WIL Leadership Vignette 14:
Associate Professor Diana Whitton
What was learned from this:
Integrated curriculum that includes student teachers, high school students and teachers needs to be realistic, rewarding, relevant, robust and rigorous. When the curriculum is planned for engaged learning it is imperative that the objectives of each relationship are clearly defined with these five areas as guiding principles.
Context of the event, experience or activity:
As part of engaged learning at The University of Western Sydney within the school of Education Master of Teaching (primary) program students are required to complete a service learning experience which is within the unit 'Classrooms without borders'. Linked with academic content about engagement, service learning, reflection, mentoring, working within a community, diversity and difference the students undertake a 50 hour placement with a community group to develop a mutually beneficial partnership.
Description of the event, experience or activity:
Through the linking of three major organisations: a non government organisation – the Australian Red Cross; a government high school – Chester Hill High School [CHHS] its teachers and students; and, a university – University of Western Sydney [UWS] its students and an academic, a partnership was created to support each agency. The purpose of the partnership was to meet the educational needs of the CHHS students through a engaged learning partnership with UWS teacher education students. As a team, the students from CHHS and UWS had the opportunity to make a difference for a community group, with the support of the classroom teachers and a UWS academic, to create solutions to real world problems.
Therefore a community partner was also needed so the students would undertake and complete engaged learning within their mainstream curriculum. Planning for students as they enter high school is a challenge and particularly when they are selected for their academic ability. Specific professional development addressed curriculum differentiation and how to meet the academic needs of gifted students, which meant teachers from five different disciplines and the student–teachers gained knowledge and skills of curriculum development and the use of technology.
In short, each semester the school students are given a brief of the problem to be solved and then throughout the semester they develop a solution to the problem for the Red Cross. The award winning project involved the students creating financial literacy videos for the refugees and asylum seekers. They addressed such issues as credit cards, cheques, and applying to rent a property. Each video was up to 4 minutes long and the focus was to limit the amount of language used as the people are not fluent in English. These final pieces of work followed a two term integrated unit of work that included the development of students' knowledge and skills of refugees and asylum seekers, the reasons they come to Australia, the organisations who support them, and then work on visual literacy, communication skills and video production to assist in the making of the final products. An evaluation of the process was carried out to determine the level of interest in the process of teaching through service learning when it is integrated into the mainstream curriculum. This included the teachers', students' – both UWS and CHHS, the Red Cross – and UWS staff.
Associate Professor Diana Whitton has lectured in Education at UWS for the past 20 years teaching within the primary teacher education program. Her areas of specialisation are gifted education, creativity, transition in education and service learning which she has researched and taught courses in these areas.