The nature of learning and teaching in a Catholic school and in the Australian educational landscape generally has changed over time in response to new understandings and changing contexts.

The Melbourne Declaration of Educational Goals acknowledges that these changes are placing new demands on Australian schools. It asserts that

“improving educational outcomes for all young Australians is central to the nation’s social and economic prosperity and will position young people to live fulfilling, productive and responsible lives.” 

Teachers, teaching teams and schools make daily decisions about how to best meet the needs of students.

All of this occurs in a complex set of jurisdictions that have their own impacts on schools.

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Contemporary society

Schooling is embedded within social, cultural, political and economic activity. Society significantly impacts on education and on the worlds of students, families and schools. Our society is shaped by:

  • increased globalization and international mobility
  • values, ethics, responsibilities and cultural sensitivity
  • productivity increasingly based in knowledge generation
  • workforce changes placing pressure on family-life balance
  • unprecedented access to, and understanding of the power of, technology through multiple devices
  • the importance of connectedness for the younger generation in both on-line and off-line worlds
  • the environment agenda
  • commitment to reconciliation
  • media saturation and consumerism

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Contemporary learning

So how do our schools respond to our context and transform themselves in ways that are appropriate and relevant to rapidly changing social, economic and technological landscapes? How do we re-imagine our schools? What sort of learning environments will most effectively serve our students and society in the twenty-first century? What constitutes quality learning? What are the key influences on student learning?

We need to re-visit the core questions and dialogue about: What are we doing and why? How are we doing it and where?

This is particularly important in light of:

  • greater demands on schools to address increasingly complex social issues
  • recognition of the socio-emotional developmental needs of students
  • influence of current research on pedagogy and educational leadership, including increased awareness of learning theory and neuroscience
  • development of national statements about learning and the Australian curriculum 
  • increased control of “just in time” learning by students through access to technology
  • increased focus on the skills of critical and creative thinking
  • strengthening of vocational pathways for students
  • renewed focus on early childhood education
  • maintenance of focus on literacy and numeracy within the context of life wide learning/applied to a broad based authentic curriculum/to promote purposeful engagement in all areas of learning
  • professional standards and development of quality teachers
  • shifting the focus in schools to ‘learning’ organisations
  • re engaging in the conversation around the purpose of schooling

Continuous learning with clear purpose and connection to the real-world is critical to developing the capabilities, dispositions and literacies required to participate in society and to deal with the complexity of issues and change.

Knowledge is situational, complex, diverse and rapidly changing. Learning is inquiry-focused, requiring application, construction and creation of knowledge.

Learners connect understandings across disciplines, applying key concepts and evaluating multiple solutions within ethical frameworks. This requires high levels of personalisation and collaboration. 

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Contemporary Catholic school learning environments

The learning and teaching that occurs in a Catholic school should reflect the vision of the school community and an authentic understanding of Christ and his teachings.

The learning experiences should seek to integrate faith, culture and life and be designed to demonstrate the value held for the dignity of each person, a preferred culture of community and educating for citizenship that reflects a commitment to social justice. 

In this context, Catholic schools are called to:

  • be counter-cultural
  • have an evangelising role in the school community and to cater for a diversity of religious backgrounds
  • have a broad range of socio-cultural impact
  • cater for an increased proportion of students identified with special or additional learning needs
  • develop high-performing teams as the basic organising structure for staff
  • effectively manage an inter-generational workforce.

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