Enrichment in Education: A Model from 'Down Under'

by: Karin Morrison

Enrichment in Education:  A Model from ‘Down Under’

Rosenkranz Centre for Excellence and Achievement in Education

The Rosenkranz Centre, established at Melbourne’s Bialik College in 1997 in honour of two Jewish communal stalwarts, Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz, is the focus of the College’s diverse enrichment and extension programs for students from Kindergarten to Year 12. Programming and activities introduced through the Centre aim to supplement the already rich curriculum provided at the school with learning opportunities for high ability students, in addition to providing enrichment opportunities offered to students throughout the school. This occurs in several ways, from professional development of teachers, differentiated curricula within the classrooms, enrichment and extension activities.
 
Student Activities
Students have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of enrichment activities.  These include:

  • Before –school leadership breakfast discussion groups with leaders from many fields in the wider community as guest speakers
  • After – school programmes such as Ethics, the Discovery program and a Spanish language and culture group
  • Mentor programs
  • Withdrawal groups for both enrichment and extension
  • Whole-class enrichment programs
  • Individualised programs
  • Lunchtime clubs
  • Future Studies
  • Cluster groups with other schools
  • Thinking skills’ sessions
  • Jewish Studies’ enrichment groups
  • Day of Excellence programme
  • Participation in national competitions such as Tournament of the Minds and Mathematics’ Olympiads
  • Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment
  • Chess
  • Book Clubs
  • Junior Great Books
  • University of Melbourne Mentor Programme
  • GATEWAYS programmes
  • Participation in Public Forums
  • Participation in the ‘Harmony Through Understanding’ project
  • Participation in National Young Leaders’ Programme

Following is a brief synopsis of some of these programming options.
 
Leadership Programme
The Leadership Programme has been designed to identify, encourage and promote those students who have the passion and the motivation to grow and contribute to society. It provides opportunities for students to be exposed to leaders from all spheres of life, including business, politics, science, education, different religions and philosophies, the arts and sport.
The programme is ongoing, which means that students can join in Year 10 and continue participating in Years 11 and 12, with new Year 10 students commencing each year. The format of this programme is “executive” breakfast meetings in the school’s boardroom several times each term before school commences in the morning.
Speakers have been invited according to the following criteria:

  • Recognised leaders in their fields
  • People with the ability to impart specific skills
  • Inspiring speakers on specific topics

Topics to date have included:

  • Developing a vision
  • The difference between managing and leading
  • Leadership and sport
  • Creative thinking and leadership
  • What makes a leader?
  • Leadership in science
  • Women and leadership

The programme aims to provide a balance between interesting and motivational speakers who describe and embody vision and passion, and those who are also able to provide students with the necessary practical skills to enable them to transform their personal visions into reality.
 
Instrumental Enrichment
Instrumental Enrichment (Instrumental Enrichment) is a programme designed to enhance the cognitive skills necessary for independent thinking and academic success. It stems from the theory and research of world-renowned psychologist Professor Reuven Feuerstein, who believes that intelligence is modifiable, not fixed. Instrumental Enrichment brings about dynamic changes in the essential cognitive functions required for success in school, on the job and throughout life.
Many people struggle with the basic concepts of mathematics, science and other subjects and/or life skills such as organisation, motivation and decision making.  As a result, a great number lose confidence in their abilities. Instrumental Enrichment can greatly aid in these situations. By focusing on enhancing student’s cognitive functions, Instrumental Enrichment can help learners regain their confidence and generate new skills. It is a tool to diagnose and correct deficiencies in thinking skills and to help people to learn how to learn. It is also used as a tool to assist children and adults in achieving their potential. It has benefits for people of all ages and has been successful both with those experiencing learning difficulties, those who have sustained brain injury, and with gifted students.
Through Instrumental Enrichment participants learn to define problems, make connections, see relationships and become self-motivated. Consequently, they improve their thinking and work habits. In order to be most helpful the Instrumental Enrichment programme was designed to address all curricular areas; its tasks do not require prior knowledge in any one content area. The Instrumental Enrichment materials are organised into 14 instruments consisting of paper and pencil exercises and extensive discussion aimed at developing specific cognitive functions such as analytic perception, orientation in space and time, and classification.  It is an intensive programme with best results achieved with people participating individually or in small groups, or individually for a minimum of two sessions per week over a 12-18 month period.
Unlike programmes that address isolated course content, Instrumental Enrichment accomplishes the following:

  • Provides learners with concepts, skills, strategies and techniques needed to function independently.
  • Corrects learners’ deficiencies in essential thinking skills such as analysis, categorisation and inference.
  • Shows learners how to use these skills to improve learning in all curricular areas.
  • Develops learners’ intrinsic motivation.
  • Enables learners to experience lifelong improvements in achievement, measurable on standardised tests.
  • Underscores fundamental equity, demonstrating that all students can learn.

At Bialik, Instrumental Enrichment has been implemented in several different ways, as a before-or after-school optional programme, as withdrawal groups both at primary (elementary) and secondary levels for students of varying abilities, and this year, for the first time, as a whole class programme. Students who have particularly benefited from the programme to date have included those with poor organisational skills and underachieving students.
This programme can only be facilitated by specially-trained teachers.  Bialik College has fully supported the comprehensive training of two teachers, who have been trained extensively in Instrumental Enrichment 1 and Instrumental Enrichment 2 as well as the Learning Propensity Assessment Device (LPAD) and Trainers 1. This year they will complete Trainers 2 and will be able to train other teachers, thereby enabling more students to benefit from this programme.
 
Ethics
The Ethics’ program was initiated in response to a question posed by the late Raphi Amram of the Society for Excellence in Education in Israel. The question was, “How can we educate young people toward excellence and personal advancement and, at the same time, shape their character as involved citizens with values and with a sense of morality?” From there, ten schools across the world were approached to develop and pilot a course under the banner of “Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities”.  In Australia, the two schools invited were Bialik College and Methodist Ladies’ College.  Eight students from each school, together with teachers, participated in an international ethics’ seminar overseas to help develop further the curriculum for this course.
At Bialik the course operates as an after-school program one afternoon each week for highly able, motivated senior students. The course involves a study of philosophy, schools of thought and discussion of current and perennial ethical dilemmas. During sessions, many ethical/philosophical theories and terms have been explored.  Discussions and research have been primarily centred on issues concerning biotechnology, social responsibility and morality.
Eminent guest speakers regularly address the group and the students also participate in student seminars. The response from students, parents and teachers has been very enthusiastic and this program has become a highly valued, very worthwhile component of school programming.
 
Junior Great Books
This programme uses high quality literature as the starting point for shared inquiry, encouraging children to develop their own thoughtful questions and participate in vigorous discussions. Activities include reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking skills.
 The Read-Aloud programme that is utilised in the first two years at Bialik supports the Literacy Block and develops and/or reinforces the reading, writing, oral communication and thinking skills needed for young children to become  effective readers.
The Read-Aloud programme bridges the gap between young children’s limited decoding skills and their capacity for complex, critical thinking. Activities include:

  • Developing and asking original questions.
  • Listening to others.
  • Forming opinions.
  • Drawing key characters and scenes.
  • Dramatising significant story events.
  • Group creative writing.
  • Reading and responding to questions at home with parents.

The Junior Great Books’ programme was developed in America by The Great Books Foundation, an independent, non-profit educational organisation whose mission is to help people think and share ideas. This programme is used extensively throughout the United States, Canada and many other parts of the world. Bialik College is the first Australian school to use this programme
 
Discovery Programme
The Discovery Programme is an extension programme for a small group of students from Years 7, 8 and 9. This programme was also initiated by the late Raphi Amram of the Society for Excellence Through Education.
The programme aims to provide highly able students with additional challenge, enabling them to explore subjects in greater breadth and depth than is normally possible within the regular classroom. It is a three-year program, commencing at the Year Seven level. Participating students make the commitment to attend after-school sessions for one afternoon a week for a three year period.  Student participation in the program is determined by teacher, parent and self nomination of students. Particular characteristics sought in students are learning ability, independent thinking, curiosity, the ability to distinguish between the important and the unimportant and persistence.
The subjects offered each year vary according to the expertise and passion of the teachers and interests of the students. Subjects that have been offered include Marine Biology, Mathematical Thinking, Geography, Music Technology and Contemporary Issues and Other Things In Mathematical Thinking.  The students investigate ways in which mathematics is used to explains aspects of the world and investigate the contributions made to mathematics by people through the ages. Different number systems are explored.  The students also use algebraic expressions and geometrical representations to communicate ideas. A series of sessions is based on the use of computers, with the students developing advanced technological skills for problem solving in addition to becoming familiar with a variety of software tools. Examples of topics covered in the Year Eight group this year are paradoxes, Fibonacci numbers, continued fractions, palindromes, testing the period of swing of a pendulum with varying angles and lengths and recording the data on a spread sheet.
Contemporary Issues and Other Things is another component of the programme.  This unit combines areas of study from Studies of Society and Environment and the Arts. Students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge about and analyse contemporary issues affecting society and environment. The range of topics covered is broad.  Examples include a study of human and animal rights, the development of a video documentary, the study of famous and infamous people through history, with each student taking on the persona of a particular person he or she had researched and then making a presentation to the rest of the group, the development of a video on reconciliation (‘Aboriginal reconciliation’ is a major political issue in Australia), the writing of modern fables, the study of riddles and paradoxes and discussion on topics such as Masks – who is behind the mask?
A wide selection of teaching strategies is utilised to implement this unit and, in addition to providing variety, this also encourages student engagement.  Examples of the types of activities are as follows, role playing, debates, documentaries, skits and plays, and oral and written presentations
Creative Discovery is another unit that has also been offered through the Discovery Programme. This is a language-based unit that also integrates the Arts into many of the activities. For example, a session on dreams commenced with a discussion about dreams, language activities such as “words which use dream”, speed writing with word association using the word ‘nightmare’, following the six steps as suggested by Gayle Delaney in “Dreamtime and Dreambook: Decoding the Language of the Night” to record dreams. Then dreams were considered as a source for art and writing. A selection of paintings was studied and compared, including Piero Della Francesca’s “Constantine’s Dream”, Fuseli’s “the Nightmare” and Goya’s “The Dream of reason Produces Monsters”. This was followed by a study of surrealism, which had been greatly influenced by the work done by Freud on dreams and led to  the study of some of Dali’s work and the reading of extracts such as Carrington’s “The Hearing Trumpet”, and discussing the dream-like qualities this surrealist extract possesses.
Other components of the Discovery Program have been film production and music technology. In these units, students have  explored ways in which conventions and style, and production types are used, made decisions in planning, selecting and modifying their media productions to suit a particular purpose or occasion, have video-taped a wide selection of school performances and occasions and composed and recorded their own musical compositions.
Students have been provided with the opportunities to develop and refine a wide assortment of skills including the operation of different types of equipment, such as cameras, editing equipment and computers, keyboards and synthesisers, and they have had to adapt and revise their ideas to solve problems as they have arisen.
A recently-introduced subject is Marine Biology.  As with the introduction of other new subjects, this is in response to students’ enthusiasm for science and a new staff member with expertise and a passion for Marine Biology. This is an example of the flexibility that a programme like Discovery allows. Teachers with a passion and knowledge in a particular area have the opportunity to work with a small group of motivated students and in the process learn more about gifted education and also perhaps refine a new unit that may be offered in some form to more students.  A number of excursions are included in the program.
 
Future Studies
A group of students from Years 7, 8 and 9 meets weekly for Future Studies. This unit involves an exploration of issues that will affect us in the future. Issues include global warming, over-population, dwindling resources, bio-technology, feeding the world, genetic engineering, ethics, space colonies, families of the future, recreation, education, technology, law and justice, arts and aesthetics, government, defence, communications, commerce, psychological health, cities of the future, environment are discussed in relation to a particular problem or scenario. Students are also encouraged to participate in community events, exploring these issues. For example, several of these students recently attended a Public Forum  on the sustainability of the world’s environment.
 
Cluster Groups
Cluster group activities involve groups of students from neighbouring schools working together for a limited timespan, for example, once a week for six weeks  on a topic that may not be normally available within their schools. Units have included multi-media, poetry, philosophy, robotics, invertebrate zoology, calligraphy and maths problem solving. Clusters are offered to students from Prep (pre-Year 1) to year 8 and combine the resources of a number of schools and provide opportunities for students to meet like-minded peers from other backgrounds.
 

Harmony Through Understanding – A pilot project for schools

The Harmony Through Understanding project has been developed to provide young people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds with the opportunity to meet, learn, work and have fun together.
The expected outcomes of the project are as follows:

  • To increase knowledge and understanding of different religions and cultures.
  • To provide opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds to meet and work together in a safe and secure environment.
  • To provide avenues to create a ‘ripple’ effect to extend the influence of the project to the wider community.
  • To develop a curriculum unit frame with a guiding set of principles, resource lists, discussion topics, question stems, etc.

 
Project Outline
Students from schools in all sectors meet together to work in a variety of programs developed to achieve the above outcomes. Programs have been designed to equip students with skills such as public speaking, conflict resolution and negotiation skills.
These programs include:

  • Workshops and discussion groups focussing on the power of personal stories, a study of different religions, cultures and myths,  stereotypes and the power of the media to reinforce or dispel these myths.
  • ‘Hands-on’ activities  providing informal opportunities for students to meet and work together.
  • The development of a newsletter, posters and leaflets promoting the Harmony through Understanding concept and the production of a community calendar. The commitment of each religious and cultural group to Australia and the cultural freedom within Australia is emphasised.

Each school is represented by groups of students and designated staff members.  Procedures are in place to provide students with the skills to assume roles of responsibility in their own schools with the aim  that the project continues to have a positive influence in each school community and the capacity to create long-term changes.  This project runs in parallel with ‘Cultural Awareness for Understanding’, a broader community project.
A total of 120 students, 16 teachers  and at least 8 facilitators participate. Guest speakers and specialised workshop and activity leaders are also involved.
Teachers  attend a professional development session each term and there are eight full-day student programme days during the year, two each school term.
 

Mentor Program for Highly Able senior Secondary Students

Bialik College, Melbourne Grammar and Melbourne Girls’ Grammar, in conjunction with the University of Melbourne, School of Graduate Studies are developing a Mentor Programme for highly able senior secondary students. The programme involves academic mentorship of individual students with demonstrated ability and interest in a particular field of research. Students will meet regularly with their mentors.  The participating schools are already working closely with the School of Graduate Studies to ensure that this project provides both students and mentors with a very satisfying yet challenging experience.  The preliminary arrangements have been made and students will meet with their prospective mentors this month (June 2002).
Classroom Programming
In addition to introducing and co-ordinating the above programming options, the Director of the Centre, meets classroom and subject teachers at planning or level meetings, staff meetings and on an individual basis, both formally and informally, to assist with planning in order to meet the needs of gifted students and to monitor the progress of individual children and works co-operatively with other institutions and organisations.
Program planning suggestions include the following:

  • The addition of more complex and/ or abstract content material.
  • The introduction of new skills, eg. Specific thinking skills or research skills.
  • Linking with others either within the school or wider community.
  • Introducing new resources.
  • Individualized planning.

An optional lunchtime thinktank for staff provides informal opportunities for the sharing of ideas, learning new skills and continuing dialogue.
A range of teaching and learning strategies are utilized and these include role modeling specific strategies by working with a class with class teacher observing, expert guest speakers, mentor programs using a variety of mentors including other students, teachers, parents and members of the wider community, withdrawal groups and individualized programs.
 
 
Karin Morrison
Director , Rosenkranz Centre for Excellence and Achievement in Education, Bialik College, Melbourne
 

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