Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Questions & Answers: two months and counting

It's almost two months since our first meeting on May 15. In that time, the number of people involved in the Pathways Project has expanded and we have established three teams: Strategic Planning, Community Engagement and Curriculum Design.

In a project like ours, it’s important to keep everyone informed and involved. This blog is one means of sharing information, and we will continue to circulate meeting notes. Below, I’ve also attempted to answer some recurring questions.

What do we want?
To engage young people in Glebe who are not currently attending school or involved in work or training in an intellectually rigorous educational pathway

Who are 'we'?
A broad-based collaboration of partners originally composed of members of the Glebe Community Development Program Steering Group that has now expanded to include other organisations and community members (see partners list and links in right hand margin of this blog).

How do we work together?
Process is an important feature of this partnership. As the members are located in different institutional settings, and bring a range of experiences and knowledge, we value transparency and recognise the need to communicate regularly and effectively across the project. Decisions are made in collaboration after consultation.

What will the new learning program look like?
In the briefing paper that was prepared by the University of Sydney and used to support the application for funding, it was recommended that the new Glebe learning program be ongoing and connect with young people's interests, meet young people's needs and provide access to educational credentials.

Why can't we just reinstate the old program that used to run at the Glebe Youth Service?
There was more than one program that ran at Glebe. The first was more focused on providing educational credentials (2004-7), the second was more focused on reengaging young people in school (2008). Both were unstable because they did not have secure funding sources, and the program did not continue in 2009.

How can we create a learning program before we know what the interests are of the young people who will participate?
Building the new learning program around the interests of young people is a learning design principle. The real challenge is putting this design principle to work through practice. It's a bit like saying I want an environmentally sustainable house. The real challenge is building the house to suit the location with the available materials. The principle guides the construction but there is a well developed blueprint before any work begins. Similarly, the principle of starting with the interests of young people guides the development of the new learning program but we need a well developed curriculum (purpose, pedagogy and practice) before we take in any students.

What models are available that we can learn from and apply at Glebe?
There are a number of school improvement programs that have solid evidence of success in improving test scores (see May 24 blog). There are also a number of highly regarded curriculum designs that have guided educational programs attempting to meet the needs of students are generally not well served by school (see right margin list and links).

What are common features of innovative curriculum designs?
The following features are common to the NSW Priority Action School (PAS), The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), the Stanford School Redesign Network (SRN) and Big Picture Education (BP)
  • Small be design - CES, SRN, BP
  • Rigour - CES, SRN, PAS, BP
  • Relationships - CES, SRN, PAS, BP
  • Relevance - SRN, PAS, BP
  • Multicultural & anti-racist teaching - SRN, PAS, BP
  • Personalised learning - CES, SRN, BP
  • Pursuing passions & interests - BP
  • Family involvement - CES, SRN, PAS, BP
  • Learning through internships - BP
  • Authentic assessment - CES, SRN, BP
  • Strong community involvement - SRN, PAS, BP
  • Secure connections to further learning, training or work- BP
How do we put these principles to work in Glebe?
There is good evidence to suggest that the availability of materials and training is a critical factor when attempting to implement a set of learning design principles that have been shown to work elsewhere.

Why has the Pathways Project started to engage with Big Picture Education?
Big Picture Education can support us with materials and training. Big Picture design principles are comprehensive and resonate with the goals of our project, and those of other well respected learning principles. Big Picture people are known to and respected by many of the educators involved in the Pathways Project.

What happens now?
We need continue to work together in and across the three teams we have established to seek other funding sources, improve the facilities at the Glebe Youth Service, engage with the community and construct the learning program informed by the design principles that we value.

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