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Agile learners face a new challenge

Student studying at home

As measures to contain COVID-19 cause uncertainty for individuals and communities across the globe, one thing is certain: our students are drawing on their agility and flexibility as they apply their knowledge and learning skills in a new, online context, as Richard Brenker explains.

The measures being implemented by governments and health authorities across Australia to address COVID-19 have been unprecedented. The closure of schools around Victoria indicates that we are in decidedly uncertain territory.

Maintaining learning programs in uncertain times

In line with government social distancing measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Wesley has transitioned from face-to-face learning on campus to remote learning, using online channels, with all students learning at home. Maintaining our learning programs in these uncertain times is not only important, it’s actually the first priority articulated in Wesley’s strategic plan, described in the phrase, ‘Maintaining continuity in a world more fluid than fixed.’

At this time of great disruption, that strategic priority has relevance beyond the imagination of those of us who drafted it in 2016. But maintaining our learning programs isn’t just about drawing on the skills and knowledge of our teachers and IT experts in delivering learning remotely online. It’s also about drawing on the evolving skills and knowledge of our students.

Our strategic plan in 2016 also identified the attributes we want to see in every Wesley student: confidence in themselves, knowledge of how to function effectively in different environments, an understanding of cultural diversity and the ability to balance their intellectual, creative, spiritual, physical, emotional and social growth. That can seem to be a tall order, but we have seen many examples of those attributes on display this year.

We’ve seen these attributes in the classrooms and corridors of our campuses before the transition to remote learning, and we’ve seen them in the way our students have taken to remote learning, supported by the fantastic work of their families and teachers. Our students have truly shown that they are young people of great resilience and agility.

In normal times, a plethora of on-campus activities at Wesley foster these attributes, in the classroom, in sports training and competition, on stage, as part of an event at St Paul’s Cathedral, at Chapel services and assemblies, in public speaking in front of peers and in countless other ways.

Before the transition to remote learning, many of our students across the College were acknowledged at Principal’s Honour Roll assemblies for their academic learning. All of our students from Years 7 to 12 were training and competing in our cocurricular APS/AGSV sports program, honing their skills, developing strategies and tactics, working as a team. Many were engaged in our outdoor education programs, learning about themselves and their environment, and developing their confidence and resourcefulness. And many students were preparing for drama productions and music concerts across our three Melbourne campuses, learning at Wesley at Clunes and the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School, developing those attributes and nurturing them in each other.

Student learning at home with Connect 4 game
Jack learning at home with confidence
Agile and flexible learning at home

In the transition to remote learning, that hasn’t stopped. Our students are learning at home with confidence, working autonomously and collaboratively online. They are developing their knowledge and skills so they can function effectively in the very different learning environment where they now find themselves. And they are taking the lead in organising their schedule to ensure there is balance in their day, making decisions to ensure they stay intellectually, creatively, spiritually, physically, emotionally and socially healthy and engaged.

In doing this they are developing a crucial attribute, that of being agile. Right now, more than ever, our students need to be agile and flexible, able to learn in different ways and in different contexts, and transfer their knowledge and skills from one context to another. The challenge not only for our students but also our teachers is to maintain learning at a high level. While we are all used to onsite teaching and learning, our students and teachers have long been focussed on learning in an expanded world, and the transition to remote learning online at home is enabling us all to do exactly that.

Our confident and balanced student learners are literally maintaining continuity in a world more fluid than fixed. They are quickly adapting to our changing circumstances and, like the entire community, learning valuable lessons and developing knowledge and ever-widening skills that will stand them in good stead in the near future and beyond.

Richard Brenker is the Deputy Principal of Wesley College and Head of the Glen Waverley Campus