Teaching Hybrid is Pandemic Silver Lining

‘We’re making sure that teachers are engaging students in their learning in a deeper and more meaningful way.’ Mr Robert Marshall

A new pedagogy is emerging after a transformational year of remote learning, and St Catherine’s School is at the vanguard. With students returning to classes on campus, the school has launched an innovative hybrid learning model for years 10and11 that embraces both face-to-face teaching and online delivery.

Deputy principal Robert Marshall says the shift to online learning and subsequent student feedback significantly influenced the new senior years learning initiative. “One of the big lessons from learning online is that you can’t replace the relationship students have with teachers,” he says. “It was very clear that both teachers and students missed that face-to-face contact [last year].

“But there was a lot to be learnt from being online as well, with students being able to go away and access resources in their own time.”

St Catherine’s students expressed a strong desire for greater ownership and flexibility regarding the pace, delivery mode and independence of their learning. They valued the opportunity to revisit recorded lessons as a revision tool, and generally felt a sense of autonomy and agency in managing their studies and wellbeing.

The academic model combines 10 face-to face lessons in a fortnightly cycle with a suite of Independent Learning Tutorials (ILTs). For each subject, the ILTs include a ‘Flexi-Tute’, akin to a tertiary model of learning with optional student support, as well as access to teachers and facilities. There are also asynchronous online tutorials consisting of filmed content and an independent homework task, and lectures in the form of a masterclass.

“We genuinely believe that these independent learning tutorials will set the girls up for year 12 far better, particularly in relation to their study habits, because VCE is largely about the capacity of the students to work independently and well by themselves.

Mr Marshall is confident this blended learning model will prepare students for life beyond school. “Whether it’s university or the workplace, there’s no going back to what it was beforehand,” he explains. “I think the world of work has changed permanently in terms of office space, so the girls need to be very sophisticated with their use of technology.

“Employers are looking for people who are creative,” he says. “They want smart, intelligent and adaptable people who can respond to immediate challenges.” The masterclasses aim to cover a range of concepts, content and skills across all subjects. It could consolidate syllabus and course material, feature interviews with past students or industry experts, act as a resource for tackling assessments, and extend theories learnt in class.

“For example, in English, there could be lectures on the historical context of Black Lives Matter,” he explains. “There might be instructional videos or tutorials on the skills needed for writing a text analysis or comparative essays.’’

In what feels like a natural and necessary step to allow St Catherine’s to evolve and stay relevant, the hybrid learning model will create time in each student’s timetable to undertake music lessons, career, pastoral and academic advisory counselling, and physical activity.

“Parents see that the school is moving into a more flexible approach, and moving on from that industrial model that we’ve had for several hundred years now. “We’re making sure that teachers are
engaging students in their learning in a deeper and more meaningful way.”

Mr Robert Marshall, Deputy Principal Teaching and Learning

The Age - Sunday 13 February

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