Visual Arts Symbolism Study

Melrose High School

Nurturing a student’s imagination and creativity is how meaningful learning happens. This is what the work of Anna Russell, a Visual Arts teacher at Canberra’s Melrose High School, is focused on.

Using Solution Fluency as a roadmap, Anna’s students embarked on an exploration of visual communication resulting in some of the most insightful projects they’ve created yet.

Melrose School opened its doors in Pearce, Canberra in 1970. From the start they have always encouraged achievement within a safe and friendly learning environment. They offer their students a balanced curriculum, and put focus on a school spirit that promotes well-being and an ideal of service and respect for others.

I was initially concerned about giving the students so much freedom to work that they would produce nothing. I needed to step back and trust the process, and also my students’ ability to be self-directed. It wasn’t a difficult process to develop once I understood the Fluencies … it made me question the purpose of what I was teaching, and why or how it was important or even unimportant.

Anna Russell
Melrose HS

The results of the student diaries and artworks have been exceptional. Their artwork became a lot richer and more layered. The students enjoyed the process immensely … by using the Fluencies my students are more empowered. Some have more confidence in their ability to learn.

Anna Russell
Melrose HS

By using the Fluencies and by applying all their methodologies, I have made the shift from an expert to a facilitator of education. This has really changed the whole way that I teach in allowing students to learn how to learn, and how to think.

Anna Russell
Melrose HS

What does it take to inspiremeaningful change?

Teachers love stretching their students’ imaginations in ways they know kids will respond to. That’s how the most meaningful connections are made in learning, and how students can take ownership of what they’re taught in school. Anna Russell, a Visual Arts teacher at Canberra’s Melrose High School, knows this well. Her creative field allows her students to shine in ways they never thought possible.

For this reason, the idea to incorporate the 6Ds of Solution Fluency into her teaching was well considered beforehand. “I was aware that I needed to enhance my pedagogy to meet the changes required for teaching in a digital age,” says Anna. Giving her students an inspiring challenge in which they could incorporate Solution Fluency was the first step.

Where do we begin to transform?

Anna’s approach to using Solution Fluency in her classroom involved a Visual Arts lesson about symbols. She reminded her students that signs and symbols are everywhere around us, and that their usage is one of the main ways we communicate.

They began their exploration of symbols by viewing slides showing some fairly well-known and often iconic imagery. “I want you to tell me what they are,” Anna had instructed her students. “But more importantly, tell me how they make you feel.”

Connecting to her students’ inner awareness set the tone for upcoming projects that would demonstrate how the symbols we see make us feel, and how they affect our opinions and perceptions of the world around us.

Using Solution Fluency as a roadmap, Anna’s students embarked on a journey of discovering the true power of symbols in society. It was the groundwork for what would be some very rich and deeply insightful student design projects.

How do we plot a path to success?

Using Solution Fluency for their projects allowed Anna’s students to gain a greater understanding of the true importance of symbols in our global society. Their own original artwork reflected the critical thinking processes that are inherent in a true problem-solving classroom culture—one of the hallmarks of Solution Fluency.

“The culture in the classroom has always been very positive,” Anna explains, “except that now students are more focused and busier.”

After all the projects had been completed, students reflected on thier work and processes, what was good, and what was difficult. They were reminded that there is no right or wrong in the debriefing of a learning journey, just honesty.

Anna went on to interview a few selected students during the process. Each one of them led her on a guided tour of their visual symbols diary, explaining how they used Solution Fluency’s 6Ds to make their creative visions a reality.

How do we measure growth and progress?



  • Students are thinking more for themselves and assuming responsibility.
  • Lessons are engaging and related to real life learning.
  • Students are developing a sense of ownership for learning.
  • They are working on projects that solve challenging problems that are relevant to their interests.


  • Letting students take the lead has shown that it is possible to learn when they are doing entirely different things.
  • Teachers have assumed the roles of facilitators and “guides on the side” as students take the lead in learning.
  • The Fluencies processes allow teachers to connect content topics to their students’ personal interests and increase student engagement.


  • Embracing the Fluencies is gradually fostering a more creative and dynamic school culture.
  • There is a deeper sense of collaboration between students and teachers as well as between the teachers themselves.
  • Integrity and curiosity are developing for everyone in unexpected ways.
  • Educators are being inspired to both learn and instruct in many different ways to connect to learners.

How do we continue to improve and excel?

As the Essential Fluencies continue to establish a home in Anna’s classroom experiences, she’s keeping her eye on the future. This includes some lofty goals for not only her own practices, but for spreading the word about the Fluencies as well.

“As I can see the application of the Fluencies across all KLAs, I would like to embed them in all of my practice, and mentor teachers in doing the same,” says Anna.

So what does she feel the most significant benefits have been in working with Solution Fluency in her classroom? “For me personally, this process has changed the way I teach and think about my pedagogy,” she claims. “It has provided me with the necessary adjustments that I needed to meet the needs and interests of my students.”

Let’s take the next steps together.

Want to usher in whole-school transformation and professional growth? We’re ready if you are.