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The Inspire Associates project is a ground breaking pilot being delivered in partnership with the University of Canberra and ACT Education and Training Directorate
This project allows a diverse team of classroom practitioners one day a week out of our school environment to promote and develop innovation within best practice teaching and learning.
We are particularly focussed on exploring and promoting student action oriented initiatives in order to empower student engagement, voice and participation throughout schooling in the ACT.
Each of us contributes a unique and diverse set of skills and experience to the team. I am Tiffany Mahon, a curriculum, pedagogy specialist and Arts Executive Teacher at Melrose High School. Ian Thomson is a multi-media specialist and Pastoral Care Executive Teacher at Kingsford Smith School. Trish Ghirardello is an ICT co-ordinator, Executive Teacher and year 5/6 classroom teacher at Mawson Primary School and Peter Smythe is a Science and Mathematics teacher who has developed an innovative personalised learning program at Gungahlin College.
All of us are passionate and dedicated classroom teachers who are striving for learning environments that engage and empower our students as active participants and leaders in the learning process. We are excited to have the opportunity of engaging our colleagues across the system in a substantive conversation about what the innovative teaching can contribute to the creation of truly personalised learning for every student, every day in our classrooms.
On a collegiate level, we are keen to foster and promote a shared language and culture of contemporary teaching and learning across the system and to move further towards a culture that embraces then Quality Teaching Model as a normal part of our daily teaching practice.
A central question for us has been, “What can ICT contribute to ensuring sustained and transformative conversations are taking place across the whole system as opposed to isolated pockets of excellence within schools and school clusters”, and “How can ICT help us to share our specialist abilities and expertise with a wider range of colleagues to the benefit of all?
We have worked on piloting and testing MyLearning, the collaborative learning platform designed for school communities that will replace the clc. And we are each also engaged in making films, podcasts and webcasts in partnership with our students, about the extraordinary student voice, participation and engagement activities occurring in ACT schools. We plan share these with a system wide audience.
In addition to these team projects each of us will undertake individual projects aimed at applying research, in action oriented projects that utilise best practice use of ICT. We will each tell you more about these projects as they evolve over the next six months.
Placing pedagogy front and centre if and when ICT is involved and innovating and promoting student voice, participation, engagement and leadership is what inspires us.
We are keen to hear about and share what inspires you and your students every day in your own classrooms across the ACT.
“The class related to almost every aspect of my day to day life. As I was taking chances and trying new things on stage, I began taking chances and trying new things on the soccer pitch. This actually improved my game. I also learnt time-management this semester. I had to do at least half an hour of Drama a day, at home, then do my other assignments…this should help me quite a bit in the future years of school”
An excellent performing arts education is one of the most empowering opportunities that can be offered to young people. Dance Drama and Music offer students the chance to transform themselves and their lives through self-exploration and expression, relationship, self-esteem and confidence building and personal resilience.
“This class had meaning and connectedness for me beyond the classroom. I have taken in what I have learnt and will apply them to future productions if I participate in them, as well as outside of drama, life in general. The main thing I will take away from this is that if I strive to do the best I can I have the best opportunity to achieve the goals I set.”
This is something that is generally quite well known in education circles. However, beyond this the Performing Arts also develops students into community minded, high achieving, goal oriented community members who are willing to take risks, learn from their mistakes and work effectively as leaders and team members alike.
“ACE Drama has been very challenging this semester… I now know …I have to put a lot of focus into what I do… I have shown myself that if I do put focus and concentration into what I am doing I can achieve what I want.”
An excellent performing arts education in a school builds rich task, real world scenarios into every day classroom learning. Students learn the skills and techniques of Drama, Dance and Music, but they also take part in school and community showcases where their learning and achievements are on display to the entire community.
“Everyone in the class is always there for each other and willing to help out others if they need it. I felt like I could go to almost anyone in this class if I felt like I needed help with lines, blocking or anything else. At times I did go to people and they helped me a lot. I’m glad that our class work so well together and get along so well.”
Sets are built, programmes and posters researched and produced, media contacted, costumes and props made, lines learned, numbers choreographed and songs written, all within specific and tight deadlines in which there are real and immediate consequences if the work is not ready. “
“The support that ACE Drama gives each other is tremendous. Every student in the class is willing to help one another, even if it doesn’t concern them. We would always help our partners from the other cast with lines and blocking and if they were acting and did not know what to do we would get up and show them what they should be doing.”
After all, there is nothing quite like the immediate feedback of a live audience to make a summative judgement on the quality of your work!
“Self-discipline, leadership and creativity were probably needed the most. Self-discipline was needed in order to learn lines and blocking, and to develop a character. If we didn’t have self-discipline, especially in the last week or so, the show probably wouldn’t have been a success.”
Supporting students to become engaged, autonomous and self-directed learners is the goal of excellent teachers.
“Whenever someone had a question on blocking, or how they could improve their performance, the class would usually brain storm ideas. It got really competitive at one stage, but once we realised we were ALL a team, we were very supportive and up lifting towards one another.”
We want our students to see themselves as supportive classmates, engaged community members and as responsible and committed leaders. Performing Arts showcases embody this philosophy and encourage students to learn, grow and adapt to the highest possible expectations of themselves as learners and as people.
“However I realise now, what I thought was commitment before, is nothing compared to the commitment the class needed to have this semester.”
“I felt like screaming at Ms Mahon for expecting so much of us!”
An excellent performing arts education provides a seamless learning experience inside and outside of formal classes as afternoon and weekend rehearsals and a disciplined approach to individual study is required.
“It involved a lot of afterschool work and catching up. If I had a choice though, I would do it again.”
So at the beginning of each school performance, concert or theatre production try to be explicit with the audience in terms of what they are about to see. Yes they are about to watch and enjoy a play or a concert, but they are also witnessing an educational showcase that demonstrates and celebrates quality teacher practice and genuine academic excellence.
“Drama this term took a lot of teamwork and cooperation for it to work. Everyone worked well together in the team and that is one of the reasons the play went so well. This was one of the most difficult but also one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done.”
Note: All of the quotes used in this article have been taken from the Year 10 CLC Performance Drama Forum of Melrose High School.