2014 A Perfect Mess Part II


A previous Learning update in the 23 May Newsletterinvestigated the notion of ‘ A Perfect Mess’, discussing the need for students to be organised in their actions and in their thinking. This Newsletter article will investigate the question asked at the end of the previous publication concerning how students can be more organised in their thinking.

Robert Fritz in his book, The Path of Least Resistance, suggests strategies  to become the creative force in your own life.  He outlines five steps for the  process of creating which can act as a framework  to help students organise their thinking.  An investigation of the steps in the context of student thinking about completing an assignment or writing a practice HSC essay under test conditions  and a Year 10 integrated learning class activity may be useful.

Firstly, a student needs to conceive of the result they want when they undertake a new activity or task.  Girls are provided with an assessment notification, guideline or syllabus statement which outlines what is required for them to complete a task.  Using this frame work the girls should decide the outcome they want by pondering the examples needed to answer the question set, decide on how many words they want write and articulate the perspective they wish to take in their argument.

Secondly, they should next take a mental audit of the resources and information they currently possess. This involves thinking about their understanding of the issues and ascertaining if there are gaps in their knowledge and comprehension. This involves talking to people, reading widely, looking at their class notes and discerning what is missing  in their research.

Thirdly, once they know what they want to do and have audited their current understanding and resources it is imperative that they now take action.  This may involve further research into key issues about which they are unsure,  seeking advice from their peers or teachers, developing a reference list of key resources, collecting academic articles and media articles and the taking of relevant notes in a succinct manner.

Fourthly, learning the rhythm of the creative learning processinvolves students developing self-awareness concerning their work patterns.  Whether at home or in the boarding school, students  would benefit from thinking about when and where they best research, read and take notes or quietly start the process of writing. They will soon learn if they work and write best before dinner,  in the quiet of the evening or early in the morning if an early riser.

The fifth step is to create momentum by consciously switching on to the  rhythm of their work patterns. This involves focusing on  the time frame left before the task is due, phasing out additional research, completing notes required, processing  what the question is asking, writing up sections of the assignment/essay, rewriting sections with greater analysis making sure the bibliography is up-to- date and completing the task with time to spare. 

By way of an example, recently in Year 10 Integrated Learning,  staff aimed to approach a brain storming session for topic selection for a research topic, which is the focus of work in Term 3, from a different angle.  The staff conceived the idea that they wanted the girls to examine 19 topics, sit in groups to brainstorm ideas on several topics and develop a suitable mechanism to share the ideas. 

To achieve this the staff made an audit of existing processes of collaboration which involved investigating the traditional approach to brain storming using butchers paper and selecting a learning technology which might help this learning process. In the process of taking action a twofold approach was adopted. Initially,  the group would work around paper to provide an environment of discussion and sharing ideas by all writing on paper prior to a nominated person entering the information on a shared Google document. 

When the students started this process all of Year 10 were in the Gonzaga Barry Centre  open learning space, they self-selected themselves into 15-20 small groups, with a few groups preferring tables and others the  comfort of the floor near heaters.  The girls quickly settled into the rhythm of the activity.  Topics were discussed, A3 sheets of paper were used to construct flow charts, more topics were allocated and amomentum of creating had been established.  Before long we  had an 8 page shared Google document that was being populated before our eyes on the data projector.  At the end of the lesson staff and students discussed the next steps of the creative learning process which involved investigating in closer detail specific topics the girls wanted to research and write about throughout Term 3. 

Learning at Loreto Normanhurst continues to make appropriate use of traditional learning practices while exploring and adding value to learning by specifically encouraging student organisation in terms of what they do and their thinking. This process is supplemented and supported with the prudent use of learning technologies, a scaffold approach to group collaboration and experiences in assisting student organisation in their learning.

The goal is for our girls to be organised in their thinking by thinking through what they are doing and need to do.  Organised thinking reflects the ability to conceive an end result, taking stock of what currently exists, taking action, learning the rhythm of the creative learning process and establishing momentum to complete the activity.


Mr Martin Pluss

Dean of Learning