TAFE NSW – South Western Sydney Institute (TAFE SWSi) is leading the way in creating a 21st century learning environment that is student-centred, flexible, interactive and attractive.
TAFE SWSi Teaching and Learning Consultant, Leah Simpson, said a number of TAFE SWSi’s colleges were replacing the conventional teacher focused classrooms with Active Learning Centres – which shifted teaching and learning from a “teacher-centric model to a learner-centric one”.
Active Learning Centres are largely unformatted, flexible learning spaces where the facilities for learning and teaching are modular. The furniture is on wheels so desks and technological tools can be easily changed and adapted to meet the students’ requirements.
The active learning process, which catered for collaboration, reflection, meeting and presenting, gave students a “tangible, hands-on” experience in solving issues and problems as they would naturally occur in a normal workplace, Ms Simpson said.
In a typical Active Learning Centre lesson, the teacher would take a back seat. Once the lesson plan was explained or demonstrated and problems outlined, the students would “take over”.
TAFE SWSi Liverpool College Head Teacher of Business Administration, Christine Schlegel, said: “I don’t do a lot of teaching in that the students are doing a lot themselves.
“So as teachers, we are saying, these are the basics; this is what you’ll be assessed on, then they have to make it work. They have to put it into action,” she said.
Among the more unusual learning tools offered by the Active Learning Centres is the ability to write on the glass walls which enclose each centre.
“They use the glass to get their ideas; to brainstorm and then they transfer that onto the laptops, Ms Schlegel said.
Attendance was “always high” for classes held in the Active Learning Centre at Liverpool, she said.
“I’ve had comments like ‘we love working here’ and ‘we can get work done’,” Ms Schlegel said. “I’ve been able to use this room to get them to be engaged; to be in the moment because they’ve got ownership. They’re really working together in a way I haven’t seen before.”
Active Learning Centres have been in operation since July 2014 at four TAFE SWSi colleges including Campbelltown, Granville, Bankstown and Liverpool; with more on the way.
TAFE SWSi Director Peter Roberts said the Active Learning Centres were as much a learning retreat as they were a learning tool which more broadly promoted the new and modern TAFE.
“The feedback we’ve had from teachers and students reveal that the Active Learning Centre approach totally engages the students,” he said.
“We are listening to our customers and understand what they want. We are always looking to upgrade our facilities - hence the new Active Learning Centres - to enhance the TAFE learning and teaching experience.
“At the same time the one thing that will never change is our commitment to provide education and training that students can trust.