‘Infectious energy’ supercharges learning at The Knox School

‘Infectious energy’ supercharges learning at The Knox School

Cameron Bacholer is at the vanguard of the next generation of school leaders.

Over his four years as deputy principal of The Knox School, Bacholer he has overseen recent curriculum changes, including the introduction of entrepreneurship education at Year 7 that coalesces with the school’s design thinking framework and offers students a problem-solving toolkit to adapt and apply across their learning.

This initiative has culminated in the recent success of the school's Year 10 entrepreneurship team at the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Global Challenge.

In recognition of his forward-thinking leadership, Bacholer was recently named as one of The Educator’s Hot List 2019 winners.

Below, the Educator speaks to Bacholer about his transformative initiatives, the impact they’re having and his vision for the school’s teaching and learning landscape in 2020.

TE: In your four years at Knox School, you have led the community through a “systematic revitalisation of teaching, learning, and wellbeing”. What has this involved specifically?    

CB: Our journey has been a collaborative exercise in developing our capacity for best practice. Schools, like people, need a regular heartbeat: when the day-to-day life of the school has a regular rhythm then staff, students and parents are able to turn their attention towards what makes them curious, towards innovation and towards opportunity. We have reviewed our pathways to VCE, restructured the wellbeing system and program throughout the School, and introduced personal professional learning for staff. These are now the subject of our conversations; we have a talkative culture and we talk about our practice. The energy is infectious.

TE: Can you tell us about the school’s recent curriculum changes and how the executive team achieved buy-in for these changes from the school’s community?

CB: The most powerful tool the school embraced was the idea of ‘theory of change’; it’s a change management technique that is quite prominent in the NFP sector and it asks people to align to the impact they wish to make first and foremost: how we get there can evolve. We think it has great application in schools where generally we are all striving for versions of the same outcome: better student learning. The power of an aligned theory of change comes in the commitment to the impact and the freedom to pursue the path as opportunity affords and circumstances demand.

TE: What are the most exciting and impactful teaching and learning programs Knox School has in store for its staff and students in 2020?

CB: The most exciting program on the horizon is our Year 9 elective program. We are assembling a small team to embed themselves in the program and have empowered them to collaborate on the design of trans-disciplinary, blended learning, term long units. We’ve said to them ‘break the rules’. They early interest has been staggering and the ideas already circulating are exciting. An early aspect of the project has been to speak with Middle School students and ask them to guide us towards creating opportunities that they find interesting. It’s about fostering agency and it’s about linking the abstract with the real world.