JAMES Fallon High School principal Jennifer Parrett has long wished to do things just a little bit differently at her school.
For the last nine years, she has followed the development of Big Picture Education, a concept that radically changes the way students are taught.
James Fallon will establish two Big Picture advisories in 2019, which will work with students in years eight and nine.
Big Picture was highlighted in the Gonski 2.0 education review earlier this year as a “pocket of innovation”.
Ms Parrett said it would be a completely different way of learning.
“The advisory is not your traditional classroom or traditional way of doing school,” she said.
“In a typical secondary setting, the school dictates the timetable, you sit in each of those courses and you do what you’re instructed to do.
“It means the voice you have as a student is not the driver of your learning.”
Students instead create their own learning plan, based around their passions an interests.
Assessments, or rather a lack thereof, are also one of the major differences.
Instead of end of term tests and assignments, students present an exhibition to their parents, family members and whoever else they would like to attend.
Ms Parrett compared the exhibitions to a job interview.
“It’s about explaining their learning, how they learned, what they’ve done and how the achieved it,” she said.
“Students get feedback in a conference.
“The design is one student at a time, centred on them and what they do.
“It’s a total flip of what we do, and I think it confirmed to me that this is the way to do school.”
A trip to the United States this year after winning a scholarship to study at the Harvard School of Education proved to be a vital study tour for Ms Parrett.
In addition to the Harvard course, she found time to visit with a number of schools who have used the Big Picture model for a number of years.
Students at schools like the Leominster Centre of Excellence in Massachusetts are pursuing areas of interest as part of their day-to-day learning, Ms Parrett said.
“One young man talked about his learning plan an his interests, which revolved around designing skateboards,” she said.
“Another student was doing an internship with a water quality testing facility, had developed an algorithm and was working out designs to test water quality in Massachusetts.
“There’s no limit to what a young person can do.”
James Fallon High School held an information night for parents about the design on Monday night.
The program will commence next year.