A model approach to flexible learning

Sunbury College did not expect a global pandemic would validate its move to an innovative instructional learning model.

Last year, the school launched the GENAR (Goals, Engage, New Learning, Apply and Review) model, which came after a whole-school review in 2018 and development of a new strategic plan.

Assistant principals Siobhan Shaw and Jared Dyson were the driving forces behind the model and its use in the remote learning environment.

'We found there was a disparity in teaching practices across the school,' Siobhan said.

'We worked collaboratively over the course of 2019 to make sure that the model was developed by and collectively agreed to by our staff, students and community.'

The school ran workshops, sought feedback from students and parents and provided constant updates. It held an art competition for students to create icons for each stage of GENAR.

GENAR at a glance

  • Goals: Aims and objectives of the lesson
  • Engage: Revisit prior learning and stimulate interest in learning
  • New Learning: Focus on new knowledge
  • Apply: Opportunity to use new learning
  • Review: Revisit goals and consider next steps

Innovative approach to learning from home

Siobhan said GENAR had helped make the move to remote and flexible learning easier, though there was some tweaking to the school day.

'We were able to replicate our classroom practices by presenting our lesson plans and facilitating lessons in the GENAR format,' she said.

'However, after the first few weeks of remote learning, we found that our staff and students were exhausted.'

Jared said to mitigate screen fatigue, 'we made the decision to reduce each period by five minutes and replaced one period each day with an off-screen independent reading and exercise period'.

The school also established optional remote Mindful Meetups where students participate in activities such as origami, colouring, nature and meditation.

All students were signed up to the Premier's Reading Challenge and provided with an online Learning Resource Hub where they can borrow e-books.

There is also a strong focus on a School Wide Positive Behaviour Support program, with the core behaviours expected in the digital classroom mapped out in a familiar form of a matrix.

'It could be as simple as how they walk into a classroom, then recognising their positive action,' Jared said.

'Remotely, it could be as simple as identifying good WebEx (online meeting) etiquette.'