Engaging young minds at MLC

MLC director of curriculum Alma Tooke with students Holly Hart and Mary Collie. Photo: Michael Rayner

MLC director of curriculum Alma Tooke with students Holly Hart and Mary Collie. Photo: Michael Rayner

In classrooms across the globe, students are inundated with information on a daily basis. The availability of digital devices means it’s easier than ever for them to gather knowledge on a range of subjects, and learn at a fast pace.

But it can also mean students are more distracted than they have been before.

It’s in this environment that MLC in Kew is working with staff and students to make learning more relevant and engaging.

MLC’s director of curriculum, Alma Tooke, says the school uses formative assessment, which involves teaching strategies that give educators real-time knowledge of students’ level of learning, and allows them to change lesson plans and classes accordingly.

The school has used and improved these tools for a decade.

“It’s not like the old days of the teacher being the sage on the stage, lecturing to the students,” Alma says.

“Teachers are now the mentor – they’re helping students to be more involved in their learning through collaboration [working together in groups], by encouraging them to ask questions rather than answering them, and through being critical thinkers – looking at the big ideas.”

MLC is continually refining ways to strengthen student engagement in their learning.

“Students really like that – to know what they’re doing and what they’re working towards during class time,” Alma says.

Teachers are also more aware of where their students are in terms of learning – and can quickly check whether they need to revise or review a lesson, or if they can move on to new material.

One of the techniques for MLC teachers is “exit cards” in middle or at the end of a lesson. The cards allow students to ask any questions they might have about what they’ve learned.

“Knowing where they are at, we can devise strategies … and adjust the way we deliver information to meet their needs, not [teachers’] needs,” Alma says.

Student assessment and feedback in real time is an important part of the formative assessment strategy. Alma says teachers are able to do this in several ways.

The College has recently introduced a cloud-based learning management system called CANVAS that enables teachers to give feedback through written assessment and an audio recording.

“Our head of drama provides just about all of her feedback in audio on the CANVAS page because she can film students performing and she then can look at it and review their performance,” Alma
says. “She can talk about what they’re doing
in real time.”

As part of peer-reviewing teaching, students are able to model future work skills, such as providing constructive feedback to peers, and share ideas with both classmates and their teachers.

“The one big thing I’ve learned is that these strategies do engage them more in their learning,” Alma says.

“It leads to more discussion and allows all students, no matter where they are at with their learning, to be involved.”

MLC \ 207 Barkers Road, Kew ● 9274 6333 ● mlc.vic.edu.au

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