Why we still need to teach year nine differently
Beyond the Classroom, Latest News

Why we still need to teach Year 9 differently in a ‘COVID-normal’ world

Dr Josh Ambrosy, Lecturer from The Institute of Education, Arts and Community at Federation University discusses the findings of his PHD that explored how a school teaches Year 9 differently than other year groups.

I recently needed to travel to the Melbourne CBD for a meeting. When walking through the city, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many groups of secondary school students (of whom I estimated the majority to be around year nine). I think I was most excited to see these groups of students and teachers out and about again, as I have spent much of my time in the last few years thinking about the significance of such experiences in my recently completed PhD (Ambrosy, 2021) that focused on how a school teaches year nine differently. It is from this empirical study that I offer the following commentary.

Year nine is a year that is full of challenges. These challenges are partly due to the concurrent life stages of adolescence and puberty (Bahr, 2017) that Year 9 students experience.

In response to these challenges, a largely unrecognised group of schools, with a noticeable epicentre in Victoria (King, 2017), have chosen to implement specific programs that cater to the developmental needs of these students. Pivotal to the success of many such programs is a shift away from a traditional model of schooling to one that incorporates inquiry-based learning through a curriculum that connects students to real-world problems and experiences.

Year nine programs typically mobilise a curriculum that is transdisciplinary and connected to the real world through experiences. However, the implementation of such programs often comes with significant challenges. Likely two of the most pressing implementation issues are: how they prioritise the time needed for teachers to accompany students on experiences; and, how to fund such programs, in particular for schools working in the public system without, in the words of one of the teachers I interviewed “pushing, the parents, every 10 minutes, for another 10 dollars”.

I offer schools the following recommendations based on my research. 1. Year nine programs work because they shift the focus from learning for future employment or study purposes. It is recommended that teachers designing year nine program should first consider their local contexts and problems of practice and design programs that are specific to their cohorts and broader school communities. In other words, one ‘size’ does not fit all.

2. For many year nine programs an integrated curriculum is the backbone of their program. These structures can help teachers to develop programs that transcend learning areas and better relate to experiences that are multi-disciplinary. To help enable this structure, schools should staff year nine programs with multi-disciplinary teams and consider how the timetable can enable regular time beyond the school gates without the need to cover teachers.

3. The success of many year nine programs rely on dedicated teachers with specific skills. It is recommended that schools are intentional in their staffing of year nine programs and that teachers are provided with adequate resources and additional time to help with the demands of such a program.

Dr Josh Ambrosy is a lecturer in the Institute of Education, Arts and Community at Federation University Australia. Before his academic role, Josh was a school teacher working in a range of government, independent and catholic schools. He teaches a variety of courses at Federation University Australia, including outdoor education and science education curriculum studies. Josh’s main research interests focus on different ways teachers and schools can structure education to better suit the needs of their students. He typically works with arts- based methodologies.

This article was originally published in Education Matters Secondary Magazine – to read the issue download it here. 

Send this to a friend