Return to face to face learning

We are now two weeks into our whole College return to face to face learning. Some questions continue to be asked from our online learning experience. What have we learnt? What can we build on after pivoting back to face to face learning? How have we been able to refine practices and embrace innovation to enhance student learning and wellbeing?

I have spent some time reflecting on personal experiences I have been able to draw some parallels with. Due to the uniqueness of the COVID-19 pandemic I need to go back to my childhood and my Dad’s occupation as a professional cray fisherman in the West Australian Rock Lobster industry. I vividly recall when I was a young child in the 1980s a huge change in the fishing industry occurred. Without going into all the nuances of the industry, for many decades cray fishermen would locate their cray pots in the ocean through compass bearings. A regular type of phrase was ‘280 degrees for 10 nautical miles’. Then, after a bit of looking around, you would locate your line of craypots. Then GPS technology arrived, along with colour plotters and echo sounders. This technological advancement revolutionised the industry quickly, increased productivity, mapped ocean locations, reduced expenses… essentially, the industry was changed overnight! Is this what we have seen occur in education?  

Throughout many recent educational readings, a prominent question rings in my ears. There is nothing like a crisis to drive innovation! After many weeks of online learning – which our teachers did an excellent job in delivering, while students engaged wholeheartedly – the return to face to face teaching and learning has been welcomed by most. In particular, it has been welcomed by teachers who are eager to carry into their day to day practices newly learnt and honed skills which add to their pedagogical repertoire.

What we are emerging from and what will define us as a College is how we take the best parts from our online learning experience and embed them into our daily practices. What were some of the best parts of our Online Learning Program?

  • D2L
  • Focus on wellbeing
  • Ongoing feedback
  • 24/7 access
  • Student engagement and one-to-one conversations
  • Digital and blended learning lessons
  • Parent engagement through regular communications

Although the Online Learning Program was a great success at A.B. Paterson College – and I must once again acknowledge the outstanding dedication, preparation and professionalism of all staff (teaching and non-teaching) which made this online experience seamless – there is a reason why face to face learning is the preferred method for teaching and learning, supported by extensive research.

Face to face learning is where the teacher and the student meet in a set place for a set time, for either one-on-one learning or, most commonly, in a variety of group-based class lessons. Face to face learning is a very effective way to learn knowledge and skills because it often combines different ways of learning including writing, reading, discussion, presentations, projects, group work, film clips, demonstration and practice. (Headspace, 2020). This stimulates and promotes deep understanding.

Face to face teaching and learning is far more nuanced than anything online, far more personal, far more human!! It is all about building relationships, having conversations, discussing points of view, engaging with each other, assisting your peers… 

The uniquely human element of teaching is what makes the classroom, the playing field or the music centre the most powerful of learning places.

On the return to face to face teaching and learning, a new initiative was put in place with, initially, staff and now Year 11 volunteers escorting Junior School students to their classroom each morning.

An element of this initiative, in the beginning, was to discourage parents and guardians to come onsite and this has now morphed into a highly engaging commencement to the school day. The beaming smiles of our younger students could not be wider, their proud independence is on show, and what does this create? It creates a launching pad for their day of learning and personal skill building which links with the College positive education and growth mindset principles. This is engagement with our College community on display each and every morning at the highest level.

Let’s all continue to affirm our strong College culture through nurturing our strong relationships in line with our strategic pillar of College community. This is what makes us A.B. Paterson College… this is the A.B. Way!

Simon Edgar
Head of Junior School