Aussies make Big History in Seattle

Aussies make Big History in Seattle

Aussies make Big History in Seattle


Image: Des Hylton with Professor David Christian 

From its inception the Big History Project has maintained a commitment to working with teachers to produce the highest quality resources and learning experiences. Teacher feedback and collaboration is a critical component in keeping the Big History Project fresh, relevant and effective in the classroom.

In the spirit of teacher collaboration two of Australia's leading Big History teachers, Jillian Turner- a History teacher from Hornsby Girls High School in Sydney, and Des Hylton - a Physics teacher and Head of Inquiry Learning at St Pauls School in Queensland, travelled to Seattle to participate in the annual Big History Project Teacher Leader Summit. Des and Jillian provided invaluable insights to fellow US Big History teachers and the Big History Project course development team by sharing their experiences, reflections and expertise on teaching Big History in Australia.  Jillian is a 4 year veteran Big History teacher and Des leads a team of teachers implementing the Big History Project course at his school.

Professional development is a crucial component of any successful educational initiative. As a cutting edge program in mixed delivery online content and interdisciplinary approaches to curriculum, the Big History Project also offers innovative approaches to professional development. An example of this is the Big History Project Yammer Community, an online forum and resource sharing platform that provides real time support to Big History teachers. The Big History Project also facilitates face-to-face gatherings of Big History teachers across Australia and the US.

As all teachers know, there is no substitute for a group of enthusiastic, passionate teachers coming together sharing and reflecting on classroom experiences. Jillian Turner provides an insight into the power of her experience collaborating with US Big History teachers and course developers:

"Meeting with other Big History teachers in the US was an inspiring experience. Teachers so rarely get the opportunity to spend time with other teachers reflecting on teaching in a broad sense. Meeting with teachers who are passionate about education on another continent confirmed that good teaching is good teaching, no matter where it happens. Students all over the world need to be challenged to think critically about the world around them. To be presented with problematic knowledge and shown that they can engage in conversations that matter to them. Teachers all over the world are excited about doing this in their classrooms and the Big History course offers the opportunity to do this. As teachers spoke about their roles within schools I found myself listening to a wide range of challenges and opportunities. It's as if the different problems facing teachers forced them to find creative solutions which turned out to be wonderful ideas. The Big History Project staff and the Teacher Leaders in the US are an inspiring group of educators. Attending the Teacher Leader Summit was a rewarding experience for me. I learnt many things during my time in Seattle and I look forward to seeing what we achieve as Big History teachers this year."

Image: Jillian Turner 

To meet the challenges of the future students will be required to appreciate all facets of a problem from multiple scales and perspectives. They will need to be able to draw insight and knowledge from a range of different disciplines and apply this knowledge with logic and reason to the problem in front of them. The Big History Project teaches students these skills and supports teachers in empowering students to succeed in the 21st century.

Des Hylton offers some insight into how his experience teaching Big History and attending the Big History Project Teacher Leader Summit is enabling him to provide these opportunities to his students:

"I feel incredibly privileged to have collaborated with so many outstanding teachers in Seattle during the Big History Lead Teacher Summit. Hearing other teachers' stories, sharing strategies and being able to continue to refine the course left me energised and eager to get back into the classroom with our latest cohort of Big History students here in Brisbane, Australia. It is a testament to the power of the Big History narrative, which adds significant value to the skills and dispositions (qualities) of learners, regardless of their schooling system.Operating in an interdisciplinary way of thinking and collaborating with such a wide range of teachers has renewed my positive outlook for the future of Big History (and humanity)."

The Big History Institute, Macquarie University will be hosting a Big History Project Information and Implementation evening on Wednesday March 23rd providing current and prospective Big History Teachers with an overview of the Big History Project course, modes of implementation and updates on exciting new online professional development opportunities available mid-2016. Attendance at the event is free of charge and you can register here

The Big History Project course also has approval from the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) NSW as a school developed board endorsed course in Stage 5 100 and 200 hours as well as a 1 unit Preliminary course. Applications for BOSTES approval to teach the Big History Project course in 2017 close April 8 2016. Pre-filled applications and submission details are available here.

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