A scripturally-based approach to education introduces students to the goodness of God’s creation; the radical distortion in every dimension of life caused by human rebellion; and the renewal of all of life in the birth, life, death, resurrection and coming again of Jesus. In his resurrection and victory over death, Christ offers the opportunity for transformation and establishes his kingdom (his rule on earth and in heaven). The invitation has been given to become followers of Jesus and to join in being transforming agents of the kingdom.
Colossians 1:15 highlights two core truths. Firstly, all things in the world belong to and are upheld by Christ. Secondly, at the centre of all things, including education, is Christ. As we seek to explore Christ at the centre of all things, we have adopted the following schema:
Creation. God in Christ has created all things. He is the sovereign creator, setting up humankind for a loving, responsive relationship with himself.
Fall. All things have fallen as a result of sin. There is a distance and fracture.
Redemption. Christ came to earth to redeem all things. The relationship can be re-established.
Renewal. In response to Christ’s act, we are called to work in partnership with God as all things are renewed. We can be part of the renewed relationship.
Christian education aims to instruct the mind, shape the heart and equip the hands. Growing in wisdom and character requires well-rounded, whole of life formation – growth that is intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual.
Catering for the individual needs of students.
Students are individuals who learn at different rates and in different ways. These individual differences may influence how students respond to instruction and how they demonstrate what they know, understand and can do.
Differentiation is a targeted process that involves forward planning, programming and instruction. It involves the use of teaching, learning and assessment strategies that are fair and flexible, provide an appropriate level of challenge, and engage students in learning in meaningful ways. Differentiated programming recognises an interrelationship between teaching, learning and assessment that informs future teaching and learning.
- provides teaching, learning and assessment for learning experiences that cater for the diversity of learners so that all students can learn effectively
- provides alternative methods and choices for students to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills
- considers a variety of resources and stimulus materials, including IT, to enhance student options and pathways through learning
- includes a range of activities and resources appropriate for students with different learning needs and levels of achievement
- promotes flexible learning experiences and encourages students to work at their own pace to develop their knowledge, understanding and skills
- monitors student learning over time, using evidence of student achievement to guide future teaching and learning opportunities
- considers how individualised feedback can help identify student strengths and areas for improvement.
Our Learning Support and Enrichment staff work closely with classroom teachers. Extension and enrichment activities are offered within the classroom, in focus groups and through external events and competitions. Students in regular classes who experience difficulties in areas of learning and behaviour are supported through learning and support resources. Students also benefit from involvement in a wide variety of extracurricular and co-curricular opportunities, including debating, public speaking, sports, performing arts and other areas of interest.
Critical and Creative Thinking
Creating a culture where thinking is valued, visible and promoted
At Illawarra Christian School we recognise that it is important to nurture thinking in the daily lives of our students and to make it visible so that a culture of thinking can be built and a strong learning community established in our classrooms and throughout our school.
As teachers strive to create cultures of thinking in their classrooms, they recognise eight forces which shape the cultural dynamic in every group learning situation. These consist of language, time, environment, opportunities, routines, modelling, interactions and expectations. Teachers are actively engaged in developing practices that allow these forces to shape classroom cultures with a focus on thinking, learning and understanding.
It is only when we understand what our students are thinking that we can use that knowledge to further engage and support them in the process of understanding. Thus, making students’ thinking visible is a component of effective teaching.
Visible Thinking is a flexible approach to integrating the development of students’ thinking with content learning across all stages and curriculum areas. Visible Thinking cultivates students’ thinking skills and dispositions, and also deepens content learning. Cultivating a thinking disposition means growing a student’s curiosity, concern for truth and understanding.
Visible Thinking encourages peer collaboration, develops a growth mindset, focuses on learning rather than work, promotes student independence, teaches understanding rather than knowledge and is inherently differentiated.
Thinking routines are designed to support and structure students’ thinking. They operate as tools for promoting thinking and as scaffolds that can lead students’ thinking to higher levels. Thinking routines are used regularly in the classroom. They become part of the fabric of the classroom culture, and it is through the routines that students internalise messages about what learning is and how it happens.
Integrated Learning Technologies
Learning in and for the 21st century
Learning technologies are the communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching and assessment. They foster the skills required by the 21st century learner to successfully respond to a rapidly changing workplace and world.
The integration of these learning technologies is driven by the underlying pedagogical focus of the school as outlined in this document.
Elements of integration include:
- redefining and modifying tasks in order to enhance student engagement
- providing opportunities for higher-order thinking rather than offering basic substitutions or augmentations
- using online tools to enhance collaboration beyond the confines of the classroom
- using learning management systems to give anytime/anywhere access to learning content
- using technology to allow multiple pathways through learning content
- using technology-based communication tools to enhance student learning
- using technology-based tools for teacher, student, self and peer assessment.
Cooperative & Collaborative Learning
Engaging with each other and learning together
In cooperative and collaborative learning, there is an emphasis on interdependence, while maintaining individual accountability and participation. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning. Teaching and learning are seen as shared experiences that are mutually enriching. The teacher’s role will include facilitation.
Cooperative and collaborative learning are predicated on a belief in a learner-centred approach to education. Learning in an active mode is highly effective.
Students work together on tasks that have been designed for use in small groups, small-group activities being conducive to developing higher-order thinking skills and the ability to use knowledge. Sharing ideas in a group enhances the learner’s ability to reflect on his/her own assumptions and thought processes. Group work is also valued for its potential to develop social and team-building skills. It both utilises and builds an appreciation of diversity.
Cooperative and collaborative learning provide a context where:
- learners actively participate
- teachers become learners at times, and learners sometimes teach
- respect is given to every member
- projects and questions interest and challenge students
- diversity is celebrated, and all contributions are valued
- students learn skills for resolving conflicts when they arise
- members draw upon their past experience and knowledge
- goals are clearly identified and used as a guide
- research tools are made available
- students are invested in their own learning.
Providing ongoing, interactive feedback to improve teaching and learning
Formative assessment (assessment for learning) monitors student learning on a daily basis to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by teachers to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning.
Formative assessment helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses so that they can target areas that need improvement. It provides teachers with information about the learning that is (or is not) taking place so that problems can be addressed and teaching can be adapted accordingly. Effective formative assessment happens minute-by-minute and day-by-day, not at the end of a learning sequence.
Formative assessment encourages student engagement as the teacher clarifies learning goals, provides students with frequent feedback on their progress toward the goals and adjusts learning tasks so that they are at the optimal level of challenge for students. Formative assessment increases a student’s belief that he or she can succeed. When students receive daily feedback and see evidence of progress, they are more motivated to take on more learning challenges.
- reflects a pedagogy in which assessment improves student learning
- involves formal and informal assessment activities as part of the learning process
- informs the planning of future learning
- includes clear goals for the learning activity
- involves the establishment of clear learning intentions for all lessons
- provides effective feedback that motivates the learner and can lead to improvement
- reflects a belief that all students can improve
- encourages self-assessment and peer assessment as part of regular classroom routines
- involves teachers, students and parents reflecting on evidence
- is inclusive of all learners.
Valuing dedication, application, challenge and growth
People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn because they believe this will expand their intellectual skills. They believe that strategic effort leads to improvement, and they find challenges energising rather than intimidating because they offer opportunities to learn.
Extensive scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intelligence or talent leaves students vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings. Talents are not innate gifts, but the result of a slow, invisible accretion of skills. Everyone is born with differences and some with unique advantages for certain tasks, but no one is genetically designed into success. ‘Ordinary’ people have a remarkable potential for change with practice.
For practice to bring about growth, it needs to be purposeful and sustained. It is only by working at what we can’t do that we can grow our expertise in any field. Feedback needs to be embedded in practice if improvements are to be generated. Teachers need to give specific, purposeful feedback to students, showing them areas of weakness and supporting them with strategies to address these areas, and it is essential that students heed this feedback in their ongoing practice.
Teachers can transmit a growth mindset to students by:
- telling stories about achievements that result from hard work
- emphasising challenge, not success; portraying challenge as exciting
- giving meaningful learning tasks that give students a clear sense of progress toward mastery
- praising students for the specific process that has been used to accomplish something – their effort, strategies, focus, etc
- giving explicit instruction regarding the mind as a learning machine
- viewing mistakes as an opportunity for learning.
Personal Development & Welfare
Nurturing students in a safe, secure learning environment
Illawarra Christian School is committed to the provision of a safe, secure and well-managed learning environment. Students are provided with the opportunity to develop their interests, skills and knowledge in a community where their social and emotional well-being is nurtured.
At Illawarra Christian School we seek to partner with parents in equipping young people to serve and honour God. We believe that an environment where biblical truths are placed at the core of the way we function will create the most effective learning environment.
Daily devotions and the curriculum developed from a Christian worldview allow students the opportunity to engage with contemporary culture in the light of biblical truth.
Accountability, guidance and correction are integral to the way we seek to disciple students, equipping them to serve God and others through appropriate attitudes and actions.
Students are encouraged to demonstrate respect for themselves, their peers and their teachers, while staff seek to ensure a firm, fair and friendly approach toward discipline as they train students in godly wisdom.
Programs focusing on resilience, self- esteem, teamwork, leadership, organisation and positive peer interactions are integrated into the pastoral care curriculum to enable students to mature in their Christian character.
The core of our pastoral care curriculum aims to equip students to use their abilities, time and resources to serve God, their school and the wider community. This is achieved through classroom learning and service experience.