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NEWS AND PUBLICATIONS > Academic > How Open Learning Circles Are Improving Professional Development at Leading Sydney Girls School

How Open Learning Circles Are Improving Professional Development at Leading Sydney Girls School

LN is successfully empowering educators through their Open Learning Circle Program, with the collaborative approach to professional development proving highly effective in boosting student engagement.
10 Apr 2023
Ms Keiryn Bateman, Loreto Normanhurst Director of Learning
Ms Keiryn Bateman, Loreto Normanhurst Director of Learning

Independent Catholic girls’ school, Loreto Normanhurst, is proud to showcase best-practice professional development, through the Loreto Normanhurst Open Learning Circles (OLC) Program. The OLC Program, which was implemented in 2023, has been successful in enhancing teaching practice and improving student engagement with deep learning at the school.

Leveraging education research that underlines the success of school-based and practice-focused approaches, the Loreto Normanhurst OLC Program fosters school-wide transparency in the pedagogical approach. In drawing on the benefits of collective efficacy, the OLCs to offer sustained opportunities for innovative practice that are guided by the feedback and support of colleagues and instills a sense of trust between peers. ​

"Building trust is a crucial element of the program, as we expect our staff to be vulnerable and take risks with their pedagogy, having this circle of companions to engage with is imperative,” said Loreto Normanhurst’s Head of Learning, Ms Kieryn Bateman.

She continues, “By engaging in open learning circles, our teachers are given the tools and support they need to improve their practice and enhance student engagement and deep learning as part of the curriculum.”

Thoughtfully implemented under the guidance of Ms Bateman and Mr Marco Scali, Head of Professional Growth and Practice the Loreto Normanhurst OLC program draws inspiration from the open communication approach of the school’s foundress, Mary Ward. The innovative program’s approach enables 21 groups of teachers to meet once per fortnight in cross-curriculum teams to create a robust platform for professional efficacy and conversation.

“We have seen a profound impact as our teachers collaborate and share their knowledge and expertise. They can develop more effective teaching strategies that better meet the needs of their students. This, in turn, has helped students to engage with the curriculum more deeply and thus better their learning outcomes,” said Ms Bateman

With deep learning pedagogy an ever-important component of shaping well-rounded students, Ms Bateman highlights that Loreto Normanhurst’s engagement with deep learning has demonstrated that the most powerful learning occurs when students are immersed in real-world challenges. ​ ​

Ms Bateman said, “In fostering a culture of collaboration, trust, and experimentation at a professional development level, we are empowering Loreto Normanhurst teachers to be bold with their teaching methods and explore new opportunities for deep learning for students. It is with these opportunities we can provide our girls with real opportunities to become change agents.”

Highlighting the effectiveness and thought leadership of the program, Ms Bateman represented Loreto Normanhurst at the recent Global Deep Learning Lab held in Anaheim, California. The annual event brings together educators from around the world to delve into deep learning and to share best practice in a global forum. Ms Bateman’s presentation focused on the power of collective efficacy by unpacking and evaluating the Loreto Normanhurst OLC Program as a professional development initiative.

Speaking to the evolution of the Loreto Normanhurst OLC Program, Ms Bateman acknowledged a desire to expand the premise to include engagement with the Loreto Normanhurst parent community.

“We are currently looking at how to expand on the success of the Open Learning Circle program at Loreto Normanhurst and have plans to bring the OLCs format to our parent community in late 2023. We believe that by providing them with the opportunity to understand the rationale of deep learning and to work in partnership with us to enhance learning experiences for their daughters.”

The Loreto Normanhurst OLC Program forms part of the School’s award-winning holistic learning model. The Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model (LNSGM) emphasises student collaboration, creative and critical thinking, digital capabilities, adaptability, and independence through a diverse array of learning experiences inside and outside the classroom.

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