Kirwan State High School QLD
Kirwan State High School is located in Townsville and has a very diverse student enrolment of more than 2000 students. The school's mission is to 'provide educational excellence for tomorrow's citizens' and it aims to build an international mindset encompassing a whole school global perspective. The vision for its current Asia capability project is to develop a centre of excellence in the areas of Business and Industry. The school sees this as a natural area of study in order to continue to develop strong links with Asia.
Kirwan State High School has been engaged in the Asia capability journey since its principal, John Livingston, participated in the Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia (L21CS) Programme. However, this is the first time that the Business and Industry faculty of the school has taken a leadership role in developing students' understanding of the importance of interacting empathetically, respectfully and inclusively in a global community in order to develop as leaders and entrepreneurs.
Newly appointed Deputy Principal Steve Baskerville has been working with the Business and Industry staff to develop a centre of excellence. This commenced with a professional learning activity aimed at building staff awareness of the importance of embedding studies of Asia into the curriculum. It was soon evident that staff members could see the need to do things differently, with the current focus on building their capacity, knowledge and pedagogical skills.
Kirwan State High School has adopted an action research approach to this work. It was keen to build momentum early, with trial units designed and implemented across five key subject areas. The school made use of in-house content and pedagogical leaders to facilitate discussions aimed at identifying the rationale for doing things differently. It collected baseline data on students' knowledge and beliefs. The next step was to identify Asian perspectives that demonstrated a natural fit to the particular subject and specific unit of work.
A further consideration in deciding whether an Asian perspective would be included in the action research trial was if the content and its delivery were aligned to the school's Art and Science of Teaching pedagogical belief statement, sourced from educational researcher Robert Marzano. Once included, the cyclical strategy has been to gather the baseline data, implement or deliver, monitor students' engagement and learning, track progress, and re-assess student attitudes, knowledge and skills. The school's future intention is to establish a prominent corporate identity for the Building and Industry faculty in terms of its engagement with Asia.
In order to further support Kirwan State High School's engagement with Asia, connections have been made with a range of supporters. The school is in communication with an AEF Asia Literacy Ambassador, Katy Grubb, to work together on a variety of projects. Kirwan State High School's Wild Schools programme has seen students engaging with peers in Bangladesh.
The 8s for Change project, which has been established for some time but continues to flourish, is a further example of these strategic connections. This project sees students undertaking key projects to support Asian communities through service learning. For example, one class decided to help an orphanage in Vietnam. This project was aligned to a Study of Society & Environment unit investigating millennium development goals and has sown the seeds for Asia capability across the school. When making these international connections, the school is keen to encourage teachers and students to identify the commonalities between local and Asian communities, as well as looking for the key differences.
The Business and Industry action research initiative has been assisted by a number of positive factors. Teaching staff were very open to the importance of embedding Asian perspectives into their learning and teaching, and students soon came to realise the relevance of engaging with Asian communities and economies. The school's existing international students programme was a strong driver, while hosting a number of visits from Japanese schools acted as a catalyst for further learning. The school has been challenged by a relatively large staff turnover rate, with between 20 and 30 beginning teachers taking up employment at the school in any given year. This presents some complex induction challenges, but adds to the number of staff members who have had positive experiences in either working or travelling in Asia. A further barrier has been the pressure to cram so much into the curriculum, with the mitigating strategy being to embed new perspectives in current learning rather than replacing or adding to it. Project leaders have been modelling this approach in their own teaching.
Kirwan State High School has a sound history of sustaining the innovative practices that have been introduced over recent years and the deputy principal is confident that having a critical mass of teachers convinced that this approach is the right one, establishing and reinforcing a set of established curriculum and pedagogical practices, developing long-term partnerships and regularly revisiting the school's core beliefs will strengthen the school's resolve and lead to ongoing success.
Kirwan State High School participated in the Australia–Indonesia BRIDGE School Partnerships Programmein 2012 and is planning to establish a partnership with South Korea in 2014.