Problem: The public school was founded in 1971 in Dandenong North, in the state of Victoria, in Australia. It is located in a suburban area, and has students from over 40 different ethnic groups. It has been run by the same educator, Ray Trotter, since its foundation, and started to reformulate its teaching process in 1997, influenced by the philosophy of autonomous learning. The aim is to combat the problems of traditional teaching, where the teacher conducts the activities and the students merely listen, and are not terribly engaged.
Solutions: At Wooranna Park, the students must take responsibility for their own learning by developing realistic tasks which involve problem solving and studying in collaboration with colleagues. They can negotiate their school curriculum and dedicate themselves to their personal passions, dealing with relevant and up-to-date themes in interdisciplinary projects. The teachers take the role of trainers and facilitators.
The objective is for children to achieve social flexibility, economic well being and personal satisfaction. The school encourages creativity, mental and physical health, respect for others, appreciation of cultural diversity, commitment, acceptance of personal and social values, a sense of national identity, in depth thinking, and the ability to plan objectives for the future and actively participate in democracy. The opinion of the students is valued through forums for open discussions, analysis and reflection.
The school believes that the learning environment facilitates pedagogical practices, and that the physical space should be attractive and dynamic. Due to this, several changes have been made to the school over the years in order to favor integration. These include the removal of partitions and walls, the creation of places for meetings and multimedia spaces, space for robotics and TV and radio studios. The choice of furniture focused on comfortable options that facilitate interaction, such as sofas and round tables. The students can circulate freely around the spaces where several activities take place simultaneously. The idea is that the school is optimistic, exciting, challenging and as much fun as a Disney theme park.
Technology is used to connect the students to other children and adolescents around the world. Students and teachers create blogs and produce videos, films and songs about their study themes. The school also has a partnership with schools in South Korea and Thailand.
Outcomes: The chosen teaching method adopted by the school promotes high levels of engagement, creativity, curiosity and motivation in the students. Learning takes place individually and in groups in a technology rich environment and features an ample curriculum. The teachers show interest in the intellectual development and general well-being of the students, and parents and the community participate in the educational process. The school is a reference in innovative and personalized teaching in Australia and other countries.