For the Whole of Their Life.

Redefining normal for school environments and learning practices at St Philip’s Christian College

By Hannah Wellham

Students are being placed in the driver’s seat when it comes to their learning at St Philip’s Christian College Newcastle with the integration of the new learning style, Project-based Learning, across the entire Kindergarten to Year 12 College. 

 Project-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge, or problem. PBL contrasts with paper-based, rote memorization, or teacher-led instruction that simply presents established facts or portrays a smooth path to knowledge by instead posing questions, problems or scenarios.

The leadership at the College have been on the journey of investigating and progressively integrating the learning style since 2013 upon seeing the success and benefits in their student’s learning. As of 2017, the College has positioned specialists in PBL in their Junior, Middle and Senior school as well as launching a dedicated PBL learning space in the original St Philip’s Anglican Church building.   The staff at St Philip’s believe the PBL learning style will be the way of the future in our education system and more effectively equips students with many lifelong skills required in vocations and study outside the bounds of the schooling system.   

Deputy Principal Mr Graeme Evans believes this shift in pedagogy in the College will have far-reaching benefits for every student.

‘The PBL learning style puts students at the centre of their learning. Rather than feeding them information that can be quickly forgotten, PBL allows them to find their own journey to discovering the answers to problems which not only gives them the information they set out to find but instils the skills of problem solving, critical thinking and communication along the way,’ he said.

Learning environments across the College have been opened up to allow students to work in groups or individually according to their learning preference and the nature of the project. Staff are collaborating and teaching in teams so as to utilize the individual strengths of the teacher rather than placing them in an environment where they are expected to teach an array of topics out of their area of expertise.

The College is seeing positive results from the PBL rollout both in student engagement and satisfaction and in traditional testing results with ATAR and NAPLAN results some of the highest in the region and well above national average.

Executive Principal of St Philip’s Christian College Mr Graeme Irwin believes the PBL integration aligns well with the vision of the St Philip’s organization. 
 
‘Our desire at St Philip’s Christian College has always been to provide an education for students which will equip them for the whole of their life. PBL opens up pathways which extend students education beyond the bounds of the traditional learning style and makes the process of learning something that students take ownership of as well is embedding an understanding of the application of knowledge and skills,’ he said.

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