The result of a four-year collaboration between Harvard Graduate School of Education researchers and 11 Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) principals, the guide will provide case studies from Harvard’s Leading Learning that Matters project.
Melbourne’s Beaconhills College is one school which will feature in the guide.
Tony Sheumack, the school’s principal, says his school has spent a lot of time over the past four years examining the Harvard research and looking at how it might apply to the college.
“For us it was very much building a program of what learning matters for our local community, and we’ve built it using a lot of the work, and particularly a lot of the research tools from Harvard,” he says.
“We developed our six main areas of education for Beaconhills College, that became a strategic plan, which we’ve implemented.”
The school has decided to focus on the six key pillars of ‘learning’ , ‘environment’, ‘our world and other cultures’, ‘citizenship and service’, ‘wellbeing’ as well as ‘values and character’.
According to Harvard academic Dr Flossie Chua, the Leading Learning that Matters project focuses on learning that enables students to “grapple productively and insightfully with the learning that is going to be most useful and relevant for their future lives”.
After visiting Beaconhillls College, Chua said Sheumack had “a very clear vision about the kind of learning that mattered for Beaconhills, a vision that he invited the teaching, administrative, and technical staff to weigh in on, so that they felt ownership of the project”.
“It may have started as ‘the principal’s project’... but very quickly developed into everyone feeling strongly that it was ‘our project’,” she says.
Of particular interest to the Harvard team, was Beaconhills College’s Indigenous cultural learning program.
“Part of the project was to develop a guide that Harvard’s producing, for school leaders, both locally and internationally, and because of our work in Indigenous education … it was certainly one that they had looked at and was seen as a very good project to be incorporated in best practice, if you like, for other schools,” Sheumack explains.
The program has been noted as one which allows students to participate in Indigenous culture, rather than simply learn about it.
“That’s what makes it real for everybody, is that it’s not something to be taught to people, you want people to be actively engaged in it,” Sheumack says.
One element of the program involves Year 9 and 10 students on outdoor education camps learning and practising the Aboriginal tradition of deep reflection, shared learning, and storytelling.
And when international students visit Beaconhills, they participate in Indigenous cooking workshops with local Aboriginal people.
The student cohort at Beaconhills College is largely non-Indigenous, and relishes any chance to engage with an ancient and valued culture.
“For us it’s been a very special project because we’ve been very much working with the local Indigenous flavour,” Sheumack says.
“Unlike other schools that have looked at scholarships for Indigenous children from remote communities, ours have been very much about educating our own school.
“Also having a local Indigenous educator on staff who has been leading the project and embedding it in our education program … the uniqueness for us has been that it’s been very local, it’s been developed with the local Indigenous community, and we’re very much about educating ourselves...”
Sheumack says it is hoped his school’s case study will inspire other leaders, not so much to follow suit, but to look at what learning matters for them.
“The guide would be a tool for all communities to really interrogate and research what’s right for them, and build programs that matter for their children. “And every different setting of schools would have different priorities,” he says.