Project-Based Learning

The e4 programme has been a compulsory component of the Form I curriculum at St Mary’s since 2015. It has proven to be a valuable part of our curriculum as it is aligned, explicitly so, to the Statement on the Educational Philosophy of St Mary’s. This programme has given St Mary’s pupils the opportunity to:

  • Understand the world as an interrelated set of systems and processes
  • Take responsibility for their own learning and conduct themselves as confident and independent young adults who have a passion for learning and discovery
  • Be flexible and adaptable in their approach to learning and discovery
  • Demonstrate a sense of determination and resilience when tackling and solving problems
  • Work collaboratively with others on multiple platforms, including face to face and digitally
  • Be creative problem solvers, but also creators of new ideas and innovative approaches

Our experiences, struggles, efforts, and successes in the e4 programme have laid a solid foundation for our pupils’ education. In addition, our insightful learnings have resulted in the evolution of e4. From 2019, e4 will no longer exist as a standalone subject but will be considered as an approach through which we develop our curriculum. The four “Es” of “effective, engaging, exciting and enriching” will offer a lens through which we explore curriculum development and particularly curriculum design. The Form I and Form II girls will engage in Project-oriented Learning which will culminate in Project-based Learning (PBL) alongside Inquiry-based Learning (IBL). A Project-oriented, Project-based and Inquiry-based curriculum will provide our pupils with the opportunity of making thorough and reflective observations of their local, national and global contexts, formatting action-driven questions from these observations and developing the skills required to address these questions and, consequently, find far-reaching solutions. This will allow for an organic and authentic integration of content and skills, stretching across various subject areas. This learning experience and mindset will help our pupils as they move through the Senior School, into tertiary education and create responsible, active South African citizens. Form I and Form II girls will engage in project work for two weeks in each term. These Forms will no longer write mid-year examinations, another example of the evolution of our school scheduling and assessment practices.

There is a dedicated team of four teachers designing projects: Tinhiko Nkuna, Themba Ndimande, Linda Bradfield and Lucy Strydom. During October and November 2018, Tinhiko participated in a Public Lesson Study and an Improvement Science Institute at the High Tech High (HTH) Graduate School of Education in San Diego. Linda, our EdTech leader, participated in a Project Design Camp in San Diego offered by the HTH Graduate School of Education as well. Both design team members gained invaluable knowledge and experience on design principles and the concept of improvement science in education. Developed by a coalition of San Diego civic leaders and educators, High Tech High opened in September 2000 as a small public charter school. The HTH organisation includes a Graduate School of Education, offering professional development opportunities serving educators throughout the world. High Tech High is guided by four connected design principles – equity, personalisation, authentic work, and collaborative design.

As so eloquently stated by Linda Hill, a Harvard Business School professor, in her book Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation: “Instead of trying to come up with a vision and make innovation happen themselves, a leader of innovation creates a place – a context, an environment – where people are willing and able to do the hard work that innovative problem solving requires.” Through Project-based and Inquiry-based Learning, the design team believes that our Form I and Form II girls will be offered “a place-a context, an environment” where they will be willing and able to do the hard work of innovative problem solving.

Tinhiko Nkuna 

Deputy Headmistress: Innovation

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