Meet Sharon Anderson

Sharon has over 20 years of experience as a primary school teacher. She recently completed the Professional Certificate in Education (Positive Behaviour and Learning) to complement her role as a Learning Adjustment Education Officer for the Catholic Education Office.

Where are you currently working and what is your role?

I am a primary teacher who worked in the classroom for over 20 years. I am currently working at the Catholic Education Office in the Diocese of Sale as a Learning Adjustment Education Officer. I work with schools as they support their students with additional academic and behaviour needs.

What made you decide to enrol in the Professional Certificate in Positive Behaviour and Learning?

A team of our teachers were undertaking this course and so it was an opportunity for me to learn alongside them in a collegial way. We are acutely aware of our responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act as well as the Education Standards and want to see these enacted appropriately and effectively in all of our schools, for all of our children.

What did gain from this course?

So much! It gave me a clearer, more practical perspective on how behaviour and learning are intertwined. The study of behaviour helped me to understand that it is, in fact, a way for our students to communicate their needs. In understanding the purpose of behaviour we are able to respond to it in a considered and strategic way with the goal of engaging the student in their learning. Learning is much more than a linear process and each of our students enters into it uniquely. By focusing on what a student can do as opposed to what they can’t, we meet them at their point of readiness and we are more likely to improve their learning outcomes. This positive approach to learning is a refreshing and optimistic one and includes all student, wherever they happen to be on the learning continuum.

How did you juggle work and study?

The course was a combination of face to face learning at the university as well as online tasks and forums. Because it was so related to my work, it was not difficult to merge the two. It is important to maintain a constant pace throughout the course, so I allocated time each week, usually over the weekend to study.

What was the most challenging part of the course?

There is a high expectation from the university which is both challenging and motivating. Learning to research a topic and write academically was overwhelming at first, but with guidance, I learnt how to use the library and search tools efficiently. The feedback from the lecturers was always helpful and the use of rubrics to mark assignments was reassuring as it provided a clear direction. The course notes included valuable references which I continue to use in my daily work.

What’s been the most valuable aspect of the course?

For me, it was the opportunity to work with colleagues who work across a wide range of settings. The opportunities for discussion and the sharing of experience added a richness which is hard to quantify.

How has it helped you in your current role?

I have been able to share my learning with my colleagues in schools. Because the course uses the most up to date research, it has strong credibility. We have been able to trial the strategies and have seen such positive results. It is a privilege to see teachers’ confidence grow as they begin to view their students through a positive lens.

Can you tell me an example of when you have applied something you’ve learned in the course to your classroom/setting?

The Prevent, Teach, Reinforce model has been a most practical and sensible tool and some of our schools now use it to address significant behaviour concerns.

What would you say to something thinking about doing this course?

If you are looking for a practical, evidence based course that will affect your teaching immediately, this is the course for you. It will give you a new perspective and build your confidence and most importantly, it will help you to provide a positive learning environment where your students will thrive.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am not sure if this is helpful for the longevity of this publication, but the backgrounds of the lecturers, Lisa McKay Brown and Shiralee Poed were vital in providing us with authentic and credible information. Their wisdom combined with their experience encouraged me to think that if they can do it, so can I.