High-level student journey

This high-level student journey provides a broad overview of the different stages, experiences and findings from recent research.

Overview

The journey from 0-18 years old is complex and the breadth of experiences across all points is diverse. By breaking it down into these six 'Help me' stages according to their progress, we identify opportunities to assist students at each step.

Key insights

  • The first set of institutionalised care sets the scene for the entire educational experience.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • Standardisation of school curriculums is forcing parents to look beyond the department to deliver the best educational outcomes for their child.

Opportunities

  • The department becomes the life/career/success coach for parents and their children.
  • Help set and manage expectations for parents/carers and their kids in terms of both social and academic education. Also providing both the parents/carers and children with an understanding of roughly where they should be in terms of development.
  • A tool to match parents/carers and children with educational institutions and time frames based on family behaviour and attitudes.

Key insights

  • Reinforcing the idea of “normal” guides decisions on education.
  • Parents are bringing own expectations to the education experience.
  • Success of education is determined by the student’s experience/survival of the “wonder years”.
  • There is no explicit expectation setting and management of soft skill development.

Opportunities

  • Development of a social curriculum to help teachers actively coach personal and social development.
  • Education of parents on the breadth of what’s considered “normal” in a student’s development.
  • Setting of personalised behavioural/developmental trigger points for parents with varying expectations.
  • Establish a transition to school “statement”-style program to ensure a smooth transition from year to year.
  • More personalised/tailored parent/teacher nights to better handle parental lines of inquiry.

Key insights

  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • Success of education is determined by the student’s experience/survival of the “wonder years”.
  • School is a controlled testing ground for the real world.

Opportunities

  • Standardised best practices in student transition across schools.

Key insights

  • Success of education is determined by the student’s experience/survival of the “wonder years”.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • School is a controlled testing ground for the real world.

Opportunities

  • Standardised/recommended student socialisation (drawn from current best practices across all schools).
  • Help students better understand the importance of early academic decisions.

Key insights

  • School is a job for kids.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • School is a controlled testing ground for the real world.

Opportunities

  • Create closer ties between curriculum and real-world impact/experience.
  • Create a forum for students to provide critical analysis of the completed curriculum.
  • Translation of education into more individually engaging modes of learning.

Key insights

  • Success of education is determined by the student’s experience/survival of the “wonder years”.
  • School is a controlled testing ground for the real world.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.

Opportunities

  • Create a closer relationship between learning and real-world application to help students make more informed decisions about the Higher School Certificate or the future in general.
  • Provide more education for real-world experiences (for example voting, moving house) to prepare for life after school.

Key findings by year

You’ll find key motivators, broader trends and key factors and forces at play. These can be viewed in broad terms in three stages:

  • Years 0-Kindergarten
  • Years 1-6
  • Years 7-12

The stage is set for a student’s future from the very beginning. Even before a child is born, there are factors which influence the decisions parents make. Students are reliant on parents making the right decision on their education.

Job: Help my parents/carers choose the best start for me

Student experience (Year 0-Kindergarten)

Students are blissfully unaware as they’ve just come into the world. They go to day care, stay at home or their time is split between the two.

Parent experience (Year 0-Kindergarten)

Parents and carers become acutely aware of the trials and tribulations related to getting a child into care. The challenge may begin with making a decision on when to send a child into care, but it will extend to putting their name onto the appropriate lists for day care, preschool and possibly private schools.

Age 0

Key findings

New parents realise they are not only responsible for caring for their child, but also for setting the foundation for their education. They are actively seeking advice from friends, family, specialists, as well as doing their own research to decide the best approach when educating their child.

Age 1

Achieving the vision

Whether it’s day care, (or later) preschool or Kindergarten, positive first experiences of education set students up for a richer experience of education, providing more opportunities after school.

Decision time about day care

Should I put my child in day care? When should I do it? How do my past experiences impact my thinking?

Day care also plays different roles. It can be “a place for my child to be taken off my hands”. Family and babysitters can also fill this role, but day care ensures social development is a positive by-product.

Key findings (Ages 1 and 2)

Day care commences for many and its impact is far beyond its immediate purpose as a child’s first experience of institutionalised care can set the foundation for the rest of a student’s education experience. Day care is also the first time parents are exposed to how their child’s behaviour and development compares to a group of other children of similar age.

Age 2

Key insights
  • The first set of institutionalised care sets the scene for the entire educational experience.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • Standardisation of school curriculums is forcing parents to look beyond the department to deliver the best educational outcomes for their child.

Age 3

Student options are:
  • preschool
  • day care
  • home.
Changing parental expectations

As students become older, parental expectations of institutions evolve from “look after my child for me” to “help my child develop”.

Key findings

Preschool indicates the “handover” of the child to the education system with the commencement of structured learning activities and a focus on developing initial literacy and numeracy skills. Identifying a child’s special interests/talents also starts to occur with the child starting to engage in arts, music and sporting activities.

Age 4

Key findings

Transition to school (Kindergarten) commences. This process marks the first time a child is formally assessed on their readiness to progress on their educational journey. Parents can face conflicting opinions on the best path for their child (from experts, family and friends) and often need to balance what’s best for the child versus financial considerations. The selection of a kindergarten sets the precedent for future education decisions.

Age 5

Is my child ready for Kindergarten? Parents have the final word on when students begin at Kindergarten. Some of the key influencing factors include:

  • expert opinion
  • academic ability of student (for example reading, writing, counting)
  • mental and physical maturity
  • self-confidence
  • ability to focus.

Strong external factors also come into play including financial pressures, social influence and the parent’s own experience.

“I didn’t know she was ahead of schedule. I just didn’t want her to be a 17 year old when everyone else was 18.” [Parent quote]

“You can see it in her. She was willing to learn. She wanted more. Two days a week for her wasn’t enough. She was getting bored at home. She was becoming restless. The activities weren’t enough for her ... she was ready. You just know.” [Parent quote]

Strongest influences on parent’s choice of kindergarten are:
  • location
  • parent’s own experience
  • family and friends.
Student options are:
  • kindergarten
  • day care
  • home.
Key findings (Age 5 and Kindergarten)

The handover of a child’s education to the system is complete with the start of formal school education. How easily the child adapts to the new routine and social environment can indicate their ability to cope with the future demands of formal education programs and structures.

Kindergarten

A brave new world

It’s a brave new world for the student entering the education system. Their progress is judged on how they compare to their peers, as they adapt and grow into their new environment and new routines. While parents and teachers are monitoring, students are just trying to settle in.

Achieving the vision

Students who adapt well to the routines, requirements and the social environment of school establish a healthy base for the rest of their educational experience.

From Year 1 to 5, parents and carers are closely tracking the student’s social development (primary) and academic development (secondary), using other students, siblings and social circles to understand what’s normal. At Year 6, students are preparing for the move to the bigger pond (high school).

Job: Help me fit in and find my 'normal' (Year 1-5)

Student experience (Year 1-5)

Students are building social relationships with students and teachers whilst adjusting to the new routines and expectations of school.

Parent experience (Year 1-5)

At this stage, parents tend to aspire to students finding their place “somewhere in the middle”.

Year 1

Key insights
  • Reinforcing the idea of “normal” guides educational decisions.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • Success of education is determined by the student’s experience/survival of the “wonder years”.
  • There is no explicit expectation setting and management of soft skill development.
Defining what’s 'normal'

Parents create their own definition of “normal” with their child in the middle, and then seek out information and environments to confirm that.

After moving a child with reported behavioural issues to a new school. “That was the best thing I’ve ever heard from a teacher. He is just a normal little boy”. [Parent quote]

In some cases, parents are actively withholding the information from students that they may have developmental issues, protecting them from the knowledge that they might not be "normal".

Key findings

After a year of the routine and experience of formal education, a student’s development starts to be broadly classified by teachers as “normal”. Or they may require more attention to bring them up to the baseline of what is considered “normal”.

Year 2

Key blocker

Students who don’t nail the basics of reading and writing early on are set up to struggle through the rest of their educational experience. The current system that sees the whole class move forward as one, regardless of individual results, seals the fate of those who are struggling.

Short term, long term

Parents are thinking about the long-term implications of the student’s progress on their future prospects. Meanwhile, students are just thinking about the next break, next weekend or next school holidays.

Key findings

An inability to grasp basic literacy and numeracy concepts starts to impact a student’s ability to stay aligned with the rest of the class. If not addressed, this can set them up for an ongoing struggle with the education system.

Year 3

In the early stages, there are a few triggers for extracurricular studies:

  • students developing below the broad bandwidth of “normal”
  • parental expectations set by previous experiences
  • cultural expectations.
Key findings

The routine of school can provide a critical point of stability for students who are facing challenges both in and outside of school. The disruption of this routine for vulnerable students can result in issues with behaviour and academic performance.

Year 4

As the student’s self-awareness develops, they begin to understand where they fit in, bringing their viewpoint closer to that of their parents.

Key findings

Students are becoming increasingly self-aware of where they fit in from a social perspective and are starting to further shape their identity through extracurricular activities and interests.

Year 5

Key findings

School focus switches from social to academic development as the transition into high school starts to appear on the horizon.

Year 6

As the transition to high school looms, academic expectations start to change, while social anxieties about the changes ahead become prevalent. Students are preparing to become the small fish in a big pond – a situation they haven’t been in for a long time. This stage is all about preparing for the changes ahead.

Job: Help me minimise the stress of moving to a bigger pond

Student experience

Students are focusing more closely on the academic side of school than before, with some under pressure to perform for entrance exams to selective schools/streams. This need may result in the use of tutors to help them prepare. At this stage, students are also relishing their position at the top of the school.

Parent experience

Parents are keen to see proficiency in academic ability to feel confident students can acclimatise to high school workloads. They’re also preparing students emotionally for the switch to high school, drawing on their own experiences as a reference.

Achieving the vision

Students who enter high school confident and well-prepared are better placed to adapt quickly and make the most of the “wonder years” of 7 and 8.

Key insights
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • Success of education is determined by the student’s experience/survival of the “wonder years”.
  • School is a controlled testing ground for the real world.
Key driver

The promise of independence that high school holds drives students to equip themselves to make the most of the experience ahead.

Key findings

As a big fish in a little pond, students are enjoying their status as leaders yet are excited and apprehensive about the increasing independence and academic focus of high school.

Year 7: Help me fit in and define my 'normal'

Students are back to being the little fish in a big pond. In a new environment, with new routines, new classmates and new expectations, students are striving to find their place and establish a new equilibrium. Students are also dealing with their own changes, as their bodies and relationships change day-to-day.

Unlike the first years of primary school, high school students are self-aware, and start making a conscious decision about their identity and where they want to fit in.

Student experience (Years 7-8)

Students are transitioning from being a big fish in a small, familiar pond to a small fish in a big, unfamiliar pond. They’re grappling to adjust to new routines, new social circumstances and new workloads.

Parent experience (Years 7-8)

Parents are also adapting to a new reality. Multiple teacher touchpoints, a new, as-yet-unestablished community of parents and children and new expectations from school.

Parents can feel like they’re the ones going back to school. Students are also starting to hold back information from their parents, which can add to the experience of “going into the unknown”.

Achieving the vision

Students who can settle in and “find their place” early on, establish a better personal environment for learning which leads to a richer high school experience

Framing the situation

Primary school is a production line where high school is the sorting line.

Key findings

Transition into high school marks a period of significant disruption for both students and parents. New structures, routines and social environments coupled with the complexities of puberty can cause the upheaval of a student’s sense of self.

The changing dynamic of parent/child relationships during this period often results in parents being unaware or misguided on how their child is doing.

Year 8: Help me understand why I’m learning this

Key insights
  • Success of education is determined by the student’s experience/survival of the “wonder years”.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • School is a controlled testing ground for the real world.
Understanding expectations

The stakes have been raised. Workload increases, parental focus sharpens and as streams come into play, academic results start impacting on future opportunities. Students have heard about these changes, and have prepared mentally. Only now does the reality start to sink in.

Key findings (Years 8-9)

Engagement and motivation drops as the routine of high school and the initial social pressures stabilise. Students start to feel stuck in the system with more responsibility, little independence or choice.

Year 9: Help me understand why I'm learning this

With the HSC far in the distance and life after school even further, motivation can start to ebb away. As students gain autonomy and critical thought skills, they start to question what all this is really for. But for now, they’re stuck in the system, so understanding the relevance to the real world is the way to engagement.

Key insights
  • School is a job for kids.
  • School is a controlled testing ground for the real world.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
The long game

Parents become a bit more hands-off as students become more independent, monitoring academic progress to ensure there are no major issues. Parents are, however, focusing on the long game.

During this period, changes and choices made by the student are extrapolated to their most extreme future state in parents’ minds. At this point, having a child that sits safely "in the middle"’ becomes important to parents once again.

Student experience (Years 9-10)

Students are being granted limited autonomy, and gaining a sense of independence as they start to make choices about what they do at school. Students start to question authority and the education system, giving critical thought to why they’re here and what they’re learning.

Without a clear objective beyond graduating to the next year, students can lose motivation. The pressure and expectations of the HSC are yet to kick in. Students may also be gaining first-hand experience in sexual relationships and experimenting with alcohol and drugs as a form of self-discovery and rebellion against authority.

Parent experience (Years 9-10)

Parents are monitoring students’ progress with a view to their future, which is very different from the students’ short-term perspective. This creates a rift in expectations between the two. Parents are also monitoring students’ personal development through adolescence, heightening the stress of the middle-school phase

Year 10: Help me make the right choices for my future

As students gain control of their own education and start to make sense of the wider world, they seek to have an influence on the way things work. They’ve got plenty to say and can become frustrated when they feel they are not being heard by the powers that be.

Achieving the vision

With an appreciation for the relevance of the education experience in these middle-high years, students can maintain their drive and get more value from school education to apply later in life.

Key findings

Becoming their own person. Students are starting to shape their future educational and career paths by taking steps to become increasingly independent through their choices and approach to academic studies, as well as establishing their independence away from their parents/families socially.

Year 11: Help me make the right choices for my future

The hard reality of how you’ve done at school hits home as academic results are pulled into sharp focus. The pressure is on to make decisions, which to students, feels like it’ll impact the rest of their lives.

Parents, principals and teachers pass on advice based on their own real-world experience, and without any of their own to fall back on, students are forced to take this as gospel, adding further to the stress of decision making.

Student experience (Years 11-12)

Student’s emphasis is now sharply focused on academic development and performance. Students are being pressured by the school, parents and themselves to make the right decisions about the next few years.

Student-teacher relationships become closer as they work towards a good outcome together. They’re grappling to make long-term decisions after years of short-term outlook. Their perspective is also directly at odds with their parent’s long-range view of life/their future. They’re beginning to grasp the enormity of today’s actions impacting tomorrow’s opportunities.

Parent experience (Years 11-12)

Parents draw heavily on their own experience beyond school to frame the opportunities the final years of school provides. They’re also trying to provide a stable home environment so the student can thrive academically. They’re also monitoring if and when to intervene, based on their own end-of-school experience and stories from friends and family.

Key findings (Years 11-12)

All focus on the end game – the HSC. Life beyond the test is entertained, but the everyday pressure of overcoming the final gate in formal education dominates all other factors.

Parental baggage

The experience of parents (at school and beyond) becomes a strong basis for much of the guidance.

HSC showdown: Choosing subjects Personal interest vs personal ambition vs parents ambition vs subjects that scale vs “What are my friends doing?”

Year 12

Key insights
  • Success of education is determined by the student’s experience/survival of the “wonder years”.
  • Parents are bringing their own set of expectations to the education experience.
  • School is a controlled testing ground for the real world.
Achieving the vision

When students make confident decisions about their future, the final years become an opportunity rather than a burden. Applying themselves with vigour to the final pivotal years of education gives them greater chances to succeed in the world beyond school.

HSC versus the future

Students are looking to be prepared for the next chapter of life: the real world, whereas these years can feel like they’re being set up for an exam. What is more important? Learning how to drive or acing trigonometry?

Beyond school

There are many questions. What are the jobs of tomorrow? What is the world we’re preparing students for? How are we judging what lies ahead, and how will we update these expectations and requirements as things change?

Glossary

Job to be done: The journey is broken down into six stages, or jobs, according to the dominant progress the student is trying to make at each point along the way. These are phrased as “Help me…” terms.

Parent and student experience: The defining experiences for students and parents for each stage.

Events: The key milestones that take place in the student’s journey.

Touchpoints: Platforms, initiatives and materials that students come into contact with throughout their journey, both through the department and third parties.

Challenges: The events, constraints and experiences that stop students making the progress outlined in the stage.

Opportunities: Thought starters for where the department can focus attention to improve the student experience.

Want to know more?

Email us at askgef@det.nsw.edu.au.

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