Senior School Thursday, 04 May 2023

From Exams to Reports - Challenging the Mindset

Through the 19th century industrialised age, education quite ruthlessly separated those who were perceived to be capable and therefore worthy of either further education or notable employment, and those who should be relegated to menial labour who did not deserve further education. There were necessary means to measure the academic potential of individuals and groups. There became a need to analyse, categorize, separate, distinguish, and label human beings. This was done to determine who were “fit”, and which individuals were not.

Charles Spearman’s theory of general intelligence was also born in this era, based on the now outdated notion that one’s intellect is relatively fixed, inherited through genes and chromosomes. Edward Thorndike then published his “associationist” theory, suggesting that knowledge is the collection between external stimuli and internal mental responses from the individual.

When reflecting on Spearman and Thorndike’s work, unfortunately the growth of standardised testing in schools and arguably outdated instruments used to measure success seems to be a hallmark of these 19thcentury theories which initially served as a rationale for these educational practices.

So why the history lesson here…?

This is because more recently, research supports the fact that intelligence is not fixed, and one can improve their mental capacity if they believe contemporary research to be true and are willing to improve their academic behaviours (Perkins 1995, Kotulak, 1997).

So why publish this article now, once exams are finished for Year 11 & 12 students… ?

In order to see intelligence grow incrementally, we need to develop learning goals that reflect the belief that ability is not fixed. That improved academic behaviours and effort can lead to a continuously expandable repertoire of skills and have a significant impact on one’s learning potential.

Receiving exam results or an academic report at the conclusion of a school semester is an ideal opportunity to sit together and discuss a number of things. Whilst it is easy to immediately focus on the performance, such as grades and exam scores, what really matters is the reflection on a student’s output. Fostering quality discussion and reflection in respect towards a student’s academic behaviours, their goals and their commitments for the following year cannot be understated and should be an important part of academic reporting. For a concise ‘vimeo’ summary of the research into “The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance” by the University of Chicago (2011), please use the following link

Brendan Chapman
Head of Academic Studies

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Middle School Wednesday, 06 Apr 2022

Year 7 Science

Mrs Lawson-Lee's Year 7 Science class have had a fun filled term with lots of new experience gained in class. They all passed their first Bunsen Burner licence and were able to do their first practicals in a high school lab. They also really enjoyed demonstrations with dry ice, and worked together as a team to decide which ones they wanted us to do as a class.

They really are a very engaged group and love Science as you can see!

"The experiments we have done over the weeks have been really fun and exciting! I hope everyone has felt the same and we are really grateful to the people that help make it possible for us like our teacher Mrs Lawson-Lee and the lab people that bring things down. We are just really thankful and I hope that all Year 7’s have a good year in Science!” Christian O'Niell

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Senior School Wednesday, 23 Mar 2022

Model United Nations Workshop

On Friday 18 March 2022, a group of 40 boys’ years 9 -11 took part in a Model United Nations (MUN) workshop. MUN is an interactive forum where pairs of students take on the persona, beliefs and values of specific countries that are either presently or have been part of the UN security council. In the current climate this is even more challenging than it has been in the past!

The students took part in debating and voting on two resolutions relating to: the questions of lethal autonomous weapon and the question of child labour.

The spirit of debate was high and some of the suggestions were very creative and at times a little unconventional. All the boys involved learnt a lot and a great deal of thanks is given to the members of UN Youth who came in and conducted the workshop and dealt with all the restrictions COVID through at them.

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Senior School Sunday, 06 Mar 2022

Year 12 Human Biology

Enjoy these photos of our Year 12 boys completing their experiment on whether exercise increases their body temperature. We can't wait to see what other experiments the boys conduct this year!

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Senior School Friday, 04 Mar 2022

Consent Education

Last week, education ministers from around the country unanimously agreed to implement an holistic and age-appropriate consent curriculum that will be mandatory across Australia. This is a huge sign that what our boys learn through their Veritas classes, the Character Education Program of the College, is a curriculum well and truly leading the way in educating about respectful relations and consent. We are always on the look out for new ways to engage our young men in meaningful discussions and discernment around these interrelated matters, news of this Australia wide approach will further fuel our commitment in this regard. In recognition of this, we provide a throwback photo of the delegation of students from Aquinas who represented the College at the WA Department of Communities launch of the ‘Stand Up for White Ribbon Campaign’ in 2019 alongside the Hon Simone McGurk MLA, Minister for Child Protection; Women's Interests; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; Community Services. We were invited because they had heard about our efforts in educating boys around gender-based violence and going way beyond teaching about consent, to exploring and promoting respectful relationships in our Veritas Program.

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Senior School Wednesday, 02 Mar 2022

Aquinas College uniPATH in 2022

Friday, February 25 marked an important milestone in the growing collaboration between Aquinas College and the University of Notre Dame. A total of 32 students across Years 11 and 12 engaged in tertiary units such as the culmination of Research Skills and Methods, Introduction to Philosophy, or Ethics. Whilst our Year 12 students seamlessly transitioned into their second unit of study, the highlight for our Year 11s were their oral presentations, delivered in the university’s Santa Maria Lecture Theatre in front of university staff and their peers.

The Research Skills and Methods unit has been designed purposefully for students to augment their organisational, self-management and research skills, whilst developing an increased understanding of research methods, academic integrity and ethical scholarship. The unit required students to evaluate and critique sources, frame research questions, and to write and deliver an evidence based presentation on a topic of their choice linked to the United Nations Sustainable Goals.

Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the goals provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership.

Whilst all of the students presentations were particularly engaging and impressive in the design and execution, examples of the students topics include;

  • Gender Equality - A humorous yet brutally honest and objectively supported argument by Samuel to support the glaring disparities in gender inequality in terms of power and wealth, and an exploration of the interrelated factors that help to explain this injustice. Using a lens focussed towards the disturbing statistics of violence against women in Asian and Pacific regions, Matteo focussed more on the importance of education of both sexes as a viable solution to end discrimination against girls and women, yet the conundrum that violence against women is an inhibitory factor in the progressive education of women in these regions. Samuel Yeow and Matteo Conte
  • The contradiction of SDG3 – Good Health and Wellbeing, and SDG8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth. Jake stressed the importance of how greater technological integration is needed to address this perceived contradiction in light of a more contemporary world effected by issues such as COVID-19. Using the country of Zambia as a case study, Jake skilfully explored the impact of a sugar tax, which will support population health and addressing the growing obesity crisis, whilst acknowledging the adverse impact of such a tax on the livelihood of such a large number of Zambian residents who rely on the country’s well established sugarcane agriculture. Jake Harburn
  • Affordable and Renewable Energy – an argument centred on the future of fossil fuels and ever present problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Lachlan explored the viability and considerations of coal conversion technology such as coalification and coal liquefaction to avoid combustion and limit harmful emissions. Lachlan Brennan

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Senior School Tuesday, 01 Mar 2022

2022 State Debating Squad

Congratulations to Nishok Nimalan and Matteo Conte on being selected for the 2022 State Debating Squad! Well done boys!

The 2022 State Team Squad is as follows:

  • Anna Tokarev (Perth Modern School)
  • Anya Chen (St Mary's Anglican Girls' School
  • Cameron Leggatt (Wesley College Perth)
  • Hawk Thomas Hughes (Christ Church Grammar School)
  • Huda Zaidi (Perth Modern School)
  • Isabella Baldwin (Shenton College)
  • Jaime Leivers (St Mary's Anglican Girls' School)
  • Matteo Conte (Aquinas College)
  • Mena Tabeshfar (Shenton College)
  • Nishok Nimalan (Aquinas College)
  • Nyah Gray (Perth Modern School)
  • Robert Eastman (Scotch College)
  • Sashank Thapa (Perth Modern School)
  • Wade Pik (Rockingham Senior High School)

Congratulations to those selected!

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Academics Thursday, 25 Nov 2021

The Truth About Math

Mathematics is a complex, skills-based discipline with multiple strands, each as challenging as the next, with a neverending degree of difficulty. Maybe that is why it seems to be socially acceptable to “not be good at maths”. But industry is seeing mathematical skills as ever more important. Critical thinking, problem solving and communication are some of the important skills needed in the workplace which are also developed whilst learning mathematics.

No longer are students expected to learn long lists of equations and then purely substitute values in order to calculate a solution. Realistic applications and comprehension of problems is a very important aspect of mathematics courses. Mastery of the skills is vital in order to be able to access these problems and their solutions.

We have recently started using an online mathematics program called Mathspace. Mathspace is an engaging and highly adaptive mathematics program, that enables teachers to track students’ progress whilst enabling students to develop both their mathematical skills and online digital literacy. It is directly aligned with the Australian Curriculum, as well as others, and provides students with access to online textbooks, demonstration videos, worked example questions, skills assessments, applications questions and much, much more.

As teachers, we are able to set customised tasks to consolidate work done in class and specific revision and development questions. These have enabled students to engage with questions that aid them to make progress with the topics taught as well as provide teachers vital feedback with areas that students have found challenging.

Adaptive tasks allow students to progress at their own rate. Starting with skills questions, then scaffolded application problems and finally to open-ended comprehension and application questions. If they are finding topics challenging, then students continue to get questions of a similar difficulty until they start to make progress. If they are getting correct solutions with minimal to no assistance, then the questions get harder and the “Mastery Bar” advances. The Mastery level can be set at different levels depending on the abilities of the class, the stage of learning or the difficulty the teacher wishes to set. The minimum number of questions needed to be answered can also be set to ensure that students are gaining enough practice at certain skills, but not stuck on the same task for too long if they are finding it challenging.

If students get stuck, there are several options to help them. There is a sketchpad section for them to do extra working out, but students are also advised to use a pen and paper to do working out on whilst undertaking the tasks. Pressing the “Hint” button provides them with a clue as to what to do next. Some questions will allow them to do this several times, providing extra hints each time. There is a “Skip Step” button, which provides them with the next line of working to get them on the right track. And finally, if students are really stuck, then there is a link back to the online textbook section on the topic of the question. Here they will find the notes, worked examples and explanatory videos to help them. Obviously, they can also ask their teacher or peers via Teams or in class the next day.

The user interface and algorithms running in the background of Mathspace are what makes it a really powerful tool for both students and teachers. Students can enter a line of work and get instant feedback. Even if it is not the final answer, Mathspace will give them an indication of whether they are correct or not. If correct, they get a green circle with a green tick inside. If it is incorrect a grey cross appears with a “Let’s try that again” message appears. When they enter the final answer, a solid green circle with a white tick appears. Students are also able to give feedback on each question if they feel like it.

Answers can be entered using their device and an onscreen menu of mathematical operators. As students’ knowledge and skills develop, there are shortcut keys to enter the mathematical operators without needing to use the onscreen keyboard. These shortcut keys are similar, if not the same, like those used in programs such as Excel and Numbers as well as other IT applications to help the students develop their Digital Literacy.

If using a touchscreen device, especially the iPads with Apple Pencil, students can write their answers straight onto the screen and the character recognition software turns it into “typed text”. This enables students to practice writing their answers as they would in a book, or most importantly, an assessment. It ensures that they are writing legibly so that their answers do not need to be edited before being submitted.

The diagnostic information available to teachers is invaluable. Instant feedback on students’ progress for both homework and in-class tasks ensures that misunderstandings are corrected before they become ingrained. Questions that several students have been challenged by can be addressed immediately or at the start of the next lesson. Students progress on long tasks, such as CAT revision tasks, can be monitored to help them plan and organise their workloads by ensuring they are not leaving it all to the last minute.

Each task can be looked at as a whole for the class, but also individual progress and attempts can be checked with each question appearing as red, amber or green based on the students’ attempts at each question. This enables teachers to look for patterns in students work and challenge their understanding. Each students logins, time spent working and questions answered is available as well as how they are progressing through different sections of the curriculum.

Mathspace is proving to be a valuable resource for both students and teachers. It is not a replacement for great teaching, but is a good supplement, especially when students are working at home and the teacher is not accessible. Hopefully, students will start to use Mathspace themselves to access the textbook and set themselves tasks as part of their ongoing revision process and further develop their independent learning and digital literacy as well as their mathematical skills and understanding.

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