Engaging Students in Their Learning – Lavers Hill Story

Lavers Hill 3Lavers Hill K-12 College is a unique school. Set in the beautiful Otway ranges, not too far from the Southern Ocean, and the Great Ocean Road, our College has 100 students from 3 years of age to 18 years of age.

Student Voice is a key focus area for our College, and figures highly in our recently developed Strategic Plan – it is underpinned by our schools “Student Engagement Framework”.

Our College Captains lead the school assembly on a Monday morning and it is a delight to witness their confidence and ease in speaking to their fellow students and the school staff. The College staff to ensure that it is the students who report, reflect on, and celebrate College achievements and experiences.

P1120532The Senior students hold a ‘student voice forum’ each Wednesday morning. They take the responsibility for facilitating this discussion on a rotating basis which includes the development of an agenda to guide and focus the discussions.

Andrew Kohane, principal of Lavers Hill reflected:

“These sessions are highly entertaining and we are seeing many of the students gaining in confidence and sharing both their ideas of what is happening within the school, and how they believe we could improve the education provided at Lavers Hill as well as their own personalities. With 28 students from Year 9 to 12 involved it is a witty, relaxed, at times irreverent, but always a memorable forum.”

“When I first asked a group of the more challenging Year 9 and 10 students how they expressed their ‘voice’ (in early 2014) they told me quite honestly, ‘by talking back’. It was apparent that they were very keen to have a say ‘no matter what’ and that by opening up leadership roles and holding regular forums we, as educators are channeling this energy in very positive directions – and this input is providing us with the opportunity to provide a much more engaging learning environment for them all.

Staff are encouraged to participate within these forums, and  it is a pleasure for them to hear from the students, and to learn more of how they are thinking about the learning that is provided and what their concerns are.

“I think the capacity for our staff (including teachers and support staff) to be genuinely curious in regard to their students’ thoughts and feelings, and to seek to know more by asking timely questions, are key drivers of student voice at the College.”

Mr Kohane said.

As staff we are also reflecting on how we can provide feedback for all involved in learning and move away from a blaming, commenting or judging approach. We are seeking to catch and stop ourselves if our words may disempower or quieten (silence) our students. Listening well and tuning into the students interests further underpins our focus on supporting students to develop and have a sense of ownership of their learning plans and learning processes.

Lavers Hill 2And in the Primary Area:

We are very fortunate to also have a strong Primary School student voice and leadership culture. Our Grade 5-6 leaders love to show visitors around the College, create events and projects, and to lead end of the week assemblies on a Friday afternoon.

At our end of week assemblies and after presenting awards and sharing achievements from the week, the student leaders design and play games with our youngest students to encourage them to reflect on their learning .

At this time the older students gather waiting for the buses and watch the younger students with a great sense of support and acknowledgement.

Parents are also very welcome these forums with the assemblies an important community event that speaks highly for how we believe our students ‘are at the centre’.

As the week began with student voice led by the Senior School Captains so too it ends as the Grade 6 Leaders wrap up the awards and achievements and wish their assembly, and everyone within the school, ‘a great weekend’