The Learning Hub: Growing a culture of independent learning

Learning can happen in different ways; it doesn’t just have to happen in the traditional setting of a classroom. Educators know this, but what about our students? How do we encourage students to recognise the different ways they can engage in learning?

The students at Navitas English Bankstown are a diverse cohort. They come from different countries including Syria, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Thailand, cover a range of ages and study in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). The Learning Hub was designed to show students the interesting ways they can learn, and build a community and culture to support students of different levels to develop independent learning skills: by utilising apps on student devices, providing personalised pronunciation sessions and strategies for practicing pronunciation at home, building on cultural knowledge and skills for writing CVs, providing public speaking opportunities on campus, supporting students to facilitate workshops, and setting up fun group activities to boost vocabulary, conversation skills and confidence.

The key is to first investigate student interests, their language needs for settlement purposes, and the knowledge and skills they bring to the learning environment. Next, identify students with shared needs and interests to encourage collaboration in a supportive environment. Where possible, get student input on tasks and projects to be used. This will help students stay motivated and enable them to better reflect on their learning.

Three main ways the Learning Hub supports students include:

  1. Providing a vibrant space for students to meet with staff or to independently engage in resources.
  2. Running a program which creates authentic learning opportunities, for example, supporting students with a specific job application, creating Learning Hub volunteer roles or encouraging students to participate in the SBS National Languages Competition.
  3. Supporting trainers with projects, for example, to enable students to lead a Google expedition in VR, film mock interviews, and use technology to create digital learning journals and posters.

See below for a summary of the types of support the Learning Hub provides students:

The Learning Hub Cabramatta

The Learning Hub was first trialled at Cabramatta, but due to the cohort’s learning needs, its purpose was a bit different to Bankstown. For example, with almost 70% of students coming from Vietnam, and needing intensive and ongoing pronunciation practice, the Cabramatta Hub has a karaoke machine where students can regularly practise their pronunciation through song.

The Learning Hub and the SBS competition

An example of how students can engage in the Learning Hub occurred with the SBS National Languages Competition. At home, the students may not have had the resources or language to help them engage in the external learning opportunity, which is where the Learning Hub was able to provide a helping hand.

Hosted by SBS Radio, this competition encourages people to celebrate a love of learning languages in Australia. As part of the nationwide competition, participants were required to send in a photo or drawing that shows ‘What amazing possibilities learning a language opens for you?’. Ways in which the Learning Hub supported students participating in the competition included:

  • Providing resources to help scaffold the submission process.
  • Providing technical support and resources that students may not have had access to, for example, video, photo, computer, iPad, QR code, paper, pens, pencils.
  • Providing individualised support to students based on their interests. A great example of this was when a SLPET (Settlement Language Pathways to Employment and Training) student, Haiping, learned how to add a QR code to her SBS entry, which allowed her to demonstrate the possibilities that learning English had provided her: acting in her role as Learning Hub Volunteer and delivering workshops to fellow students on creating a digital learning journal.

What’s next for the Learning Hub

This is the third term in which the Learning Hub has been running at Bankstown. As the program evolves, the needs of students and teachers are recognised and the program is adapted and changed accordingly. We not only want the hub to continue to identify and address our students’ individual language learning, work readiness needs and develop their autonomy, but we also want to start projects where we empower students by providing them with skills and training that they can develop and pass on to others, such as digital learning and technology skills. While participating in the SBS competition, Haiping advised her volunteer home tutor (from the Navitas home tutor scheme) to add a QR code to her CV, which would link to a video demonstrating her teaching skills. Haiping then contacted me to arrange a space and the equipment to capture a lesson. This is an example of how the Learning Hub can inspire students to empower others. This tutor is now enrolled in a TESOL course and is in the process of changing careers.

The Learning Hub in each college – Cabramatta, Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool – will be used in ways which meet the needs of the specific cohort. At Bankstown, this includes:

  • The Hub Cafe: Providing a space and resources for students to practice transactional language in line with the AMEP and SEE TAS (Skills for Education and Employment Training and Assessment Strategy) plans.
  •  The Hub Makerspace: Providing opportunities to learn by doing and develop the language and confidence needed to develop their skills outside of the Learning Hub by accessing online tutorials and joining local and online communities.
  •  Supporting the SLPET Customer Service class: Support the trainer by providing a cafe space, assistance with capturing formative assessment evidence, and supporting students with digital skills.
  • Supporting the Youth class: Support trainer and students with new ways to present e.g. using virtual reality via Google cardboard viewers to lead Google expeditions.
  • Offering virtual reality experiences: The Digital Innovation Team will assist with setting up Tilt Brush. Activity ideas incorporate the use of 3D drawing.

To continue the conversation, contact Rachael Adams, or share your thoughts and ideas about the different ways students can engage in learning via YammerTwitter or LinkedIn.

[This story was produced in collaboration with Jen Ng.]