The fundamental aim of any high school is to develop in its students the capacity to take responsibility for themselves, their learning and their environment in an adult way in preparation for further study and work; in essence, to make itself redundant in the lives of its students.
At Nossal High School, the ability to take ownership of one’s own learning rather than relying on a teacher to motivate and manage it is viewed as an essential skill, given the ongoing learning which all of our graduates will have to master in their projected employment contexts. The school has embedded structures and processes at the physical, administrative and curriculum levels in order to establish and maintain this type of learning environment.
The school models a university style with open spaces for students to gather socially, common study areas, specialist laboratories and classrooms, a lecture theatre and ubiquitous ICT access throughout.
The school buildings and classrooms are largely open-planned, we have many couches and different seating configurations around the school. The open nature of the school requires all members of the school community to behave in ways that are respectful to others in terms of noise, respect for property and movement throughout the buildings.
Students often study in open classrooms where teachers can team-teach, enabling discussion and debate with a wider range of their peers. Nossal’s truly unique learning environment gives students the freedom to utilise the ‘break out spaces’ around the school, during class times to independently study or meet with teachers for advice and support.
We do not use bells to signify when classes and break times begin and end; in an adult environment everyone takes responsibility for knowing when and where they are supposed to be.
After Year 9, we also actively embed independent study time into the curriculum in various ways. It is essential that our students learn to manage their time effectively, and the only way to achieve this skill is if one is given time to manage. Our Year 10 students have a significant number of independent study periods, as do our Year 11 students, while Year 12 students are taught in a structure where it is expected that every 8th lesson with their teacher will be “student directed” to the greatest possible extent. During these periods students are expected to behave in an adult way by:
- managing their time effectively
- behaving in a way that supports the learning of others around them
- seeking help when they need it
- utilising the resources in an appropriate way
- choosing spaces that support the type of task they are working on (silent or collaborative spaces)
Students have access to boiling water and microwaves and are trusted to use them responsibly. They are permitted to have lunch and morning tea within the buildings. In an adult learning environment we do not have issues with litter or untidiness since, for the most part, students do not create these issues; when they do arise, all students take responsibility for putting it right. In an adult learning environment, we take pride in the school’s appearance.
Students are given the responsibility to use their laptops and other personal devices as learning tools. Obviously, just as you would expect of an adult, they are expected to use devices such as phones responsibly i.e. not answer it or use social media during class time. Students are expected to be ethical users of their personal devices and to take responsibility for the care and safety of personal belongings. The expectations in relation to both device use and online behaviours is outlined in a detailed <User Agreement> which students sign when they join the school, signifying the fact that they take responsibility (as an adult would) for these aspects of their school life.
Administration and Communication
Students are trusted to sign in at the attendance kiosk when they are late to school and sign out when they need to leave early.
While the details vary from event to event (and from year level to year level), Nossal’s adult environment very often expresses itself in an expectation that students will travel independently to the venue for school excursion, arriving in a timely manner for roll taking and maintaining contact with the organizing teacher/s via sms in the event that they are running late, lost or in need of support.
The main online tool for learning and for communication between teachers and students is MSTeams. This software was designed around the principles of project management, and managing the information flow within it requires a mature approach from our students. They take responsibility for following the various conversations relevant to them, and for responding to information within these conversations and chat streams in a timely manner. More information about the use of this tool as a Learning Management System is available here.
Curriculum and Pedagogy
Nossal’s commitment to helping its students develop the skills and capabilities they will need as adult learners expresses itself in a number of ways. Some aspects include the explicit teaching of the Victorian Curriculum Capabilities, the structuring of core subjects to foreground student choice and agency, the use of guided inquiry as a learning tool, and the inclusion within our feedback and assessment practices of opportunities for student reflection and goal-setting. More details about how learning and teaching happens at Nossal is available here.
Whenever an issue or concern arises between students or between students and staff it is usually because there has been a breakdown in a relationship and/or communication. We promote an adult learning environment by using a restorative conversation to resolve these issues. Students are encouraged to discuss issues and reach a workable resolution.
The adult approach to wellbeing includes cultivating an awareness of one’s own needs, and then accessing the appropriate support to meet those needs. Nossal High School has a highly developed wellbeing structure which includes a significant raft of preventative measures in addition to the provision of counsellors and individual plans in response to each student’s needs. More details about the Wellbeing and Student Support structures are available here.