Support girls’ agency to boost confidence
“We know that readers are better learners and research indicates that lifelong readers are more successful, both personally and professionally … During the all-important primary years, St Catherine’s builds every child’s confidence to read and, ultimately, her curiosity and desire to learn.” Michelle Carroll, Principal
When schools support students to develop their agency, they also help build students’ confidence in many aspects of their future lives, from their experiences at university to navigating the rapidly changing world of work.
“Lifelong learning is best described as nurturing an attitude to learning that embraces our core values of curiosity, perseverance and integrity,” says Michelle Carroll, principal of St Catherine’s School, Toorak.
“Our recently developed ‘Towards 2025’ school strategy captures innovation and new opportunities with vigour. Our key focus in this strategy is to develop student agency. Ensuring a school climate that allows girls to find their voice is vital to success of lifelong learning, and is considered a priority in developing confident, capable and happy students.”
St Catherine’s embraces student agency across many programs, including student leadership projects. The ‘Use Your VOICE’ project prepares graduates to aspire to leadership roles and encompasses learning opportunities ranging from the Student Representative Council to a formalised Leadership Diploma offers in years nine, 10 and 11.
“The school has always regarded service and responsibility [to be] integral elements of a girl’s education and that of developing lifelong leadership skills. It is important that every girl experiences some form of leadership whilst at school and is prepared for responsibilities.”
Partnering with the University of Queensland, St Catherine’s has also developed a ‘Teaching for Thinking’ agenda, which supports girls to develop a deep understanding of the curriculum by connecting their learning to their prior knowledge, putting their knowledge in context, and seeing the bigger picture.
“The reward of deep understanding is a feeling of fulfilment and satisfaction and a desire for lifelong learning. [It] is an important step on the road to self-directed, higher-order thinking and learning required for the complexity of working in a post-COVID-19 world, and punctuated by significant advancements in technology.”
Responding to the school’s experience of remote learning in 2020, St Catherine’s has also introduced a masterclass series for girls in years 10 and 11. Embracing a hybrid teaching and learning approach, subjects including Mathematics, English, Languages and Creative Arts are delivered in a series of ten face-to-face lessons in the classroom, complemented by one independent learning tutorial per subject, and online masterclasses.
“The combination of Flexi-Tutes and a masterclass series provides the opportunity to raise student agency through empowering girls with choice, flexibility and independence,” Carroll says. “[It] achieves a balance of learning models, so as to draw on the best of the digital platforms, enabling a growing independence and flexibility for senior students, while securing the relationality and educational benefits of learning face-to-face with teachers and peers.”
The school is even nurturing the love of lifelong learning through its architecture, with the recently opened Barbreck Junior School designed with the library in the centre of the building, placing a visible emphasis on St Catherine’s desire for girls to engage with reading.
“We know that readers are better learners and research indicates that lifelong readers are more successful, both personally and professionally. . .During the all-important primary years, St Catherine’s builds every child’s confidence to read and, ultimately her curiosity and desire to learn. Exposing each girl to a broad range of activities enables discovery of her talents, her interests and her dreams; ready for a lifetime of learning.”