Collaborative learning results

An innovative program that focuses on collaborative learning is paying dividends for both teachers and students at Newcastle's Callaghan College.

The initiative, developed by teachers at the college's Waratah Technology Campus, is centred on a super class of 50 Year 7 students and a team of teachers working together in a team-teaching environment across a number of key learning areas.

English support a constant

Lessons, including mathematics, are taught by specialist teachers with an English teacher attached to each of the subjects.

The role of the English teacher is to provide literacy support, reinforce the concepts being taught during English and take on a welfare role similar to that experienced by the students in their primary education with their teachers.

Traditional approaches challenged

The idea began as a discussion between history and English teachers, Beau Berman and Cory MacDonald, who imagined what teaching and learning would look like if 'old school' values and traditions were no longer applied in the classroom.

Support from the principal Dana Fuller and the National Partnerships Program saw the idea become a reality.

"We wanted students to learn in different ways and we wanted to encourage staff to teach in different ways too, so we redesigned a learning space around these ideas," Mr Berman said.

Evidence-based program development

"There was a lot of research involved, a great deal of discussion with many staff members and we decided that the resulting project would have to be something that could continue to evolve as new situations developed," Mr MacDonald said.

An area of the library was converted into a specialised team-teaching centre, equipped with desktop computers, data projectors, gaming consoles, televisions, a specially designed group work area and iPads.

"The students are divided into groups and are encouraged to develop effective problem-solving skills while at the same time working toward mastering the outcomes of each subject," Mr Berman said.

Early results are promising

"Early anecdotal evidence is promising. We've been extremely impressed by the quality of work being submitted by our students and the variety of ways they are approaching their tasks. Most importantly, they are very enthusiastic about this style of learning."

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