Susan’s students on pathway to success

Griffith Education graduate Susan Kersland with Solid Pathways students, from left, Joseph Warman (Coorparoo State School), Sebastian Lynch (Belmont State School) and Gabrielle Aird (Coorparoo State School)

Griffith Education graduate Susan Kersland has taken the next step in an already diverse teaching career, thanks to a Queensland Government initiative supporting high-achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Ms Kersland, who graduated with Honours in 2008 and has since completed her Master of Philosophy, is now an Education Officer for Solid Pathways, an online program for the students and others in out-of-home care.

Ranging from Years 3-12, the participating students were identified through their NAPLAN test results.

According to Mr Tom Byrne, the Director of the State Government-administered Indigenous Schooling Support Unit, Solid Pathways is a response to strong evidence that teaching critical and creative thinking skills through online methods increases students’ ability to think logically and critically, write persuasively and analyse information and reason in conversation.

The aim of the program is to maintain the high achievements of the students as they move through primary and secondary school and transition into tertiary studies, TAFE and employment.

Ms Kersland’s teaching skills are being applied at the very start of that journey.

“There are hundreds of children involved in Solid Pathways across the Brisbane metropoIitan region and I share the responsibility with another teacher for the Year 3-5 students, the largest cohort participating in the program,” she said.

“It’s been such an exciting challenge to create the kind of online learning environment that nurtures the students and shows them that being a high achiever is a good thing, and that they can be successful in the future.

“Just to be selected for the program is a real achievement and I am looking forward to doing everything I can to ensure the students stay on the path to success and continue to maintain or excel above the level of achievement they are currently displaying.”

Since leaving Griffith, Ms Kersland has fulfilled various roles for Education Queensland, including teacher, curriculum writer, literacy coach and principal.

She recently returned from Laura, in Queensland’s far north, where she was a teaching principal, and is a former Queensland finalist in the Pride of Australia awards for her work on improving the educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Her role with Solid Pathways finds her in charge of an online classroom, connecting with students from various schools and applying positive reinforcement and collective engagement.

“Statistics show that levels of high achievement among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students tend to fall away as their education progresses through critical transitioning periods. Through Solid Pathways, we’re trying to reverse that trend by supporting students through these periods,” Ms Kersland said.

“Solid Pathways gives students the chance to connect with like-minded peers in a weekly philosophical and collaborative inquiry.

“The critical thinking element is the key because it’s all about finding new analyses, weighing up responses, changing your mind when necessary, making decisions based on consideration and building on ideas.

“It’s a different kind of classroom and a different kind of teaching, but I believe this is something special and important for these talented young people.”