Disrupting the Norms
“The Literature teacher in me contemplates the broader philosophical view that in life we are always thrown challenges that seek to define us. The crisis of COVID-19 allowed St Catherine’s School to enact powerful change and the momentum is well and truly building in this era of disruption,” explains Mrs Ceri Lloyd in her research article ‘Disrupting the Norms to Transform Learning.’ An abridged version below outlines how St Catherine’s turned disruption into the Senior Years Learning Model.
“Real change takes place in deep crisis, you will not stop the momentum that will build.”
Andreas Schleicher, 2020
The “deep crisis” came in the form of Covid-19, a pandemic none of us could have predicted which created the catalyst for significant educational change and reform. Educators recognised the necessity to shift their educational delivery and pivot quickly into a remote learning environment.
St Catherine’s Learn@Home program in 2020 saw the students develop greater adaptive expertise and growth in their learning and wellbeing. The program pointed the way forward for implementing a change in educational practice at the School.
We knew we wanted to create a form of hybrid learning that breaks down the traditional walls of teaching, providing the right mix of all learning possibilities in blended online and offline environments and, can prepare students for a world where knowledge is not fixed, ensuring the development of lifelong skills and enabling them to thrive in a rapidly changing world. (Mahat, 2020)
Our research and consultation demonstrated the need to embrace the benefits of both face-to face teaching and online delivery. Most importantly, we needed to create a model that enhanced student agency by giving students choice, self-direction, independence and ownership in their learning.
The learning model had to meet key objectives including; flexibility through asynchronous delivery, reinforcing student learning by reviewing content, more choice and autonomy and developing independence in their learning. We wanted students to control the pace of their learning, develop problem solving skills, creativity and engagement.
Consultation was conducted with various tertiary institutions where it became clear universities were going to continue remote learning and online lectures/tutorials. The findings showed this sector would not shift back to full time on-campus learning and students would have choice in their future modes of delivery.
Furthermore, career pathways and changes to workplaces reflected that remote work would become a feature of future employment. These changes created a dialogue on the possibilities and the preparedness of senior students for post school study and employment. Schools could not afford to revert back to their traditional delivery of lessons if they wanted to effectively prepare students with the character and competencies for life post school.
In 2021, St Catherine’s introduced the Senior Years Learning Model in Years 10 to 11. A hybrid model facilitating both face-to-face learning and asynchronous Independent Learning Tutorials (ILTs). Courses are delivered as a combination of 10 synchronous face-to-face lessons on campus, complemented by a program of ILTs.
Masterclass lectures have become key components of the ILTs. Focusing on the concepts, content or skills relevant to subjects. The Masterclasses require students to view, listen and engage with a range of multimedia and independent study. A key benefit of the Masterclass is the opportunity it provides students to consolidate, review, revise and replay lectures, allowing for deeper learning in each subject.
Students engage with a suite of lectures on texts on historical context, views and values as well as skill development on the various essay types. Problem solving strategies are developed through working through mathematical equations, responding to analysis questions or listening to lectures in another language that students maybe studying to consolidate oral language skills. The more practical subjects like the Arts and Physical Education have embraced instructional videos on how to cut a lino print, construct a stage set model, plus short vignettes on visual diary annotations and game strategies in matches.
The ability for students to self-pace lectures and tutorials to suit their own learning style and review as many times as they need has become a key feature of the Learning Model and has enriched student learning.
Ongoing professional development and support is provided to all teachers, enabling them to trial various approaches. Discussions on the Learning Model have led to heightened professional collaboration and critical thinking for teachers across Faculties. Accessing and learning how to use the most effective digital technologies has been a significant focus for teachers in the development of the Masterclasses. Recently, our data analytics has allowed for student tracking to see when students are accessing the Masterclasses and how often.
Most importantly, this Model has improved our professional development program in Teaching for Thinking, a pedagogical approach that maximises student outcomes, optimises the efforts of teachers and integrates a number of critical educational concerns. Pedagogical imperatives are developed around shifting the focus from knowledge to enquiry, thinking and planning in the language of student cognition and working collaboratively where thinking can be shared. (Ellerton, 2020)
The Senior Years Learning Model has built on the Teaching for Thinking learnings and allowed teachers to develop lectures and tutorials that focus on student cognition allowing students to adopt critical thinking and values of enquiry.
Six months since its implementation, the Learning Model is being consistently evaluated – using student and staff surveys and data – to inform changes and ensure the best learning opportunities for students. Targeted student interview groups, consultation and communication to parents has been a consistent part of the process.
Importantly, we have found students understand the rationale for the introduction of this Model. They see it as “building on the positives of online learning, responding to university reality, creating flexibility to take control of their learning and to have less reliance on teachers.” They also understand the benefit of the Model as they comment they are learning, “how to prioritise, manage work load, study independently, engage with active learning not passive, and it is setting them up well for careers after school.”
The implementation of this Model has created a unique partnership between students and teachers, learning collaboratively. Furthermore, students have a voice and agency over their learning and offer suggestions for further improvement – a crucial aspect to developing the Model further.
A testament to the impact of any new educational reform must be that it offers positive student outcomes – empowering them in their learning and preparing them for post school life. I conclude with comments from a Year 10 student.
“Through the asynchronous learning structure, the ILT’s have enabled us to develop an entirely new set of skills that we otherwise wouldn’t have had access to and can apply to all aspects of our learning – both in class and during ILTs. The integration of the ILT’s has taught students to look beyond the obvious solution and has allowed us to utilise and develop different methods of learning. Through the focus on working independently, students have both learnt and developed new learning techniques and skills in which we are able to gain more confidence in our own learning abilities. However, most importantly, I believe that the ILT’s prepare students for life beyond the classroom, they allow us to utilise skills that will be necessary in university, future careers and ultimately, for the rest of our lives.”