Teachers focus on authentic learning

Educators gather at the Authentic Learning Symposium at ACU.

Educators gather at the Authentic Learning Symposium at ACU on 4 July.

More than 150 teachers gave up a day of their school holidays to attend Sydney Catholic Schools Authentic Learning Symposium where they explored the various ways in which authentic learning can take place in Sydney Catholic schools.

Authentic Learning is learning that connects to the real world and develops students critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity…

Held at the Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) North Sydney campus, the teachers took part in interactive sessions led by their colleagues on best practice authentic learning and listened to New Zealand educator and distinguished guest speaker Mark Treadwell.

In his welcome, Dr Michael Bezzina, Sydney Catholic Schools Director of Teaching and Learning, remarked on what an outstanding example of professionalism it was to have so many teachers gathered during student vacation to learn together and share their practice.

In his address entitled, ‘The Seven Cs of Authentic Learning’ he spoke on the importance of students being critical thinkers who were challenged by their learning experiences, creative in their response, and connected to the real world.

“They also need to develop the skills of collaboration to assist them on their journey to becoming capable choice-makers,” Dr Bezzina said.

Authentic Learning is learning that connects to the real world and develops students critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity – skills which Mark Treadwell emphasised are required in the contemporary workforce.

He said employers want people who come up with new ideas and concepts and can use their ingenuity to turn that into something.

Our main job as educators is to be questioners of ourselves and to question our learners. 

– Mark Treadwell

Speaking on how the brain works and the process of learning, he said there needed to be less emphasis on rote learning as humans were not good at it.

He emphasized the importance of curiosity as a motivator to students wanting to learn and creating classrooms full of questions.

“Our main job as educators is to be questioners of ourselves and to question our learners. Questions build knowledge and when we interrogate that knowledge we build ideas.

“So classrooms need to be full of questions – open, closed, higher order thinking questions – not pretty work from your best students. Employers are not looking for pretty work – they are looking for people who show innovation and ingenuity.”

Following Mr Treadwell’s talk, twenty Authentic Learning projects showcased the professional skills and insights of 27 generous teachers and two students from De La Salle Catholic College, Caringbah.

Daniel Maher and Joshua Moore, both in Year 10 shared their enthusiasm for Quberider’s ‘Create for Space’ project, which involves developing their coding skills on real-life space experiments.

The boys outlined how they have been coding a small computer called an Asimov which in November will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS).  The ISS takes 90 minutes to orbit the Earth and during that time the students hope their Asimov will collect a full revolution of data on the level of radiation astronauts are exposed to.

In November when the International Space Station flies over my house, our project will be up there.

– Daniel Maher, Year 10 student at De La Salle College Caringbah
De La Salle College Caringbah students Joshua Moore (middle) and Daniel Maher talk about space with New Zealand educator and symposium guest speaker Mark Treadwell.

De La Salle College Caringbah students Joshua Moore (middle) and Daniel Maher talk about space with New Zealand educator and symposium guest speaker Mark Treadwell.

Daniel Maher told the group he liked being involved in a project connected to the real world.

“I often think that in November when the International Space Station flies over my house, our project will be up there.”

Helen Moore, mother of Joshua, said her son and Daniel had always been interested in Science but this project had really kicked them off.

“They are now buying books on physics, visiting the Australian National Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and attending talks from high profile scientists.”

Guest speaker Mark Treadwell was impressed with the students’ space project as it demonstrated exactly what employers were looking for – innovation and ingenuity.

Michael Peck, Science teacher at St Clare’s Catholic College, Waverley, said with any good professional development it was inspiring to hear from the people with the passion.

“So it was great to hear from the students and see all the different skills and interests that have been triggered by their involvement in the space project.”

Margaret Holles, Assistant Principal at St Vincent’s Catholic Primary Ashfield said the symposium gave her a deeper understanding of authentic learning and an opportunity to network with other teachers and see how they were embedding it in their schools.

“I also wanted to be challenged and Mark Treadwell did that in his talk on how to motivate learners.  His focus on looking at the key components and the skills required of our students rather than the content and the importance of questions, was really good.”

Sydney Catholic Schools Education Officer Joanna Stella, said bringing teachers together at the symposium to share ideas and approaches to teaching and learning would help to expand the capacity to deliver authentic learning across the system of schools.

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