Dean of Learning

Dean of Learning

Ask Google what skills are needed for the future and you will undoubtedly get a list that includes attributes such as creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration. These skills can seem very divorced from the syllabus documents produced by the Board of Studies that focus on knowledge and understanding of subject specific content. So is there a tension, a conflict between what has been called our 19th Century education model and the demands of the 21st Century?

There are arguments about the value of technology to education and ardent discussions about the value of different teaching approaches. Problem based learning, direct instruction flexible learning spaces, the value of collaboration, the use of laptops in schools are too often pitted against each other. The experience of a Loreto Normanhurst education demonstrates that there is no real dichotomy but rather that a weaving together of a range of approaches can help to create learners that can embrace the learning opportunities before them with energy, enthusiasm and courage.

We are a school that looks to foster within our students the attitudes of mind that will allow them to be successful in a changing world. Indeed this conviction to preparing our students for the future lies at the heart of the Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model which continues to evolve. It is becoming increasingly clear that our students will need above all to be agile and resilient, to be open to learning new skills and developing new ways of understanding the world around them.

One of the greatest challenges facing young women is to develop the courage to take intellectual risks as fear of failure can be the greatest obstacle facing our students. We are working as a learning community to encourage your daughters to develop their own ideas, formulate their own understandings and challenge the idea that perfection is an ideal to work towards. Perfectionism is not only the enemy of good mental health, as Dr Tom Nehmy has reinforced in the valuable Healthy Minds Program delivered to all our Year 8 students, but it is also the enemy of innovation and creativity; key skills needed by this generation of learners as they move into further education and the workplace.

 It is imperative that our students develop mindsets that value the journey of learning more than a mark or grade. As parents we can reinforce this by discussing the value of learning from our mistakes and the satisfaction that comes from achieving a personal goal or making an improvement rather than yearning for unattainable perfection. Each learning task, assessment and test provides an opportunity to develop and refine skills.

It can be easy for girls to catastrophize situations where they do not achieve as well as they would like.  It is important that we don’t allow students to get into negative mindsets when this happens. Developing the right attitude to feedback is key to turning a setback into a valuable learning opportunity. Rather than seeing feedback as a personal judgement on imperfection it should be seen as a road map for improvement. Being an effective learner is all about developing this attitude so that you can make progress rather than decide that you are not ‘good’ at a particular subject or skill.

We can learn much from musicians and sportspeople when it comes to skill development and mastery. Too often we think that talent dictates success when it is hard work and determination that turns the promise of talent into achievement. So the next time your daughter tells you that she’s not good at something remind her that it just means that she’s not good at it YET and that the feedback she receives is like the advice of a good coach – if you listen it will help you improve your game.


Mrs Carolina Murdoch

Dean of Learning