Rediscovering the joy of formal learning: case studyACER news 23 Jun 2020 4 minute read
When Raelene Maxworthy signed up to one of ACER’s online professional learning courses, her anxiety about returning to formal study after a 20-year break nearly derailed her plans altogether.
In fact, she decided to defer for six months.
As a curriculum co-ordinator with a busy family life, she wondered how she would fit in ACER’s Graduate Certificate in Education – Assessment of Student Learning (GCEASL).
'I was also terrified of online platforms because I’d never studied through one,' she said. 'For someone my age – I’m 43 – it was a big thing. I hadn’t formally studied for 20-odd years.
'I’d always researched and read articles as part of my professional learning, but I’d never had a qualification at the end and I had always sat in courses with a face-to-face instructor.'
Mrs Maxworthy used the six month deferral to refresh her academic writing skills and adjust her perspective. In July 2018, she enrolled again, determined to do her best.
'I have to say I was fiercely competitive throughout,' Mrs Maxworthy said, laughing. 'That’s how I am as a learner – I just wanted to smash it and I did, I got great results.'
Far from being something to fear, Mrs Maxworthy found the online learning experience as rich and rewarding as any face-to-face learning environment.
'It blew me away – it was just so highly organised, easy to navigate and the first thing I noticed was the effort Dr Katie Richardson, who teaches the GCEASL, went to in order to form relationships with everyone in the course,' she said. 'It was outstanding and, even though I felt a bit rusty, everyone was amazing – it wasn’t like that when I was at uni.'
Mrs Maxworthy said she enjoyed everything about the course, from the structure of the learning to the final graduation.
'There was the right mix of videos, reading, online group work, independent study – you couldn’t help but learn in this course,' she said. 'The graduation was so much fun and I felt a strong sense of achievement.'
Modelling lifelong learning
Mrs Maxworthy said one of the biggest rewards was being a role model to her children, then aged 11 and 13 years, and showing them that learning is lifelong.
'I think they gained a healthy appreciation of the value of learning,' she said. 'They’d get excited with me when my results came through; they’d give me the space I needed when I had an assignment due.
'They watched their mum learn and they could see that learning takes time and effort, but it’s very rewarding.'
Pursuing new opportunities
Mrs Maxworthy has always been interested in differentiation – that is, designing learning activities to suit a range of diverse learning needs.
After completing the course, Mrs Maxworthy felt so inspired she partnered with ACER’s Dr Katie Richardson to improve differentiation within her school, McCarthy Catholic College. They devised a bespoke 12-month action research project to help middle leaders improve differentiation, and Dr Richardson has since visited the Tamworth college to see the project in action.
'Our whole school approach to assessment has transformed,' Mrs Maxworthy said. 'We have a stronger understanding of the purpose of assessment and how to use assessment effectively for learning.'
When asked whether she would consider more professional learning, Mrs Maxworthy said ‘absolutely’.
'It’s 100% inspired me to do more learning,' she said. 'I would definitely encourage other teachers to do the same.'
Ready for a new challenge?
If you’re looking to progress your career, ACER offers a range of courses to develop the data skills required to differentiate teaching in the classroom.