From low-tech to digital powerhouse

From low-tech to digital powerhouse

Minarah College is at the forefront of transformational change in educational practices and pedagogy, that will impact the lives of students in Western Sydney, both now and in the future.   

Over the past 12 months, the College has undergone a massive overhaul in programming to fully align with the model of Deep Learning and 21st Century Learning.

“The learning cycle and pedagogies were reviewed and the crucial need for a holistic approach to engage students of varying needs, and not only the academic oriented, was evident,” principal Jay Halai says.

“The high focus on traditional ways of delivery of lessons through textbooks and lecture-based teaching was to be replaced by interactive and collaborative learning, resulting in development of students’ creative and critical thinking and communication using a range of resources, including ICT.”

Additionally, the school’s introduction of one-to-one devices enabled 21st Century learning through use of e-textbooks, e-resources and programs, that students are more receptive of, and are developing the skills that they would in future be using in their workforce.

“As the key external exams are delivered online, the devices will further facilitate the process,” Halai explains.

“The introduction of character wheel, was seen as a strategy to develop students’ global competencies and active contributors to the society as well as their development of their exemplary character and emotional intelligence.”

Halai says this approach provided a more structured sequence, in comparison to the previous one-off charity-based activities.

In tandem with this overhaul, Halai has motivated all staff at the College to seek deeper investment in promoting positive outcomes for students.

He says the most outstanding outcome from this is the benefit to the students, that is evident through the College’s Lesson Observations and Learning Walks.

“The focus now is on differentiation and development of Higher Order Thinking Skills [HOTS]. There is documented planning on differentiation to ensure the students who are struggling are being catered for and those who are above average are being challenged to do better,” he said.

“Furthermore, staff now engage in making data-driven decisions to make programs and learning sequences. Lessons are no longer based on ‘one hat – fits all’, each lesson now has differentiated tasks.”

Halai says the syllabus outcome is now achieved through differentiated tasks that are aligned to the student capabilities and learning needs.

“Lessons are delivered through interactive smartboards hence teachers have the opportunity to cater for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners,” he says.

“With less focus on textbooks, students now engage more on experiential and inquiry-based learning and have ample opportunities to work in collegial groups, using various thinking routines.”

Halai said staff development is highly focused on enhancement of ICT skills through regular professional learning with Microsoft Teams.

“The success stories on Deep Learning, from classrooms were shared by the staff as part of professional development and these presentations were well received by the teachers, and seen as a learning opportunity, and peer appreciation.”

As for what’s next for Minarah College, Halai says the process is in place for changing the learning environment with collaborative learning places for all students.

“The shift is from students just learning the knowledge to authentic application of this knowledge to the wider world. The focus at Minarah College is for teachers to equip students with the tools to navigate their learning process and improve their expertise in developing efficacy,” he said.

“We will ensure students address meaningful real-world problems and use specific protocols that ensure all voices are heard. Project-based learning will be emphasised to develop key skills such as research, critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.”

Halai says the college will also be using appropriate data analysis and interpretation of data to make informed decisions that positively affect student outcomes.

“The proactive stance will enable students to be committed to advocating essential values, reflect and develop critical thinking and communication skills to develop their characters and become valuable and active members of the community.”

Minarah College was recently named in The Educator’s Innovative Schools 2022 list.