Talk about Flexible Learning

Since Kitty te Riele’s Flexible Learning reports were launched at Victoria University there has been a steady conversation: newspapers, radio and Twitter have been abuzz with flexible learning findings.
Putting the Jigsaw Together: Flexible Learning in Australia (1.7 MB) shows social and economic benefits for many of the 70,000 young people in 900-plus flexible learning programs.
The main findings were summed up through seven core issues:
1. A Flexible learning sector. The 900-plus flexible learning programs fit into one of three structural arrangements – within a high school, a TAFE or Community College, or as a stand-alone program – and these programs formed an unofficially recognised flexible learning sector. Findings showed this deserved formal recognition through better-targeted policy, research and community support.
2. Financial and social returns on investment: These programs ultimately saved money; without flexible learning there would be a substantial individual and societal cost and loss.
3. Overall coherence and alignment: It was fundamental that each program had alignment between the valued outcomes, the actions taken and the underpinning principles.
4. Evidence for success: Quantifying success of a program and communicating these results to outsiders was important.
5. Young people’s input and strengths: Every young person has strengths, and harnessing these skills is crucial. “Deeper and more lasting learning occurs when curriculum is bloglaunch_North_Coasttailored to the student population, through personal learning plans or shared interests. Project-based learning and explicit links with students’ lives are especially useful.”
6. Staff as the greatest asset: “Research is clear that genuine and caring relationships with teachers and peers are essential for the success of flexible programs,” the report found.
7. Showcases for innovation: Successful programs had the potential to become inspirational learning models, which could then “inform change in mainstream education,” the report found.
Given that staff are among the greatest assets for these programs, Dusseldorp Forum flew staff from the eight flexible-learning programs featured in the case studies to Melbourne for the launch-day workshop. Despite the programs having different structures, sizes and locations, staff discovered their programs had much in common, and shared tips and gained inspiration from each other (see photograph below).