A lifelong love of learning begins at St Aloysius’ Junior School
A Jesuit education promotes intellectual achievement and encourages its students to pursue strong academic results. It also inspires each student to discover his unique gifts and develop them fully. This love of learning begins in the Junior School where students are provided with a diverse range of learning experiences.
St Aloysius’ College keeps class sizes relatively small. In Years 3 and 4 there are two classes of twenty-four students and in Years 5 and 6 there are four classes with an average of twenty-eight students. As an academically oriented school most of our students have demonstrated they will flourish in an academic environment, therefore classes are not graded and are of mixed ability.
The following core subjects are taught by the class teacher who allocates an appropriate number of lessons per week to each subject:
- Geography and History
- Religious Education
In addition to the core subjects, the following specialist subjects are taught by specialist teachers:
- Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE)
- Visual Art
There is a range of activities to develop gifted and talented students. These include Da Vinci Decathlon, lateral thinking groups, poetry and art workshops with Loreto Kirribilli, Tournament of Minds and a number of gifted and talented workshops offered by the University of NSW and the Independent Primary School Heads of Australia (IPSHA). These programs are conducted both during and after school hours.
The College's Learning Enrichment staff work closely with Junior School teachers and parents to collaboratively develop individual plans for students with specific learning needs. There are teacher assistants available to support individual students in the classroom as needed.
Classroom teachers also liaise with outside agencies such as speech therapists, occupational therapists and health practitioners to best support the needs of individual students.
Good study habits are not acquired overnight and regular home study is one way of developing a student’s ability to use his study time constructively. Sound study skills lead to self discipline and organisation. It is the expectation of the College that all teachers will set homework on a regular basis. The form this will take may vary according to the skills and content material being assessed at the time.
Below is a schedule of approximate daily home study times for various years:
Year 3 – 30 minutes written work; 15 minutes learning and reading
- Year 4 – 40 minutes written work; 20 minutes learning and reading
- Year 5 – 45 minutes written work; 30 minutes learning and reading
- Year 6 – 50 minutes written work; 30 minutes learning and reading
Strong student/teacher relationships
The relationship between the student and teacher is a significant element of teaching and learning at St Aloysius’ and is fundamental to the student’s learning, growth and achievement. The importance of nurturing the teacher/student relationship has now been widely researched and the evidence backs up what good teachers already knew.
Positive teacher/student relationships mean students are more likely to:
- feel positive about school
- work hard
- maintain a growth mindset
- take risks
- ask questions about their learning
The Jesuits have also long espoused the significance of the development of a positive relationship between teacher and student. Fr Richard Tierney SJ has said that, ‘a genuine teacher moves students to action…one cannot possibly exaggerate the need to have good inspiring teachers’.
Allowing teachers the time and space to develop skills in their own teaching is also crucial if we want to promote a positive learning environment for our students and their teachers.
Encouraging students to do their best
High expectations of students is an important element of teaching and learning at St Aloysius’ College. Setting and maintaining, shared, consistent and high expectations in the classroom will result in more engaged learners and stronger academic results. John Hattie’s research shows that when teachers are explicit in their learning intentions and set clear goals for students, this has the potential to ‘influence student achievement both directly and indirectly by affecting the amount of material that the student learns as well as their motivation’. (Hattie 2005)
St Aloysius’ College is an academically rigorous environment. The curriculum provided by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is interpreted by teachers to offer challenge to our students, accompanied by the understanding that every student has a different starting point on the learning continuum.
Academic rigor is applied in the classroom in order to stretch each individual student, encouraging them to pursue strong academic results and personal excellence. Assessment is used as a tool to gather data and evidence on individual students so teachers can apply strategies to discover each student’s point of learning and inform decision making in relation to student learning activities.
Using teaching methods to suit each individual
Teaching and learning at St Aloysius’ College also focuses on offering our students a variety of teaching practices and methods to lift student engagement and commitment to the learning process. Firstly, differentiation strategies are employed by teachers to target individual learning needs. As described by Wormeli, (a leading academic in the study of differentiation in teaching and learning) in 2006, ‘Differentiated instruction is doing what’s fair to students. It’s a collection of best practices strategically employed to maximise students’ learning at every turn…it’s highly effective teaching’.
These differentiation strategies include such things as allowing students to move at their own pace through new material, giving them choice in their learning, instructing work that requires higher levels of critical thinking and assigning activities geared to different learning styles, interests and levels of thinking.
Secondly, teachers use direct instruction and explicit teaching strategies to enable and empower students to master content and engage in deeper learning in a particular subject area. Finally, critical thinking is crucial as they learn to understand and interpret the world around them. Teachers explicitly teach students to think critically and creatively, employing thinking routines in order to generate deep understanding as well as the ability to inquire and problem solve.
Regular, ongoing feedback
Feedback is also a significant element of the teaching and learning cycle. Teachers provide regular, daily feedback to students and both written and verbal feedback on formal and informal assessment tasks. This ‘aims to reduce the gap between where the student ‘is’ and where they are ‘meant to be’ (Hattie 2012). Students are encouraged to use this feedback and carefully consider the areas of improvement noted by their individual teachers. Lastly, always mindful of the teachings of Ignatius, we recognise that it is only through reflection that we continue to discover ways to improve. Teaching and Learning at St Aloysius’ College will remain consistent with this, continually researching, testing and acting on excellent practice so that our students can achieve their best.