The Teacher Advisor Program (TAP) came into effect at St. Augustine’s College in the Secondary area in 2004 and from 2008 began operating across the F-12 school. Implementation of the program came about after a study tour with 12 educators from the Diocese of Sandhurst. The group traveled to Canada and was hosted by the Canadian Coalition for Self-Directed Learning. Throughout the tour the underlying principles of the coalition were brought to light. The belief that personalization of learning, taking into account individual student characteristics, talents, interests and academic backgrounds allowed students to flourish in an environment in which they were able to control and direct their learning. The coalition noted teacher advisement as one of the foundational principles for self directed learning. Other principles noted were, flexible scheduling, continuous progress and personalized programming.
St.Augustine’s College recognized the merit of a self directed approach to learning and set upon the road to discovery and implementation. This process was started by modifying the Canadian coalition’s approach to supporting the development of individuals in their learning journey through the introduction of the teacher advisor program.
The building of positive relationships between the student and teacher as coach, mentor, facilitator and guide is a major aspect of the program and including the parents in that relationship completed the three way conversation. Secondary students were the initial target for this program, as the potential for them to remain ‘anonymous’ as they moved from class to class was very real. The program allowed for the building of a relationship between the student and the teacher advisor fostering the personal responsibility for learning and providing each student with the necessary balance of support and challenge to allow for personal growth as a learner.
The introduction of the program into the primary area came about with a vision for a whole school approach. Positive feedback from students and parents about the program and its achievements for individuals was extra incentive to take the program to the next phase; the whole school approach.
As the Teacher Advisor Program is an integral part of our existence today, professional discussion centres around reflective thinking and building frameworks, ways of teaching and learning, which support the idea of independence and responsibility for individual learning.
Students at the college access their learning tasks, assessment tasks and results through an online learning management system called SIMON. This system provides an online space for teachers to place information and resources, which inform students of timetables, daily messages, access learning materials and track progress in a quick and simple way. Other modules available in the learning management system are – SAM which refers to the Student Access Module where students login and access their information and PAM – the Parent Access Module which allows parents to login and access real time information with daily messages, parent documents, timetable access and learning areas; including assessment and reporting.