Why we chose Walker Learning

From our Head of Primary, Mr Robert Paterson:

The Primary School at St Andrew’s is committed and passionate about the implementation of the Walker Learning Approach. It is an Australian designed teaching and learning pedagogy that authentically personalises learning and is developmentally and culturally appropriate. We commenced our ‘Walker Journey’ in 2015 in the Prep – Year 3 classes and the following year into the Year 4 – 6 classrooms. Twelve months prior, in 2014, we began upskilling our staff, redesigning the classrooms and educating the parent community.

The Walker Learning Approach has been developed and taught in Australia for over 20 years and places the child at the centre of their learning, considering each child’s developmental stage and each individual child’s personal interests. It is an approach which supports the strong research that children be active participants in their learning, which sits alongside formal instruction.  There is explicit teaching of not only literacy and numeracy skills and knowledge, but also the range of vital social, emotional and life skills.

As a study tour school, we are proud to share our excellent practice with colleagues from schools across the state. Our staff are continually upskilling through their professional learning at workshops, visits by the Walker Learning staff as well as from mentors within our own teachers.

The Deputy Head of Primary (Prep – Year 3), Ms Cath Green, has been one of the key staff drivers behind the success of Walker Learning within the Primary school and she has written an article below to provide an insight into her thoughts and observations, in particular, in the Early Learning Years (Prep- Year 3):

 

From our Deputy Head of Primary (Prep - Year 3), Ms Cath Green:

“It is the extreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” - Albert Einstein

Why did we choose Walker Learning?

Almost five years ago our Primary leadership team, with the Principal, began exploring changes we could make to our pedagogy. During visits to schools in Victoria and South Australia we observed Walker Learning in action and then explored further through reading and professional development.

When we embarked on exploring and investigating appropriate pedagogies, we took time to identify what we valued and what research was telling us. We continue to see in Education references to the importance of preparing students for life and a shift away from a focus only on content. There is much research to support the need to develop a child’s creativity, imagination, oral language skills and an ability to think and analyse. Reading this article with the key points from Harvard research and the findings shared in the accompanying TED talk, resonated well with us in terms of our Walker Learning journey.

Although this was the starting point for our Walker Learning journey, one of the other features which attracted us to the pedagogy was that explicit teaching sessions for literacy and numeracy were still valued and protected. The Walker Learning Approach encourages children to be problem solvers, deep thinkers and creative learners. It also facilitates the development of a rich vocabulary as children discuss, question, hypothesise and negotiate their learning.

Since commencing in all Prep to Year 3 classrooms in 2015 and then in Years 4 to 6 in 2016, the pedagogy is now embedded across the Primary School. We have transformed our classrooms into beautiful inviting learning spaces which are exciting and engaging for our children. Our teachers deserve great credit for creating such outstanding classroom environments and also for the richness of their teaching. We have students who have made amazing gains in their literacy and numeracy but also their creativity, oral language and in their ability to think and solve problems. In Prep to Year 2, seeing Investigations and Reflection Time used to springboard to explicit teaching lessons has enabled learning to be meaningful and well-scaffolded.

The teaching staff have achieved so much and should feel proud of their accomplishments. They are continually reflecting and improving.  Walker Learning has been a vehicle for them to collaborate and focus on improving their pedagogy as a team. This has also been further supported by mentoring and professional learning from Walker Learning staff.

What does a typical morning look like?

In Prep to Year 2 the day commences with Investigations for forty minutes, four times a week. The learning centres during Investigations include areas for role play, collage, sensory, construction, literacy and numeracy. At this time, the teachers work as facilitators, recording detailed notes on the focus children and observing individual development.  Then follows Tuning In, at which point the teacher will connect with the Focus Children, the Reporter and Photographer, as well as making links to the Learning Intentions for the fortnight.  During Tuning In, the teacher will frequently use provocations to make curriculum links or to personalise an investigation experience for a child. The children are encouraged to think deeply, make connections, build on their strengths and skills and to articulate their learning. Reflection Time occurs following Investigations and this is another opportunity for the teacher to connect with the children and to provide scaffolded links to intentional learning which will occur later in the day.

Our Walker Journey has assisted greatly in supporting our school culture and beliefs in the importance of building strong relationships with students, utilising students interests to personalise learning and doing this in a meaningful and rich classroom environment. If you would like to visit our classrooms to talk more about the pedagogy, please contact me at cgreen@saac.qld.edu.au