Riverview’s approach to transdisciplinary learning in Stages Four and Five
Early Jesuits were called to ‘continually visit the marketplace of contemporary education’ in order to bring home the best practices for the benefit of their own students and teachers. It has been a philosophical approach of Ignatian education from its ealiest foundations to not settle for the status quo but to constantly be in search of innovation and experimentation in teaching and learning; to live with ‘one foot raised…’ in search of excellence in practice.
In 2017, a scan of the contemporary learning marketplace provides us with a range of innovative methods, strategies, technologies, learning spaces and resources to deliver the outcomes required of the citizen of the twenty first century. We are learning that the graduates of our schools today and tomorrow need to be agile and flexible thinkers, critical in their approach to the ways of doing and being of the past. They will need to collaborate with others, to work in teams, to lead and to follow. They need to be able to communicate effectively, possess emotional intelligence, innovate and apply knowledge and skills in ever-changing ways. Further, the students who graduate from an Ignatian educational institution will be asked to develop these attributes for the purpose of manifesting the ‘greater good’ of humanity and God’s creation. They will be required to use their specific subject knowledge and skills in real-world applications to solve problems which are not subject specific. For this reason, greater experience in transdisciplinary teams, drawing on knowledge, skills and understandings from a variety of areas, will be the focus of learning in the future.
For our current generation of learners, information is less important than application, analysis and synthesis of complex ideas and processes. Students can easily access content knowledge, so remembering has become less important than the higher level skills involved in evaluating and applying knowledge in authentic contexts. Therefore it has become more important to develop students’ understandings, skills and abilities to process knowledge and examine how it can be applied in new and authentic ways.
Students are encouraged to approach the acquisition of knowledge differently, more deeply and with greater focus. They need to question truth and discover new ways of thinking and constructing ideas and products through experimenting, modelling and prototyping. Our students want to learn in life-like environments which look and feel like authentic workplaces or research facilities. They want their products and ideas examined and assessed by authentic experts in their field so that the feedback for learning is more meaningful and assists in their full human growth.
The staff of St Ignatius’ College Riverview visited the marketplace and in 2017 we launched the ‘Magis Integrated Learning Programme’. Our approach to meeting the various needs of learners in an Ignatian context so that they will be well equipped to contribute to society as global citizens and agents of change in the twenty first century.
Why do we call our Integrated programme ‘Magis’?
- Magis is a Latin term meaning ‘the more’, ‘the greater’ or ‘the deeper’. St Ignatius used the word magis in his Spiritual Exercises to explore the concept of mastery and full human excellence, particularly for the purpose of serving God. We are called to become our fullest and deepest person for God and humankind. God wants each of us to be our very best, to strive for depth, to serve, love, learn and be everything we were destined for.
- “The SEIPI vision is that a competent person is someone who is capable of creating, understanding and using knowledge and skills to live in his/her own context and more importantly transform it. The Jesuit education commits to a process of continuing pedagogical improvement through renewal, experience, reflection and action.”
- To Promote a concrete link between curriculum content, skills and understandings and Ignatian ideals by embedding Jesuit works in programme contexts.
- To further enhance the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm and to assist the Riverview Community in defining the essential attributes of a College Graduate.
- Ignatius described the ideal Jesuit educator as “living with one foot raised” – always ready to respond to emerging opportunities but at the same time anchored by non-negotiable principles and values.
Why integrate multiple subjects into one?
- Integrating subject outcomes reduces the number and repetitiveness of assessment tasks for each student while at the same time it provides for greater depth, challenge, choice, authenticity and rigour of assessments.
- The Australian Curriculum and NSW Syllabus documents stress the importance of Cross Curriculum Priorities and General Capabilities such as critical and creative thinking, personal, social, cultural and ethical uderstandings.
- To promote iterdisciplinary thinking amongst students and teachers and foster collaboration between faculties.
- To prepare Riverview students and staff for the contemporary learning spaces of the ‘Ignis Project’ so that we will not have, what Jose Mesa SJ describes as, ‘an old school in a new building’.
- To strengthen Riverview’s continuum of learning from Year 5 through to Year 8 by reflecting principles and pedagogies of primary school education.
- To encourage models of teaching that represent innovation, best practice and evidence-responsive approaches.
How does it all work on the ground?
- Large groups of Year 7 and 8 students together for 3 periods per cycle with one period taken from each of TAS, Maths and Science in Y7; Geography, PDHPE and Religious Education in Y8 and English, Religious Education and History in Year 9; with a dedicated team of teachers selected from the eight faculties.
- In Year 10 the plan is to construct the learning goals before involving faculties. Year 10 Magis should be completely free of subject specific limitations.
- Students work in collaborative groups with individual accountabilities using largely problem-based-learning and inquiry-based pedagogies.
- At various times students are exposed to ‘time-of-need’ instruction in Stage 4 and Stage 5 syllabus content.
- Assessment activities culminate in the development of an authentic product for assessment.
How are students assessed?
- Students complete one collaborative group task per term which assesses capabilities across the three subjects; Science, Technology and Mathematics. Marks are awarded against the individual subject outcomes and supplied to each faculty to include in their summative reporting of student achievement.
- Products for assessment are displayed publicly for parents, students and authentic experts to examine and provide feedback to promote further learning.