Head of Learning Enrichment

An inclusive and proactive approach to education at Loreto Normanhurst

I am embarking on re-examining the policy and framework for Learning Enrichment at Loreto Normanhurst and it has caused me to reflect on research that has been carried out that ensures that education is inclusive and embraces diversity, so that our programs remain relevant for all students.

At the centre of our approach is … growing individuals and communities …  where relationships and learning are of equal importance. Teachers are equipped with an understanding of what inclusion looks like as evidence based practice as well as human rights as expressed in legislation. Teachers are required to collaboratively determine the most appropriate adjustments and implement these, in compliance with the Disability Standards for Education, 2005. All Loreto Normanhurst teachers have the knowledge, skills and ethical approach to provide high quality and rigorous learning experiences for all students.

The Melbourne Declaration which sets the directions for Australian schooling for the ten-year period 2008–2018, asks educators to “promote personalised learning that aims to fulfil the diverse capabilities of each young Australian.” (MCEETYA, 2008, p.7) It has two overarching educational goals for young Australians:

Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence.
Goal 2: All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.

These goals remain as powerful and as relevant in 2018 as they were in 2008.

To further embed these practices in our school, Loreto Normanhurst consulted the AISNSW senior special education consultant Leanne Woodley in Term 2 this year. This involved heads of departments and teachers working together to enhance inclusive practices in all teaching and learning programs at Loreto.

This day was an invaluable, collaborative learning experience that explored the practices and implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL.)  UDL is based on the concept of Universal Design (UD), which was developed by a group of architects and engineers. It involves designing environments (buildings, public areas etc) to be usable by the largest possible population regardless of age or ability. Unfortunately, many environments are not created with the end in mind.  Retrofitting is adjusting something after it has failed, and it doesn’t occur solely in the world of architecture, but also in the realm of education.

UDL extended this concept to the learning environment, with a focus on increasing access to curriculum and instruction. By designing for learner variability from the start, we can create inclusive environments. The ultimate goal of UDL is to support the design of high-quality learning environments that allow all students to flourish.

It asks “How can teaching practices, materials and assessments be made accessible for the largest number of students as possible?”

Specifically, Universal Design for Learning has three principles:

  1. Provide multiple means of representation (how the information is presented).
  2. Provide multiple means of expression (how students demonstrate their knowledge of the information).
  3. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement (how students are engaged and motivated).

Using this approach, educators will continually ask themselves:

  • How can I present the information in this lesson in multiple ways so that it will reach the largest number of students (audio, video, hands on activities, etc?) What ways (beyond essays etc) can students demonstrate their knowledge of this information? How am I going to make questions 1 and 2 engaging and motivating?

Beginning from the point of recognising that learner variability is expected, rather than the exception is necessary. Additionally, that our approach is to design inclusive learning opportunities that are usable by all learners, to the greatest extent possible. We require flexibility in the ways information is presented, how students are encouraged to respond to or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and subsequently how we grow and sustain engagement in the learning process.

At Loreto Normanhurst “…growing individuals and communities…”  rings true for both teachers and students. Teachers are on a continual learning journey to ensure our practices generate growth, inclusivity and diversity.

 

Mrs Zoe Rhone

Head of Learning Enrichment