Philosophy of Teaching

A new way of teaching

As a TOPP School, Sandridge School is shaped by a staff of remarkable and outstanding teachers who have the professionalism, talent, intellect and passion to establish with every student a habitat for positive learning

The Incubator: Innovative Teaching

At Sandridge School, we take different approach to the teaching profession.

We engage in specialised teacher training for all staff under the Sandridge Professional Development Program.

  • This program is aligned with the Collective Campus designed to bring entrepreneurialism to life in the the classroom and through a collaboration on international educators in the IPEN Positive Psychology network.
  • Our ‘in-house teacher training’ is also characterised by a genuine community of education where expert practitioners mentor, team teach and formally train developing teachers.

In order to be a highly effective teacher, it is important to have a deep understanding of how learning occurs.

  • The best way to learn about learning is to study it in situ … in the classroom, with the students who are ‘doing’ the learning.
  • Our teachers will not only teach, but they will also work as as ‘educational researchers’.
  • This on-going, imbedded research is designed to not only generate better teaching but also to nourish teachers, respecting them and fuelling their desire for professional growth.
  • Teachers to be involved in research around their own practice and the learning of students, on the ground, in action, as part of daily practice. This research is facilitated by Dr. Maureen O’Rourke and EdPartnerships.
  • As part of the educational research aspect of the School, we are working with by Prof. Michael Bell of Flinders University to explore innovation in educational leadership.

For students to receive the best educational experience, they need to have the highly capable teachers working with them. The most capable teachers are social philosophers …

  • They not only articulate the essential framework for learning but they explain why it is important to learn.
  • They generate an emotional connection to the learning experience that taps into what it is to be human.
  • In this way, they ignite the spark that enhances the learning experience and learning outcomes for the student.
  • These teachers not only teach you to meet academic benchmarks, they inspire you so that you transcend them.
  • Students will perform to their academic best with best teachers, but they will also develop into fully actualised people.

High calibre teachers

  • Principal: Dr Jeanne Shaw, will guide the overall development of this new way of schooling
  • Deputy Principal: Ms Sophie Fenton, will guide the overall development of this new way of teaching and learning
  • expert teachers that share the vision and purpose and are inspired by this new paradigm have been recruited.

How is teaching practiced at Sandridge School?

Pragmatically, the pedagogy is informed by the ‘visible learning’ teaching practices of John Hattie and the Project Zero ‘visible thinking’ tools of Ron Ritchhart.

A key feature of the Sandridge School curriculum is unsettling so that students are equipped to deal with the dynamism that is the C21st.

  • The pedagogical culture is experiential and embedded in community in a way that enables students to put ideas into action.
  • This transforms learning from being theoretical to being tangible.
  • Students at Sandridge School will become agents of social growth in a school that builds social capital through growing the capacity of students to champion social justice and flourish as communal beings.

A partnership …

  • Defined by a shared conversation and shared learning, education is a dance between 2 partners .… if teachers create a dynamic learning environment and students are inspired to learn, then the results will look after themselves.
  • Sandridge School pedagogy is shaped by ‘problem posing education’, whereby students and teachers bring knowledge and skills into the classroom and work as co-educators.
  • At Sandridge School, the teacher will work with the students as a mentor and coach in the learning process.

Ultimately, teaching and learning at Sandridge School is about enabling, not instructing.

  • Sandridge School is founded on the premise that education is about growing people.
  • The pedagogy is focused on enabling students to engage with the world (critically and emotionally), to step outside their comfort zone, to take risks, to learn from failure, to be curious and to challenge conventional wisdom.
  • It is geared towards unsettling the students just enough to get them out of their haze and then provide the learning space for them to find meaning in a way that re-settles them.
  • It teaches students about taking risks and learning from failure.
  • It challenges them, by making the classroom a place of questing and make the learning culture irresistible!

Sandridge is led by Dr Jeanne Shaw and Ms Sophie Fenton.

Dr Shaw’s PhD in Education has formed central tenets of the School, based around the importance that relationships have in creating effective learning environments.

As 2013 Australian Teacher of the Year, Sophie Fenton will serve as deputy principal, steering teaching and learning across the School.

Working alongside these formally recognised teachers, we have recruited expert teachers that share our vision and purpose and are inspired by this new paradigm.

What it is to be a teacher at Sandridge School?

A school should support teachers to grow themselves professionally, fostering a culture of learning that is for all members of the community, not just for the students. Where teachers feel a sense of empowerment that comes from being informed and conscious practitioners, they are likely to thrive.

  • Showers (1985) talks about ‘building communities of teachers’, who foster professional learning through the development of a shared language and set of common understandings necessary for the collegial study of new knowledge and skills.
  • Effective schools need to provide a structure for the follow-up to training that is essential for acquiring new knowledge and skills.
  • Lieberman and Miller (1999) agree with this position, arguing that when teachers work together they grow to trust and support each other to achieve the best possible student outcomes.
  • Through shared responsibility, collaborative problem solving and collegial capacity building, teaching practice is enhanced and the learning experience is heightened. ‘Deep understanding arises from practice… teachers are the best teachers of other teachers’ (Lieberman & Wood, 2002).
  • In this sense, mentorship and team teaching powerfully foster a learning community and a common goal to strive.
  • Ideally, a school should give back to the profession too ….
    • A genuine community of education would see schools be models for teaching practice that mentor teachers and then send them on to other schools to share their skills and knowledge in a way that helps all teachers to become great teachers.

TOPP Schools, like Sandridge School, serve as Teacher Training Schools, modeled on the traditional Internship.

Teaching practice is a key element of our mission: to create a dynamic environment that nourishes and fosters great teaching. Our goal is to employ the best practitioners and then to also set up a teacher training element to the school, whereby we teach teachers too – through mentoring, team teaching and formal training.

The idea is for this to be a school for teachers as well as for students – thriving teachers are thriving educators. As a TOPP School, Sandridge will be a school that gives back to the profession.

Ultimately, the aim is for this school to be a model for teaching practice that mentors all teachers to become great teachers.

Education is a fundamentally human process that is organic and ecologically nourished by the component parts of teaching and learning, emotional, intellectual and social development. It occurs in a habitat that is unique.

  • Students say that what matters about their time in class with the teacher is not learning content.
  • It is about personal growth and engagement with the big questions of the world they live in ….
  • They appreciate the learning of content but what they value is the way they learn it – through shared conversations and through a valued relationship with their teacher.
  • It is this relationship that brings ‘half dead’ students to life … because it is about them living, not just being passive consumers or observers.

This fundamental element of teaching and learning is an intangible that can’t be taught solely in a university lecture theatre … it must also be observed, trialed, mentored and refined.

  • For training teachers to learn to teach people and not just deliver content, they need to be embedded in the actual space and learn from those actively practicing the craft – the habitat of the classroom.
  • The theoretical framework of the conventional university setting equips teachers to teach the pragmatics of curriculum delivery …
  • but watching expert teachers in the human habitat of the classroom enables training teachers to see that great teaching is more than delivering content …
  • great teachers develop the humanness that is pivotal to a functioning society and self ….
  • Great teachers don’t just teach literacy and numeracy, great teachers teach you ‘to be’ …
  • this can’t be delivered in a lecture theatre … it needs to be modeled and mentored and nurtured as a distinctive craft – the ‘craft’ of teaching.

The ‘craft’ of teaching is best learned through a longitudinal mentorship and modeling framework.

Our educational paradigm concept is one that melds teaching and learning: as students, teachers and training teachers; into the one space.

  • None of these components can fully achieve their potential on their own.
  • Each one is inextricably linked to and grows from the other in the ecology of the educational space.
  • Education is a partnership, a shared journey of travelers: students, teachers and training teachers.


Education is a partnership, whereby if teachers create a dynamic learning environment and students are inspired to learn, then the results will look after themselves.

Consistent with the philosophy that schools build community, the teaching and learning should be experiential and embedded in community, via genuinely integrated relationships with industry and not-for-profit organisations.

An inquiry based and negotiated curriculum invites student participation in the process, facilitating students as drivers of learning and teachers as mentors in the learning process.