Masterclass – teaching for excellence

It seems that every time I sit down at my desk over the last month or so, I find myself reflecting on 2020 being the most extraordinary of years. Despite the trials and challenges we all faced over the last 12 months and even though there is uncertainty about what lies ahead, I am optimistic about the future.

At St Catherine’s we learned much from the enforced switch last year to remote schooling online. There is no doubt that our teachers and students responded in exemplary fashion. Supported by highly professional teachers, our Year 12 cohort showed us what they were capable of with impressive VCE results. They showed all of us that in adversity, we can prevail with a positive approach and a can-do attitude.

The experiences of 2020 taught us many things. Above all, the prolonged time spent away from the physical surrounds of school reinforced what we have known for many years. Schools are first and foremost about strong relationships. We did miss each other last year. Teachers and students need to interact with each other daily. While being online worked well, it didn’t replace the face-to-face interaction that occurs many times in a normal school day. However, the online experience highlighted some clear directions for how we deliver classes at St Catherine’s.

The impact of COVID-19 has been a catalyst for education reform across the globe…there is no turning the clock back. Andreas Schleicher – Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) observed “We have seen massive disruption in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed an obvious need for innovation and agility in the education system.”

He goes on to say, “You’re going to have a lot of young people who have experienced different forms of learning in this crisis, learning that was more fun, more empowering.” And finally, he adds “they will go back to their teachers and say: can we do things differently?”

Schleicher’s comments resonate with feedback we have gained from students, parents and teachers taken regularly during 2020. Our students have demonstrated their need for greater autonomy, voice and agency. They desire greater ownership and flexibility applied to their learning regarding pace, delivery mode and independence.

In 2021 we have responded to our learnings from last year. This year we have refined our Senior Years Academic Model with the introduction of Independent Learning Tutorials (ILTs) for students in Years 10 and 11. This initiation is being led by our Head of English, Mrs Ceri Lloyd. The English Faculty under her leadership has been achieving outstanding academic results year after year. With the introduction of ILTs, we continue to adapt our educational platform in a way that meets the needs of our students. ILTs embrace the benefits of both face-to-face teaching and online delivery for students. This is a natural and necessary step to allow St Catherine’s to evolve, stay relevant and lead in a hybrid learning model.

The ILTs are a suite of delivery modes for students. In addition to face-to-face classes in each subject, there are now three options to support students in their learning:

  • Flexi-Tutes (Optional student support with access to teachers and facilities)
  • Masterclasses (Online resources including PowerPoints and video files with content to discuss in next class, Interviews with an expert, Exam Revision Lectures)
  • Asynchronous Online Tutorials (Independent Study/Homework Task Consisting of a 10-15 Minute Filmed Vignette and a 60-minute Independent Homework Task)

In each of the three forms of the ILTs, students have discretion about when and where they access the resources and what learning they wish to engage with. ILTs may be done before school, during a set timetabled period or outside of normal school hours.  The choice is entirely up to each student.

Andreas Schleicher has demanded that educators deliver an education which is innovative and agile. At St Catherine’s we demonstrated in 2020 how adept we were at responding to a crisis. Not only did we respond in 2020 but we continued to support our students with the highest quality teaching. In 2021 we are continuing to adapt and respond to the needs of our girls. The ILTs are another refinement in our educational offering to ensure we maintain our place as an educational institution of academic excellence.

Mr Robert Marshall

Deputy Principal, Teaching and Learning

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