http://info.trinity.nsw.edu.au/blog/trinity-da-vinci-decathletes-put-to-the-testBy Lisa Gossling, Head of Gifted and Talented Education
‘Challenge’, ‘curiosity’ and ‘choice’ are three aspects of learning that are essential to successfully engaging students in their learning – this is especially true for gifted or talented students, which are referred to as High Potential Learners (HPL) at Trinity. We focus on providing our boys with opportunities to collaborate on a regular basis with like-minded peers, with shared passions and interests. We provide flexible grouping options that honour student voice and allow them to be challenged in their thinking. Boys engage in learning at a level where pace, depth and complexity are tailored to individual need. Stanley and Benbow (1983) specify the importance of these by stating that: “The pace of learning and the depth and complexity of study in the context of strong academic programmes are critical aspects for students to have consistent learning gains.”
Our educators consistently use information to ensure we respond to individual cognitive and social/emotional needs. Each student is unique in their thinking, abilities, achievements, strengths, challenges and socialisation, as well as experiencing different rates of growth. We provide structures that offer a range of educational opportunities to engage, enrich and extend all of our boys on a daily basis.
While the above applies to all of our students, we do offer specific programmes for high potential learners. Here are five ways that we support high potential learners:
1. ELEVATE Project
High potential learners are being challenged at Trinity through a multi-school project named ELEVATE, initiated by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, supported by strategic partnerships with the UK-based Innovation Unit and the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). This provides the opportunity for our School to work with local and global experts to research agile design for high potential learners.
An important element of this project is its focus on individual school context, rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Trinity is committed to creating the best possible learning environment to foster innovation, creativity and higher-level thinking. These skills are recognised as being critical in the modern global economy.
Trinity’s involvement in the ELEVATE project assists it to draw on the best examples from around the world, collaborate with other schools in the core development group, and design classroom learning approaches that respond and adapt to the needs of its boys. Read more about how ELEVATE is challenging high potential learners.
2. Honouring student voice: co-designing learning
An outcome of Trinity’s participation in the ELEVATE Project is the focus on ’student voice’ by encouraging high potential learners to work collaboratively and engage in curriculum design. Our Co-designing Learning Model is designed to match curriculum big ideas with the passions of high potential learners, and external experts. Combining the input of external experts and teachers’ knowledge of differentiating the curriculum, with student interests, leads to stronger student performance. This process responds to student voice and provides rigorous and relevant learning opportunities.
3. Relational trust: IB Mentoring Programme
We put the skills of our Year 11 and 12 International Baccalaureate (IB) students to good use as mentors. They guide, challenge and extend students’ thinking in small group or individual learning sessions at the Junior, Preparatory and Middle Schools. The IB Mentors meet with high potential learners either face-to-face or online during school hours. The feedback from both the IB mentors and their younger mentees is overwhelmingly positive. The mentors engage in a range of subject areas with a focus on scaffolding students and extending them in their thinking. The focus areas include:
- Flexible thinking and problem-solving skills in Mathematics.
- Further developing organisational skills and confidence in learning.
- Upskilling students to engage in challenging themes and concepts including evaluation and analysis.
- Creatively designing new ways to solve challenging problems in the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP).
IB Mentor Alex said: “I have now been mentoring for almost two years and it truly has been an amazing experience. The relationships I have formed with the younger boys and the excitement and enthusiasm they display for our sessions together is something I will cherish forever.”
“As the famous Nelson Mandela stated ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. I believe that this service to my school and these students will change the world as they are the future,” said IB Mentor Luke.
Young mentees Edward from Year 4 and Chris and Aaron from Year 6 also find the experience positive: “Our mentor is really helpful. He is so good at explaining Maths and makes it easy to understand. He gives us individual help online and we can email him when we get stuck on questions at home. He is really friendly and gives us support when we need it. You can tell he is really good at Maths!”
4. Staff coaching and mentoring students
Professor Martin (2017) defines motivation as “energy, drive, interest and inclination to learn and achieve,” and engagement as ”the behaviours following from this energy, drive, interest, and inclination.” Our educators coach and mentor high potential learners by developing an understanding of their individual challenges and setting goals specific to their personal motivation and engagement. These opportunities focus on developing and enhancing the boys’ skills in:
- persisting when they are faced with academic and social challenges
- planning (and monitoring), by using strategies to manage and reflect on achievement and ability
- managing workload and organising time to be effective, by setting realistic goals and schedules
- positive self-efficacy that incorporates belief in oneself and confidence in achieving realistic learning gains
- valuing School as a place where they believe education is useful, relevant, meaningful and important
- focusing on effort and being intrinsically motivated to learn.
5. Linking like minds: grouping options for students
High potential learners are offered Honours Classes based on their potential, performance and other aspects which identify them as students who can engage in extension and enrichment of the curriculum, as well as working at a faster pace. The focus for this group is to engage students to explore the pace, depth and complexity options of the subject area.
NSW da Vinci Decathlon
This yearly event provides an opportunity for our students to work collaboratively to solve a range of complex tasks within strict time constraints. At various points, students are required to manage more than one task at a time. Our training incorporates a range of activities including a full-day ‘Mini Decathlon’ where Trinity teams compete against each other. Each year boys provide positive feedback about this engaging and unique experience and value the opportunity to work within a team and learn more about their peers and themselves. Learn how the da Vinci Decathlon puts students to the test.
Trinity adds significant value on a pastoral level to all students, not just to high potential learners. We also offer support and guidance tailored to students who find learning difficult.
On a school-wide level, Trinity adopts a set of Promising Practices, that emerged from ethnographic research. We promise to deliver:
- teachers with strong relational trust and mutual respect
- an explicit approach to the purpose of learning
- a strong pastoral and mentoring system
- honouring of student voice in learning
- practices that challenge students beyond their zone of proximal development
- a differentiated pace to learning
- real life applications to learning
- inspiring and motivational approaches.
Trinity provides an abundance of opportunities which nurtures boys to grow into men who are clear and passionate about their unique talents. We actively encourage our students to grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man, in order that they may become responsible, contributing members of society.
We aim to help boys discover their innate talents and unlock their full potential within the context of a supportive Christian environment. We have guided boys to grow in mind, body and spirit for over a century and we know what boys need to truly flourish and succeed.
To experience Trinity for yourself and to find out why we are one of the top schools for boys in Sydney, register for our open day.