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By Lisa Stratton
UW-RF University Communications

OCT. 14, 2005--Victoria Biggs, visiting teacher from Perth, Australia, spent part of September sharing her extensive knowledge of education techniques with students from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.  

Biggs holds four degrees in education, two of which are in special education and special learning. She attended both Notre Dame University Australia and Greylands Teacher's College.

Biggs held several workshops on integrated curriculum, thinking skills, habits of mind and reflective practice.

Biggs' is a faculty member at Presbyterian Ladies' College in Peppermint Grove, Australia, just outside of Perth. Established in 1915, Presbyterian Ladies' College is a private entity that schools girls from pre-kindergarten through 12 th grade. Biggs shared many of her innovative methods that she uses for middle-school age students.

"My girls don't use texts except for math," says Biggs. Instead, Biggs creates her own curriculum and posts it on the Apple notebook computers that each student has.   Students can work at their own pace, allowing some to work slower without holding any of the other students back. Biggs says that travel is common amongst her students, and that by having all of their work on computer they can keep up with their class without any trouble.

The curriculum of Biggs' class is based mainly on relevant, real-life topics.   She creates assignments called "WebQuests" for her students.  

"WebQuests involve real-life assessments," says Biggs. The students are assigned a topic to research through reliable sources pre-selected by Biggs, and then present their findings to the class.  

For example, one of Biggs' "WebQuests" involved finding an ocean or sea and identifying its environmental issues. Each girl or group then shared their information with the rest of the students, which resulted in students learning not just about one body of water, but about 25-30 others.

Biggs also involves the "Habits of Mind" and reflective practice in her classroom.   Habits of Mind, a series of skills, attitudes, and traits, helps people to act intelligently when they don't know the answer to something. According to Biggs, people that are highly successful in the workplace are excellent users of Habits of Mind, which is one of the reasons she teaches it to her students. She also teaches her students to use reflective practice, which she defines as "thinking about thinking.". Reflective practice is a multi-step process that involves serious reflecting on your work and your thoughts.

"The education program at UW-RF is wonderful," says Biggs. "I've gained as much from being here as others have gained from me. The best parts of working with students here are that they are open to new ideas, interested in other people, and very friendly."

Biggs also toured four schools in Eau Claire, Wis., and four in Minneapolis during her stay in River Falls.  

Dr. Gayle Ward, professor with the College of Education and Professional Studies, has been Biggs' host during her stay in River Falls. Ward says she hopes to bring a group of UW-RF students to tour the Presbyterian Ladies' College in Australia next spring.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:06:38 Central Daylight Time

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