Year 6 Learning Community
In 2019, the Year 6 team embarked on a journey of collaborative risk-taking, problem-solving and a whole lot of critical and creative thinking; to pilot a new model for the first year of Middle School at Good Shepherd Lutheran College called, 'The Year 6 Learning Community'.
The focus was on creating a program that nurtures the agency inherent within all learners through project-based learning, a strong focus on developing approaches to learning skills, and daily opportunity for reflection, self-assessment and personal goal setting.
The team wanted to create the learning conditions for students to become self-aware learners who can make thoughtful and considerate choices and act appropriately and confidently for their own learning needs. They wanted school to be a place of enjoyment that can inspire a love of learning and a community of independent and caring learners.
In order to develop this model they had to work with two creative constraints:
- The timetable
- Compliance with all MYP subject requirements
They firstly needed to work around the Middle and Senior School Timetable. The first step to jumping this hurdle was to assign a full-time team of teachers to the Year 6 Learning Community so the majority of the daily schedule could be flexible and needs-based. This full-time team has responsibility for the planning, teaching and assessing of the following MYP subjects:
- Individuals and Societies
- Language and Literature
They have a lovely, light-filled, open flexible learning space where this learning occurs. The teaching team has strengths that cover each of these learning areas.
In addition to this full-time team of Year 6 teachers, specialist Physical and Health Education and Language Acquisition teachers also teach in the Year 6 area. Students head to the other areas of the College to engage in these subjects and during this time, the Year 6 teaching team collaboratively reflect and plan.
In order to create a weekly flexible schedule that meets the learning needs of Year 6 students and also adheres to the Australian Curriculum and the MYP requirements, the team chose to employ and create the following subjects:
- Morning Cafe: a Christian Studies, Visible Wellbeing and explicit approaches to learning skills development time
- Language and Literature
- World Studies: an interdisciplinary Sciences and Individuals and Societies learning area
- Creatorspace: an integrated Arts, Design and Christian Studies learning area (we are a Lutheran school and our Christ-centred mission is of utmost importance)
- Choose Your Own Adventure: a student-led project developed using the MYP projects cycle
All these learning areas are connected through a single global context: Identities and Relationships. In the future, students will choose which global context to focus on.
Rather than having multiple books for different subjects, students all have a process journal that demonstrates the process of learning. The process journal is a large scrapbook and students also develop online process journals in SEQTA Folios and Google Folders. In their process journal, students make the process of learning visible and are beginning to make connections within their process journal. In just eight weeks some students hd already filled three process journals! The idea is that by the end of the year they will have multiple process journals that can serve as a mini-exhibition of their learning. The process journal is where teachers also source evidence of learning.
The weekly schedule is a flexible one, that caters for meeting the MYP requirements and the Australian Curriculum requirements. Something to bear in mind, this is a flexible schedule and flexes based on student learning needs.
Students are at the point where they will choose when they want to focus on their 'Creatorspace Project' and their 'Choose Your Own Adventure Project'. They make these decisions based on the workshops available, the availability of resources and the decisions of those they are collaborating with.
21st Century Learning
The Year 6 Team is thrilled to see this increase in student agency in such a short period of time. They have had the pleasure of hosting Student-led Conferences where it was so lovely to see that after only five weeks in the program, students were using the language of agency and demonstrating authentic ownership over their learning. There were honest reflections and goal setting. Their goals were clearly articulated and supported with evidence from their process journals. The team was greatly encouraged to see that the parent community were thrilled with the model of the Year 6 Learning Community, understand why they are taking this approach and are supportive because they can see how this project-based approach to teaching and learning is not only supporting their child’s growth academically, but they are holistically developing in a healthy and happy manner.
Although the team is in the early stages and has much more to collaboratively develop alongside their students, it has been an exciting and very big endeavour, but one that is essential to learning in the 21st Century.