Why Learning Centres are a teaching environment for everyone

Wednesday 24th May, 2017

Learning centres (LC) are a crucial working environment at OneSchool campuses because they give students a place where they can self-direct their study in a quiet space, work collaboratively, gauge opinions from their peers and get help from teachers.

Victoria’s Glenvale School’s Melton campus has a Learning Centre where it has been split into three different rooms. There is the Green Room, which is designated as a quiet/focus study area; the Yellow Room for collaboration; and the Blue Room, which is the Zoom and VC room.

“We changed the zone setup with the help of the Year 12’s,” says Melton Head of Campus Francois de Koker. “We found that our previous setup wasn’t working as efficiently as we wanted. We needed to move some Zoom lessons to the LC for active supervision to take place. Students were talking too much during VC lessons and being distracted by other students so we moved all Zoom/VC lessons to the blue room where there are cubicles to provide a more focused space where the students social nature is inhibited a bit.”

The Learning Centre has a threefold purpose – Self-Directed Learning (SDL) courses, study or assignment work and one-on-one tuition. Students’ needs are paramount.

“We try to schedule, where possible, that a student’s subject teacher is in the LC with the students,” says Francois. “They get one-on-one assistance and from time to time some group assistance.”

A Learning Centre gives teachers the opportunity for extra time to plan upcoming classes, as well as gauge where students are at with their subject progress.

“Teachers are expected to actively supervise and enquire what students are working on. It also allows for teachers to see where their students are academically and assist where possible.  Time lost in the classroom can also be made up in this time, students who are behind or need extra help can be assisted.  Our 2017 timetable is set up so that the teacher of a class is always timetabled on when students need them, even if they are from another campus. They can be contacted via Canvas, and then use Zoom to communicate with students to assist whenever required.”

What about students? Does it make things easier for them, and can they be trusted to study in such environments? “It depends on the year”, says Francois.

“Students have reacted in different ways according to their age groups and maturity, both of these contributing to their level of self-direction and self-discipline,” says Francois. “The social nature of our students do from time to time inhibit their learning ability. Their “free” choice of what they want to do in the SDL time is also controlled.”

For Year 7 and 8’s – the LC is new to them and they tend to be busy with everything and nothing at the same time.  Laptops are a big distraction for this group and teachers need to make sure they are on task.  Their SDL periods are more controlled in that when it is e.g. a Science LC lessons they need to be completing science and if there is time left they can go onto another subject. As the year progresses they are allowed more freedom.

“The Year 9 and 10 group’s freedom is very dependent on the maturity level of the students themselves. Some are very focused and determined to achieve and others very focused on socialising and sometimes dragging their peers down with them.”

“The Year 11 and 12 VCE students are more focused as a result of the amount of work they need to be doing. In the afternoons after school they are expected to work on their CAP courses, so time at school is precious. The Year 11s are slowly coming to realisation that time is becoming more precious as the year progresses. They have complete freedom in what work they want/need to complete in this time.”

Because students are social by nature, Francois says that as teachers, they have to make sure that strategies are in place to make sure the LC’s don’t become a social gathering place instead of place to study and learning.

The year 8’s were also asked to create a Learning Journal for year’s 7 to 9.  The principle of the Learning Journal is for them to plan all SDL lessons in advance for the week. The journal is to be checked by the homeroom teachers on a Monday morning. Years 10 to 12 are allowed more freedom in that they can use online planners to do their planning for the week and don’t necessarily need to use a written format.

“LC’s are not static spaces and need to change from time to time as the need arises,” he says. “The space and purpose needs to be evaluated and changes made to suite that campus. The working or efficiency of a learning centre also hinges on the number of students in the centre at the same time.  We have set ourselves a maximum of 40 students and 2 teachers at any given time, if there is excess we move the SDL lesson to a classroom with a teacher. In the past with timetabling we have had up to 50 students in the LC and this caused issues all over.”