Students as partners in learning

All Year 6 students at Our Lady of Nativity Primary School, New South Wales, have the opportunity to take on a leadership role as part of a new focus on the importance of student voice.

In his latest Teacher video Greg Whitby, Executive Director of Schools in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta, speaks to Melanie Brown, a Stage 3 Teacher and Literacy Coordinator at the school in the Blue Mountains town of Lawson.

Brown says the focus has shifted away from the traditional school and sports captain leadership roles, to establish more inclusive roles for everyone.

‘Every child in Year 6 has taken on a leadership role in the school so that they have a voice in terms of how the school is organised and just where they think the school should be heading,' she says.

This approach wasn't implemented overnight – Brown says a lot of work went into preparing students to take on these new responsibilities. ‘It's not a simple process, they don't necessarily have those skills there automatically … so there is a lot of modelling involved.'

The school also introduced flexible spaces throughout all their learning environments, giving the students more ownership of their learning.

‘Some students may decide with one task that they would go away and work by themselves or some children may decide that they'd like to work in a little collaborative group of three – so the flexibility is there,' Brown shares.

‘We just felt that we needed to head down the path of giving them a bit more freedom of choice, to realise that they're actually partners, well we're partners with them.

‘They need to be able to step up and say “well, this is where I'm heading, this is where I think I need to go” …'


What leadership roles do you have in your school or classroom? How do you help students develop their leadership skills?

Consider your own classroom: how often do you give students the freedom to make choices in their learning for particular activities and tasks, including decisions such as who to work with and where to work?