Leading Authentic Learning - A New Approach
Margie Beck and East Timor Leste Graduates
Not only are teachers from the Catholic Teachers College (ICFP) at Baucau, East Timor studying the unit, Leading Authentic Learning, but they are also experiencing first hand that authentic learning is flexible in its delivery and meets the needs of the learner.
The teachers studying a unit in their Master of Education degree at Australian Catholic University (ACU) have an important role to play in leading the learning of young East Timorese students enrolled at the Teachers' College. They understand that what they learn will have a positive impact on their students which in turn will make a difference in classrooms throughout the country. They take the opportunity to learn very seriously and are keen to be leaders of the ongoing development of education in their young nation.
Building on the partnership between ICFP Baucau and ACU, Australian lecturers, Br Fons, Br John, Sister Diaan and Margie Beck, developed what they hoped would be a meaningful learning experience that recognises the specific needs of this group of learners. The intensive program which ran for four weeks had a strong emphasis on scaffolding the learners through mentoring in both content and language. ACU's Margie Beck describes the model as 'more easily 'digestible' by this group of East Timorese teaching staff'.
An introductory session focussed on information about the delivery model and the expected outcomes as well as discussion around time management and organisation. There was a lot to achieve in 4 weeks! Learners were introduced to study mentors. One of the mentors was Jose Mendes, who had recently completed his Masters degree in Educational Leadership and had taken part in the Aus Aid Australian Leadership Award Fellowships with the Flagship of Creative and Authentic Leadership. He has a keen understanding of the issues and concerns.
A learning rhythm soon got underway. Each morning the group of mentors and students came together to listen to one of the Australian staff give input on the focus for study. This was followed by activities including workshops on the topic facilitated by the presenter. In the afternoons and evenings, the students spent their time reading, taking notes and completing set tasks. As the course materials were in English which is their third or fourth language, many of these tasks were aimed at developing English writing skills. This scaffolding was important in enabling success completing the essay for assessment. Each of the mentors was available during the afternoons and evenings for consultation with their allocated mentee.
This program has proved yet again the truth of the adage, 'actions speak louder than words'. Each of the course participants has gained a better understanding of the importance of 'authentic learning' because others took the time to understand their needs and develop a model that suited their circumstances. Obviously delighted with the results, Margie Beck sees potential for the model, 'It is truly a new way of study, but one that hopefully gives each of the students a new and authentic learning opportunity!'