Governor Stirling Creative Schools Professional Learning Community

June 24, 2021
Liz Dare
Anthony De Silva


School: Governor Stirling Senior High School 

Year Group:

Teacher: Anthony de Silva

Creative Practitioner: Liz Dare

Creative Practice: Social Innovation

The Creative Schools team at Governor Stirling Senior High School supported two teachers to develop their teaching practice by partnering with a Creative Practitioner for two terms. This year I was partnered with the year 7 maths teacher Anthony de Silva, who threw aside the worksheets for one day each week in term 3 and 4, to take a look at the maths topics of measurement, statistics, ratios and algebra through new eyes. With a splash of creativity and a dash of courage, we ventured on our creative bravery* journey, exploring unknown territory and discovering the fruits of learning in a new way, for ourselves and the students. We were stretched in unexpected ways, yet with collaborative learning at the core of our partnership, we were not only discovering new approaches together, we were modelling to students that learning in an uncertain, rapidly changing and complex world with a growth mindset, is something we all need to embrace to ready ourselves for the future.

At the end of the program, the Governor Stirling Creative Schools leadership team asked the teachers to share their learning with the Professional Learning Community. They asked if I could support, so I co-designed and co-facilitated the first two sessions.

My co-teacher Anthony, was keen to share the value of using the Creative Schools structure to explore the elements that make up the ‘high functioning classroom’. These frameworks, alongside the Five Habits of Learning, underpin the Creative Schools program. Yet like any framework, their value is limited without the opportunity to practice and reflect to make sense of the learning with others. The challenge of how to make our two professional learning sessions an opportunity to explore and practice these elements, and tap into the teacher’s desire to learn more about student agency, became our session design question.

These mixed groups engaged in an inquiry-based, collaborative exploration of the high functioning classroom. We finished with a short individual reflection that was shared on sticky notes for everyone to read. This gave us rich and insightful strands that we could weave together for our second session the following fortnight. We covered a lot in the short 45 minute time frame, yet the simple inquiry-based approach was spacious enough for the creativity in the group to emerge. The engagement and enthusiasm from the teaching community showed an appetite for sharing ideas across subject areas, as colleagues learnt through multiple perspectives.

The next session, we co-designed with the other Creative Schools teacher, Courtney Bowe and Creative Practitioner, Claire Davenhall, to bring our ideas together with more colourful strands to the weave of our session design. We were mindful to keep our adaptable “plan” as simple as possible, given we wouldn’t know who or how many teachers would attend and we wanted to be able to respond to the needs in the room. We designed a second experience with a collaborative and cross departmental warm up, main activity and reflection. This time making the framework more explicit using a “content after experience” approach to make the rationale underpinning the design of the first session more visible.

On arrival, Courtney organised a simple warm up using strands of various coloured wool (minimal resources) strategically cut to various equivalent lengths to randomly allocate groups. First, she asked people to find others with the same colour wool and share their names, what area they teach, which Creative Learning Habits are their strengths and which habits they need to develop or practice. This had everyone sharing with colleagues they don’t often have the opportunity to relate to and brought the Habits of Learning to life through their individual stories. Courtney then further sorted the group by asking everyone to find others with the same length wool which put them into groups of four. Anthony then asked the groups to design a three-part lesson that integrated a warm up, main activity and reflection, the Five Habits of Learning, and covered cross curricular content.

The creativity that emerged from a group of teachers that rarely have the opportunity to learn across subject areas, was an affirmation of how valuable holding space for collaborative learning among teaching staff can be. These workshops highlighted the potential for teachers willing to develop their growth mindset to be supported by a Creative Practitioner. What this journey might look like would be as unique as the Creative and the teachers involved. It would definitely include: Exploring ideas to tap creative potential through collegiate practice, learning from multiple perspectives, making sense of the complexities of the system they work in, reflecting on what works and how creative ways of learning will prepare everyone for this uncertain and rapidly changing world.

*Creative bravery - the courage that takes us into wobbly new territory as we try things we’ve never done before ... you know ... like babies have when they learn to walk, the “give it a go” attitude that’s laying dormant in all of us, waiting for the opportunity to learn together.