Case Studies

Case Study: Visual Arts Symbolism Study

Melrose High School teacher Anna Russell’s visual arts students explore communication in some of the most insightful projects they’ve created yet.

melrose high school

Melrose School opened its doors in Pearce, Canberra in 1970. From the start, they have always encouraged achievement within a safe and friendly learning environment. They offer their students a balanced curriculum and put a focus on a school spirit that promotes well-being and an ideal of service and respect for others.

Melrose High School Website

Nurturing a student’s imagination and creativity is how meaningful learning happens. This is what the work of Anna Russell, a Visual Arts teacher at Canberra’s Melrose High School, is focused on.

Using Solution Fluency as a roadmap, Anna’s students embarked on an exploration of visual communication resulting in some of the most insightful projects they’ve created yet.

How to we inspire lasting and meaningful change

Teachers love stretching their students’ imaginations in ways they know will make them respond. That’s how we make the most meaningful connections in learning and how students can take ownership of what we teach them in school.

Anna Russell, a Visual Arts teacher at Canberra’s Melrose High School, knows this well. Her creative field allows her students to shine in ways they never thought possible. So the idea to incorporate the 6Ds of Solution Fluency into her teaching was well-considered beforehand.

Teachers love stretching their students’ imaginations in ways they know will make them respond. 

“I was aware that I needed to enhance my pedagogy to meet the changes required for teaching in a digital age,” says Anna. Giving her students an inspiring challenge in which they could incorporate Solution Fluency was the first step.

How do we begin to transform

Anna’s approach to using Solution Fluency in her classroom involved a Visual Arts lesson about symbols. She reminded her students that signs and symbols are everywhere around us and that their usage is one of the main ways we communicate.

They began their exploration of symbols by viewing slides showing some fairly well-known and often iconic imagery. “I want you to tell me what they are,” Anna had instructed her students. “But more importantly, tell me how they make you feel.”

melrose symbolism projects

Some of the symbolism work from Melrose High's visual arts students

Connecting to her students’ inner awareness set the tone for upcoming projects that would demonstrate how the symbols we see make us feel, and how they affect our opinions and perceptions of the world around us.

Using Solution Fluency as a roadmap, Anna’s students embarked on a journey of discovering the real power of symbols in society. It was the groundwork for what would be some vibrant and deeply insightful student design projects.

Using Solution Fluency for their projects allowed Anna’s students to gain a greater understanding of the real importance of symbols in our global society. Their original artwork reflected the critical thinking processes that are inherent in authentic problem-solving classroom culture. This is one of the hallmarks of Solution Fluency.

“The culture in the classroom has always been very positive,” Anna explains, “except that now students are more focused and busier.”

Teachers have assumed the roles of facilitators and “guides on the side” as students take the lead in learning.

After all the projects had been completed, students reflected on their work and processes. They considered what was good, and what was difficult. They realized there is no right or wrong in the debriefing of a learning journey, just honesty.

Anna went on to interview a few selected students during the process. Each one of them led her on a guided tour of their visual symbols diary, explaining how they used Solution Fluency’s 6Ds to make their creative visions a reality.

How best can we measure growth and progress

Students

The students of Melrose High School have experienced a renewed vitality for their learning, and a greater sense of responsibility and creative control in how they learn. So what has changed for learners?

  • Students are thinking more for themselves and assuming responsibility.
  • Lessons are engaging and related to real-life learning.
  • Students are developing a sense of ownership for learning.
  • They are working on projects that solve challenging problems that are relevant to their interests.

Teachers

Anna was initially concerned about giving the students so much freedom to work that they would produce nothing. She realized she needed to step back and trust the process, and also her students’ ability to be self-directed. Once she did, amazing things began to happen.

  • Letting students take the lead has shown that it is possible to learn when they are doing entirely different things.
  • Teachers have assumed the roles of facilitators and “guides on the side” as students take the lead in learning.
  • The Fluencies processes allow teachers to connect content topics to their students’ interests and increase student engagement.

School Culture

Ultimately any shift of pedagogy and philosophy will have a lasting effect on the whole-school culture. After working with Wabisabi, this is what's happening at Melrose High School.

  • Embracing the Fluencies is gradually fostering a more creative and dynamic school culture.
  • There is a more profound sense of collaboration between students and teachers as well as between the teachers themselves.
  • Integrity and curiosity are developing for everyone in unexpected ways.
  • Educators are being inspired to both learn and instruct in many different ways to connect to learners.


    How do we ensure learning continues to improve and excel

    As the Essential Fluencies continue to establish a home in Anna’s classroom experiences, she’s keeping her eye on the future. This includes some lofty goals for not only her practices but for spreading the word about the Fluencies as well.

    “As I can see the application of the Fluencies across all KLAs, I would like to embed them in all of my practice, and mentor teachers in doing the same,” says Anna.

    So what does she feel the most significant benefits have been in working with Solution Fluency in her classroom? “For me, this process has changed the way I teach and think about my pedagogy,” she claims.

    “It has provided me with the necessary adjustments that I needed to meet the needs and interests of my students.”

    Case Study: Symbolism Study—Melrose HSCase Study: Symbolism Study—Melrose HS

    Case Study: Symbolism Study—Melrose HS
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    Nurturing a student’s imagination and creativity is how meaningful learning happens. This is what the... read more