A revolutionary program is helping inspire and motivate student learning and industry engagement in more than 40 schools across the nation.
The Big Picture program, a learning model centred on students’ learning preferences, began in the U.S and was adopted in Australia 10 years ago. Following research, many schools around the country are now including in their curriculum.
St John’s Park High School principal, Sue French, said that the broad scope of the program and its potential to improve the lives of students motivated her to introduce the Big Picture program at her school.
“I’m really opposed to doing dinky little programs, like a little literacy test here and there,” French told The Educator.
“It’s got to be much bigger than that. The idea is to get the children interested in learning. Once you can do that, the literacy and numeracy progress will follow.”
French explained how several of her school’s special needs students who were part of the program’s trial went on to be employed in roles they genuinely enjoyed.
“My objective was to make the curriculum for those students much more relevant to their needs, but to also put them in workplaces where we would explicitly develop work skills,” French said.
“One of the students got work in a large supermarket stacking boxes. For the student, it was an ideal job as they enjoyed keeping boxes stacked in an orderly way.
“Somebody has to do these jobs, and for these kids, that’s a perfect job, so why not hire someone who can do it really well? This can free up other members of staff to do other things that they’re better suited to do.”
French said there are a whole range of issues around students which are placed in special ed classes, but what bothers her most was that there was “no good reason” why these children couldn’t function within the community.
“I think that a whole range of appropriate jobs exist in the community for kids who have low intellectual ability,” French said.
“These jobs can be done by someone who isn’t of low intellectual ability but are likely to get bored, whereas one of these kids would do the job very well.”
French added that in the workplace the students would be around employees and prospective employers so that the employer “can see what the kids can do rather than imagine what they can’t do.”
“As a result of that, a whole range of people in the community get a better understanding of what it means to have an intellectual disability, but also how these young people might fit into their organisations,” French said.