Key university partnerships and research projects are enabling educators across Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) schools to better support students with new teaching techniques and research and critical thinking skills.
Some of Australia’s leading universities including the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the University of Queensland are connecting with BCE teachers on projects to enhance science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) teaching practices and early years literacy.
Mater Dei Catholic Primary School in Ashgrove West has partnered with the University of Melbourne to form an Early Literacy Professional Learning Partnership.
As part of the partnership, four Mater Dei Catholic Primary school teachers and 95 others from 26 BCE schools across southeast Queensland are taking part in a seven-day professional learning program to enhance teacher knowledge, skill and understanding of current evidence-based early years literacy practices.
Mater Dei Principal Donna Jones said the partnership provided invaluable opportunities for teachers to expand their expertise in early literacy practices.
“By collaborating with the University of Melbourne, we can ensure that our educators stay up to date with the latest research and best practices when teaching literacy in the Early Years, meaning better outcomes for our learners now and into the future,” Ms Jones said.
“So far, the workshops have focused on the fundamental elements of reading, including phonics, vocabulary, fluency, phonological awareness, oral language, and comprehension. Our teachers are already taking these elements back to our early years classrooms to promote a love of reading and writing among students.”
BCE Senior Manager School Progress and Performance Trudi Lucas has praised the partnership that equips students with the necessary tools to become proficient readers, writers and communicators.
“By utilising current research and evidence of best practice in early literacy instruction, our teachers are able to provide targeted teaching to ensure each student is progressing in their development of fundamental literacy skills,” Ms Lucas said.
“Thanks to the support of the University of Melbourne and our dedicated teachers, we are confident that this partnership will have a lasting impact on our youngest students, opening doors to endless opportunities and creating a better future for our 77,000 students.”
Since 2021, five BCE schools have partnered with Monash University and the University of Queensland’s Critical Thinking Project as part of their Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Research Partnership, which explores problem-based learning in STEM.
The schools include St Ita’s Primary School Dutton Park, St Columban’s College Caboolture, San Sisto College Carina, McAuley College Beaudesert and Assisi Catholic College Coomera.
As part of the research, the schools and their Year 5 to 9 teachers, along with teachers from the Archdiocese of Melbourne, have had the chance to become their own researchers in how best to use problem-based learning to teach STEM.
BCE’s Learning, Teaching and Curriculum Senior Manager Belinda Connolly said the findings of the research showed student agency is necessary for meaningful STEM learning.
“The research our teachers are doing in the ARC Linkage space is showing us that both primary and secondary aged students need to use critical thinking skills in order to meaningfully engage with STEM learning,” Ms Connolly said.
“The research is also reinforcing what BCE is already doing in the STEM space, which is to challenge students to not only innovate and create in the world of STEM, but to look at opportunities for real-world outcomes, which hear the call to make a difference in other’s lives.
“Every year we engage primary and secondary students in our BCE STEM Make A Difference (MAD) competition which allows students to showcase their talents and innovative solutions to address real-world problems and act for the common good, using their STEM knowledge and abilities.
“So far, the research backs this approach where we see students understand, research and solve a problem themselves.”
Belinda said the approach was not only important for students to develop their critical and creative thinking skills but also engaged students in developing 21st century skills they could need in the future.
“Skills such as digital literacy, ethical understanding, negotiation, collaboration, and dialogic skills provide students a competitive edge after school and also help them tackle challenges of the future,” she said.
“Moving forward, our teachers will continue to capture the challenges they face when engaging students in problem-based learning in STEM, which will lead to better outcomes for all primary and secondary aged students.”
The ARC Linkage Research Partnership with Monash University will be used to create a problem-based learning framework for other schools across Australia.