In 2018, Korowa was named the Secondary School of the Year (Non-Government) in the Australian Education Awards. The School’s Principal, Helen Carmody, attributes this to listening to parents and students, and using that feedback to drive improvement and meet the needs of today’s girls.
“The ability to access and analyse data is a skill that no organisation or school can do without,” says Mrs Carmody. “We collect data on everything, from participation and satisfaction rates to performance, attitudes and growth.”
The key lies in analysing that data and constantly reflecting and interrogating the results. “Data drives and challenges us,” Mrs Carmody continues. “We use data as part of the evidence that informs, plans and drives the changes we need to bring about improvement. Data analysis ensures we avoid distraction and complacency, staying true to our purpose and mission, always placing girls at the centre of our decision making.”
Students are part of the decision making too
In 2018, The Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, or the Gonski report, made many recommendations to improve education and schooling for all young Australians. The review stated that giving students a voice and encouraging them to be partners in their own learning not only increases their agency and achievement, but also creates positive long-term learning habits. According to the Gonski report, it also builds a student’s engagement with their schooling, which is associated with positive outcomes later in life.
“Building on this and other research, we are connecting teachers and students as partners in learning,” Mrs Carmody says. “At Korowa, teachers seek frequent and real-time student feedback to assess the impact of their teaching practices on each student. They can then modify approaches to better suit different student learning needs.”
New approaches to student learning needs
Over the past few years, a wide range of programs and initiatives have been introduced at Korowa in response to research and data. This has resulted in new elective subject offerings, new school structures, new staffing structures and career and professional learning opportunities for teachers, new pastoral care models, new experiential learning programs and a defined scope and sequence for wellbeing, leadership and service. It has included external partnerships with schools, universities, industry and not for profits, and academic programs that focus on skills progression, whether that relates to team work and social skills, or the skills of literacy and numeracy.
New subjects are introduced in response to both student preferences and the changing world. Media Studies and Dance are offered alongside Mobile App Design electives and one-off opportunities to participate in Hackathons. In Year 5, students participate in the Kidpreneur Challenge, devising and marketing a micro business, developing their entrepreneurial mindset.
Assessment linked to data has enabled more meaningful communication with parents and girls, and opened conversations about learning. Korowa introduced continuous online reporting in 2018, in addition to the traditional parent-teacher-interviews, to better reflect student growth and development in real-time.
“We have adopted a relentless focus on high impact teaching strategies, feedback loops for girls and teachers and increased the ways in which students, parents and community can have a voice and a connection to our school and each other,” explains Mrs Carmody.
What do the students say?
Seeking feedback is an effective way that teachers can give students a voice.
As part of the regular feedback process, all 2018 graduates were surveyed utilising the same benchmarks as Independent Schools Victoria data, uncovering positive insights.
“These statistics tell us that our Year 12 students believe we have high quality teacher
s who are enthusiastic about their subject areas and their teaching. They are committed to our girls. Korowa students feel valued for their unique talents and have the support and confidence to pursue their interests and passions,” Mrs Carmody says.
“Data provides us with one view of how initiatives are working and allows us to be confident in our evidence-based, future direction.”