Faculty of Education & Social Work), TAFE Outreach, Big Picture Education Australia, Glebe Public School, and The City of Sydney,
The main mechanism for communication between these partners is through the Strategic Planning Team. We value the strength of this partnership and the good will that underpins it. In order to sustain the partnership we will establish a schedule of regular meetings in 2010 with agreed themes, and processes. It is proposed that the John Maynard (City of Sydney, Senior Project Co-ordinator - Safe City) will coordinate these meetings.
A new name? Currently, the Glebe Pathways Project is described in various ways, such as the new learning program or school at the Youthie, the Pathways Project, Re-engage, etc.
It is proposed that we find a new name for the project that reflects it purposes and helps to establish a distinct identity. Some suggestions include: Barragroup (Barra is an Aboriginal word for ‘hook’), Gallery 2037, The Studio, etc.
Progress to date Fourteen young people who were previously not attending school, work or any other form of training are enrolled in the Pathways Project. The aim of the project is to reconnect these young people with a successful learning pathway that may lead back to formal schooling, a traineeship or apprenticeship, employment, or university. To enrol, each young person had to meet with the project’s full time teacher, Caterina di Girolamo, accompanied by a member of their family or a carer. The day begins with breakfast around 9.30 am and concludes when the GYS Drop-in opens at 3pm. The attic studio in the Youthie that functions as our learning space has had a new coat of paint and it’s been re-carpeted. There are ten computers connected to the Internet and, before too long, the Department of Housing has promised to line the roof with insulation. The curriculum development team meets every week, and the community engagement team is also continuing to meet regularly.
Supporting one student at a time to explore their interests A key element of the Big Picture design that underpins the project is supporting one student at a time to discover and explore what interests them. The plan for this term is to establish a clearer sense of each young person’s interests. Visual diaries, blogs, and zines are just some of the ways each learner is being assisted to tell and develop their story. It’s hard to be interested in something if you don’t know about it: Does the interest come first or the exploring the world? The learning program is designed to help students ‘see’ and ‘explore’ the world in order that they might find their interests. We are doing this by getting them out and about, and observing them in different settings while interacting with different people. A group project is also being planned that will allow the students to work together and get to know each other. A number of options are being explored including making a film and making items to sell at a market stall. We are exploring opportunities for each young person to experience success by connecting them to enjoyable and rewarding experiences. With time, we see a critical role for mentors to connect with and support individual students.
Volunteers and advisors Talented and generous individuals continue to offer their support to the project. For example, Dr Romaine Moreton, an artist and an academic whose work promotes Indigenous knowledge, philosophy and cultural practices, has agreed to work with us to embed the project in an Indigenous cultural framework. Romaine will assist us to recognise and connect with culturally relevant knowledge and practices. We are also seeking experienced educators who would be willing to spend about 2-3 hours assisting the teaching team on a regular basis. This might involve one-on-one work with an individual learner, or simply the supportive presence of another adult in the informal setting of the classroom.