Teachers Learning

The annual Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia Conference was held in Adelaide and attended by Simone Sawaris, Deputy Principal, Teaching & Learning, Marsha Pengilly, Dean of Students Year 9 and Rebecca Ewing, Teacher of English. Rebecca also presented at the conference on the topic, Fearlessness and Empowerment: A look at female protagonists’ relationship with fear in novel and film.

 What was the conference theme?

The Conference was titled, Fearless Girls Strong Women. All of the keynote speakers presented on current issues and concerns in girls’ schools and girls’ education. These included gender and equality, girls to women and the cycle of leadership, the impact of technology on young women and discussions about pornography and the development of positive relationships.

What were the key points you took away and shared with staff?

The conference was great in that it allowed time to be able to consider many issues facing our young women, it also affirmed the great work of our pastoral care staff.

The conference stressed that service learning and camp programs allow our girls to develop their sense of self and their place in the community. The importance of these opportunities can’t be underestimated in developing our girls into confident, fearless women.

The sessions on girls and sex and developing healthy relationships highlighted an area where we could be doing more to educate our girls. These are issues facing our young people now, and together with parents, we need to be having some more crucial conversations. We need to ensure that our girls feel empowered in their relationships and are not subject to the increasing violence we are seeing directed at women.

Marsha Pengilly, Dean of Students, Year 9 


What were the highlights of the conference? 

Meeting leaders from other girls’ schools from around the country and discussing with them the issues and solutions they are working within their schools. It was great to hear several of the speakers at the conference confirm that a number of initiatives we have in place to support and develop our students are focus areas around the nation. For example, our Enhanced Learning Programs in Year 6-9, Student Leadership and Wellbeing programs and the College focus on GRIT, are all areas that many other schools are currently working on. It was encouraging to know that Santa Maria is ‘ahead of the game’ in many of these.

 What changing trends in girls’ education did you recognise? 

A focus on empowering students through pedagogy to develop their 21stcentury skills: creativity, communication, citizenship, collaboration and critical thinking.

Increase in school initiatives to foster self-efficacy in students. Interestingly, research into the factors affecting self-efficacy shows that the greatest contributors are Team Sports (+16%), Leadership Development programs (13%) and Travel within and inter-state (7%), while the highest detractor is computer games (-8%).

Simone Sawaris, Deputy Principal, Teaching & Learning


Melissa Marshall, Head of Digital Learning, attended and presented at the WA Education Summit, 2018 which was held at Optus Stadium

What was the highlight of the conference?

Trent Ray from Collective Education Australia spoke about the new trends in the education space and what is now possible. It is quite amazing to think that Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality (where devices integrate surface recognition so that any surface can become a computer screen) is upon us. We also examined artificial intelligence disruption, cognitive services, such as chatbots that organise online orders and solve customer service problems, and saw many types of new technology being used.

The key takeaway was that this technology cannot be edutainment. Students will not see their future through merely experiencing this tech the same way they experience apps on their smartphone. We need to give lots of opportunities for developing, creating and making technology. Instead of ‘What job do you want to have when you grow up?’, we need to ask our students, ‘What problems do you want to solve?’

What was your presentation about?

My presentation was about using the principles of games to drive learning. I have always been fascinated by how kids will bash and bash at something in an online game, seek help, work hard and overcome challenges, big and small, but then freeze in a classroom. What is it about games that make us want to try so hard? We looked at high-tech, low-tech and no-tech ways to integrate gamification principles into the everyday. We can gamify tasks like productivity (Forest app), biology field observations (QuestaGame) and model making (Minecraft for Education, the never-ending box of lego). If we can balance competition and cooperation, set non-trivial, motivating goals, and immerse our students in an epic story, we may observe them solving the world’s problems in very unique ways.

Melissa Marshall, Head of  Digital Learning

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