Illuminate, Edition 6 2021

Page 1

EDITION 6 2021


A spotlight on Wellness Pymble Ladies’ College


Contents From the Principal ..........................................................................Page 3 From the Editor ...............................................................................Page 4 Our contributors ...........................................................................Page 5 A new model of resilience............................................................Page 8 How my violin saved my life....................................................... Page 13 Stories of trauma: How can we approach ‘dark content’ in schools?...........................................................Page 18 Healthy rites of passage and safeguarding the wellbeing of students at Pymble........................................Page 23 From snow to sea: An educational adventure...................... Page 30 Gaining momentum in women’s educational leadership ............................................ Page 36 Shining light on our ignorance: Data science for complex futures............................................ Page 42 Challenging the status quo in PDHPE.................................... Page 45


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. – Barack Obama

From the Principal It was with pure delight and pride

Pymble continues to partner with

thing inside us that insists, despite

that the College formally launched

leaders in the field of wellbeing to

all evidence to the contrary, that

our Pymble Institute in October this

support best practice.

something better awaits us if we have

year. Congratulations to our Director of Research and Development, Dr Sarah Loch, for her contribution to the development of our research-

We thank our partners who generously give their time and continue to inform our practice.

the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women

centre and for the way she has

As I write this, Sydney has emerged

who are not content to settle for the

engaged with all stakeholders – most

from a 107-day period of lockdown and

world as it is, who have the courage

importantly, our students – to establish

Melbourne has been released from its

to remake the world as it should be”.

a centre of true excellence.

sixth lockdown and a world-record-

The Pymble Institute has already significantly enhanced our community, with 15 staff actively engaged in their own research and 30 staff undertaking postgraduate studies to complement their skills and knowledge. Possibly two of the most exciting additions have been our College Ethics Committee, with a large number of students involved, whose lens on ethical research is impressive, and our Junior Journal Club (JJC). It’s fantastic to see our girls learning new concepts and looking forward to applying these in their own lives. One of my favourite comments came from a JJC member who wrote in the Microsoft Teams chat during a recent meeting, “It was great to learn about what should be included in

breaking total of 262 days in lockdown since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Undoubtedly, this has been a very challenging time for many, a time of deep distress, increased family violence and financial stress – certainly a time most would not want to repeat. You only need to look at the constant media trail of all the challenges of lockdown that are presented in a neverending stream for our consumption to appreciate the impact of the pandemic – and yet most conversations I have had with colleagues and young people point to the benefits gained from this chapter of history. Family relationships were cemented and there was time to ride pushbikes, build cubby houses and go for walks in the afternoon.

an abstract since I had never heard

As this is our second edition of

of them before”. These students are

Illuminate to focus on wellbeing,

our researchers of the future and

I wanted to offer a view that moves

watching them engage so fully in this

away from the body of knowledge that

space is providing them with exciting

focusses on all the concerns regarding

opportunities to change their world in

the wellbeing of our young people and

meaningful ways.

move to a place of hope.

Congratulations to our Pymble staff

I’m a fan of former President Barack

who have contributed to this edition of

Obama’s take on hope:

Illuminate. While our students are busy

“ Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not

asking big questions, exploring solutions

ignoring the enormity of the task ahead

and challenging the status quo, our staff

or the roadblocks that stand in our

are engaged in translating their research

path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines

into practice.

or shirking from a fight. Hope is that

There is a great deal of research on the importance of hope, which is defined by the Australian clinical psychologist, Andrew Fuller, as “the anticipation that good things will happen in the future and that we have the power to make some of those good things happen”. For me, the addition of the Pymble Institute to the College’s already outstanding offering provides a strong sense of hope for the future. Hope that our students will continue to ask big questions, hope that this research eases the pain that is present in the lives of so many, hope that research continues to enrich our educators and refine their skills, and hope that, in big and small increments, Pymble continues to change the world in positive and productive ways.


Pymble Ladies’ College


From the Editor It is exciting to be writing this editorial under the new banner of the Pymble Institute, the College’s home of research, innovation and professional learning. The launch of the ‘PI’, as the Pymble

how a nimbleness of gaze can be

Learning approach in PDHPE, Cedric

Institute has become known, took

applied within classrooms and schools,

Le Bescont’s critique of what it means

place in October 2021 with a video

and education more broadly, through

to teach Science students to think

composed of student and staff creations

their willingness to think critically and

deeply and by Kieran Dale-O’Connor’s

representing our commitment to

openly about questions in their orbits.

examination of the challenging topic

research and education. Their creations depicted lighthouses, kites, the scientist Cecilia Payne, airports and gardens; ways people come together, share ideas, grow in their understanding and drive thinking forward. The latter phase is the vision statement of the Pymble Institute!

this edition of Illuminate with articles

of how educators navigate emotional topics in English texts.

ranging from personal insights, such as

Wellbeing takes many forms and, in

Riina Hämäläinen’s reflective comparison

a school as diverse and dynamic as

of education in Finland and Australia,

Pymble, we are thankful for our staff and

Reverend Punam Bent’s discussion of

partners who are committed to furthering

girls’ education in a global context and

our knowledge of its links to teaching and

Dr Janet Dutton, Lecturer from

Sarah Turner’s exploration of music

learning. I hope you enjoy exploring the

Macquarie School of Education, was

and neuroscience. We are also pleased

journeys and stories in this edition.

our fantastic keynote speaker. Janet’s

to publish work from Professor Gin

presentation stated, “Teacher research

Malhi, a member of the College Board

Dr Sarah Loch

was once innovative practice but

and Director of the CADE Clinic at the

increasingly it is what good teachers

University of Sydney, and his PhD student

do. So, how can teachers make space

Erica Bell, whose work in the field of

for research?” A contributor to the

irritability and mood will have great

previous edition of Illuminate where

relevance for adolescent mental health.

she advocated for critical thinking and

The College is proud to be able to support

cognitive wellbeing through active and

their research. Dr Arne Rubinstein and

embodied learning (Dutton, Derrick &

the Rites of Passage team have partnered

Rushton, 2021, pp. 30-36), Janet used

with the College this year to support our

her presentation to draw our attention

Mind Body Spirit Wellbeing framework.

to ways the teacher researcher can

Arne’s article shares the core of the Rites

utilise a ‘nimbleness of gaze’ (Dutton,

of Passage approach and invites us all

2017) to support an inquiry stance.

to consider the role of transitions and

Curiosity and inquiry are core to all


The theme of wellbeing continues in

connections in our own lives.

forms of research, regardless of the

Research within the Pymble learning

field of study or level of formality.

context is showcased by Madeleine

The authors in this edition demonstrate

Gardiner’s experience using the Deep

Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021


References Dutton, J., Derrick, L., & Rushton, K. (2021). Out of their seats and asking great questions: Fostering critical thinking and cognitive wellbeing through Embodied Pedagogies. Illuminate: Research and Innovation, Pymble Ladies’ College, (pp. 30-36, Ed. 5). Dutton, J., (2017). English teachers in the making: Portraits of pre-service teachers’ journeys to teaching. Unpublished thesis. University of Sydney.

Our contributors

Erica Bell

Reverend Punam Bent

Kieran Dale-O’Connor

Erica Bell has a background in

Punam Bent has been at Pymble since

Kieran Dale-O’Connor is an Inquiry

psychology and is currently undertaking

2016 and has taught Religion and Ethics

Learning Leader in the Conde Library

a Doctor of Philosophy under the

in her role as School Chaplain at both

at Pymble. In this role, he supports

supervision of Professor Malhi,

Pymble and MLC School, Burwood.

students with research and inquiry

examining the construct of irritability

She is passionate about wellbeing

projects across a range of learning areas.

within psychiatric disorders. She has a

and spirituality, and social justice with

Prior to this, he was a Secondary English

particular interest in the mechanisms

focus on regional partnerships and

teacher for six years, during which time

that underlie psychiatric disorders,

environmental action. This includes

had roles in faculty leadership, pastoral

and how this understanding can be

SS4C (Schools Strike for Climate),

care of refugee students, restorative

translated into clinical practice. In this

raising First Nations awareness and

practices, and library management.

regard, she has published research

engagement, and promoting religious

He also co-designed and taught Te

examining these phenomena and has

and cultural diversity. In Punam’s work in

Awakairangi, a cross-curricular and

synthesised these findings into clinical

girls’ education she aims to create a just

place-based program of learning for

practice guidelines.

and holistic environment where students Senior students. Kieran’s area of interest are accepted in their own identity

is how student voice and feedback

(cultural, religious, non-religious) and

are used to help design, construct and

where they can grow as global citizens.

refine programs of learning.

She is an ordained minister of religion, practising within the Uniting Church in Australia and UMC (USA) since 1992.

Pymble Ladies’ College


Our contributors

Madeleine Gardiner

Riina Hämäläinen

Cedric Le Bescont

Madeleine Gardiner has been teaching

Riina Hämäläinen is a PDHPE teacher

Cedric Le Bescont holds the roles of

Personal Development, Health and

at Pymble Ladies’ College for Years 7 to

Learning Leader – Assessment and

Physical Education (PDHPE) at Pymble

10 students. She commenced teaching

Differentiation (Science) and Head of

since 2018. During this time, she has

at Pymble in 2019. Riina has a Master of

Data Science. Cedric commenced

worked in both the Junior and Secondary Sport Pedagogy and Health Sciences

at Pymble in 2019 and he teaches

Schools and values the experience

from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Science, Physics and Chemistry

gained from collaborating with

She is passionate about students’ holistic to Years 7 to 12 students. Cedric

colleagues across the College. Madeleine wellbeing, their interests and ideas for

has a Master of Physical Sciences

is committed to embedding a range of

the future. She is proud to contribute to

from University Savoie Mont Blanc

perspectives in her practise and in 2021

the diverse community of backgrounds

in Chambéry, France, as well as a

completed a Master of Indigenous

and cultures within the College.

degree in Science Education from

Education at Macquarie University.

the University of Grenoble, France. He has spent most of his career as a Learning Leader and Head of Science in the Network of International French Schools across a range of countries and has been a member of diverse learning communities in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

Professor Gin Malhi

Dr Arne Rubinstein

Sarah Turner

Professor Gin Malhi is a University of

Dr Arne Rubinstein (MBBS, FRACGP)

Sarah Turner began teaching at

Sydney professor and the Head of the

is an internationally recognised expert

Pymble in 2019 and is the Stage 4

Academic Department of Psychiatry.

on childhood development and rites

Music Co-ordinator. In 1994, Sarah

He is also the Executive and Clinical

of passage. His programs have been

completed a thesis on Music Therapy

Director of the CADE Clinic, a specialist

attended by over 250,000 people in

and was invited to apply to the Guildhall

referral clinic for complex mood

more than 20 countries around the

School of Music and Drama in London

disorders based at Royal North Shore

world and are now a part of over 50

to continue her studies in Music

Hospital. Over the past decade he has

schools around Australia. Arne is a

Therapy. Working in an infant school

conducted important research into

medical doctor and specialised first in

in Hackney, London, Sarah developed

the emergence of mood disorders in

family medicine and then spent 15 years

her passion for teaching and being in

adolescence. Professor Malhi is on

in emergency medicine until he moved

the classroom and she realised she had

the Pymble Ladies’ College Board of

full time creating Rites of Passage

found her calling – teaching Music.

Directors and offers support to the

programs for parents and their children.

Although no longer a seasoned violinist

College’s Wellbeing team.

He is the author of the best-seller,

(due to the lack of practise time), Sarah

The Making of Men. Arne has won

still loves to play along with the younger

multiple awards for his work, including

girls to engage in the power of music.

being nominated in 2008 for Australian of the Year for his groundbreaking work with youth, providing muchneeded answers and tools to support a generation of young men and women be happy and motivated about life. Arne is the proud father of two wonderful young men and a mentor to many others.

Pymble Ladies’ College


A new model of resilience Professor Gin Malhi and Erica Bell



This article provides a summary of our

When we consider adversity, we think of

model of resilience and how it develops.

a challenge or obstacle to be addressed

It stems from our work in adults and

and hopefully overcome. Thus, the

young people and has been informed

concept of adversity is necessarily broad

by research we have conducted

and can include stressors ranging from

within Pymble over the past decade.

the psychosocial (interpersonal conflicts

It is therefore particularly relevant to

such as bullying, parental conflict and

children and adolescents as they move

divorce), physical (illness and injury),

through critical developmental phases .

financial (poverty) among others6.

Importantly, our model of resilience

Importantly, the severity of adversity can

regards mild adversity as a necessary

vary significantly, and individuals can

ingredient for its development and

experience a multitude of stressors that

suggests that experiencing adversity

vary in terms of their impact, from minor

assists in fortifying an individual’s

stressors to traumatic experiences.

resilience. Generating a comprehensive

Therefore, there is no strict criteria for

model of resilience is important,

adversity, and the term includes all

as possessing a robust resource

manner of challenges and stressors that

of resilience helps to prevent the

an individual may experience and may

development of a range of physical and

or may not be able to overcome.


psychological problems that may come about after experiencing adversity.

WHAT IS RESILIENCE? Adversity is stressful and this is associated with poorer mental and physical health outcomes. But despite this, not all individuals who experience stress (even if it is severe and prolonged) develop these problems and, in fact, up to two-thirds of individuals that experience mild adversity remain relatively unscathed2. It is this ability to withstand some degree of stress that is what we term resilience.

increasingly stressed, and unable to cope. This can lead to the development of emotional or behavioural symptoms, which may lead to physical or mental illness7. The model of resilience outlined below details how this may occur, but it is important to note that this model does not state that having a mental illness means a person lacks resilience. In this adversity-driven model of resilience, adversity can assist in building a robust reserve of resilience8, but the emergence of mental illness can occur despite this, due to the experience of

acknowledge that resilience is dynamic

significant adversity, or through a person

and multi-faceted, rather than being

being disadvantaged when constructing

a static trait that is ‘predetermined’

their stress-response systems 9.

in each individual . This means that resilience is thought to be determined by a combination of both intrinsic (genes and personality) and extrinsic (environmental) factors, and the interactions between these variables 4, 5. Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

it may lead to an individual becoming

Recent models of resilience



When adversity is severe or prolonged,

HOW DOES RESILIENCE EMERGE? Intrinsic resilience (Ri) can be thought of as the component of resilience that you cannot change per se, as this component is determined largely by genetics and personality factors. This can be thought of as the ‘foundation’ of resilience (see Figure 1). This foundation can be more or less robust, depending on whether there are ‘at-risk’ genes present in the individual, or the individual has personality characteristics which may lead to a less adaptable response to stressors experienced in life. In early life, this foundation of resilience (Ri) can interact with the environment that surrounds the individual to develop ‘built’ resilience (Rb). This happens through exposure to a healthy environment and enriching experiences.

Figure 1. Components of resilience

In other words, generally being surrounded by an environment which is

Following the development of this built

Resilience is shown as being comprised

optimal for physical development (e.g.,

resilience, an individual may draw upon

of four parts (A to D). The base (red)

healthy diet, adequate physical activity,

resources gathered during this built

illustrates intrinsic resilience (Ri), which

sleep) and neurological development

resilience phase, such as a supportive

includes factors established from

(e.g., supportive environment that

environment and enriching experiences,

birth. This intrinsic resilience serves

provides a sense of security, self-worth,

to form the foundation of adaptive

as the foundation upon which further

realistic mastery and control from an

resilience (Ra). This adaptive resilience

resilience is constructed. The wall of

early age) 5, 10. Here, the intrinsic factors

draws upon these resources and allows

built resilience (Rb) is constructed on

that were laid out in the foundation

the individual to adapt and respond to

the existing foundation and comprising

may allow for a strong ‘wall’ of built

future experiences of adversity.

both internal and external factors.

resilience (Rb) to develop to protect the individual from negative consequences of future adversity. Importantly, this built resilience can occur regardless of how robust the foundation of resilience is in an individual. In other words, even if an individual may be ‘at risk’ of developing illness due to genetic or

So far, we have discussed the intrinsic factors (Ri) that lead to resilience, as well as some of the environmental factors. However, we have not yet addressed the single most significant extrinsic factor that contributes to the development of resilience – adversity.

A supportive environment allows for the development of adaptive resilience (Ra), which consists of the resources an individual acquires to be able to adapt and respond to future experiences of adversity. Finally, this system is tested through adversity (illustrated as a wave; D) which places pressure on this system

personality factors, exposing this same

of resilience. It is through this testing via

individual to an enriching and supportive

adversity that resilience is achieved.

environment will allow them to develop this ‘built’ resilience to help protect them when they are exposed to stress or adversity later in life. Pymble Ladies’ College


A new model of resilience


In our model, we have discussed how

wall in C). These changes can result

built resilience can protect us from

in instability systems that determine

Adversity is any type of stressor that can

negative impacts on adversity, like a

resilience and an individual’s response

have a negative impact on an individual

defensive wall. Here, adversity can be

to stress. In some cases, they can

and the most commonly studied types

thought of as a wave impacting on the

have negative consequences both

of adversity are childhood trauma and

wall (see Figure 2). If the adversity is too

psychologically and physiologically for

neglect, and socioeconomic adversity.

intense, lasts too long, or occurs before

the individual.

Adversity can vary in terms of type,

an individual has had an opportunity to

timing, intensity, and duration, and these

build this protective resilience, then the

can impact how and when resilience

adversity may be overwhelming and

is developed. This can be thought of

can result in negative consequences.

One way through which adversity may

as an entity that exerts a force, like a

However, if the adversity is not too

positively impact resilience is through a

wave, on the intrinsic and built resilience

intense or long-lasting, the force it

process known as tempering (see Figure

that an individual has developed. And

exerts on the wall of built resilience may

3). In general terms, tempering means

because there is so much variability in

instead have positive consequences for

“to make stronger and more resilient

the adversity that an individual may be

the individual.

through hardship” and in our model of

exposed to, this results in variability in

When the adversity is significant, it may

the ‘pressure’ exerted on the system

compromise the integrity of the wall.

of resilience that an individual has to

This may result in some damage being

hand. This variability in pressure requires

done to the wall, by a breach in the wall

corresponding changes in the resilience

(depicted as cracks and leakage in A)

of an individual to counter the impact of

and by excessive pressure (leaning of

the stress in a proportional way. Thus, in

wall in B). Alternatively, the adversity may

response to this need for strengthening,

be too severe for the stress-response

an individual draws upon their adaptive

systems to even begin to contend with

resilience (Ra) to counter the pressure

the pressure (water rushing over the

exerted by stressors.


resilience, it is thought that experiencing adversity involves the engagement of skills previously acquired to counter adversity that may otherwise have not been engaged, thus making the built resilience component stronger (see Figure 3). In other words, an individual may have built resilience, but this has not necessarily been tested per se. When adversity exerts pressure on this built resilience, in other words it

DOES THE TYPE OF ADVERSITY MATTER? There are many different types of adversity that one can experience. Essentially, adversity is any kind of significant stressor that an individual may experience, and this can occur at any point in a person’s life. Within scientific literature examining resilience, the most studied kinds of adversity include childhood abuse and neglect, which can impact the development of resilience. Importantly, adversity can vary enormously by type, intensity, and duration and these can impact on the development of resilience, including how and when it emerges.


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

Figure 2. How resilience can be impacted by variations in adversity

is testing the individual’s resilience, it allows them to engage in skills that they may have acquired but not practiced, and thus their resilience is strengthened. This is analogous to restructuring the wall of built resilience to make it more structurally sound, and although nothing is necessarily added to the wall, it is now better suited to handle the pressure of adversity. However, while tempering is useful and it may produce some immediate strengthening, it does not introduce new skillsets and may in fact make the individual’s built resilience less flexible or brittle. This is why fortification is also needed to ensure stability and strength.

Figure 3. Tempering and fortification

In our model of resilience, fortification involves the acquisition of new skills that

skills to cope with this adversity, and

serious illness. Here, the individual

are learned to reinforce the built and

their stress-response systems may have

needs to learn new skills and the stress-

tempered wall of resilience to withstand

adapted to this experience. Later, as an

response system gains new strategies

the stress of adversity. However,

adolescent, the individual experiences a

for dealing with this pressure. This is

fortification takes time as the individual

new stressor, such as bullying by peers,

what we would describe as fortification,

is acquiring new skills to cope with the

that requires the same skills utilised in

where an individual acquires additional

pressures of adversity. Thus, if intense or

their previous experience to cope and

skills that are added to their existing

prolonged adversity occurs before this

overcome this new adversity. This is

resources used to cope with adversity.

process of fortification has occurred,

what we would describe as tempering,

The combination of tempering and

and the person cannot draw upon

wherein the individual’s existing skills,

fortification is believed to aid in

previously acquired skills to temper the

which may have been dormant until

developing robust resilience and a

built resilience, the adversity may be

this time, are re-engaged due to a

stress-response system that can cope

overwhelming. It is important to note

stressor placing pressure on their

with a variety of future stressors.

that for both tempering and fortification

stress-response system. This experience

to occur, adversity must be present.

ultimately strengthens the individual’s

Therefore, in order to develop a robust

resilience, and they are able to cope and

resource of resilience, the individual

overcome this challenge.

must experience some adversity in order

This schematic diagram illustrates how tempering and fortification strategies enhance resilience in response to adversity. The ability to withstand

But there are a variety of challenges that

increasing pressure (represented by

an individual may experience that are

the dark blue arrow) requires active

As an example, an individual may have

very different by nature and require a

engagement (represented by green

experienced some adversity as a child,

new skillset to navigate and overcome.

arrow) to either employ pre-existing

such as the divorce of their parents.

So, for example, the individual may

skills (tempering (t) for use in new

This experience was stressful for the

also experience a new type of stressor

contexts (depicted by curvature in the

individual and shaped their psychosocial

that they have not experienced before,

tempered wall) to produce tempered

development. The individual developed

such as a loved one experiencing a

resilience or acquire additional skills

to trigger these processes.

Pymble Ladies’ College


A new model of resilience

Developing and fostering resilience is critical to ensuring health and prevents the development of physical and mental illnesses.

(fortification [f]; depicted by braced wall)

This model also suggests that situations

to ‘further build’ resilience culminating

or occasions in which the adversity

in fortified resilience. To enhance

experienced is excessive, can lead to

stability, the tempered wall also needs

impairment in the same stress-response

fortification (depicted by the tempered

systems which can result in negative

and fortified wall (t + f). Tempering and

impacts upon physical or mental health,

fortification ultimately repair, modify

potentially resulting in the development

and strengthen the integrity of stress-

of problems. It is important to note,

responsive systems, to produce adaptive

however, that this model does not

resilience (Ra). The intensity of adversity

suggest that mental illness and resilience

is depicted by the colour change from

are mutually exclusive, and in fact an

a lighter (low intensity) to a darker (high

individual with mental illness can still

intensity) blue colour. The duration is

possess resilience.

depicted by the wavelength, which can be intermittent, short, or prolonged.


CONCLUSIONS Developing and fostering resilience is critical to ensuring health and prevents the development of physical

Our model of resilience conceptualises

and mental illnesses. In addition, in

adversity as the catalyst that drives the

individuals that do experience these

processes leading to its development.

illnesses, resilience can assist in

Experiencing adversity places ‘pressure’

achieving recovery and preventing on an individual’s stress-response systems, recurrence of illnesses. Therefore, if and without such ‘testing’, resilience we can understand the underlying cannot be fully developed. Therefore,

processes through which resilience is

resilience is adversity-driven and is likely

established and fostered, we can begin

forged in adolescence – a time when

to develop interventions to promote

neurobiological changes are most active.

this process and ensure its completion.

References 1. Malhi GS, Das P, Bell E, et al. Modelling resilience in adolescence and adversity: A novel framework to inform research and practice. Translational Psychiatry 2019; 9. Review. DOI: 10.1038/s41398-019-0651-y. 2. Galatzer-Levy IR, Huang SH and Bonanno GA. Trajectories of resilience and dysfunction following potential trauma: A review and statistical evaluation. Clinical Psychology Review 2018; 63: 41-55. DOI: 3. Leys C, Arnal C, Wollast R, et al. Perspectives on resilience: Personality trait or skill? European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation 2018. DOI: ejtd.2018.07.002.


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

4. Rutter M. Resilience as a dynamic concept. Development and Psychopathology 2012; 24: 335-344. 2012/04/17. DOI: 10.1017/ S0954579412000028. 5. Wu G, Feder A, Cohen H, et al. Understanding resilience. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 2013; 7: 10. 10.3389/ fnbeh.2013.00010. 6. Beutel ME, Tibubos AN, Klein EM, et al. Childhood adversities and distress - The role of resilience in a representative sample. PLOS ONE 2017; 12: e0173826. DOI: 10.1371/ journal.pone.0173826. 7. McEwen BS. In pursuit of resilience: Stress, epigenetics, and brain plasticity. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2016; 1373: 56-64. DOI:

8. Ashokan A, Sivasubramanian M and Mitra R. Seeding stress resilience through inoculation. Neural Plasticity 2016; 2016: 4928081. DOI: 10.1155/2016/4928081. 9. Cecil CAM, Smith RG, Walton E, et al. Epigenetic signatures of childhood abuse and neglect: Implications for psychiatric vulnerability. Journal of Psychiatric Research 2016; 83: 184-194. DOI: https://doi. org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.09.010. 10. Shastri PC. Resilience: Building immunity in psychiatry. Indian J Psychiatry 2013; 55: 224234. DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.117134.

How my violin saved my life Sarah Turner

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on? Sarah Turner, Pymble Music teacher, explores the long-term positive effects of this mental workout THE SERIOUS AND REAL SUBJECT OF MUSIC


“Music and Maths go hand-in-hand”

Dr Anita Collins is a researcher in brain

or “Music and Languages have much

development and music learning, as

in common”. No doubt, if you are a

well as a Music educator. Anita spoke

musician, you should be good at Maths,

to the Pymble musicians during the

or so everyone will have you believe.

2021 Sydney lockdown period to

This has long been a bit of a joke in

encourage them to continue learning

my family; how can I be so good at

their instrument. Equally importantly,

Music, but not so good at Maths? I

she shared her research about what

did complete 3-Unit Maths at school

playing music does to our brain. Anita is

(now known as Extension) and my only

a colleague of mine and I have attended

answer to this conundrum is, “Imagine

many of her workshops. She, too, began

how bad I’d be if I didn’t have music!?”

a journey into neuroscience and music

I have worked in ten Music departments in schools in New South Wales and in each of those departments, when it comes to subject selection, I have encouraged students and parents to see Music as a “real” subject. Why isn’t Music seen as a serious subject? I know it’s a serious subject – I spent years perfecting my craft and it was still never perfect. How do I encourage others to view Music as a “serious and real subject”?

to dispel the theories that Music is not a serious subject. In inviting Anita to speak to Pymble’s student musicians, I wanted the girls of Pymble to know what their brain is doing when they play music and what makes their brain more powerful, or shall I say, different to people who can’t play an instrument? This is likened to a superpower they may be taking for granted.


Pymble Ladies’ College


How my violin saved my life


Anita’s research allowed her to travel

It has long been espoused that music

she worked alongside neuroscientists

is used for therapy on patients suffering

and, in her words, “got to play with

from dementia, stroke and other brain

big machines”, including: Positron

damage. Most of these patients are

Emission Tomography (PET), Computed

elderly, or at the very least, in adulthood.

Tomography (CT) and Functional

Anita became interested in how a

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

young brain can be affected by playing

scanners map the human brain. When

a musical instrument. The part of your

working with humans, neuroscientists

brain that recognises music is the oldest

discovered when music was played it

part of your brain, which is formed in

produced ‘fireworks’, which appeared in

utero. How many mums out there put

the scans. When coupled with playing

headphones over their expanding bellies

an instrument, the brain lit up like Guy

to play music to their bubs? When a baby

Fawkes night.

is born, they hear the musical phrases


of their parents’ voices. Speaking to your baby is akin to them hearing you Dr Anita Collins

sing. This is one of the explanations as to why dementia sufferers are often “reborn” when they hear music. They are using part of their brain that hasn’t been damaged, and thus are able to recall their oldest memories which are frequently ignited by music.

to Canada and the United States where

Scientists concluded the fireworks proved that brains of musicians really do look different. When a musician plays his or her instrument, three parts of a triangle are activated and begin to work together. They concluded that a musician’s brain is more effective and uses less cognitive energy.


MOTOR VISUAL Figure 1: The three parts of our brain that are used when learning music


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

Anita provoked the audience to consider

iv. The reward network (dopamine) with Dr Shinichi Suzuki, the founder of

the following questions relating to how

is activated and it, in turn,

the Suzuki method. In two short years,

our brains are being used in the context

motivates us to continue with

my brain was hardwired to play the

of music practise:

our daily tasks; and

violin and I was always learning more.

1. What do you think is happening to your brain when you are practising?

a. When we practise, messages are travelling around each of the corners (see Figure 1) and each time they travel, they are making stronger, firmer pathways.

2. What happens in your brain when you get stuck?

a. Your brain is able to predict

40-odd years later), my fingers still move

and we feel less stressed.

up and down the fingerboard, although my violin is not actually with me. This is

HOW DOES THE RESEARCH SHARED BY DR ANITA COLLINS RELATE TO MY VIOLIN quite possibly due to my sensorimotor SAVING MY LIFE? memory (the integration of motor and Here is my story and, although I wasn’t the subject of any official studies to do with musicians, I was the subject of a neuroscientists’ symposium at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, to find out

so it creates another pathway.

that changed the direction of my life.

and reaching the top note is not always achieved. Anita pointed out the brain needs rest to allow the subconscious to ponder, create and manipulate. This way, when you return to your practice, your brain has formed another

When I hear those pieces now (some

stress levels) are contained,

why I survived a medical emergency

have to play fast, scalic passages

sensory information) which is a powerful and permanent memory. I wonder how this can be explained from a brain perspective? Is it just muscle memory and is this the motor point of the triangle? Anita helps me by explaining it is to do with many things, but it is more about a sensorimotor memory which

December 29, 1989 – My Higher School

is the integration of the motor and

Certificate was complete. I was on

sensory information in a powerful and

holidays in Byron Bay with my family,

permanent way.

and 1990 was the start of a new decade and a new life. But, my turn of the decade was spent in ICU in a hospital in Southport, Queensland, having suffered a massive cerebral haemorrhage, aged 17.

My brain still sends the messages to my fingers and the muscle memory is intact. My memory (mostly) serves me well, but I still stop at the same tricky parts that perplexed me all those years ago. At the

pathway and you are able to

That afternoon, I was happily running

time, I managed to beat those passages

eventually master the difficult

around in the surf with our family

into submission to get them right. It


friends, eating and drinking, and

wasn’t always plain sailing, as I wasn’t a

‘chillaxing’ after completing 13 years of

child who was self-motivated. My mother

school. I had no idea what I was going

was the driving force behind my violin

to do with my life, but whatever it was, it

playing and always in attendance with

could wait. Music was my Plan B.

Dad at all my eisteddfods and concerts.

Growing up in Orange, I started playing

By the age of ten, the piano had become

the violin at the age of seven, learning

part of my musical journey, aiding in my

through the Suzuki Method, although

aural training, whilst hearing the bass and

my mother insisted I learn to read music

no longer just the treble.

and not be taught by ear alone.

Fast forward to 29 December 1989

I was one of a handful of students in

and my whole life shattered! I was

the Central West region of New South

paralysed down my left side. My brain

Wales, where music was not something

was bleeding and there didn’t seem to

many students had access to. By the

be a way to stop the most horrendous

age of nine, I was selected to participate

pain in my head. Jackhammers would

in a tour to Japan to receive lessons

have been delicate in comparison to

3. What is happening to your brain when you learn in an ensemble? a. All three corners of your triangle are engaged and your brain lights up with the fireworks. Five things are occurring when you play in an ensemble:

i. Language network is activated

ii. Oxytocin increases (the ‘feel good’ hormone)

v. C ortisol levels (controlling

there is a blockage coming, This can be likened to when you

iii. Empathy network is activated. Your heartbeats and body temperatures begin to synchronise (oooh, how lovely)

Pymble Ladies’ College


How my violin saved my life

Fast forward to 29 December 1989 and my whole life shattered! I was paralysed down my left side. My brain was bleeding and there didn’t seem to be a way to stop the most horrendous pain in my head.

what I was experiencing! My left side

drip and I woke up. She looked at me

was totally limp, yet I still managed to

with a real sadness in her eyes and I

speak and smile. The rules of identifying

smiled to her and said, “my pinky just

if someone has had a stroke are: FAST

moved”. It must have been early in the

(Face, Arms, Speech, Time). I had the

morning, as suddenly the whole neuro

speech, I could smile, and the only thing

team were back in checking my charts.

not really working were my arms and

I remember my neurosurgeon asking

legs. Thankfully, Mum realised I was

me if I could move anything and I told

having a stroke, but she didn’t tell me

him my pinky finger was moving after

that in case she was wrong.

I had been going through some of my

Byron Bay Hospital was a communitysized hospital and did not have the facilities to deal with neurological patients. I was sent by ambulance to a hospital in Southport, now closed. Thankfully, the neurosurgeon on duty was a lovely man, who was cautious in

in stroke patients back in the late 1980s involved working from the shoulder joint down to the fingers. I can’t find evidence of this, but that is what I was told at the time. After another CT scan and MRI, the

my CT scans and told my parents that

neurosurgeon concluded that I did not

he didn’t have a crystal ball and was not

need an operation to relieve the bleed.

sure I’d survive the night. He didn’t want

The movement of my pinky, and later,

to operate as I was young and there

my whole left hand was the reason for

was no way of not damaging my brain

not having surgery. Perhaps my brain’s

further. He decided that if there was no

motor circuitry might have reconnected

improvement by morning, they would

to allow this to happen – I don’t know

operate to ease the bleed.

why or how it happened, but it proves how impressive this organ can be.

I was knocked out on all sorts of pain

I wonder how my brain knew to move

killers and relaxants. But…I did hear it.

my fingers? Was this again the motor

I had long hair (down to my bottom) at

tip of the triangle that had, for ten years,

the time and all I could think was that

been doing super workouts when I was

I didn’t want to end up with an Annie

practising? Anita has advised it would

Lennox hairdo. It suited her, but I was

not be that simple. She said we know

a conservative, private school girl who

the motor circuitry in the brain is like a

played the violin – not a rock star!

connector across sensory and cognitive

During the night, I was in and out of consciousness but there was always

Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

physio was quite perplexed as recovery

his approach. He arrived after seeing

I wasn’t meant to hear any of this –


HSC repertoire in my head all night. The

functions, so the brain might have gone to that to try and reconnect again.

someone with me. At one point, I

I had a team of three physiotherapists

recall a nurse coming in to check my

who worked on me for many hours each

day whilst I was in hospital in Southport.

I auditioned for the Conservatorium

They were determined that a 17-year-old

of Music and was accepted to study

would have her life back. And after four

in 1991. My legs never recovered to

weeks, I was wheeled out of there and

what they once were, and you may

sent home to Orange where I would

notice I walk with a slight limp. I have

continue with my rehabilitation.

a residual scar on my brain, but it has

Given the placement of my bleed, which was just to the right of my motor strip, it was a miracle I survived. Both my neurosurgeon and physiotherapists at the time attributed this to the fact

Further reading Consider becoming part of the “Bigger Better Brains” group with Dr Anita Collins. See https://

healed well enough to not require

Bower, J., Sham, F., & Gentle,

medication. I firmly believe music is

E. (2019). Musical expertise as

what allowed me to recover and the

a consideration for post-stroke

strength and hold it has on my brain

rehabilitation: A retrospective

was what made me survive.

clinical case example. Australian Journal of Music Therapy. Vol 30.

that I had muscle strength in my fingers

This is my story and I am still regarded

and the neurons in my brain were able

as somewhat of a medical miracle. I

to pass on messages to my fingers to

don’t let my stroke define who I am,

Collins, A. (2014). How playing an

move. Although this was anecdotal at

but rather I let the music aspect of

instrument benefits your brain.

the time, there is some evidence now

my life define my ability to overcome

Available online https://www.ted.

about the neural pathways and how the

adversities I face.


brain can find those pathways again. Having just completed my HSC, I had prepared eight pieces for my final performance exam. It was still so recent and those pieces continued buzzing around in my brain, enabling the messages to be passed down to my fingers to start working again. My brain was retracing and reawakening sensorimotor pathways, allowing me to provide my own rehabilitation in

LEARNING FROM RESEARCH Welcoming Dr Anita Collins into our ensemble program to teach us about music and its effects on our brains helped me to understand how I was able to survive my stroke. She also awakened me to the fact that I share an ability to synchronise parts of my brain to create and restore neural pathways that non-musicians don’t have.

movement. I recall going through

Music is a serious subject. It is a

one of my slower pieces (the second

subject that allows creativity, empathy,

movement of the Mendelssohn violin

numeracy and literacy to all work

concerto) to get my fingers moving.

simultaneously – no other subject can

I ended up taking a year off and my

do this!

pp. 2-11.

playing_an_instrument_benefits_ your_brain. Grau-Sánchez, J., Münte, T.F., Altenmüller, E., Duarte, E., & Rodríguez-Fornells, A. (2020). Potential benefits of music playing in stroke upper limb motor rehabilitation. Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews. Vol. 112, pp. 585-599. Page, S.J., Gater, D.R., & Bach-yRita, P. (2004). Reconsidering the motor recovery plateau in stroke rehabilitation. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Vol. 85, pp. 1377-81.

Headmaster, Dr Bill McKeith, at my old school, PLC Sydney, employed me to help with my rehabilitation. I continued with my violin lessons and my Plan B came to fruition. Midway through 1990,

Pymble Ladies’ College


Stories of trauma: How can we approach ‘dark content’ in schools? Kieran Dale-O’Connor Inquiry Learning Leader, Conde Library

BACKGROUND Several years ago, while I was working at a secondary school in New Zealand, I chose to teach The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath to my Year 13 (final year) English class. It is a novel that is reasonably popular across the country in senior English classrooms, and I felt encouraged by the engaging class discussions and the strong insights that the novel provoked. I was eager to teach it again after some decidedly muted enthusiasm from students for previous book choices. However, at the end of the term I was

confidence, or anonymously, if they were uncomfortable with starting the novel, or continuing once they had started. I provided the opportunity for the class to vote on several novels and choose which one they wanted to study. The Bell Jar was the overwhelming favourite. Only one student in the class opted to study alternative material (he stayed in the class, and I relied heavily on small group work so that he was not exposed to the ideas and content of the novel). I was surprised to hear that my colleague

who had a firm request: please, don’t

thought the book should not be taught,

teach that novel again. Sadly, but not

ever. She went on to suggest that

altogether unsurprisingly, the novel had

teachers should strive only to teach

resonated strongly with some of the

material that was life affirming. It is a

students in the class. I was aware of this;

premise that I find enticing – the thought

several students had confided in me

of delving only into content that is

that the novel was powerful precisely

‘light’ – uplifting, and affirming – is a

because of this resonance. It made them

comforting one. Even if we were to forgo

feel, as they said, like they were not the

teaching some of the most challenging

only ones to feel the way they did.

material, such as The Bell Jar, the reality

introducing the material in The Bell Jar. I spoke to the class before they had laid eyes on the book and gave them content warnings (something discussed later in this article) about what they would encounter (which, in the case of this novel, covered a significant amount of traumatic material). I made it very clear that no one would be made to study the novel, that alternative texts and Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

chose, and that they could tell me in

approached by a counsellor colleague

I was not, I believe, unprepared


topics were available to study if they so

of only ever teaching life-affirming content is potentially problematic if it means that we cannot confront some of the most pressing and urgent issues our society faces. Assuming that we cannot totally avoid content that is dark, traumatic, or upsetting, this article seeks to investigate what the growing body of literature says about traumatic and dark content in the classroom, and what practices teachers should be considering when dealing with such material.



I wish to consider the parameters of this

In the existing body of literature that

discussion. While I have a background

considers traumatic material in the

as an English teacher and teacher

classroom there are, broadly speaking,

librarian, and I have a particular interest

two schools of thought. The first includes

in how fiction with traumatic content

some teachers of writing, literature, and

can be managed, the theories and

social sciences, who believe that there is

strategies discussed throughout are

something intrinsically cathartic, healing,

not specific to any one learning area.

enlightening, or otherwise necessary

As well, this article refers to trauma,

about teaching traumatic material in the

traumatic experiences, and traumatic

classroom. Also included in this group

content in terms that are relatively broad.

are teachers who believe that traumatic

While some terms relating to trauma

content is part of life, and therefore

have strict psychological criteria, this

believe we are coddling adolescents by

article attempts to include the broadest

not exposing them to traumatic material.

category of material and content that might be considered traumatic. This is, in part, because we might assume that the majority of people have histories of trauma. These trauma histories could be caused by a range of experiences ranging from the impact of bushfires, to the impact of the pandemic, to personal loss and grief. One metaanalysis suggests that the rate of PTSD in university students is 9 to 12 per cent, whereas 66 to 85 per cent have trauma histories (Carello and Butler, 2014, p. 153). The most common reported traumatic events young people are exposed to are

I have a particular interest in how fiction with traumatic content can be managed, the theories and strategies discussed throughout are not specific to any one learning area.

There is an extensive body of literature about the efficacy of bibliotherapy in addressing anything from COVID-19 anxiety (Monroy-Fraustro et. al., 2021) to improving students’ confidence in studying STEM (Furner, 2017), to supporting and empowering LGBTQIA adolescents (Vare and Norton, 2004). However, extending the strategies of bibliotherapy and writing therapy to focus on deeply traumatic content in the classroom is problematic, especially for those without training in counselling or psychotherapy.

life-threatening illness or the death of a

Some more concerning examples

loved one (Carello and Butler, 2014, p.

of those who seek to use traumatic

157). We would do well to consider that

material as a kind of therapy include

the majority of people have a history of

university instructors who ask that

trauma, and that the experiences and

their students write about personal

triggers for each will vary wildly. Even

experiences of sexual assault (Linder,

for those that do not have a personal

2004; Berman, 2001). While some

history of trauma, studies have shown

individuals may find catharsis and

that highly empathetic people may also

therapy in writing about personal

be at risk for secondary traumatic stress

traumas, feeling compelled to do so

after being exposed to traumatic material

by a lecturer is not safe or productive.

(Cless and Nelson Goff, 2017, p. 25). The

While both authors acknowledge the

pervasiveness of trauma exposure means

problems inherent in assigning such a

that it must always be a consideration

task, Berman suggests that such tasks

for teachers in their practice and for the

are a form of exposure therapy

content they deliver. Pymble Ladies’ College


How can we approach ‘dark content’ in schools?

analogous to a vaccine, and that “some

pain and foster healing (Moore and

they remind us that some of those in

classroom assignments and texts may

Begoray, 2017, p. 175), we are entering

our classes have histories of trauma,

induce symptoms not unlike those

perilous territory and the risk of re-

and some content will inevitably be

experienced when receiving a flu

traumatisation is high. While ignoring

traumatic, so it is incumbent on us to

vaccination” (Berman, 2001, p. 251).

and suppressing any content relating to

be prepared with trauma-informed

Another author describes an instance

trauma in the classroom could possibly

practices and knowledge.

where he, not wanting to “numb”

risk perpetuating shame, stigma and

student engagement by “forecasting”

secrecy relating to trauma histories

difficult material, unwittingly triggered

(Carello and Butler, 2014, p. 155), forcing

a severe reaction in one of his students

students to contend with their deepest

by exposing the class to graphic

traumas in an attempt to ‘heal’ them is

and shocking scenes of a car crash

reckless, to say the least. We need to be

(Wolfsdorf et. al., 2019, p. 201). The

extremely cautious and prepared if we

student, it turned out, had several recent

are to introduce traumatic content.

adverse experiences and tragedies involving car accidents and had a panicked response when unwittingly

The second of the two schools of

exposed to such explicit material.

thought regarding traumatic content

Such practices are not limited to

in the classroom encompasses what

university classrooms, however. Amber

we could broadly refer to as advocates

Moore, a secondary school teacher,

for trauma-informed theory. To be

describes how a novel study, which

trauma-informed “is to understand

included a specific focus on sexual

how violence, victimisation, and other

assault narratives, generated “angry

traumatic experiences may have figured

and aggressive responses” from her

in the lives of the individuals involved

students which was evidence of the

and to apply that understanding to the

“personal impact literature had on them”

provision of services and the design of

(Moore and Begoray, 2017, p. 178). Such

systems so that they accommodate

findings, she suggests, “demonstrate

the needs and vulnerabilities of trauma

the value of teaching trauma literature”

survivors” (Carello and Butler, 2014, p.

(Moore and Begoray, 2017, p. 179).

156). In the available literature, advocates

This begs the question about what exactly the “value” of teaching trauma literature (or traumatic content) is. If, like Wolfsdorf, we have a belief in the Aristotelian theory of emotional shock and catharsis derived through literature (Wolfsdorf et al., 2019, p. 201), and we believe that the truest, most insightful learning and analysis will come from material that shocks, confronts and confounds, then perhaps there is true value in teaching traumatic content. However, if we believe that the value of teaching traumatic content is to express 20


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

for trauma-informed practice include psychologists and social workers and, as a result, tend to take more nuanced views on the utility of traumatic content in the classroom than the educators discussed above. There is some literature that talks about the utility of traumatic material in higher education social work programs, or university level creative writing programs. There is very little empirical research and literature from psychologists regarding the utility or value of traumatic material in the secondary school classroom. Instead,

There is a growing body of literature about what trauma-informed pedagogies and practices may look like in our classrooms. Perry and Daniels (2016) examine the implementation of trauma-informed practices in a pilot school in New Haven and provide recommendations for the implementation of such practices in other schools. Sarah Herzog, responding to the practices of Wolfsdorf (discussed above) suggests ways in which potentially traumatic content can be managed with content and trigger warnings (Wolfsdorf et. al., 2019). Cless and Nelson Goff (2017) introduce a trauma-informed model for covering traumatic content in the classroom, albeit in the context of a trauma studies program where traumatic material is not only expected, but a fundamental component of learning. Brunzell, Waters and Stokes (2015) discuss a combined model of trauma-informed practices working in tandem with a Positive Education model (practices including “mindfulness, character strengths, positive emotion, resilience, hope, and growth mindset” [Brunzell et. al., 2015, p. 601), and how this model was implemented in a pilot school in Victoria, Australia. Brunzell and Norrish (2021) develop this model more fully in a recently published book which takes lessons from case studies and provides strategies for introducing traumainformed and strengths-based strategies into schools.


don’t want to ‘out’ themselves as being

classrooms (Carello and Butler, 2014,

affected or overwhelmed by a particular

p. 155). While there are ethnographic

Carello and Butler (2014, p. 163-164)

issue (Wolfsdorf et. al., 2019, p. 212).

studies focusing on teacher practice

offer a number of steps that we might

Instead, a trauma-informed approach

(Moore and Beogray, 2017; Walters

consider when we think about what

could mean that students have advance

and Anderson, 2021; Linder, 2004), it is

trauma-informed practice might mean

warnings about potentially traumatic

important that empirical research is done

for our classrooms. The following

material (that is to say, not immediately

to understand the impact and utility of

excerpts are taken from their article (p.

before the material is presented),

traumatic material in secondary schools.


and they are empowered to make

a) Identify learning as the primary goal,

choices that help them to manage


their reactions, even if this means that

In the years since I taught The Bell Jar,

they temporarily step out of a lesson

I have grappled with the suggestion

(Wolfsdorf et. al., 2019, p. 213). We must

that it should not be taught in schools.

b) Recognise that many students have

ensure that students have a sense of

I am under no illusion that depictions

trauma histories that may make

agency and empowerment, and that

of suicidality, self-harm and gendered

them vulnerable;

they feel a sense of control about when

violence make reading novels such

they are exposed to traumatic content.

as The Bell Jar difficult for some, and

and student emotional safety as a necessary condition for it;

c) Be prepared to provide referrals to your institution’s counselling service; d) Appreciate how a trauma history may impact your students’ academic performance, even without trauma being a topic in the classroom;


impossible for others. Considering the unique place it holds in the canon of women’s literature, and the feminist

It is pleasing to see the proliferation of

discourse central to the novel, it would be workshops that aim to equip practitioners unfortunate if it no longer had any place with the skills and knowledge of trauma- in schools. Women and girls are more informed practice. Organisations such

likely to be victims of sexual and domestic

as the Blue Knot Foundation offer

violence, and victim-centred depictions

workshops for those wishing to learn

of sexual and domestic violence are often

more about trauma-informed theory,

found in women’s literature. Removing

literature on traumatic transference

and, as of 2019, the NSW Department

representations of sexual and domestic

… to better understand your

of Education has been delivering a pilot

violence (under the guise of removing

students’ and your own reactions

program for professional development of

trauma-stories) risks silencing the voices

to traumatic material;

trauma-informed practice in education.

of those impacted by gendered violence.

Trauma-informed practice has been

Indeed, it does seem that many examples

significant for social workers, refugee

of great women’s literature commonly

support workers and those supporting

taught in secondary schools (Beloved,

victims of sexual and domestic violence.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,

It is positive that this work is being

The Handmaid’s Tale, The Color Purple,

undertaken by the NSW Department of

Black Water) contain traumatic material,

Education to increase the knowledge

particularly depictions of sexual and

In considering the point that student

and skills of teachers in this area. In

domestic violence. In turn, we ought

emotional safety is necessary for

parallel to this, it would be intriguing to

to consider whether any attempt

learning, we might think about the

see further research done on teachers’

to do away with traumatic literature

value of content warnings before any

beliefs and practices regarding traumatic

might disproportionally affect literature

traumatic material. While warnings

content in the classroom. There is a

telling stories of women’s lives. This is

might be content-specific (i.e., “this

lack of empirical research regarding the

concerning when there is already so little

material depicts sexual violence”) such

extent and effects (positive or negative)

attention on women’s literature in

specificity could isolate those who

of traumatic material in secondary school

e) Become familiar with the scientific research on trauma; f) Become familiar with the clinical

g) Understand the limitations and potential pitfalls of generalising laboratory research to other contexts; and, h) Check any assumptions that trauma is good (or even romantic).

Pymble Ladies’ College


How can we approach ‘dark content’ in schools?

Australian classrooms; only two of the 15 most commonly taught novels in Australian schools are written by women (Davies, 2019). When women’s literature is perilously under-represented in many Australian classrooms, it is a shame to think of what stories and voices may be lost. It is also true that young people are exposed to a wide range of traumatic content in the media that they consume outside of school. The same year that I taught The Bell Jar, one of the more popular shows viewed by younger audiences was 13 Reasons Why (rated MA15+ in Australia). Arguably, this show had far more problematic depictions of suicidality than The Bell Jar, and yet many young people who viewed the series would do so without adult guidance or space to talk through the ideas that the show presented. When students told me that the experiences of Esther Greenwood resonated strongly with them, I could empathise with the feelings that had while also offering suggestions for further support services they may want to consider. If we completely evade difficult topics in the classroom, we may inadvertently perpetuate the silencing and repression of some trauma (Wolfsdorf et. al., 2019, p. 213). However, if we are incautious in how we approach traumatic material we risk doing significant harm. Whether we accept the invitation to only teach that which is life-affirming, or if we believe that teaching traumatic content is essential if we are to confront the most significant problems in our society, we still must acknowledge that the safety and empowerment of our students is paramount. While studying traumatic material may be important for learning, no learning can take place if someone feels traumatised. 22

Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

References Brunzell, T., & Norrish, J. (2021). Creating trauma-informed, strengths-based classrooms: Teacher strategies for nurturing students’ healing, growth, and learning. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Brunzell, T., Stokes, H., & Waters, L. (2019). Shifting teacher practice in trauma-affected classrooms: Practice pedagogy strategies within a trauma-informed Positive Education Model. School Mental Health, 11(3), 600–614. Brunzell, T., Waters, L., & Stokes, H. (2015). Teaching with strengths in trauma-affected students: A new approach to healing and growth in the classroom. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 85(1), 3–9. Carello, J., & Butler, L. D. (2014). Potentially perilous pedagogies: Teaching trauma is not the same as trauma-informed teaching. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 15(2), 153–168. 15299732.2014.867571. Cless, J. D., & Nelson Goff, B. S. (2017). Teaching trauma: A model for introducing traumatic materials in the classroom. Advances in Social Work, 18(1), 25–38. Conley, S., Ferguson, A., & Kumbier, A. (2019). Supporting students with histories of trauma in libraries: A collaboration of accessibility and library services. Library Trends, 67(3), 526–549. https://doi. org/10.1353/lib.2019.0001. Davies, L. M. (2019). Old white men dominate school English booklists. It’s time more Australian schools taught Australian books. The Conversation. Dickman-Burnett, V.L., & Geaman, M. (2019). Untangling the trigger-warning debate: Curating a complete toolkit for compassionate praxis in the classroom. Journal of Thought, 53(3/4), 35–52. Dutro, E. (2017). Research & policy: Let’s start with heartbreak. The perilous potential of trauma in literacy. Language Arts, 94(5), 13. Furner, J. M. (2017). Helping all students become Einstein’s using bibliotherapy when teaching mathematics to prepare students for a STEM world. Pedagogical Research, 2(1). https://doi. org/10.20897/pedre.201701. Johnston, E. R. (2014). Trauma theory as activist pedagogy: Engaging students as readerwitnesses of colonial trauma in Once Were Warriors. Antipodes, 28(1), 5. antipodes.28.1.0005. Lindner, V. (2004). The tale of two Bethanies: Trauma in the creative writing class. New Writing, 1(1), 6–14. Monroy-Fraustro, D., Maldonado-Castellanos, I., Aboites-Molina, M., Rodríguez, S., Sueiras, P., Altamirano-Bustamante, N. F., de Hoyos-Bermea, A., & Altamirano-Bustamante, M. M. (2021). Bibliotherapy as a non-pharmaceutical intervention to enhance mental health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: a mixed-methods systematic review and bioethical meta-analysis. Frontiers in Public Health, 9, 42. Moore, A., & Begoray, D. (2017). “The last block of ice”: Trauma literature in the high school classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 61(2), 173–181. NSW Department of Education. (2020, April 6). Trauma-informed practice professional development pilot. NSW Department of Education. Perry, D. L., & Daniels, M. L. (2016). Implementing trauma—informed practices in the school setting: A pilot study. School Mental Health, 8(1), 177–188. Storla, K. (2017). Beyond trigger warnings: handling traumatic topics in classroom discussion. In E. J. M. Knox (Ed.), Trigger warnings: History, theory, context. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Vare, J. W., & Norton, T. L. (2004). Bibliotherapy for gay and lesbian youth overcoming the structure of silence. Clearing House, 77(5), 190–194. Walters, S., & Anderson, A. B. (2021). Teaching while traumatized: An autoethnographic account of teaching, triggers, and the higher education classroom. Teaching in Higher Education, 1–15. Wolfsdorf, A., Scott, A., & Herzog, S. (2019). What happened on July 21st: An investigation of trauma and trigger warnings in the English classroom. Changing English, 26(2), 198–215. 80/1358684X.2018.1552514.

Healthy rites of passage and safeguarding the wellbeing of students at Pymble Dr Arne Rubinstein Rites of Passage Institute

The Rites of Passage Institute has been working with Pymble since 2020 to implement programs that safeguard the wellbeing of students and supports each student through a Continuum of Care. THERE ARE TWO KEY AIMS OF THIS PARTNERSHIP:

Furthermore, research from the Black

1. To build strong healthy

than 40 per cent of Year 12 students

Dog Institute (2021) outlines that more

communities at the College that

report symptoms of anxiety and

include parents and staff, as well

depression higher than the normal

as students

range for their age group. The burden

2. To find ways to celebrate and

of serious mental health illness is borne

support students as they go

more heavily by young females than

through key transitional times at

males. Furthermore, this research shows

the College

that students at greater risk of mental

There is an increasing concern around the rise of mental health issues, especially amongst teenage girls.

health issues are more likely to seek help from the internet than from parents and health care professionals.

Beyond Blue (2021) reports that almost

The work we are doing together aims

one-fifth of all young people aged 11

to address these key issues and give the

to 17 years, experience high or very

students long term benefits by:

high levels of psychological distress.

• Creating a strong sense of belonging

Additionally, 19.9 per cent of all young

• Teaching key 21st century life skills

people (11 to 17 years) had high or very high levels of psychological distress in the previous 12 months, however, for females aged 16 to 17 years and young people with major depressive disorder, this was significantly higher (36.2 per

• Providing a safe environment, physically and emotionally • Helping students become aware of their gifts and talents, their genius and spirit.

cent and 80.7 per cent respectively).

Pymble Ladies’ College


Safeguarding the wellbeing of students at Pymble

Research from the National University

shift towards building a deeper sense

of Singapore, the Future Ready Report

of community among staff, students

(2017) shows that final academic

and parents, and creating a truly safe

outcomes are not the sole major

space for the students to deeply thrive.

determinant of a student’s future

With this shift, the environment creates

success. 21st Century life skills including

a sense of belonging and trust for

resilience, a growth mindset, emotional

the students, helps them access their

intelligence and having a purpose

unique gifts and talents, and teaches

beyond self are increasingly relevant.

them key 21st century life skills to equip

With the rapidly increasing impact of

them for life after school. Part of the

technology and artificial intelligence,

process involves creating opportunities

human qualities are what will

for students to review their personal

differentiate those who can truly thrive

narratives and identify parts that are no

in the future.

longer appropriate, such as behaviours

In this article, we are going to discuss why healthy rites of passage processes are critical in addressing these growing concerns for our girls. We will also

outcome is to provide safe, accessible opportunities for students to seek help in times of need.

provide an outline of the research into

During 2021, the theme has been

the roles that educational institutions and

‘Sharing our Stories, and Golden Check-

school communities play in supporting

ins’. By threading the Rites of Passage

these processes, as well as research

framework into the existing wellbeing

backed context on the therapeutic

curriculum and creating opportunities to

benefits of vulnerable story sharing.

highlight some key milestone moments in students’ journeys, we are able to go

Open invitation


We would like to offer an open

Pymble Ladies’ College and the Rites

strengthen their sense of self, discover

invitation to Illuminate readers

of Passage Institute have been working

their potential, build resilience and

to enjoy free access to our best

together to implement key practices

create healthy relationships. This theme

selling six-part online program:

into the College culture. The purpose

will continue to be built upon as the

A Journey Into Rites of Passage

behind this partnership, and integrating

various practices across the College

if you would like to deepen your

these practices into the everyday setting, become embedded and embodied.

understanding of the work. Please

is to allow for a gradual and sustainable

use the following coupon code: PYMBLE_ACCESS when you register so that there is no charge.


that no longer serve them. Another key

Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

deeper into supporting the students to




Rites of passage are designed to

The Transformation stage of a Rite of

Creating healthy and safe opportunities

celebrate and support key transition

Passage has four key elements:

for challenges are a great way for

moments in a person’s life. They consist

• Storytelling

students to try new things. They can push

of three key stages: • Separation from day-to-day life • Transformation through personal growth

• Appropriate Challenges • Creating a Vision • Honouring and recognising each individual for their gifts and talents.

• Integration back into the community.


boundaries, build resilience and a sense of self-efficacy and confidence, they can learn resilience, find courage and work together with other people. Young people want and need challenges, and even if they struggle and don’t appear to be enjoying it at the time, the sense of

Many teenagers don’t appreciate being

School camps are ideal for students to

achievement and satisfaction afterwards

lectured at, told how to act, what to

have time out from normal activities and

is very important. Every student is different

do or how to think. Storytelling is an

to create Rites of Passage. The purchase

and the challenge for the facilitator is to

alternative means for communicating

of Vision Valley has given the College a

make sure that each student completes

wisdom, teachings and lessons that

perfect venue for this work and creates

the challenge safely and gets the most

offers teenagers an opportunity to learn

multiple, exciting opportunities.

out of it. However, the actual challenge is

without the adult coming across as

just the beginning. It’s what the students

The staff and teachers have been

dogmatic, preachy or controlling.

learn about themselves and are able to

looking for creative ways to build the

Stories are storehouses of information

take into their future lives that is the really

framework into an online setting and

with many layers of learning and

valuable opportunity.

have been focusing more deeply on the

messages that sit within them. Stories

story telling component for 2021. Heads

allow for multiple interpretations, offering


of Schools are exploring ways to mark

participants the freedom to choose

Making the space to create a vision for

key transition moments, such as moving

what they take away from the story. We

the future is a powerful way for students

from one sub-school to the next,

need to create the right environment

to consciously think about how they

welcoming in new joiners or Boarders,

for students to explore and understand

want to be at the next stage of their lives.

transitioning students into leadership

more about their own personal narratives

It is an opportunity for them to think

years and honouring birthdays. What

so that they have agency into the future.

about what they want to bring into their

would have been created in the camp

Otherwise, the risk is that their lives

lives, what sort of things they want to be

setting, is also being created within

will be impacted by incorrect beliefs

doing, and how they want to be in key

the everyday school setting. As the

that not only stop them from reaching

life relationships with family, friends and

world shifts towards a post-COVID

their potential, but also cause them to

future partners. It is also an opportunity

environment, we aim to create many

make unhealthy life choices with long

for students to identify behaviours they

more in-person events, where we can

term consequences. Participant sharing

have that they are ready to let go of, and

experientially design Rites of Passage

allows people to identify shared values,

which no longer serve them, as well as

opportunities in which students and

experiences and commonalities, which

starting to identify what they are going

families can engage.

cultivates empathy in the listener –

to need to do in order to achieve the

ultimately strengthening relationships and vision that they have created. This creates a healthy, positive mindset of how the a sense of belonging within the group. student would like to move forward.

Pymble Ladies’ College


Safeguarding the wellbeing of students at Pymble




An honouring process is a way of recognising and acknowledging the unique gifts and talents of each student. It is a process whereby each girl is recognised by either parents, staff or peers and that gives her the opportunity to hear from others what they see in her, what they admire in her, what they

Many teenagers don’t appreciate being lectured at, told how to act, what to do or how to think. Storytelling is an alternative means for communicating wisdom, teachings and lessons that offers them an opportunity to learn without coming across as dogmatic, preachy or controlling. Throughout history, the use of

A common issue amongst teenagers

circles and storytelling as a method

is the stigma associated with emotions

of communicating respectfully and

and vulnerability. A student may have

meaningfully has been utilised by

been told that sharing emotions or

Being deeply seen and appreciated is a

many traditions and cultures. Until the

vulnerability is a sign of weakness

core need of human beings, and when

beginning of recorded history, a mere

and, therefore, this student may

this is done well and with intentionality,

3,000 years ago, stories were shared

be experiencing serious emotional

the experience and energy has the

exclusively via verbal means. In recent

challenges that they are not sharing with

ability to uplift the whole community. In

times, stories have moved from oral,

anyone. Despite an external appearance

today’s world of social media challenges

to written and now into visual media,

of everything being ok, this student

and the modern pressures on our youth

especially in Western culture.

may be at significant risk of a serious

are proud of about her and what they love about her. Honouring is a powerful tool that can have a life-changing effect.

and families, the requirement to return to recognition and appreciation has never been more paramount. Through the Rites of Passage framework, we bring back this memory and practice, and elevate one another and the community in deeply meaningful ways.

We need to create the right environment for students to explore and understand more about their own stories or personal narratives so that they have agency into the future. Otherwise, the risk is that their lives will

Emotional vulnerability is characterised as not only beneficial but fundamentally necessary to facilitate the opportunity for individuals to explore their multistoried lives (Fook, 2016).

be impacted by incorrect beliefs that

All young people (and people of all


not only stop them from reaching their

ages) have a narrative that determines

potential, but also cause them to make

their actions, beliefs and values. This

The Integration stage of a Rite of

unhealthy life choices with long term

narrative has been created as they have

Passage can be the most difficult, but –

consequences. In a study conducted by grown up from their experience in family,

in many ways – is the most important.

Ohlmann and Kwee (2014), participants

school, with friends and through cultural

Once the students have participated

connected through their shared

influences including technology and

in an event such as a school camp or

stories, which normalised experiences

social media. Some of this narrative will

have taken part in a weekly or monthly

that previously had been described

be healthy but there will also be parts

practice within their peer or Compass

as isolating. These stories were no

that are genuinely unhealthy, having

Group, a key outcome to be realised is

longer characterised as vulnerable,

arisen out of inappropriate experiences

that they have not only learnt through

but instead as an expressed source of

and will lead to inappropriate behaviours.

the experience that they have had, but

felt wisdom and emotional strength.

that they understand how to bring this

The transformation of narratives

learning and positive benefit back out

from vulnerability into a source of felt

into their lives moving forward.

resilience was enabled in part through the bonds of trust established early on within the group.


mental health issue or even self-harm.

Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

An example of a ‘healthy narrative’ may be that a student who learns through one of their parents that everything has a solution or a ‘silver lining’, goes on to see challenges in

If, on their return, nothing changes or nobody at home or school is aware of a positive way, learns from them and

The practice of externalising problems

is generally optimistic about life.

from people is not a therapeutic skill.

This student has a critical 21st century

Rather it is an ethical choice that ensures

life skill that will support their resilience

problems are firmly separated outside

as well as their ability to function in

of individuals and instead placed in

difficult and changing environments.

the realm of culture (Williams and

An example of an ‘unhealthy narrative’ may be that a student who, despite actually being highly capable, received a message when they were young from a parent, or teacher or even friends, that they always got things wrong. This

Baumgartner, 2014). Circles create spaces

allowing their internal challenges to be

can range from organising a special

received and held by the group.

welcome home dinner on the student’s

within the College. As the students learnt

keep them from growing and their self-

to trust in the safe space, and learn

worth could become dangerously low

from one another, the opportunity to

during their teenage years and beyond.

genuinely support the students on their

sense of belonging within the group. Storytelling and narrative practice creates the experience of witnessing one’s problems as external from oneself.

point of the activity.

benefits on offer. Integration activities

are at great risk of making choices that

strengthening relationships and a

demotivated and wonder about the

well as listen attentively to others, thereby

things, especially in front of others. They set up and hold safe Circles is embedded

empathy in the listener ultimately

to where they were before and become

are integrated in order to truly gain the

Pymble staff have attended, the ability to

and commonalities, which cultivates

danger that the student may slip back

feelings, experiences and vulnerability, as

extreme anxiety around doing new

to identify shared values, experiences,

them the same as they were, there is a

It is critical that the lessons and insights

Through the in-depth training that the

storytelling scenario, people are able

them, and everyone goes on to treat

where students are able to express their

student may have low self-esteem and

When participating in a circle and

the shifts that may have taken place for

journey becomes more available to the staff. Additionally, as we transition into a post-COVID world, and we are able to connect more in person, opportunities for parents to participate in this ancient tradition will become available, and the integration of this tool into homes becomes easily accessible for all. The power, potency and magic of Circles and Storytelling can work its way through all layers of the community.


return and setting up intentional time for them to share their stories and learnings. Perhaps the family can collectively create a vision together or write letters to their future self that are taken out a few weeks or months later? Perhaps a follow-up call or gathering to allow for the students to share their stories of what has been different for them since their experience? Or privileges and responsibilities shift in alignment with the growing young adult or child? Bringing intentionality to the students’ return and supporting them by meeting them in their growth phase and shifting the dynamic within the family or environment to honour the process, creates the right environment for the learnings to take deep root.


Fook, J. (2016), Social work: A critical approach to practice. Sage Publications: London. Ohlmann, C., Kwee, J., & Lees, R., (2014). Listening for the voices of resilience: A group of adolescents’ experiences with a suicide prevention education program. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies. 5. 24-46. Williams, B.D., & Baumgartner, B. (2014). Standing on the shoulders of giants: Narrative practices in support of frontline community work with homelessness. Mental health and substance use. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies 5(2), p. 240–257.

Research conducted with Pymble’s parent community by MMG Education showed that a focus on student wellbeing was just as important as the quality of teaching when it came to the reason parents chose the school.

Pymble Ladies’ College


Safeguarding the wellbeing of students at Pymble

Pymble Ladies’ College has proactively and boldly responded to the growing volatility that is the world that our children are growing up in.

Outside of the immediate environment

Through developing these qualities,

and support offered to youth by

Pymble can take intentional action

families and home life, schools provide

toward ensuring their learning

the primary source of environmental

environments are genuinely safe

protective conditions available to

spaces that enable the establishment of

youth (Henderson, 2012). Educational

communal bonds.

institutions are the primary space for acculturation experienced by youth as they shift towards utilising peers, rather than family, as the main source of social interaction (Lynch et. al., 2013). Therefore, the perceived health of the community within an academic environment has a direct impact on the success and wellbeing experienced by youth.

Youth who perceive their teachers as supportive and respectful have been shown to have positive opinions of their overall school environment (Lynch et. al., 2013). The causal relationship between established social bonds and student participation further applies to the relationship established between students and faculty. Students experience better outcomes when they feel

When youth see their environments as

supported by school faculty. This is

safe and welcoming, they are inclined

highlighted through the role teachers

to invest within established norms

hold in fostering student resiliency. The

of pro-social interaction. While in

establishment of caring relationships

contrast, students who see their school

between faculty and students positively

environments as unwelcoming, or even

affects the holistic wellbeing experienced

dangerous, are more likely to disengage

by an entire student population.

as a direct result of the weak social bonds (Lynch et. al., 2013). Cultivating a strong and close community within a school setting which is aligned with the work the school is embarking on to meet the needs of the whole child is a critical component of ensuring the students have a deep sense of belonging and trust within their worlds.

However, it has been illustrated that the benefits of these caring relationships are best maintained when schools make a conscious investment in the supportive roles teachers play in the lives of their students (Henderson, 2013). Pymble Ladies’ College has demonstrated its deep commitment to investing in the cultivation of these

Schools that cultivate a positive social

relationships by engaging the Rites of

ecology consistently produce better

Passage Institute to assist in building the

academic and social outcomes

framework into the College’s Mind Body

(Henderson, 2012). Some of the key

Spirit curriculum. Through the various

elements include feeling safe, having

trainings that have been experienced

access to supportive relationships,

by all the staff and teachers, as well as a

meaningful membership within

range of keynotes, tools and resources

the school community, clear rules/

that are available to parents, Pymble is

boundaries, and an inherent ethos of

deepening into the integration of these

caring for one another.

practices and will be able to identify the benefits in due course.


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

This will continue to allow for the

Academic institutions are best situated

culture and community of Pymble to

to improve overall outcomes through

deepen, and to safeguard the wellbeing

the provision of not only the required

of our youth. Research has identified

academic framework, but also through

that outside of the family, teachers

the opportunity to create the space for

and coaches are often identified as the

emotional intelligence development.

primary source of positive adult support

This can be achieved through the

(Theron & Engelbrecht, 2012) . Through

implementation of Circles where

investing in teacher-student relationships,

students can learn from one another by

schools take an active role in shaping the

sharing their stories within the context

social ecosystems embedded within their of narrative practice. institutions. The relationships cultivated within schools on an institutional


level are of critical importance in

Pymble Ladies’ College has proactively

the development of youth as they

and boldly responded to the growing

transition toward adulthood. By creating

volatility that is the world that our

structured spaces such as Story Circles

children are growing up in. By engaging

and camps at Vision Valley, Pymble is

with the Rites of Passage Institute,

providing an opportunity to cultivate

and training the community on these

collective resiliency where students are

simple and yet effective techniques

empowered to build positive communal

and practices, the school is proactively

bonds. Structured peer interaction can

responding to the importance of raising

facilitate the development of emotional

the whole child through the schooling

growth, which contributes toward

journey. As the journey together

improved academic outcomes (Lynch et.

continues to deepen over the coming

al., 2013).

years, and parents, staff and teachers

The importance of providing support for all forms of learning is reflected in current research on emotional intelligence and its correlation to overall

3. research-areas/youth-mental-health/ 4. Henderson, N. (2012). Resilience in schools and curriculum design. In The social ecology of resilience (pp. 297-306). Springer, New York, NY. 5. Lynch, A. D., Lerner, R. M., & Leventhal, T. (2013). Adolescent academic achievement and school engagement: An examination of the role of school-wide peer culture. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(1), 6-19. 6. Theron, L. C., & Engelbrecht, P. (2012). Caring teachers: Teacher–youth transactions to promote resilience. In The social ecology of resilience (pp. 265-280). Springer, New York, NY. 7. MacCann, C., Jiang, Y., Brown, L. E. R., Double, K. S., Bucich, M., & Minbashian, A. (2020). Emotional intelligence predicts academic performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 146(2), 150-186.

realisation of the benefits as outlined within this article will be experienced. When done well, and done together, we can transform the lives of our

who are given the opportunity to

youth, bringing back the meaning of

develop attributes related to emotional

community, belonging and impacting

intelligence, particularly emotional

all future generations to come.

understanding, perform better

We look forward to continuing this

academically. Creating a structured

exciting journey together,

of intelligence, however, most schools

2. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. (2015). Our Children Can’t Wait – Review of the implementation of recommendations of the 2011 Report of the Inquiry into the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in WA, Perth: Commissioner for Children and Young People.

supporting this process more fully, the

2020). Research shows that students

supports the development of all forms

1. h ttps:// statistics

come to understand their role in

academic outcomes (MacCann et. al.,

space for emotional and social growth


From the team at The Rites of Passage Institute

overwhelmingly support two well-known modes of intelligence, verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical, while comparatively neglecting the other modes of learning (Henderson 2012). Pymble Ladies’ College


From snow to sea: An educational adventure Riina Hämäläinen

It’s 5.00am and I am waking up to a

As a rule, every school ceremony,

rhythmic clap echoing around the

assembly, parent meeting or sporting

caravan park. It is time to wake up and

event starts with a Welcome to Country.

quickly get dressed. I can already hear

This practice recognises Indigenous

the noises of awakening outside my hut.

people as the first custodians of this

Moments later, I find myself huddled

land, promotes awareness of Indigenous

together with a group of people, peering history and culture, and formally out to the Pacific Ocean in the dim

acknowledges Indigenous people’s

light of dawn. In front of the crowd,

ongoing connection to the ground.

an Aboriginal man is decisively playing

A good grasp of Aboriginal history and

his clapsticks, an essential part of

culture is also required when delivering

Aboriginal ceremonies. Then the

the Australian PDHPE curriculum.

clapping stops, and the man turns

This understanding is important, for

facing towards the ocean, now speaking

example, when discussing health

intently in a language that has survived

issues and inequalities between the

thousands of years to this day. Two

different populations in Australia. With

white-bellied sea eagles emerge from

an overseas background, one has to do

the sea and start flying circles above

a decent amount of homework more

him. We’re standing on Budawang

than once to teach the topic sufficiently.

Aboriginal area, an important area

I have lived in Australia for five years

for the First Nations people and the

now and know more about the native

same coastline where Captain James

people here than in my home country

Cook made his first observations of

Finland. I really feel like acknowledging

Aboriginal people in 1770. The sunrise

this has brought a new dimension to

ceremony is one of the oldest rituals

my life. Perhaps the history and culture

still practised today that celebrates life,

of Scandinavia’s Indigenous people, the

nature and thanks Grandfather Sun for

Sámi reindeer herders, could also be a

the start of a new day.

more prominent and enriching part of

Regardless of the tangible beauty of


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

Finnish school life.

the moment, I have not left Finland

The continent of Australia is estimated

to participate in a spiritual retreat.

to be 23 times bigger than Finland.

Instead, we are on a week’s long

The differences in delivering the

school camp for outdoor education

National Curriculum system between

and experiential learning. Understanding

municipalities are not as significant

and appreciating the Aboriginal cultural

as those between States. The Finnish

history is a central part of the Australian

curriculum remains very much united

curriculum and integrated with studies

nationwide. The curriculum in Finland is

for all grades.

updated approximately every ten years.

Long-distance skating on natural ice. This picture was taken in Lake Saimaa, part of the Finnish Lakeland area where I am from

The curriculum system has three key

While Finland has earned a reputation

In the Finnish system, all teachers

driving factors. Firstly, the portrayal of

as having one of the best education

are considered highly respected

broad goals, like the learning of generic

systems in the world, its PISA results

professionals by all. Teacher education

21st century competencies following

have decreased in recent years.

programs are popular and often more

the national core values, such as

According to educational specialists,

challenging to get into than medicine

human rights, equality, democracy,

this could result from the remarkable

or law. The high status of teachers dates

and natural diversity. Secondly, the

reputation that has caused schools to

back for hundreds of years. In the old

autonomy of municipal authorities in

hesitate to change anything.

days, the most appreciated professions

providing education for the curriculum to best work at a local level. Thirdly, a focus on the competencies of using knowledge, instead of knowledge in itself. Metacognitive thinking skills are systematically improved at all stages and one important goal is to teach students to take responsibility over their learning.

Teachers as an occupational group are essentially not as highly regarded in

were priests and teachers, because they were educated people.

Australia or looked upon as highly by

School days in Australia and Finland look

fellow citizens as they are in Finland.

different. In Finland, school days are

The amount of recognition received here

short, and the homework is often not

may depend on the reputation and status

excessive. In secondary education, full-

of the school where you are working.

time teaching staff will not necessarily be onsite when they are not delivering

Pymble Ladies’ College


From snow to sea: An educational adventure

In the Finnish system, all teachers are considered highly respected professionals by all. Teacher education programs are popular and often more challenging to get into than medicine or law.

Visiting home during 2019 Christmas break

lessons. There is an incredible amount

For me, the experience of working in

of trust placed upon teachers, who are

faculties with a team of likeminded

expected to use this additional time for

professionals has been gratifying.

assessment, planning and preparation

The length of Finnish lessons may

of the curriculum. The system is heavily

vary between 45 to 75 minutes long

based on trust rather than control.

depending on the grade. A ten to

Teachers are autonomous in their

15-minute break follows each class.

work, and an independent teacher may

Until Senior School (Years 11 and 12)

plan an entire unit with methods for

all students are required to go outside

assessment by themselves. There is

during this break, even in midwinter.

minimal supervision and little evaluation

When the weather reaches minus 20

of teachers.

to 25 degrees celsius, students are

Typically, a school will have one or


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

usually permitted to remain indoors.

two teachers for each subject. These

In addition, all schools provide outdoor

will depend on the size of the school

shelters where students can head in the

and the popularity of different topics.

occasion of wet weather.

Everybody gets a free meal – even

specialised coaches. The College has

also exist in Finnish schools that are

in high school – and teachers may

a strong sporting tradition, and many

exclusively focused on sports. As part

purchase meals at a discounted price.

of the students are talented in their

of the Physical Education Curriculum,

There are no school uniforms and the

respective sports. Students compete

new sports for an overseas teacher have

idea of having them feels distant. Having

at different levels, from intraschool

been Cricket, Hockey, Touch Football

worked at a system with and without a

competitions to the Olympics. In

and many more. Due to the immediate

school uniform, one cannot unsee that

contrast to the most famous Finnish

closeness of the Pacific Ocean in the

having a uniform might well prevent at

school sports: Ice Hockey, Soccer,

New South Wales area, lifesaving skills

least some self-esteem issues or bullying Floorball and various winter sports, the

are taught in detail, and there is a whole

among young people.

most popular sports here include Rugby,

term dedicated to teaching these skills

Rowing, Cross Country, AFL, Netball,

in Year 9. The lifesaving unit at Pymble is

Gymnastics, Swimming and Dance.

a great unit to teach.

Whilst Finnish secondary schools may be focused on sports, arts or music, Pymble offers co-curricular opportunities from Robotics to Equestrian. The co-curricular sports program is delivered not by PDHPE teachers but by a large team of

There is a unique program called the Pymble Elite Sportswomen’s Program (PESP) to help young, high performing athletes to balance the demands of sport and academics. Similar programs

One of the significant differences when delivering the PDHPE curriculum in Australia, compared to Finland, is the role of sexual and consent education.

An essential part of a great cross-country ski or snowshoe trip: open fire sausages and glögi (non-alcoholic mulled wine)

Pymble Ladies’ College


From snow to sea: An educational adventure

The Respect Matters Forum on consent education that Pymble hosted at the start of 2021 would be very timely, also for Finnish high schools. Pymble has an evident push for constantly improving the pedagogical practices, and the range of professional learning opportunities provided is extensive. The recently organised two-day Mental Health First Aid Course would surely be of great interest in the Nordic system. One of the most significant differences in professional development between the two educational systems is the process of mandatory teacher accreditation. It is difficult to get into teacher education programs in Finland, and subject matter teachers have traditionally completed a Master’s thesis and MA degree in their primary subject. Once teachers commence their working careers, opportunities for professional development are provided but optional,

Rest break at a Laavu during cross-country skiing. Finnish wilderness is filled with shelters for outdoor-minded people to rest, make a fire or sleep

and there is no further accreditation unless chosen. Professional development courses are not The laws around consent in New South Wales are currently ahead of those in Finland. The country is likely to adopt improvements following the example of Sweden in the coming years. The Finnish Health education syllabus provides one course on sexual education during Upper School and one during High School. Generally, the outcomes in the Finnish syllabus are more generic than they are in New South Wales. The Finnish comprehensive syllabus does not exclusively mention a goal for


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

mandatory beyond the induction phase, although career-long development is strongly recommended, and most teachers will participate in such opportunities throughout their teaching careers. There are many non-profit associations for different subjects that organise annual courses, seminars and events for members. Prior to the time of COVID-19, the Association of Physical and Health Educators of Finland used to organise an annual international seminar and a trip to somewhere in Europe.

teaching consent, as an example. Sexual

Finland does not use external

rights are mentioned in the syllabus for

standardised student testing to evaluate

high schools, but there is no specific

the performance of schools. There is

outcome for teaching consent.

no inspections system, nor comparison

between schools or regions. Since 2018,

Teachers are required to collect data

Finland has been named the happiest

and assessment is continuous as it is

country globally for four consecutive

in Australia. For many years, Finland

years by the United Nations Sustainable

has been emphasising phenomenon-

Development Solutions Network.

based learning and often assessment

Researchers have pointed to the

tasks are phenomenon-based projects.

Finnish culture that focuses on

New Pedagogies for Deep Learning

cooperation rather than competition,

are in focus in the most recent national

among other determinants for the

curriculum. Most assessment methods

previously unseen accomplishment.

aim to improve the ability to analyse

In Finland, PDHPE students will receive one outcome for Health studies and one for Physical Education in their report. The same applies to all subjects, one outcome per subject. Outcomes are displayed on a numerical grade scale from ten (extraordinary) to four (unsatisfactory) and the descriptors for each grade are detailed. Only Preparatory and Junior schools use comments in reports. Many schools at this early stage choose to use comments only to describe students’ learning. This is to ensure that children may stay as children during the early years of their school careers, allowing

meta-cognitive thinking and long-term understanding. For Physical Education, there are only ongoing assessments. Having assessment tasks for practical activities in Years 7 to 10 feels uplifting to the status of the subject. Finland

CONCLUSION The challenge of moving overseas has forced me to stretch, adapt and evolve both professionally and personally. Living and teaching in these two countries has caused me to be more aware of the cultural norms, hurdles and strengths of the different educational systems. It has helped me become more versatile in the classroom and develop new perceptions and ideas. The most rewarding experience has been building relationships with the Pymble students and sharing my story with them.

encourages cross-curricular cooperation. Depending on their colleagues, a Physics

An earlier version of this paper

teacher might combine with a PDHPE

was written for the journal of the

teacher for a lesson to teach velocity or

Association of Physical and Health

acceleration utilising tech and suitable

Educators in Finland (LIITO).

applications in a practical environment. Similarly, a literacy teacher might work together with a teacher from another subject, marking the content and literacy skills of an essay.

more room to physical activity,

The Australian education system

creativeness and games. According to

evidently has a higher volume of testing.

the law, the transition from comments

In the past decade, Finnish high schools,

to numbers occurs in Year 4 at the age

especially, have seen a decrease in

of ten. In PDHPE, practical outcomes

the number of traditional exams as

are divided in physical, social and

teachers aim to foster a 21st century

cognitive goals to reflect students’

learning environment. However, in both

learning and performance. The

countries, students are slowly working

outcomes for the health education

their way up towards important exams,

curriculum are largely based on

HSC in Australia and the Matriculation

developing health literacy and critical

Examination in Finland. Both systems

thinking skills. It has been made very

surely have their strengths and

clear by the Finnish National Agency for

weaknesses. For as long as the biggest

References Lonka, K., (2018). Phenomenal learning from Finland. 1st Ed. Keuruu: Otava Book Printing Ltd. Opetushallitus.(2021). Terveystiedon LOPS 2019 -tukimateriaali. Available at: https://www.oph. fi/fi/koulutus-ja-tutkinnot/terveystiedon-lops2019-tukimateriaali. [Accessed 15 August 2021]. World Happiness.Report (2021). Available at: [Accessed 15 August 2021].

Education that students’ personal values, challenge at the end of the road remains attitudes or health-related behaviours

in its traditional form, one can clearly

are to have no impact on the outcomes

see the benefit of students regularly practising under examination conditions.

Pymble Ladies’ College


Gaining momentum in women’s educational leadership Reverend Punam Bent

This professional learning opportunity has been made possible through the generous support of former Chair of College Council, Ms Kate Mason. The Kate Mason Professional Learning grant is awarded annually and was awarded to Reverend Punam Bent in 2020. The grant allows Pymble staff to participate in professional learning to benefit students, colleagues and to enrich their own professional growth. Through the Global Mentoring

Change’ at Harvard Divinity School was

Leadership Program with Bright Field

thwarted due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Consulting, the Alliance of Girls’ Schools

and a new direction was sought.

Australasia and the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (USA).

This was perfect timing – even in a

Professional Learning Grant which is

pandemic year – as the focus was on

open to all Academic staff at Pymble

the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

Ladies’ College. The grant would

(NCGS) guiding principles to ‘inspire the

enable me to undertake a significant

next generation to lead with courage,

professional learning opportunity,

competence, and empathy’ (Global

therefore, amplifying my learning in the

Forum on Girls’ Education III, 2021).

platform to role-model and help shape the future aspects of global citizenship for girls. Following a successful application, the initial plan to attend a leadership conference called ‘Making Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

Global Mentoring Leadership Program.

In 2020, I applied for the Kate Mason

area of School Chaplaincy and using this


In 2021, an opportunity arose for the

The Global Mentoring Program is an invitation to delve deeper into one’s own sense of self-understanding and development. The mentoring program is three dimensional (Wigston and Wigston, 2021):

1. One to One Mentoring

interaction. It is a psychometric tool

2. Insights Discovery Profiling

based on Jungian psychology and it

and Feedback 3. A Community Project

uses a four-colour model to highlight key personality preferences and associated behaviours. My profile was

The first step is completing the Insights

no surprise as ‘Helper Inspirer’ and it was

Discovery psychometric questionnaire,

a challenge to address key strengths and

followed by four confidential

weaknesses with an attitude towards

meetings with a mentor. There is also

traction and mobility.

a community project where one is

In the section on personal notes on

partnered with another mentee to

key strengths and weaknesses, a quote

work on a project relating to globally

from Jung states, ‘wisdom accepts

applicable themes in girls’ education.

that all things have two sides’ (Insights

The final opportunity will be in-person

Discovery Profile, 2021).

or virtual attendance of the Global Forum on Girls’ Education III to be hosted in Boston, Massachusetts, United States in 2022.

The Insights Discovery Wheel consists of a Conscious Position, which is the Helping Inspirer (Accommodating) and a Less Conscious Position, which is the

The Global Forum in 2022 will focus on

Helping Inspirer (Focused). The colour

nine themes:

energies on a bad/good day further assist

1. Girls as Global Citizens

in reflecting on aspects of the profile.

2. Girls as Entrepreneurs and Innovators One of the most valued aspects of 3. Girls as Social Activists

this profile report has been a view into

4. Girls as Political Leaders

possible blind spots and recognising

5. Girls as Environmental Champions 6. Girls as Scientists

who our Opposite Insights type could be. Mine is the Observer, which is Jung’s ‘Introverted Thinking Type.’ The Insights

7. Girls as Inclusive Allies

Discovery profile offers suggestions

8. Girls as Happy, Healthy Individuals

for development instead of ‘direct

9. Girls’ Schools as Educational Leaders

measures of skill, intelligence, education

The project should align with one of

or training.’

the Global Forum themes and offer

The profiles indicate an individualised

examples, information gathered from

colour mix of four colour energies: Cool

research and practical tools that may be

Blue, Fiery Red, Sunshine Yellow and

applied to educational contexts for girls.

Earth Green. The four-colour model

The goal is to empower girls to become

approach identifies what personality

people of influence and leaders in a

preferences and associated behaviours

constantly changing world.

are, therefore, offering a way forward in working more effectively with others


(Insights Discovery Profile, 2021). For

The Insights Discovery Personal Profile

example, my Insight Colour energies as

is a doorway into one’s strengths

per the report on a bad/good day were

and weaknesses to assist individuals

divided into the four colour energies:

as they develop future strategies for Pymble Ladies’ College


Gaining momentum in women’s educational leadership

I am thankful for the opportunity given to use this grant to amplify my professional learning in girls’ education and wellbeing at a global level.

Stuffy Indecisive Suspicious Cold Reserved Docile Bland Plodding Reliant Stubborn

Aggressive Controlling Driving Overbearing Intolerant Excitable Frantic Indiscreet Flamboyant Hasty

The Insights Colour Energies on a bad day

Cautious Precise Deliberate Questioning Formal

Competitive Demanding Determined Strong-willed Purposeful

Caring Encouraging Sharing Patient Relaxed

Sociable Dynamic Demonstrative Enthusiastic Persuasive

The Insights Colour Energies on a good day

THE MENTORING EXPERIENCE This program empowers the mentee to take a step towards self-awareness, self-worth and self-knowledge leading to personal and professional growth (Wigston and Wigston, 2021). “Our lived lives might become a protracted


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live. But the exemptions we suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are,” wrote psychoanalyst Adam Phillips in his magnificent manifesto for missing out (Popova, 2021).

A student once asked if working

One of the chapters in Being 10% Braver

in a school was my vocation and

(2019), entitled ‘Concrete Ceilings

professional calling. Having started

and Kinked Hosepipes’, speaks of the

rather young at the age of 20 in

‘concrete ceiling’ mentality in education.

the 1980s with nil lens into a global

In 2015, the United Kingdom National

perspective, education was not exactly

Union of Teachers challenged teaching

where religious practice led me. The

staff to reflect the communities they

niche I was seeking came in 2003

work in. The union was concerned

through a school chaplaincy role in

that “the only black role models were

Sydney, Australia. The reason I was

administrative staff, cleaners, kitchen

attracted to the Bright Field Global

or security staff’ and were worried that

Mentoring Leadership Program was

this would ‘impact negatively on the

the mentoring experience tagged

achievement of black children as they

with the community project and

do not see representations that can act

possibilities for presenting at a global

as role models for them ….at a higher

forum which would amplify my own

level” (Garner, 2015). The writer of this

learning and practice relating to all

chapter, Sameena Choudhary, argues

aspects of girls’ education.

that the barrier is stronger and far harder


to break, and the ceiling for women of colour/migrant ethnic backgrounds is

#10%Braver is a slogan I echo now with

not made of glass, but concrete. The

the women who kickstarted the 21st

metaphor of ‘concrete ceiling’ extends

century global educational movement,

to require a drill to shatter the concrete

seeking to unite women from diverse

which can more often than not be what

backgrounds in education. It is a safe

she describes as an “arduous and almost

online space and encourages women

impossible task” (Featherstone and

educators to be 10%Braver. This is also

Porritt, 2019, p.104).

the title of the book edited by Vivienne Porritt and Keziah Featherstone (2019). The book features evidence-based articles offering practical and applicable solutions to a future for women in education.

I also encourage girls from minority ethnic backgrounds to find their voices and share their story of courage, culture and empowerment as per the Global Forum III themes mentioned above, to

If I were to write my own chapter in a

benefit all girls sharing in partnership

book such as this, it would be about the

with others in a world holding space

challenges facing girls’ schools seeking

for them. This would challenge the

inclusiveness and diversity. I would write

concrete ceiling of which Choudhary

about encouraging girls to find strength

is speaking and create a generation of

in their own voice, giving visibility to

girls evolving into womanhood who are

their story and contributing to solving

well equipped with constructive ways of

challenges, especially in a pandemic

cracking this metaphor of the concrete

world. I would write on gender bias in

ceiling through empowerment and

the Church and educational sector, as

courageous expression of who they are

well as encourage safe and thoughtful

as global citizens.

conversations with young people, especially girls, in my school context. Pymble Ladies’ College


Gaining momentum in women’s educational leadership

On reading Being 10% Braver, a suggestion is made to utilise the support of a ‘significant person’ who mentors and acts as a coach, as coaching and mentoring leads to empowerment and encouragement (Featherstone and Porritt, 2019, p.112). The experience of being mentored by Bishop Seeley has allowed discussion of being a person of influence and authenticity for the communities we work and live in, and aiming to find these places through a deeper awareness of self and others. This space is the platform of life experience, self-knowledge, self-awareness and deep reflection which harnesses a positive energy and role-modelling of a healthy work practice and resilience, especially when working with girls in education. The mentoring process empowers women and others to look at opportunity and to engage with steps towards being heard. This leads to

Reverend Punam Bent’s mentor in the Brightfield program, Bishop Martin Seeley

taking initiative towards storytelling and sharing which further empowers others.


The Global Mentoring Program and

As the mentoring and leadership journey

shifting for me personally and taking

began, I was able to reflect deeply on my

a serious look at girls’ learning in a

own growing-up experiences as a young

gender-biased world. The themes of

girl in a gender-biased world and how

seeking to find voice, gaining a wider

these paradigms have yet to be shifted

perspective to life, and venturing out

in our real time. The mentoring with

into the unknown to find oneself are

Bishop Martin Seeley, with whom I have

core in the program.

been fortunate to have been paired, has been a deep well of experiential learning drawing on self-reflection and awareness and applying to my current role in leadership with girls.


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

its timely presence has meant shape-

In the words of Milan Kundera: “Great storytelling, then, deals in the illumination of complexity — sometimes surprising, sometimes disquieting, always enlarging our understanding and self-understanding as we come to see the opaque parts of ourselves from a new angle, in a new light” (quoted in Popova, 2021). The Global Mentoring Program with Bright Field Consulting leads one to believe that bravery, which is also known as courage, has its own trajectory and, to be heard, one must intentionally venture into the unfamiliar, taking the risks and facing the obstacles. In my case, I am looking forward to influencing girls with a global wisdom which comes from women of my generation. To quote from an interview with Susan Ferrier in Ian and Hilary Wigston’s book The Magic in The Space Between, (2018, p.70). “... women bring people together in a way different from men. My generation of women, compared to my generation of men, we’re more naturally inclusive, so we can bring people together in a

References Featherstone, K., & Porritt, V. (2019). Being 10% Braver (1st ed.). London: Sage Publications. Global Forum on Girls’ Education III. NCGS. (2021). Retrieved 27 September 2021, from Global Forum III Themes. NCGS. (2021). Retrieved 5 October 2021, from https://www. Garner, R. (2015). Headteachers urged to recruit more black and ethnic minority teachers. The Independent, 5 April 2015. Retrieved 10 October 2021, from https:// education-news/headteachers-urgedrecruit-more-black-and-ethnic-minorityteachers-10157044.html Insights Discovery Personal Profile. (2021). Insights Discovery Personal Profile Popova, M. (2021). The unbearable lightness of being opaque to ourselves: Milan Kundera on writing and the key to great storytelling. Brain Pickings. Retrieved 16 August 2021, from milan-kundera-art-of-the-novel-storytelling/. Wigston, I., & Wigston, H. (2021). The Global Mentoring Network for Aspiring Leaders — Bright Field. Bright Field. Retrieved 1 October 2021, from https://www.brightfield-consulting. Wigston, I., & Wigston, H. (2021). The magic in the space between. Ed. 1. Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Ltd.

“ ...coaching and mentoring have the power to transform lives and careers, by raising [an] individual’s awareness and encouraging them to consider different paths from those they assumed were mapped out for them… New untrodden routes and desire lines emerge as quickly as the old ones vanish. Clearly, a new cartography is needed.” (WIGSTON & WIGSTON, 2021, P.114).

way which looks for a collaborative inclusive outcome”.

Pymble Ladies’ College


Shining light on our ignorance: Data science for complex futures Cedric Le Bescont

Learning is exciting because of the paradoxical nature of knowledge: “the more we know, the more we realise the extent of our ignorance” (Grayling, 2021). As a teacher, the question about which I am passionate is how to teach ignorance? How to safely guide students at the frontier of their own knowledge? How to empower them to explore what they don’t know yet? The scientific method is arguably the most prolific way of creating knowledge. The first principle and, at the same time, the real discovery of any modern scientific inquiry, is ignorance. Science produces questions worth investigating. Galileo was the first to use mathematics to model the variability of firsthand observations. In return, technology was developed to record ever more observations to validate this model. This creative loop was responsible for the unprecedented development of technology in the past three hundred years. Today, we face a deluge of data that is challenging our capacity to make sense of the world. It is important, in my view, that students learn and apply the scientific method to big data sets so they can face the complexity of our world with confidence.


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

APPRENTICE SCIENTISTS At school, Science is often perceived as a definitive explanation of the complexity of the world when it is an incomplete and often incoherent set of models. Even though scientific theories are proven to be very powerful in rationally gauging our ignorance, the field of investigation will remain infinite. Science can make accurate predictions about simple systems but when it comes to more complex understanding, the so-called scientific knowledge showcased in textbooks is, in fact, hypothetical. Apprentice scientists should be enticed to investigate scientific knowledge and its inherent uncertainty.

In the classroom, concepts perceived as

They are guided to develop their

trivial, and the inquiry opportunities they

observational skills and abstract the

represent, are sometimes overlooked.

concept of a tissue made of cells.

Complexity can be introduced too

Only then, the hypothesis that all living

early, with students expected to recall

things are made of cells is proposed

explanations before being given the

and tested and its power to guide the

opportunity to observe, measure,

study of life explored. Technology has

name, classify or describe. Models are

always been used to discover new

transferred as knowledge, rather than

focus points for inquiry.

as limited and testable frameworks to develop scientific thinking. The main scientific models - the particle model, the Solar system model, the force model, the cell model and the energy model – should be applied and challenged by students from Year 7.

Acknowledging that we, the classmates, don’t know is necessary to engage with scientific learning. As a teacher, my expertise does not lie in my ability to transfer knowledge, but rather in my capacity to guide learners. While my students are contemplating most of the concepts for the first time, I have

Similarly, a great way to start the Year 7

walked this learnscape many times. And

program is through the following

technology is pushing me to explore

activity. Students observe African

new horizons.

wildlife in silence for a significant amount of time by watching a live stream from Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa, projected on the board.

As a case in point, consider the Science

It is important to also include the audio.

Stage 4 syllabus point, “explain that

The discussion that follows is full of

predictable phenomena on the Earth,

wonder, with students naturally and

including day and night, seasons and

instinctively naming, classifying and

eclipses are caused by the relative

questioning what they see. Facing the

positions of the Sun, the Earth and the

unknown always unleashes creative

Moon” (National Education Standards

and collaborative learning.

Authority, 2021). Defining Day and Night


Last year, our Principal, Dr Kate Hadwen, shared with me the Introduction to Data Science Curriculum from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It made me conscious of the need to expand my expertise and my understanding of machine learning. Through regular conversations with our Deputy Principal – Academic, Justin Raymond, it was decided that Pymble would lead the development of a unique

In Chemistry, molecular models are

Data Science curriculum in NSW. While

introduced gradually. Students observe

collaborating with our Head of Science,

boiling water and apply the particle

Dr Kristie Spence, on teaching the new

model to construct explanations about

Science Extension course in Year 12, it

water particles becoming capable of

became clear that the Data Curriculum

freely moving away from each other.

would prepare students well for the

Later on, students decompose water

Science Extension course.

by electrolysis and again observe

Our Director of Research and

bubbles forming but, this time, at room

Development, Dr Sarah Loch, guided

temperature and of different substances,

me in applying for one of the College’s

namely oxygen and hydrogen. The

Professional Learning Grants, and I

particle model then morphs into the

thank the Pymble Parents’ Association

molecular model with the introduction

whose generosity granted me the

of the atom as a constituent of the

resources to give me the confidence

In Biology, students use the microscope

molecule. There is no need to break

to lead this project.

to observe tissues before being

the atom into a nucleus and electrons

introduced to the concept of the cell.

at this stage. Applying logic to develop

and identifying observables is not as trivial as it seems. At Pymble, the Beyond Earth Project encourages students to become apprentice scientists. By using a wild range of tools, they collect data and analyse patterns that they then link to a physical or simulated model of the Solar system. Consequently, students take responsibility for their learning rather than collating knowledge. And what they discover is that learning is messy. Mistakes are the strongest evidence of learning.

models which are then challenged by new observations is how scientists learn.

Scientific progress has allowed for the development of technology that contains an outstanding ability to produce data.

Pymble Ladies’ College


Shining light on our ignorance...

In 2018, the total amount of data created, captured, copied and consumed in the world was 33 zettabytes (ZB) – the equivalent of 33 trillion gigabytes. This grew to 59ZB in 2020 and is predicted to reach a mindboggling 175ZB by 2025. One zettabyte is 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bits ... (VOPSON, 2021)

This data, revealed by our scientific understanding of the world, reflects our ignorance. There is an urgent need for a new set of skills and mental habits, identified in the NSW Curriculum Review Report, Nurturing Wonder and Inspiring Passion (2020), as well as in the HSC Science Extension syllabus (2017), to equip students in this digitalised unknown. This is the reason why Pymble Ladies’ College will be proposing a new Data Science Elective course in Years 9, 10 and 11 which will be available to our students as soon as 2022. The Data Science course will be an opportunity to learn the R programming language and apply statistics to visualise, simulate, analyse and model datasets relevant to real-world complexity. It will welcome machines as artificial learners in the classroom, enticing both students and teachers to transform their classroom habits. Collaborating with machines will empower students to become self-efficient researchers, designers and communicators.


Illuminate Research and Innovation | Edition 6 2021

Finally, as pedagogues, students represent the edge of our knowledge. As a learning leader, I focus on designing tools able to produce reliable and accurate data that can inform me, the teacher, of the individual learning paths being walked by my students. Each of our students’ experiences shines some light on our ignorance.

References Explore Annenberg LLC, (2021). Tembe Elephant Park. Accessed July 8, 2021. tembe-elephant-park Grayling, A.C. (2021). The frontiers of knowledge: What we know about science, history and the mind. United Kingdom: Viking. National Education Standards Authority. (2017). Science Extension Stage 6 Syllabus. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://educationstandards. science-extension-stage-6-syllabus-2017. pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=. National Education Standards Authority. (2020). Nurturing wonder and igniting passion: Designs for a new school curriculum. Accessed August 23, 2021. https:// pdfs/phase-3/final-report/NSW_Curriculum_ Review_Final_Report.pdf. National Education Standards Authority. (2021). Science 7-10, Earth and Space. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://educationstandards. Vopson, M.M. (2021). The world’s data explained: How much we’re producing and where it’s all stored. The Conversation. May 5, 2021. Accessed August 23, 2021.

Challenging the status quo in PDHPE Madeleine Gardiner

Deep learning and social justice in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education How can we encourage our students to change the world, without them having first developed an understanding of their place within it? In Term 3, 2021, Year 10 PDHPE students were challenged with the driving question ‘More than words; How can we contribute to social justice?’; a stimulus inspired by the 2021 National Reconciliation Week theme to inspire braver and

DEEP LEARNING IN COMPLEX TIMES Deep Learning pedagogies encourage students to develop competencies in the six Cs – Character, Citizenship, Critical thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication. This is learning which: • looks at the world from many different perspectives, • cuts across key subject areas (after all,

more impactful action. In response,

we live in a trans-disciplinary world,

students inquired into the experiences

not in a mono-disciplinary one),

of diverse population groups that make

• is relevant to the real-world interests,

up Australian society, proposed ways that individuals and communities could

needs and challenges of students; and, • concentrates on developing the

be proactive in promoting social justice

capabilities that count not only for

and considered the ways they can

today but for a sustainable future

offer support to those experiencing

(Fullan & Scott, 2014).

marginalisation. Through a series of teacher and student-led learning

If we want learners who, as stated by

experiences, underpinned by New

Fullan et al. (2017, p.21), can ‘thrive in

Pedagogies for Deep Learning (Fullan et

turbulent, complex times, apply thinking

al., 2017), this unit supported students’

to new situations, and change the world,

development into active and empathetic

we must reimagine learning: what’s

global citizens by empowering them

important to be learned, how learning is

to become advocates and critical allies

fostered, where learning happens, and

in their communities. The intention

how we measure success. This means

was that students walk away from this

creating environments that challenge,

unit feeling confident in their ability

provoke, stimulate and celebrate

to fight for causes about which they

learning’. This conceptualisation of

are passionate, call out injustices, find

the learning process is ‘Deep Learning’

solutions and, ultimately, become the

and is loosely defined as the course

changemakers they seek in their world.

of acquiring the aforementioned competencies through a series of tasks

Pymble Ladies’ College


Challenging the status quo in PDHPE

encompassing “compassion,

social justice through exploration of

empathy, socio-emotional learning,

the pervasive, enduring, and intractable

entrepreneurialism, and relational

nature of social injustice.

skills required for high functioning in a complex universe” (Fullan et al., p. 25).

Similar roadblocks were faced by Pymble teachers in delivering this unit.

A Deep Learning lens, therefore, was

As students were progressively exposed

well suited to the teaching of social

to concepts of inequity, disadvantage,

justice as, for students to grapple with

and marginalisation, with examples

and look critically at contentious topics

ranging from experiences of casual

including poverty, discrimination, racism, racism to global human rights violations, civil rights, and humanitarian issues, they

so to came increasing reports of guilt,

had to be challenged to think beyond

frustration, and hopelessness amongst

the how and consider the why and

students. According to Myers and Diener

what next, an integral tenet of Deep

(1995, cited in Brown, 2021), wellbeing,

Learning. This type of thinking further

among most people socialised in

engaged students’ affirmative response

individualistic cultures, correlates with

to the promotion of social justice and,

viewing oneself as efficacious, while

concurrently, development of positive

perceiving oneself as inefficacious

intellectual and attitudinal dispositions

evokes negative emotions that people

toward the creation of new knowledge

often want to avoid. Thus, for this unit to

and doing things with it in the world

be of benefit to students, teachers were

(Fullan & Langworthy, 2014).

encouraged to stress the importance


of fostering a supporting classroom environment and drawing upon strengths-based approaches to balance

To achieve this end of ‘creating’ and

feelings of reproach with optimism.

‘doing with’ knowledge, students were

Examples included relevant and

introduced to social justice principles

successful social movements leading to

through an exploration of injustice

change, including the School Strike for

and privilege and encouraged to make

Climate Change (inspired by the actions

connections between their own lived

of school student and activist Greta

experiences and those of others. In

Thunberg) and ‘Racism, it stops with

doing so, they were challenged to

me’. This was not to ‘shield’ students,

actively negotiate their own social

nor make the unit more ‘palatable’, but

position in relation to community

to raise awareness and empower them

outcomes. This is where consideration

to strive for a better world. Fortunately,

toward students’ holistic wellbeing is

much previous research concurs that pertinent and paramount. In her chapter, experiences with diversity (including “The efficacy paradox; teaching about learning about social injustice) in school


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structural inequalities keeping students

foster a variety of positive outcomes,

hope alive”, Brown (2021) highlights the

including greater intentions for civic

difficulties teachers face in reconciling

participation (Gurin et al., 2004, cited in

raising students’ consciousness of

Brown, 2021).

Arguably, wellbeing and self-efficacy are also intrinsically linked with notions of self-concept and identity, and thus students’ responses to this unit were not only centred around the stories of


Gender Identity



others, but tangible to their own lived experience (or inexperience). The social structures amongst which young people are growing up are increasingly complex and require students to think critically about the world in which they live and

Sexual Orientation

Disability/ Ability


their place within it. Identity formation is, as a result, a fraught process forged across multiple contemporary experiences imbued in technological, virtual, and practical


worlds. Such experiences lend young

Socioeconomic status

people to come to understand themselves, and each other, at the intersections of multiple identities that amalgamate in the formation of their own self-concept. For example, in a discussion asking how various facets of identity influenced the lives of students, one student stated, “as a multiracial, 16-year-old, well-educated

My Identity

woman, I acknowledge the privileges I experience every day…I am also aware of the barriers that I and others face… Who I see myself as and who others see me as depends a lot on their own ideas of identity, and this would be the same if I were looking at someone else”. This

My Experience (How I see and interpret the world)

comment then led to a conversation contrasting students’ online identities

Figure 1 Unpacking social determinants

to their ‘real life’ selves, and the role of social media influencers in this space. Herein lies the importance of situating students’ personal contexts prior to looking outward and toward social justice as, by engaging students in a unit of work though which they considered the wide range of factors contributing to advantage and disadvantage, equity, and

discrimination, they were driven to reflect more broadly on how multiple factors including race, class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality can shape identity, power, and access to resources in the larger social sphere, concurrently developing empathy, social awareness and the potential desire to evoke change.

Pymble Ladies’ College


Challenging the status quo in PDHPE

Armed with new knowledge and a heightened awareness of social justice causes, students were presented with a formative task to create a podcast that inquired into the experiences of a marginalised population (of their own choosing).



Tantamount to developing an

Armed with new knowledge and a

appreciation of the individual factors

heightened awareness of social justice

contributing to identity formation,

causes, students were presented with

students were also presented with

a formative task to create a podcast

a foundational understanding of the

that inquired into the experiences of a

intersectionality of these factors;

marginalised population (of their own

how multiple co-constituting axes

choosing). The task involved researching

of difference can shape one’s social

social and structural barriers to equality

positions and lived experience, and thus

and exploring the ways by which

affect access to power and experiences

individuals and communities could

of oppression and vulnerability

engage in allyship and activism in their

(Osborne, 2015). An understanding of

own lives. According to Brown (2021,

diversity here is key, and to emphasise

pp. 112-115), best practice in teaching

this point students were presented with

social justice requires teachers to:

the image seen in Figure 1 – Unpacking

• Implement intentional class design

social determinants (adapted from Amnesty International; How to be a genuine ally), a visual representation of the social determinants that give rise to people’s different experiences and ways of thinking, and which are also integral to identity. After having been introduced to

• Lay a foundation of hope • Teach about successful collective action • Have students communicate about social justice, and • Involve students in social justice action.

this concept, one student reflected

These last two recommendations

“[Yeah, true…], It’s not enough to just

are particularly well suited to Deep

compare the differential treatment of

Learning as they encourage students

men and women. Women also have

to action their knowledge and apply

cultural, sexual and racial identities (to

it to real world contexts beyond the

name a few) that have to be factored

classroom, hence a podcast was

into understanding their experience”.

chosen as the most appropriate format

Such a response affirms students’

of assessment to allow students the

positive engagement and developing

freedom to channel their energies into

understanding of intersectional identity

disseminating what they had learned

and how this further aligns with an end

about social justice in their own words.

goal to achieve social justice for all

This presented additional opportunity

divisions of, and within, communities.

for interdisciplinary collaboration across faculties, including the library and IT, as students were provided with semistructured lessons to follow their own line of research and inquiry and produce a professional audio product.


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Additional opportunities to engage

You can listen to some student

with social justice activism were also

produced podcasts here:

encouraged as extension, further

• Abigail Ballhausen – Rural and

empowering students by letting them determine what form their activism took, who it benefitted and what issue it addressed. Ultimately, students were given choice over the extent to which they bought into the task, but

Remote Health LISTEN HERE • Emma Lau – Immigrant Health in Australia LISTEN HERE

by supporting the development of proactive dispositions towards learning – • Emma Sargeant – Paralympic Equality no matter which path they chose – they gained valuable knowledge and life skills that they may continue to draw upon as they progress through their schooling and beyond. Teaching social justice through a Deep Learning lens enabled students to grapple with not only the causes of social inequity, but what they can do to address it, empowering them both simultaneously in their learning and social responsibility. The addition of Deep Learning principles ensured all learning activities were tangible to real world experiences and relevant to students’ lived contexts, developing key social and emotional capabilities, including

LISTEN HERE • Bella Zhang – Homelessness in Australia LISTEN HERE

References Amnesty International Australia. (n.d.). How to be a genuine ally – Level 2: Fundamental activist skills. Available online at uploads/2020/02/205-how-to-be-a-genuineally.pdf Brown, L. (2021). The efficacy paradox: Teaching about structural inequality while keeping students’ hope alive. In Kite, M.E., Case, K.A., & Williams, W.R., Navigating difficult moments in teaching diversity and social justice, American Psychological Association; p.105-118. Fullan, M., Quinn, J., & McEachen, J. (2017). New pedagogies for deep learning: Leading transformation in schools, districts, and systems. Thousand Oaks: CA, Corwin. Fullan, M., & Langworthy, M. (2014). A rich seam: How new pedagogies find deep learning. London: Pearson. Available online at uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf Fullan, M., & Scott, G. (2014). ‘New Pedagogies for Deep Learning Whitepaper’, Education Plus. Seattle, Washington: Collaborative Impact SPC. Available online at https:// uploads/2014/09/Education-Plus-AWhitepaper-July-2014-1.pdf Osborne, N. (2015). ‘Intersectionality and kyriarchy: A framework for approaching power and social justice in planning and climate change adaptation’, Planning Theory. Available online at handle/10072/57232/91869_1.pdf;sequence=1

character, citizenship, and empathy. Additionally, attention to student’s holistic wellbeing was integral to the design of this unit so as to promote a sense of efficacy. Learning about social injustice can bring about a range of emotional reactions including outrage, frustration, disappointment or overwhelm. Therefore, regardless of the specific emotion, it was imperative that the unit design and delivery aimed to translate students’ emotions into empowerment that ideally lead to social change.

Pymble Ladies’ College



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Pymble Ladies’ College

51 Avon Road Pymble NSW 2073 PO Box 136 North Ryde BC NSW 1670 +61 2 9855 7799