Learning at secondary school

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Here are some tips to help you get used to the new environment of secondary school.

What to do in class

In secondary school, you'll be spending time in different classes, so knowing what to do in class to maximise your success is really important. From learning to take notes effectively, to getting the most out of discussions and working in groups – secondary school will provide new and exciting opportunities to learn, and mastering some techniques early can really help you along the journey.


Note-taking is a skill that can help you cement your understanding of different subjects. Writing down key facts helps you absorb the material you need to learn. Having good quality notes can also help you with revision for an exam or if you need to prepare for an assignment. Your school will help you develop your note-taking skills, but below are some tips to get you started. to absorb the material you need to learn. Having good quality notes can also help you when it comes time to revise for an exam or to prepare for an assignment. Your school will help you develop your note-taking skills, but below are some tips to get you started.

  • Write down key facts - try writing down the most important points about a particular topic. It might be a mathematics formula, key historical dates, a theory or example that will make sense when you're reviewing your notes.
  • Try not to overdo it - if you write down every word, or focus too much on your note-taking, you may miss the most important points. Some people actually learn better by listening, writing down a few key points, and then going over the material after class when they have more time. Find the approach that works best for you.
  • Ask your teacher to repeat something – if you've missed something or the teacher is going too fast, you could raise your hand and ask your teacher to repeat it or see your teacher after class. Chances are if you missed something, maybe one of your classmates did too, so there's nothing wrong with asking for something to be repeated.
  • Review your notes on the same day - reviewing or re-writing your notes when you get home can help you remember what your learnt during the day. Do the notes you've made match up with your textbook? You can also compare your notes with a friend – this helps you reinforce the most important points and can help when preparing for a test or examination.
  • Keep organised – keep your notes for each subject in one place or together in one section of a notebook. Making reference to related chapters or readings will also help when reviewing notes and preparing for tests or assignments.

Group work

In class, you can probably expect to work in groups. Group work can help you get to know your classmates, understand the subject matter better by listening to other viewpoints and improve your communication skills.

When you're working in groups, each group member will be responsible for making a contribution. To work out whether you're making a good contribution to group work, ask yourself the following questions from time to time:

  • Am I sharing what I know about a particular subject? Do I ask questions of group members in an open-minded way?
  • Can I build on comments of other group members to enhance discussion?
  • Do I volunteer ideas in a constructive manner?
  • Am I helping the group summarise its progress?
  • Do I identify missing information in the group answer?
  • Do I build on the ideas of others?

Group work and discussions will demonstrate the different styles of group members.

  • Extroverts tend to think out loud, composing their thoughts on the run and they may be uncomfortable with silence in a group.
  • Introverts tend to think privately on an issue, listen to what others have to say and then speak their mind and often feel comfortable with silence in a group.

Being able to appreciate varied group work styles and being encouraged to step out of your natural style will challenge you to learn more about yourself and others.

Class discussion

Classroom discussions are a really useful way of learning new things in an interactive way. More specifically, discussions can be useful for:

  • generating and brainstorming ideas
  • summarising the main points in a textbook or reading
  • figuring out what level of understanding everyone in the class has about a particular topic
  • reviewing ideas presented in previous classes
  • reviewing exams, problems, quizzes, and writing assignments
  • recapping outcomes learnt at the end of class
  • comparing and contrasting theories, issues, and interpretations
  • solving problems related to the class topic

Some things to keep in mind when participating in classroom discussion include:

  • silence is okay – think before you speak
  • ask for clarification if you don't understand what another person has said
  • respect the contributions of others – seeing things from another perspective different from our own is a great way to learn
  • try to give equal air time to everyone in the class or agree to take turns.


Treating people with respect in school makes your world a nicer place to live in. And it's easy – all you have to do is treat people the way you like to have them treat you. Here are a few ideas.

  • Don't insult or make fun of people
  • Listen to others when they speak
  • Understand that other people will have different opinions, likes and dislikes from you
  • Don't talk about people behind their backs
  • Be sensitive to other people's feelings
  • Don't pressure someone to do something he or she doesn't want to do

Digital technology in schools

In secondary school, you will probably continue to use computers as you did in primary school. You will use digital technology to develop your assignments and presentations and for taking notes in class. You may even take tests online.

Some schools will have digital technologies available for you to use in classrooms or you may be required to share a device with another student. Some schools may have an arrangement where you are able to bring your own laptop or tablet to school, or the school will provide one. You will be able to connect these devices to the internet at school.

Your school will provide you with a username and password – this is yours and should not be shared with anyone. Regularly back up your work and remember it’s important to remain safe and responsible while online.

To support your learning in secondary school, your school may use resources such as FUSE and Global 2

Content extracted from Queensland Department of Education and Training's 'A Flying Start for Queensland Children'.