Must Read: Student Control of Time and Subject in Australian High School

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Must Read: Student Control of Time and Subject in Australian High School

Does your school mission challenge you to meet the needs of the individual child? Do you, like most educators in K-12, want to expand the degree to which students are allowed to make choices, to own a greater portion of their learning? Do you recognize that early start days, particularly for teenaged students are detrimental to learning and student health? Then check out public Templestowe College (high school in American lexicon) in Melbourne, Australia. They have blown the doors off of what most schools think are the biggest unmovable obstacles of a transformed learning experience.

I won’t repeat the entire story, but here are some highlights:

  • Students may choose three different start times to the day: 7:15, 8:50, and 10:30.
  • There are no grade levels in the school.
  • Students choose what courses they wish to take, and at what level.
  • Teachers are actually able to teach at a level that is much more specific to the students in the room; as students self-select a level of instruction, there is less of a range of students to accommodate in any one classroom.
  • Given the choice, nearly every student in the school self-selects a range of courses that meet the government standards.
  • Student engagement and enjoyment of learning at the school is off the charts.

I work with so many schools that are trying to tweak the current structures of the daily schedule, which is built around a centuries-old quantum of time and subject, and to make it work with a greater element of student choice. They are not pushing their thinking nearly hard enough because they are captured within the framework of their own past experiences where school is organized around the needs of teachers, outdated curricula, and the start time of afternoon athletics. We, the adults, are trapped by our insistence that students will only do the right thing when we tell them what that right thing is, and that the way we have done school in the past is pretty close to being the “right thing”. Bottom line: we CAN do a much better job of meeting the needs of the individual child, and we CAN dramatically increase student engagement in learning…if we actually engage students in the process, not just the product of learning!

Here is a link to an article and radio podcast with principal Peter Hutton (HT Hannah Emmanuele), and here is Hutton’s TEDx talk:

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