SOLE Australia Network is a group of schools who are interested in developing SOLE as a mainstream classroom teaching strategy. The SOLE Australia Network is led by Paul Kenna, Principal of Belle Vue Park Primary School and Brett Millott, Principal of Aberfeldie Primary School.
Our interest in SOLE began in 2010 when we attended a State Wide Principal Conference that had a strong Learning Technology focus. Sugata Mitra was one of the key-note presenters and his ideas immediately struck a chord. It seemed that this quite significant paradigm shift in the way group learning was conducted would address a need that we had observed in our schools. Students were completing the tasks set for them by their teachers, but weren’t developing that level of passion for learning or being really active participants in the learning which we felt was so important.
It became very apparent from our early classroom trials that SOLE was able to do just that. Promote interest in learning and help develop the collaborative learning skills that are so important.
The action research we have led has been based around our “Theories of Action” that have relevance to the students, staff and school. They also reflect many of the directions set by our Education Department.
Theories of Action:
• If children are exposed to challenging text in a group situation they are more likely to be able to read and understand it than when they are on their own.
• If students are provided with choices and some autonomy in their learning then they will become more engaged
• If student collaboration and teamwork is promoted on a daily basis then students will develop more harmonious and positive relationships.
• If teachers acknowledge the dynamics of a student’s learning (spurts and lulls) then teachers spend less time investing energy and effort into behaviour management.
• If teachers foster and promote an inquiry mindset in their students then the students will be more inquisitive and curious learners.
• If teachers provide greater opportunities for students to learn for themselves then the students will become more engaged and take greater responsibility for their learning.
• If schools place an emphasis on discovery and investigations then students will learn to investigate for themselves
• If a school nurtures curiosity in their students then the students will explore wider range of concepts with a greater degree of enthusiasm.
• If a school provides learning environments that promote confidence and independence then students are more likely to be confident and independent.
Perhaps what makes the Australian iteration of SOLE different has been the way that it has been embedded into learning sequences which achieves our two goals – these being to ensure that the system required key concepts and content is delivered and that inquiry is the vehicle for this.
Our SOLE strategy is very much linked to the emotions of learning and the readiness of the students to engage in the learning. The planning and thinking by the teacher that occurs before the initial investigation is really important as this is the key to a successful session.
Our SOLE sessions follow the model that is used universally. Following our initial successes we felt that there were other elements we could investigate that could enhance the strategy to improve student learning and that has been the impetus for our work ever since.
We believe the success we are achieving is built on the approaches we utilise following the research component where students participate in elements of Vocab catching, peer and teacher feedback, metacognition linked to learning focus and effort, application of knowledge, evidence of learning – all these components surround the initial investigation and provide depth and rigour to the learning.
Interest in the Australian SOLE community is growing both in Victoria and interstate. More and more, teachers are looking for something a little different, something contemporary where the focus is student based, engages students and addresses their needs.
The action research for SOLE has been based in Melbourne since 2010. There is now growing interest interstate particularly in the South West Sydney region where we implemented a successful large scale trial in around 80 primary and secondary schools.
More recently we have partnered with other schools to use the SOLE philosophy in a community of practice. This community of practice has ensured teacher and Principal collaboration and more importantly has provided students from the different schools with the opportunity to learn with and from each other. This initiative has been the vehicle for introducing Coding into our schools, and the development of an Arts Appreciation program in co-operation with a local Art Gallery.