87% of participants said that after attending the SSLP, they had changed the way they promote high expectations and positive student identity on an ongoing basis.
Thank you to all our SSLP alumni who responded to the 2022 Stronger Smarter Census. We always love hearing about the great work that alumni are doing around the country to enhance outcomes for their students. Census participants reported that their enactment of the Stronger Smarter Approach in schools and classrooms has variously resulted in improvements in attendance, enrolments, student behaviour, retention to Year 12, and Year 12 completion. This initial report looks at the changes alumni have made to classroom teaching that contributed to these improvements. Firstly, alumni described how they see improvements in learning outcomes when there is improved student well-being, and students are better engaged in the classroom, more motivated, and more eager to learn. This included increased student confidence and leadership, with students taking ownership of their approach to school and taking on a responsibility for their own outcomes.
Student wellbeing is the underlying gauge of student learning. If a student does not have his/ her wellbeing maintained at an optimum level, then learning for that student will not occur or be as positive as it can be. Principal, NSW
Alumni described how students were more approachable, responding with more respect, and more forthcoming to share and open up for conversation. Students were taking the time to listen to others and were more observant of each other’s behaviours, and therefore more appreciative of each other. This strengthened classroom bonds, with students showing greater willingness to participate in group processes with genuine collaboration.
The children are opening up and being more involved with peers and play. They are talking more and more willing to share their ideas. They are even smiling more. Preschool Teacher, NSW
The changes to teaching practice that alumni described are the elements of High-Expectations Relationships.
Relationships – every interaction counts – take time to know the person, don’t get tied up just with policy, process, procedure. Principal, NSW
Alumni recognised that building relationships takes time, but considered it was worth the effort as improved relationships with students resulted in increased trust, and the ability for students to agree on practices leading to high expectations.
I feel that I have become more focused on the relationships and the life story that every individual has. This has become way more important than the curriculum outcome for me. I feel that if the relationship is strong and right and is based on mutual respect, understanding and the having high expectations then the desire to be focused on curriculum is a natural flow on effect. Teacher, VIC
Alumni described being more open to listening to students. This led to a better understanding of how students learn, what excites them, and the motivations behind actions. This was helping alumni gain better insights into how the class would work together, and how to adapt teaching approaches to help students to engage in learning.
Inclusive learning environments
Many alumni described a change in personal beliefs and attitudes and a better awareness of cultural diversity. Alumni recognised how, if students are to see education as important, the learning environment needs to be space where students feel safe, believe in themselves, and have a strong sense of identity.
Student and family engagement has increased, our school culture has changed and there is a deeper sense of belonging and genuine collaboration. Principal, NSW
This recognition led alumni to being more aware of challenges faced by families, more compassionate towards students, and more inclusive to ensure equal opportunities for all and ensure that all students accept and celebrate difference.
Alumni described how increased student engagement and motivation had come about through school or classroom cultures that enhanced the student voice. Alumni were creating more time in the classroom for students to take direction of their learning and encouraging students to share ideas and valuing their responses. This provided a deeper sense of belonging with student pride in themselves and their culture.
Utilising the Stronger Smarter approach to redevelop and deliver peer support training and lessons has seen a massive shift in the confidence of our student leaders. They run yarning circles, unpack words, and have consistent expectations for the peers in their groups. Teacher, NSW
Alumni reported greater levels of differentiated teaching to build on student’s strengths, interests and learning styles. This included changing learning activities to allow students to demonstrate a diverse range of skills.
Spending the extra time to build approaches to tasks around their preferred way to learn and personal perceptions has made some appear more confident and shown better attitudes towards continuing to improve. School Services Officer, SA
Several alumni mentioned that expanding assessments so that all students could demonstrate success resulted in better student engagement.
I am more proactive at building in opportunities for students to have success in areas of struggle. Once they have even small achievement, they are more engaged. Head Teacher, Special Education, NSW
High-expectations relationships require that, sitting alongside the supportive and inclusive learning environment, there are high expectations for all students. Alumni talked about moving away from deficit behaviours and focusing on positive thinking. This involved high expectations for attendance, learning and behaviour underpinning teaching practice. Alumni talked about how they were able to increase their expectations without losing empathy or letting the caring drop. Others explained how understanding students better had helped them provide the support needed to meet existing high expectations.
The high expectations for all that we say and do. Never letting a student think they are incapable of high performance and high expectations no matter what their starting point. Principal, WA
Alumni talked about being clear and visible about expectations so that all students understood what was expected, but also knew the teacher had confidence in them to achieve. Alumni described the need to talk to students regularly about expectations and ensure that expectations were consistent across all staff.
High expectations at all times for all students. I shut down negative conversations. I challenge all students at my fortnightly student address to be stronger and smarter. Deputy Principal, NSW
The results of the 2022 Census show how our alumni find different aspects of the Stronger Smarter Approach to focus on to better support all their students to achieve. Together their stories provide a powerful description of the benefits of a Stronger Smarter classroom. As one school described, this increases confidence when families know their children will be supported to achieve through consistent high-expectations relationships.
We have had new families come to our school because ‘they are in safe hands’ and also because they know that their ‘cultural needs’ will be met here. Improved student behaviour and learning outcomes as strong relationships are built with students, staff and community and we have high expectations of learning and behaviour. School Executive, NSW
Our results show that educators who undertake the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program see considerable benefits from enacting elements of the Stronger Smarter Approach in their classrooms. If you haven’t undertaken the SSLP and would like to know more, our program dates for 2023 are now available.