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Heatherton Christian College

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Heatherton Christian College
Located in Melbourne, Australia, Heatherton Christian College is a small, independent, co-educational college for students from Prep (age 5-6) to Year 12 (age 17-18). The culture of the school is encouraging and supportive, and students are encouraged to discover and develop a strong sense of life purpose through the varied experiences and innovative curriculum and learning programs provided. Some of these include camps and excursions, musical production, Student Representative Council, Duke of Edinburgh, prefects, special interest groups, house system, lunchtime programs, student chapel service, Year of Challenge (Year 9), and Year 10 work experience.
Overall impact
Our school was looking for a way to measure and assess the “affective” skills within our students. Other than anecdotal evidence shared between teachers of what we had seen students achieving in the programs we facilitated, we didn’t use a common language or have consistency between classes. After the training with Skills Builder we began to see ways we could audit our programs and be consistent in the language we used across the school, to show the students when they were using and building on the essential skills.
Keep it simple
We began to use the language of essential skills in aspects of school life and our school community. In our school assemblies, we adapted our Student-Of-The-Week certificates to recognise and reward student effort and achievement in relation to essential skills. In our Careers classroom, we display the essential skills posters as a visual cue and reminder.
Start early, keep going
We implemented Skills Builder in the beginning at year 7&8 level (age 12-14) in our cross curriculum project-based learning subject, ‘Entrepreneurial school’. The following year we continued to use the language of Skills builder in year 9 and year 10 (age 14-16) in our school subject of Careers, where the students complete a self-assessment using the Benchmark tool.
Measure it
At our school, in year 10, our students undertake the Morrisby Profile, and take part in a week of work experience. They use a reflective log during work experience to help them notice the essential skills they are using every day that they work. The Morrisby Profile has the Skills Builder program built into the student tracking element of the software, and so at year 10 level, students and parents can see how they are developing regarding each of the essential skills.
Focus tightly
We explicitly focused on one skill at a time, beginning with Teamwork. At year 7&8 level, we run a subject called Entrepreneurial School, where students use project-based learning to work together to solve a problem. We used the language in Skills Builder to create a rubric that would assess “Teamwork”, and this is how what we assessed and reported on regarding the end of year student reports.
Keep practising
Our school teaches subjects that particularly lend themselves to developing the affective skills. This includes Health, Christian Life, Year of Challenge, careers, and Entrepreneurial School. The reporting template for these subjects now focus on measuring the essential skills, rather than only memorising subject content.
Bring it to life
In Entrepreneurial School at year 7&8, and similarly in year 9’s Year of Challenge, the students work together to solve a real-world problem or improve an issue they have identified within the community. The students at our school also work and volunteer with their local community and use these opportunities to apply and develop the essential skills outside of school. For some time as the school’s career teacher, I have been trying to get the importance of developing ‘employability skills’ message out. So, I was excited when I saw the blending of Skills builder into the Morrisby Profile software. Each skill is broken down into 16 steps, so students and parents can understand how the activities they do relate to the development of these skills. Extra curricular activities have been linked to the essential skills, this was completed on Morrisby for pupils to see these links: Participation in music groups such as school bands, choirs, and orchestras (listening, teamwork, aiming high, creativity and, for some, leadership). Participation in sports teams (listening, teamwork, staying positive, aiming high, creativity and, for some, leadership). Individual curriculum activities such as excursions, up front presentations (various skills and levels depending on the year group and task). External awards, e.g., Duke of Ed, and competitions, (aiming high).
What's next
In the future I would like to involve different subject teachers so together we can facilitate more regular opportunities for students to update and reflect on progress in developing their essential skills. Students can be encouraged to include the activities they take part in outside of school and to create goals and action plans for further development during their scheduled career sessions at year 9 and 10 level. So, while we are only at the beginning of the Skills Builder journey, I am thankful to have found a way to be able to measure these ‘elusive’ soft skills. This in turn will make it easier to report more widely to the school community on the impact of our careers programme. Although often unseen at the time, it is because of this deliberate focus on essential skills, that students will be able to make greater connections between their learning, their possible futures and develop executive function which ultimately benefits their literacy & numeracy outcomes which are often the priority of schools.