Year 6 - A Transition into Middle School Learning

“A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers” -Helen Keller

Year 6 is an exciting time for students as they move from their childhood years in primary school towards their adolescence in Middle School. These changes can be daunting as students experience a change in location, increased levels of independence and begin learning through specific subject disciplines as well as interdisciplinary projects. To support this transition, Year 5 students at Good Shepherd have the opportunity to join a Year 6 class during Term 3 and 4 to navigate their new campus. Throughout orientation, students will experience insight into daily habits, expectations and opportunities in Year 6. Students will also participate in lessons taught by specialist subject teachers building their connection across programs and growing a strong sense of belonging. This thoughtful integration of the Primary Years Programme into the Middle Years Programme is proven to have higher levels of well-being and academic success as students move into our Middle School.

International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme and the Australian Curriculum

Good Shepherd Lutheran College provides an internationally recognised quality learning approach for students through the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme referred to as the MYP (Acara, 2020; IBO, 2020) which is integrated with the Australian Curriculum. This layered approach to learning allows for students to gain a rich learning experience through inquiry-based learning practices that allow for teacher directed explicit instruction. Evidence of the demand and success of this approach is supported by research by the OECD* and PISA**. The fostering of curiosity though inquiry-based learning processes while grounded in teacher directed explicit instruction promotes students to develop essential 21st century learning skills in order to be effective problem solvers, resilient individuals, strategic questioners, evaluators, and independent thinkers. Moreover, students’ engagement towards learning is driven by the relevant and meaningful units which foster life-long learning (Victoria University, 2020; Murdock, 2012).

Year 6 MYP Subjects

All subjects are underpinned and supported by the Visible Wellbeing Framework which nurtures student wellbeing throughout the learning journey.

Interdisciplinary Projects

In addition to our subject specific disciplines, Year 6 students also participate in Interdisciplinary Projects each term. Interdisciplinary projects are a vital component of learning within the MYP. The aim of interdisciplinary learning is to encourage students to deepen their understanding of the skills needed for effective learning and apply them in meaningful real-life contexts. Interdisciplinary learning integrates the big ideas, knowledge, understanding, and methods of inquiring from two to three subject areas. During an interdisciplinary project, students are presented with set challenges, issues, or ideas and through a guided process are tasked to create innovative products or explain phenomena using various formats. Students reflect on and communicate their understanding of the interdisciplinary learning process all while experiencing the excitement of intellectual discovery including insights into how the disciplines complement and challenge one another (Fostering Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the MYP, 2014).

 “..students have to be able to extrapolate from what they know, think across the boundaries of subject-matter disciplines, apply their knowledge creatively in novel situations and demonstrate effective learning strategies. If all we do is teach our children what we know, they might remember enough to follow in our footsteps; but if they learn how to learn, and are able to think for themselves, and work with others, they can go anywhere they want” -Scheicher, 2019, p.3

Our Timetable

Single lessons in Middle School at Good Shepherd are 50 minutes in length while double lessons are 100 minutes. Students have a combination of single and double lessons during their week for the various subjects to ensure time for variety and depth. To support the transition for Year 6 students into the Middle and Senior Years, Year 6 students have a small team of dedicated teachers who guide them through all of their subjects. All core subjects are taught in their classrooms, where all resources are available for the students. Students move to their Physical and Health Education and Language Acquisition lessons located a short distance away in the Middle School building. To ensure consistency and a strong sense of belonging, each class have a dedicated ‘Wellbeing’ Teacher who runs our C.A.F.É sessions with students three times a week. Students also attend Chapel and Assembly though their week.

C.A.F.E

During 2018, when Good Shepherd staff came together to critically evaluate and build on the current successes of our Year 6 program, five key components were identified as being the foundation for our learning experiences. Collectively these are known as C.A.F.E.

C: Create
A: Act
F: Flourish
E: Empower

With agency (voice, choice and ownership) being at the heart of this approach.

Thinking back to ‘our’ own learning as adults, agency is not a word that was most probably found in schools, let alone in a classroom. In today’s world however, the literature clearly identifies agency as an essential factor in student learning to ensure that students are able to take responsibility for their own knowledge and drive (IBO, 2020; Taub et al, 2020; Anderson et.al 2019).

A recent report published by Taub et al (2020, pp1-3) stated that students who experienced agency within their schooling achieved higher learning scores, felt a greater sense of joy and were more likely to be engaged within their learning. Anderson et al (2019) found that students who experienced agency had improved self-efficacy due to the relevance of the work being undertaken and their own ability to be a part of its success and significance.

Dedicated C.A.F.E is timetabled for students in three 30-minute sessions a week. During this time, students are explicitly taught to qualitatively monitor their own approaches to learning skills, develop collaborative techniques and problem-solving strategies, and focus on building a variety of communication and interpersonal skills. With Christ at our centre and the Visible Wellbeing Framework grounded in our practice, C.A.F.É time is designed to support students to flourish each and every day through reflective and responsive approaches.

Dedicated Teachers

The Year 6 Teaching Team is a dynamic, collaborative combination of specialists from an array of backgrounds and experience. In addition to our core teachers are our specialist Physical and Health Education and Language Acquisition teachers. Our Learning Enrichment team provide learning support and/or extension for students. The whole team is led by two coordinators; one for Wellbeing and one for Curriculum. This is also overseen by the Middle Years Programme Coordinator and Head of Middle Years.

Reference List

Acara (2020), Alternative Curriculum Recognition. Accessed from: https://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/alternative-curriculum-recognition/r...
Anderson, R. et al (2019) Student agency at the crux: Mitigating disengagement in the middle and high school. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0361476X1830136X
Hammond, L., & Moore, W. M. (2018). Teachers Taking up Explicit Instruction: The Impact of a Professional Development and Directive Instructional Coaching Model. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 43(7).
IBO (2020) Why is the IB different. https://www.ibo.org/benefits/why-the-ib-is-different/
Murdoch, K. (2018) Getting the mix right Teacher Guidance and Inquiry Learning. https://www.kathmurdoch.com.au/blog/2018/9/26/getting-the-mix-right-teac...
Taub, M et al (2020) The agency effect: The impact of student agency on learning, emotions and problem solving behaviours in a game based learning environment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360131519303318?...
Victoria University (2020) Activity and Inquiry Based Learning. https://www.vu.edu.au/learning-teaching/learning-teaching-development/le...
 
* Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)
** Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)