Looking Beyond Academic Performance
Peninsula Education (Setia Alam) | 15 Jul 2017 14:49
To produce students who are all-rounders, Peninsula International School Australia has adopted the Pastoral Care Programme and Positive Psychology.

In today’s educational landscape, teachers know that learning is more than just knowing how to read, write and count. To produce successful, happy and autonomous students, it is also important to monitor their growth and take interest in their general well-being. Academic progression goes hand-in-hand with physical and emotional development; of equal importance is cultivating confidence, instilling in each student a sense of self-worth and developing their interpersonal skills.

In an effort to equip their students with these necessary skills, Peninsula International School Australia (Peninsula) has implemented the Pastoral Care Programme (PCP) that addresses the needs of the 21st century learner. Peninsula Grammar, Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Director, Blair Cooper says: “PCP is an across-the-school programme that looks after the individual needs of each student.”

“At the Early Childhood Centre and during the Junior Years, pastoral care falls to the classroom teacher. When the students are in the Middle and Senior Years, the programme will be facilitated by mentors, alongside the Heads of Year and Heads of School. Mentors have an important role to play, being the first person of contact for students when reaching out for encouragement, assistance and support on whatever issues they may be facing.”

Cooper adds that the mentors follow the students from Year 10 through to Year 12 to assist them with their academic programmes and support them during an intense period of learning and growth. “The programme also provides the students with the tools to assess where they are academically as well as learning self-reflection, so that they recognise the cause of their concerns and learn how to manage them.”

Peninsula Grammar, Deputy Head of Middle Years, Lucy Gowdie, shares that the key to effective learning is to build trust between both teachers and students by meaningfully engaging them in conversations about life both inside and outside of the school. “It’s not just about what the academic curriculum offers. It’s also important that the curriculum is supported by strong, positive and meaningful working relationships between the teaching staff and the students. This will contribute to the development and growth of the whole student. With a combination of a powerful curriculum and healthy teacher-student relationships, you will see positive results not only in the students’ academic performance but also in his or her well-being,” she says.

“Additionally, we measure the students’ performance based on who they are as individuals, their skill set and their learning needs. We use a growth-based model whereby both teachers and students will celebrate a students’ strengths and focus on their areas of improvement to help them advance their learning and well-being.”

Cooper adds that in terms of the School’s sport programmes, students will be given continuous assessment of their strong points so as to know success before embarking on the development of the skills that need improvement. Teaching students to acknowledge areas of improvement is important to building their resilience and determination. 
To supplement the PCP, Peninsula has also adopted the Positive Psychology approach. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that allow individuals and communities to thrive. It applies this evidence-based knowledge in practical and relevant ways within a school environment, enabling the students to learn, grow, and flourish.

Peninsula Grammar Head of Junior Years Louise Nicholls-Easley shares that Positive Psychology also looks at the strengths of the students to help them to develop important skills such as a healthy sense of curiosity, emotion regulation, resilience, critical thinking, and communication.

“Our goal is to equip students with a range of strategies they can use them in their daily lives at school as well as beyond its gates,” she reiterates. “Also, the scope and sequence of positive education across the school ensures age appropriate learning for every student, and ongoing development with relevant life skills are explicitly taught.”

However, she cautions that Positive Psychology is not a study of happiness. “It’s a study aimed at helping students to accept that failures are a part of life, and that students know the importance of learning how to cope with success and failure in equal measure. At the same time, they will learn how to cope with negative emotions, how to manage and understand them.”

“Students will learn the different cycles of Positive Psychology where they will understand the science behind the study and learn how the brain functions. In their Senior Years, students will be taught how to control and manage emotions. It explicitly teaches the students how to understand themselves better. One of our ideas of personal success is that students know what it means to be the very best versions of themselves.”

Gowdie adds that the two programmes prepare students for life after school. “We want our students to enjoy their successes and embrace their failures. We want them to grow from both and to understand how to move from one space to the next. Through these programmes, we hope to equip students with the capacity to accept themselves and not have the unrealistic expectation that life is a bed of roses. They will be able to understand how to work through various difficulties in life.”

“With our Pastoral Care and Positive Psychology components, students do not just focus on academic learning but also learn about life as a whole and the part they can play in living a meaningful life. When they leave school, they will be able to take all these lessons with them and live a better, healthier, and more successful life.”