Redefining success beyond school: New study highlights key shifts

Redefining success beyond school: New study highlights key shifts

A new report has shed light on emerging education approaches that could be key to better preparing young Australians for their lives beyond school.

Drawing insights from schools, universities, and various partners nationwide, Learning Creates Australia’s (LCA) ‘Learning Beyond Limits’ report reveals a paradigm shift, recognising skills and capabilities beyond traditional ATAR metrics.

Studies show less than 25% of young Australians use their ATAR as a mechanism for university entry. For the other 75%, it has no functional use.

Read more: How are you future-proofing your school from future disruption?

Bronwyn Lee, CEO of LCA says this is a problem because it also drives what is taught in schools as well as how learning is delivered.

One of the key findings of the ‘Learning Beyond Limits’ report was that Australian teachers need more guidance, time, space, and encouragement to implement diverse assessment methods that can help students achieve their best, both in the classroom and beyond.  

“Teachers enter the profession to impact students' lives positively, but many are leaving due to burnout,” Lee told The Educator.

“Teachers who are already working in the ways we talk about in the report say that shifting from subject matter expert to learning facilitator is much more rewarding.”

Lee said this gives them the chance to focus on supporting each student and contrasts with the pressure to cover extensive content that students may not absorb, leading to disengagement and challenging behaviour.

“For this approach to be successful, it needs to be grounded in a supportive school culture. Teachers need to have the opportunity to build confidence in trying new ways of teaching and assessing and embracing their role as learners.”

Systemic change needed to recognise every student

Lee said as next step in the organisation’s work, its second cycle will dig deeply into young people’s perspective and will seek to understand the impact of new approaches on their in school and post-school experiences, as told by them – rather than through their teachers or parents.

“We are also focussed on deepening our evidence base,” she said.

“Some areas we are looking to explore further include: what supports shifting teacher and parent mindsets; the impact on student agency and wellbeing; and, what are the types of new roles needed within the learning system to enable the kind of change we are talking about.”

Lee said that while LCA heard from hundreds of sites across Australia, “hundreds of others are also doing great things”.

“We want to hear from them and understand what is working and their challenges. Advocacy is also critical moving forward. We want to amplify the voice of promising practices on the ground and push for the systemic change needed to recognise more for every student,” she said.

“This includes advocating for resourcing to support teachers to shift their practice, knowing this will result in greater student engagement and professional reward.”

‘A high ATAR does not equate to success beyond school’

Amanda Siva, a careers practitioner at Carey Grammar School in Victoria said the biggest challenge is not to add another layer to an already complex system.

“Our school is changing the metrics by which we assess students so that we can look at their developing attributes rather than just skills and knowledge,” Siva told The Educator.

“When we hone in on what makes a young person unique and value this within our education system, we begin to shift perceptions about what success looks like.”

Siva, who has worked for 13 years as a Careers Practitioner and 23 years as a teacher, added that she speaks from experience when she says a high ATAR does not equate to success beyond school.

“Tenacity, critical thinking and resilience are far more likely to result in success beyond school and will also help a young person navigate our changing world,” she said.

“Young people develop these skills daily, both within school, in their part-time job, and within their communities. I encourage other educators to look at what they are assessing and see if they too can shift their metrics to celebrate this.”

Traditional measures of success must be challenged

Dr Jodie Long is the educational research lead at David Scott School, Brotherhood of St Laurence, which caters for students who have experienced trauma.

“Our students have had to work harder than most to connect to their education and their futures,” Dr Long told The Educator.

“Introducing future-oriented and broader recognition systems has been long-awaited within our school but more challenging outside the school gates.”

Dr Long said promoting more holistic and relevant narratives regarding what a young person can do has illuminated how deeply embedded the assumptions about the meaning of 'success', and how young people can contribute to the world actually are.

“As educators in a fast-changing world, we can see the students' skills and capabilities and are in awe,” she said. “However, challenging long-held beliefs about what is of 'value' to those who traditionally have benefitted from these narrow success measures is proving difficult.”