*The Learning Disposition Wheel © 4C Transformative Learning
The wheel has many uses but it is particularly helpful in the early stages of school transformation to establish a common metalanguage and a shared understanding of learning. In the schools we work with, the wheel provides a coherent and shared understanding for leadership, teachers and the community to work towards with individual students, staff and the school as whole organisation.
Our work with The Hospital School
The Hospital School at The Children’s Hospital, Westmead, in New South Wales may not be familiar to many. This school supports the education of students in Kindergarten to Year 12, who are hospitalised for more than 10 days. For some students, the hospital school is the only school setting they attend all year. The job of the school is doubly difficult in some ways; they need to tailor learning to children and young people who are at their most vulnerable while providing education that allows them to keep up when they leave hospital.
The school saw the potential to enhance their effectiveness for their students by developing learning capacities (through the learning disposition wheel) rather than focusing solely on curriculum content. The teachers and leadership had become frustrated with ‘content delivery’ that did not support the learning of students. The 4C approach was implemented (as it is in most of our partner schools) through a tailored mix of
- intensive mentoring of leadership,
- in and out of classroom support and mentoring of teachers
- in depth professional learning with teaching teams
- collaborative classroom visits, and
- network meetings across 4C schools
Through the 4C program staff were introduced to the learning disposition wheel as a tool for diagnosing learning challenges to target specific areas where students required support, such as ‘grit’ or ‘curiosity’, ‘think why and how’ or ‘influence’. The learning disposition wheel was implemented with their normal curriculum (not instead of) to build deep and relevant learning for these students. The 4C learning team worked with the teaching staff to develop a whole school approach that delivered consistency and a common learning and teaching framework including a common metalanguage for the teaching and leadership groups.
The school staff has noticed a clear and remarkable change in student behaviour and engagement. Many students who have previously resisted schooling at this school are now enthusiastic and engaged around attendance and learning. There have also been key breakthroughs with the medical staff who are adopting the Learning Disposition Wheel to ensure that the learning and the medical approaches are integrated. For their students, the capacities they have built through the learning disposition wheel can be applied when they move back to their census school and beyond.
Similar success in student engagement and achievement is present in many of the schools that have engaged with the 4C transformation approach. In some ways if this approach can work in the unique circumstances of The Hospital School, they can and do work in other schools with their own unique and context driven features. The effectiveness of the approach works in multiple and variable contexts as it focusses on a negotiation between context and our strategies for deep learning rather than a ‘bolt on’ take it or leave it package.
Transforming Schools: a rationale for scaleable change
The 4C approach is not only about shifting curriculum. When working effectively it will transform school organization, school culture and help shape a vision for viable 21st Century schooling. The 4Cs form the basis of moving our schools from being ‘museums of pedagogy’ to vital, energetic, flexible and resilient places where learning directly meets the needs of a world where knowledge is ubiquitous but explicit skills for life and work are not. In these schools, classrooms and staff rooms, collaboratively led teaching teams are transforming learning and teaching through this approach. But it takes will, energy, inquiry, courage, determination, and most of all, it takes an explicit understanding of how to teach these sometimes elusive concepts.
The Artificial Intelligence infused world our students face is complex, contradictory and to some extent more chaotic than the world this schooling system was designed for. And yet our school systems have only changed incrementally (at best). Simultaneously, the world of work is changing so that all jobs will be changed and many in health, law, and transport will cease to exist or will be changed fundamentally. While not a cause for undue alarm, our report Preparing for the Best and the Worst of Times focusses on the steps we need to take in education to respond to the potential technological ‘‘colonisation’’ of human work by focusing on the learning dispositions our students require. Schools cannot ignore the looming changes and pretend ‘business as usual’ will adequately prepare our students for these tectonic shifts.
We believe schools need to be enabled to fundamentally change. And teachers need more than policy; they need support to make these capacities understandable and teachable for their students. More broadly, teachers need political, policy and resource support to make hard changes a reality through effective professional learning and partnerships for their school communities.
At The Hospital School and in many other schools who have embarked on this transformation, the changes are deepening and extending the learning. Like Kenny Powers (our stunt driver) we are staring at a chasm with a schooling system that is not yet fit for purpose. What we have on our side though is the bountiful and generative resource; a schooling system with inspired leaders, capable teachers and the almost boundless energy of our students. Let’s hope we have the expertise, wit, courage and vision to make the jump.