Can Student-Centred Learning and the HSC co-exist?

One of the mild frustrations that I’ve been feeling lately is the disparity between the way I *want* to teach and the way that the HSC and its timeline dictate. For those who may be from overseas, the Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the exams that students in NSW need to complete to finish their final year of high school. It isn’t mandatory for students to do it (they can leave school at 17 if they so choose) but if they want to complete Year 12 they have to do them. The lion’s share of students decide to push through it and graduate, going on to their life post-school, whether it involves university, TAFE or something else.

Now the problem I have is that I have been trained in (and have experienced the value of) a more student-centred teaching approach. I’ve been dipping the toe with the principles of Modeling Chemistry for the last few months and firmly believe that this sort of approach has massive value in developing students’ thinking.

However, the sheer amount of chemistry content in the HSC and the tight timeframe in which to teach it have made me resort to a far more teacher-centred teaching style than I would like. My Year 12 classroom at the moment feels very chalk-and-talk, and while it feels like it’s working to some degree, at the back of my mind I can’t shake the feeling that it’s pseudoteaching. Am I actually *teaching* anything? Are my notes from the board (which seem to be far too many) actually achieving anything? To further exacerbate this, a lot of the content that we cover goes well beyond the scope of the Modeling Chemistry course, so I don’t even really have a solid resource to fall back on for advice and strategies.

I want to go back to student-centred learning, but within the context of the HSC I just don’t know how. Am I doing the right thing by my students if I do? Or am I just making it worse? I realise that my title is rather facetious, as I’m sure they can and do – but I just don’t know what *I* should do. Any and all advice appreciated!

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One response to “Can Student-Centred Learning and the HSC co-exist?

  1. As I see it, the HSC for most subjects does a better job of testing how well students can memorise information and how quickly they can scribble it all down. Unfortunately, the way the syllabus is structured and assessed, there’s not a great deal of space for much, if any, student-centred teaching approaches.

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