Our Progressive Approach
Preshil’s progressive approach to teaching and learning is often considered alongside the work of Montessori, Froebel, Steiner, Reggio Emilia, Vygotsky and the democratic schools movement; more recently the work of Ken Robinson and John Hattie. Each one of these authors offers generative and ambitious elements to consider, but Preshil has always maintained a vision of its own creating. Drawing from the writings and practices of our founding Principals, Greta and Margaret Lyttle, the strongest element of our approach is that it has never been bound to the point in history when it was developed. Nothing we do is frozen in amber; Preshil continues to evolve and embrace current theory and research, using these to frame a dynamic interpretation of our long held traditions.
”“As far as is humanly possible the children are seen only as individuals, each one very different from every other one, with varying rates of growth and abilities. To work with them as individuals there must be real warmth and complete acceptance of each child as he (she) is”Margaret E. Lyttlemid 1960s
We believe that each child’s learning journey is theirs to own. It is for this reason that we do not use competition in the curriculum to set one child against another, nor do we compare one child to another, or use one child’s work as an exemplar which other children should strive to match. Each child’s efforts and accomplishments stand alone and are celebrated for what they demonstrate about that child’s learning.
The Preshil classrooms are welcoming spaces designed to challenge standard notions of appropriate learning spaces. The rooms promote experimentation and imagination, and all are equipped with a kitchen, comfortable couches and materials for creative expression. The children are able to access these rooms right across the day. The school’s distinctive grounds are a setting in which children can find spaces to play imaginatively. The garden has uncultivated and dense shrubberies with rope swings, trees to climb, to construct cubbies and build in the workshop fitted out with real tools for the children to use.
At Preshil our children are in composite classes, with the exception of our prep cohort. Each group is named for their ages so our Kindergarten composite group is the Threes and Fours, all the way to our grade 5 & 6 cohort known as the Tens and Elevens. As a small school composite classes provide a sense of community unbounded by year levels.
Each class is taught by a teaching team. This ensures that each child is nurtured and considered by two professionals. Our teachers bring their individual perspective, temperament and interests to the class, and they support each other to model cooperation, respectful relationships and the joy of working alongside a colleague.
Primary Years Programme at Preshil
The primary school curriculum at Arlington is underpinned by the PYP and celebrates student agency, inquiry and project-based learning. The transdisciplinary approach creates seamless interactions between traditional subject areas connected through conceptual links; music and mathematics connected by form, art and science connected through function, or history and drama connected through change.
The PYP at Preshil sees our children undertake their core subjects with their class teachers. They include English, Mathematics, Sciences, Humanities and Social, Personal and Physical Education. In addition to these subjects, specialist subjects of Music, Art, French and Philosophy are taught by our specialist team, and are often interwoven into transdisciplinary learning. Units of Inquiry, under the six transdisciplinary themes, are initiated by our teachers in response to the interests of the children. Our children learn to co-author these units, actively defining the parameters and assessments tof their areas of inquiry. The Preshil curriculum is further enhanced by a flexible and extensive Electives Program.
Approaches to Learning Skills
The Approaches to Learning (ATLs) develop skills in thinking, communication, self-management and research as well as social skills. In the Primary Years Programme children develop these skills across the curriculum which support them to question and inquire, to cooperate and communicate, and to understand what they know, and what they might need to know. These approaches provide a common language that children and teachers can use to reflect on, and articulate the process of learning.
All three programmes of the IB reference the Learner Profile; attributes which describe curiosity, thoughtfulness, courage and the best elements of what a learner might be. These attributes help children and teachers reflect on and celebrate what they bring to each learning experience.
6s & 7s I worked on being an inquirer because I wanted to learn more about ecology and history. I am very curious about everything.
8s & 9s I developed the learner profile attribute of balanced. An example of this was that my time table was very organised and well spread out.
10s & 11s I have been working on developing the attribute of ‘communicator’ because I sometimes find it hard to ask for help or say what I need.
Essential agreements are a feature of all IB Programmes. They are an agreement drawn up by the children which frame the way in which they will engage with the learning, they can be returned to, and referenced on a needs basis. Rather than being a document which describes compliance, they are documents which are aspirational, and speak to the best learner in each of us. Some examples of these are below.
6s & 7s We know that we are considering other people’s perspectives when we respect everyone’s space, show that we are listening when other people are talking, and help others when they are in need
8s & 9s We value being courageous so we try new things
10s & 11s We value being ourselves and having a voice, so we will encourage and respect each others’ opinions or ideas even if they are different from our own.
Friendships and sharing in a community can be bumpy. At Preshil, we understand that when things go wrong for children, this is a learning opportunity. All children are supported to identify a grievance and to seek support from an adult. Our teachers stop and take time to listen. They work with any children involved to unpack what went wrong, and to find ways to set it to rights. At Preshil, we have done away with the culture of “dobbing”.
Preshil teachers have embraced the PYP and the creativity that inquiry based learning demands. They model teamwork, learning dispositions and cooperative practices as they team teach at all year levels. Our teachers embrace the latest research in pedagogical approaches, and view each child as an active learner, who is supported toward ever increasing learner agency. Feedback and goal setting are achieved through dialogue and discussion. Our classrooms are places where mutual respect, freedom and responsibility, and discipline from within, work together with expectations of high achievement.
Early Years – Prep to Grade 2
The Early Years program at Arlington is defined by our appreciation of the benefits of play. The units of inquiry are often taught using the Playworlds model, which sees our teachers playing alongside children to develop concepts and understandings often involving STEAM. Imagination and creativity are hallmarks of our early years program. The development of literacy and numeracy can be linked to units of inquiry so that the skills are seen as purposeful and essential. Literacy and numeracy is also taught explicitly for targeted skill development, and children are grouped and regrouped according to their needs, and the next steps determined for their learning.
Middle & Upper Years – Grades 3-6
The Middle and Upper Years program at Arlington is trademarked by the increasing development of student agency and decision making. Units of inquiry are co-created with the students, and they are supported to design assessment rubrics and parameters, and to determine how they will demonstrate understanding within each unit of inquiry. Literacy and numeracy skill development continues with grouping of students, and the offering of skill workshops. Children have increasing times across the day in which they determine what they will be working on, developing time management and ownership of their day.
The Tens and Elevens are also custodians of a number of longstanding traditions. Each year they give a self devised play to the younger children, they connect with a student in year 12 for whom they make a graduation gift, they decide on a theme and decorate the Kevin Borland Hall for the Valedictory Dinner, and every two years they collaborate to design and paint the stage curtain.
Transition To Year 7
As a small school, we embrace transition into the Secondary School as a two way street. Our teachers in the Tens and Elevens (Grades 5 & 6) spend time with their counterparts from the Middle Years Programme (MYP, Years 7-10) sharing the children’s achievements and their written reflections on their learning. The MYP teachers visit with our Tens and Elevens to get to know them and celebrate their learning at exhibitions and events. The children also spend time at Blackhall Kalimna getting to know the campus that they will move to. The PYP perfectly prepares our children to move to the interdisciplinary learning, which is a feature of the MYP, and on to the Diploma Programme at Years 11 and 12.