I grew up in the south of Canberra before enrolling in the landscape architecture course at the University of Canberra. In 2010 I graduated with a graphic design degree and have since worked as a digital designer in both of the major hemispheres. Here’s a brief rundown of my work life so far:
Studied Landscape Architecture at the University of Canberra
Studied Graphic Design at the University of Canberra
Employed as a Graphic & Web Designer at various businesses across Melbourne, New York & Toronto
Employed as an Interactive Digital Designer at W3.Digital in Cremorne, Melbourne
Studied Masters of Teaching Practice (Secondary) at RMIT
By empowering students to explore creative processes, narratives and real-world experiences, I aim for students to engage critically with the spaces in which they exist. In turn, I aspire for them to develop positive relationships with themselves and those around them, contributing to the development of caring and compassionate communities.
Technology and The Arts
Having spent the past 8 years working as a visual designer in the tech industry, I have watched with increased interest the social effects of rapid technological change. Technology has enabled vast networks of communication to develop, allowing unprecedented access to information, and exposure to ideas from countless cultures and thinkers. On a disheartening level this rapid change has also contributed to growing economic disparity, a rise in populism, and an increase in mental illness.
One of my key motivations in teaching is to assist students to navigate this increasingly complex, STEM-driven world with empathy, responsibility and creativity. I believe that this can be achieved through exposure to and interaction with the Arts, along with a focus on wellbeing, community and the principles of design thinking.
For learners to thrive academically, creatively and socially, they need to feel safe and supported (Churchill et al., 2011). I aim to create spaces where students are empowered and respected by maintaining learning environments that emphasise inclusion and engagement. In these supportive spaces students are able to develop their creative practice, along with empathy and responsibility, which contributes not only to their personal wellbeing, but to the wellbeing of those around them.
Community and Wellbeing
Community can be described as a ‘realm of collective actions that are connected to wider global flows of ideas, arguments and movements’ (Smyth, 2011, p. 106). These ‘collective actions’ are inextricably linked to the concept of wellbeing, which ‘focuses on how the relationship between individuals and their social, economic and cultural contexts enables people to be well’ (White & Wyn, 2013, p. 210). Wellbeing is not only something that is experienced by young people, it is also ‘a reflection of the quality of social relationships and spaces (or communities) in which young people are embedded’ (Wyn, 2009, p. 108).
Building Community in the Classroom
The idea of community can be developed in the classroom by engaging with practices of critical pedagogy. Paulo Freire (1970) wrote widely on the subject with the aim of fostering ‘collective knowledge building’ through ‘modeling appropriate feedback, orienting attentions to key qualities, supporting development of interpersonal skills, mediating inevitable tensions, challenging understandings and empowering learners’ (Davis et al., 2015, 154-5).
Through implementing praxis (reflection and action), enabling class discussion, and facilitating collaborative work, students are able to interrogate popular assumptions and transform their environment through active participation, creating spaces that support the ‘sense that there is shared commitment and a common good that binds us’ (hooks, 1994).
A strong sense of community can also be developed through collaborative learning, which has been found to be crucial for the development of social and cognitive processes (Bossche et al., 2006). In a meta-analysis of 164 studies, Johnson et al. (2000) found that collaborative learning tasks increased student achievement, retention, motivation, moral reasoning, value of differences, transfer of knowledge, and the reduction of prejudice.
A practical framework for incorporating collaborative learning in the classroom is through constructivism, which sprang from the work of Piaget and Vygotsky in the 1970s. Piaget was a leading advocate for cognitive constructivism, believing that learning is an active process that should be whole and authentic to be effective (Ayas, 2006). The work of Vygotsky was focused on social constructivism, where social interaction and the use of cultural tools facilitate learning (Ayas, 2006).
Papert was a constructionist who built on the ideas of both Piaget and Vygotsky, claiming that ‘the role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention’ (Papert, 1993). These ‘conditions for invention’ or ‘emergent spaces’ can be created by taking a design thinking approach towards education.
Design thinking is a process for creative problem solving. It is a framework that allows students to use creative tools such as empathy, experimentation, and evidence, to address a vast range of challenges across any subject. The design thinking process aligns strongly with constructivism and can be broken into five distinct stages:
Understanding the challenge. Conducting research. Gathering inspiration.
Telling stories. Searching for and developing meaning.
Generate ideas. Refine ideas.
Make prototypes. Get feedback.
05. Presentation & Evolution
Present learnings. Track learnings, assess and move forward.
The 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning
It should be noted that a more holistic approach to pedagogy, learning and creating has been developed and enacted in Australia for thousands of years. Tyson Kaawoppa Yunkaporta (2009) has considered research ‘done by and for Aboriginal people within Aboriginal communities’ which draws upon ‘knowledge and protocol from communities, Elders, land, language, ancestors and spirit’ to develop the ‘8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning’ framework which ‘stands at the interface of two worlds: language and land knowledge’ (p. 1). Yunkaporta emphasises that they do not own these ways of knowing, but that they come from and belong to the western NSW region.
The 8 ways framework encompasses community links, deconstructing & reconstructing, non-linear ways of learning, land links, symbols and images, non-verbal communication, learning maps and story sharing, which can all be enacted in a typical classroom environment.
Essential Questions for Constructive Alignment
An essential question is one that creates inquiry, fosters deep thought, encourages justification and exploration of alternative viewpoints, stimulates rethinking of big ideas, sparks meaningful connections, and naturally recurs in other situations (Wiggins et al. 2005). Essential questions are a helpful tool for planning as they offer a framework for exploring big ideas, building connections between content and context, and developing a socially critical learning environment (Malone, 2011, pp. 290).
These questions can be used as a conduit for constructive alignment, where teaching and learning activities, along with assessment tasks, are linked to the intended learning outcomes.
Bloom’s taxonomy states that the memorisation and regurgitation of information is at the most basic level of learning. By engaging students with hands-on activities and class discussions, I intend to elevate learning from basic remembering to the higher cognitive development levels of understanding, applying, analysing, and evaluating.
These activities will be supported with careful questioning, from basic ‘can you recall…?’ facts-style questioning through to evaluative questions such as ‘what is your opinion of…?’ and ‘would it be better if…?’.
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory is based on the belief of sociocultural learning theorists ‘that a novice is able to do more in the presence of an expert than when working unaided’ (Davis et al., 2015. pp 152). These experts could be classmates, teachers or guests. When working collaboratively learners are able to, at different times, be the expert and become the expert in the presence of others. Creating the environment for ZPD to take place also assists in the scaffolding of knowledge as learners are supported by experts until they are able to perform the task(s) unaided.
When considering digital technology in the classroom I think it is important to remember that technology is just a tool, much like a pencil or a sheet of paper. In this sense I’ve found it helpful to reference Bill Green’s 3D model which was originally created for the development of writing skills. The model includes three interlocking dimensions: operational (communication), cultural (meaning), and critical (power). In the operational dimension learners are practicing the functional abilities of technology, such as sending an email or uploading a video. The cultural dimension is about developing the ability to make meaning in context. Crafting authentic experiences with technology allows students to interact with elusive elements such as meaning, values, motivations, passions, beliefs, and ideology. The final dimension is critical, which is an awareness that all literacies are socially constructed. This dimension ‘draws attention to issues of power and how some forms of literacy are more dominant – or socially powerful – in some contexts than others’ (Bulfin & McGraw, 2015, p. 273). All of these dimensions align strongly with a constructivist approach to pedagogy and planning.
Authentic assessment is a holistic approach to assessment with a focus on contextualised tasks, where students are able to demonstrate their understanding in an ‘authentic’ setting. The teacher applies criteria to a task based on intended learning outcomes, the construction of knowledge, disciplined inquiry, and achievement beyond the classroom. Authentic assessment can be thought of as an analysis ‘for’, ‘as’ and ‘of’ learning, also known as diagnostic, formative and summative.
Diagnostic Assessment (‘For’ learning)
The role of diagnostic assessment is to determine the skills, knowledge and ability of students prior to planning and instruction. John Dewey’s educational theory on interaction and continuity places a strong emphasis on teachers having to understand the past of their students in order to effectively engage them with positive experiences that will guide them into a fulfilling future (Dewey, 2007). Knowing where students are at allows the teacher to develop more relevant curriculum and foster more meaningful relationships with learners.
Formative Assessment (‘As’ learning)
Formative assessment enables teachers to modify their teaching style and the learning activities they facilitate whilst the students are in the process of learning. This can be enacted both formally and informally, so long as it is implemented throughout the learning process. Constant feedback empowers students to be aware and in control of their own learning. This approach aligns strongly with collaborative and constructive ways of learning as students receive feedback from themselves and others through the process of developing a project.
Summative Assessment (‘Of’ learning)
Summative assessment is usually enacted at the end of a unit or project and when carried out in conjunction with formative assessment it can provide valuable feedback for students. The use of a rubric supports summative assessment and can be linked to intended learning outcomes. Feedback can also be delivered in the form of comments or narrative rather than an oversimplified grade or number. Students can then use this feedback to discover gaps in their understanding and set new goals on their learning journeys.
To improve my own teaching and wellbeing I regularly engage with reflective practice. I prefer to take notes at the end of the day and then perform an autoethnographic analysis, exploring the tension that can exist between the relationship of my identity/subjectivity and the discourses that I enact.
By engaging with reflective practice and through the process of authentic assessment I am hoping to construct narratives that allow me to adjust my teaching style in order to better facilitate and report upon student learning.
Action research has its roots in the traditions of John Dewey and Kurt Lewin, with its aim to bring ‘experimental inquiry to social practice’ (Argyris et al. 1985). Berg (2004) suggests that the predominant driving force for action research is in creating positive social change. With this, Berg also offers four key considerations for the implementation of an action research project:
- The investigation should take into account the history, culture, interactive activities and emotional lives of the population or subject
- Research should be highly rigorous, yet reflective or interpretive
- Participants should be actively engaged and participate in the research
- Practical outcomes should relate to the actual lives of the participants.
These guidelines make action research ideal for the classroom as students can be deeply engaged in the project, with the overall outcome generally being to improve their ability to learn in some way.
Throughout the project a sequence of steps based on planning, action, and evaluation are cycled. This cyclical process can be described as an emergent space where the early cycles inform how the later cycles are conducted (Dick, 2000). Therefore action research projects can exist in perpetuity throughout a teaching career.
Consultation with Mentors and Colleagues
In order to continue growing as a teacher I plan to have regular formal and informal discussions with mentors and colleagues about my teaching practice as I continue to learn, develop and refine my pedagogy.
Leading by Example
I also believe it is important for teachers to lead by example. Apart from putting student learning and wellbeing first, I also plan on continuing to develop my own creative practice through art, music and design.
- Argyris, C., Putnam, R. & McLain Smith, D. (1985). Action Science. San Francisco, USA : Jossey-Bass
- Ayas, C. (2006). An examination of the relationship between the integration of technology into social studies and constructivist pedagogies In The Turkish online journal of educational technology. 5(1).
- Berg, B. (2004). Chapter 7: Action Research from In Qualitative Research Methods for The Social Sciences (4th edition). Maryland, USA : Pearson
- Bossche, P., Segers, M. & Kirschner, P. (2006). Social and cognitive factors driving teamwork in collaborative learning environments team learning beliefs and behaviors In Small group research. 37, 5. pp. 490-521.
- Bulfin, S. & McGraw, K. (2015). Digital literacy in theory, policy and practice: old concerns, new opportunities In Teaching and digital technologies: big issues and critical questions, pp. 266-279. Port Melbourne, VIC: Cambridge.
- Churchill, R., Godinho, S., Johnson, N., Keddie, A. & Letts, W. (2011), Teaching: Making A Difference, Milton, QLD : Wiley
- Davis, B., Sumara, D. & Luce-Kapler, R. (2015). Teaching and Democratic Citizenship Education.In Engaging minds: Cultures of education and practices of teaching (3rd ed). New York: Routledge.
- Dewey, J. (2007) . Experience & Education. New York, USA : Touchstone (Simon & Schuster).
- Dick, B. (2000). A Beginner’s Guide to Action Research [online]. Retrieved from – http://www.aral.com.au/resources/guide.html
- Freire, P. (1990) . Pedagogy of the oppressed: New revised 20th anniversary edition. New York: Continuum.
- hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York & London : Routledge.
- Johnson, D., Johnson, R. & Stanne, M. (2000). Cooperative learning methods: a metaanalysis In Methods of cooperative learning: what can we prove works. Minnesota, USA: University of Minnesota.
- Malone, K., Latham, G., Blaise, M., Dole, S. & Faulkner, J. (2011). Learning to Teach: New Times, New Practices (2nd edition). pp. 276 – 308. Melbourne, Australia : Oxford University Press.
- Papert, S. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking schools in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.
- Smyth, J. (2011). Critical Pedagogy for Social Justice. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
- Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (2nd edition). Ohio, USA : Prentice Hall.
- White, R. & Wyn, J. (2013). Youth and Society (3rd ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
- Wyn, J. (2009). Touching the Future: Building skills for life and work. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.
- Yunkaporta, T. (2009). Our ways of learning in Aboriginal languages. In Aboriginal pedagogies at the cultural interface. PhD thesis. James Cook University: New South Wales.