Contemporary Learning


Mater Dei Catholic College provides a holistic education in which each student is challenged to develop capacity for self reflection as they engage in the learning process. A holistic education is one in which students need to be active community members, to work effectively with peers and teachers, to have a strong faith which guides their decision making and underpins their values and to strive to achieve their personal academic best. A Mater Dei education is one in which the elements of faith, learning and community are present in the education of young people.

Students at Mater Dei develop a love of learning.  They engage with passionate, exemplary teachers who value the learning relationship.  Growth as a whole person is at the core of learning at the College.

An integral component of the Mater Dei learning program is Integrated Learning, which takes place across the curriculum. In this context, students undertake, through a series of tasks that focus on real world situations, to develop the skills of independent and life-long learning. These skills focus on the effective use of ICT, a range of literacies from word literacy to critical literacy and numeracy, as well as the development of social and emotional skills. The following Stage 4 (Year 7 and Year 8) programs are examples of contemporary, dynamic learning experienced all students at Mater Dei:

ConnecTED Learning Program

Year 7: ConnecTED Learning is about preparing students for a lifetime of learning.

In Year 7 we have an amazing team of teachers facilitating English, History, Geography and Religion to 140 students in a flexible space.  

We use inquiry based learning for every unit so that students can clearly see the process of learning.  Because they recognise that pattern of learning, we have confident students who no longer say... What do I do? They ask more strategic questions that start with...Can I try ...? Would I be able to…? Do you think I could…?  And because we are a team and we have the flexible space, our students know they can go to any teacher or adult in the Glasshouse for help and feedback.  We even have student experts in the Glasshouse because sometimes your peers are the best people to ask for help.

As teachers we are facilitating the learning using explicit teaching with a range of creative pedagogy to develop 21st Century skills that will translate into their lives beyond Mater Dei. We work independently, and we collaborate in teams using role descriptions so that students know what it’s like to lead and what it’s like to have responsibilities and to be accountable for them. We encourage students to take risks and allow for the fact that sometimes it doesn’t matter what the end product looks like, it was the failures they encountered that were most important and what they learned from the most.

Technology is a big part of our learning and students develop skills to find appropriate, useful, relevant information and they’re taught how to use it to show their depth of understanding.

Using peer and self assessment, students are constantly gauging where they are at in their learning and setting achievable goals to improve themselves.  

We ask 2 basic questions… www and ebi. what’s working well? And It would be even better if what?

How to give great feedback is explicitly taught from the beginning of Year 7 and so, by setting that expectation and making it easy to respond to, what we end up with  is students of all abilities, who can talk about their own learning.

Year 8: Building on the experiences of the ConnecTED learning program, Year 8 students are involved in a collaborative learning approach in English, Religious Education and HSIE. Each subject has been timetabled to occur at the same time for all students, for example: All Year 8 students have English at the same time. Students can take advantage of all five teaching staff working collaboratively in planning, teaching and learning. This initiative provides a platform for student-centred learning with a guided inquiry focus to activities and assessments. This has been a deliberate timetabling decision to maximize continued engagement and choice for students and to further their skills in collaboration and inquiry.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Program

Year 8 students participate in the STEAM program. STEAM is the integrated teaching and learning of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. It is currently at the forefront of educational practice across secondary education, university and TAFE sectors in conjunction with Industry leaders such as Westpac, BAE Systems and Johnson and Johnson. International research also indicates that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEAM skills and knowledge (Australian Chief Scientist, 2014).   

This year, students will participate in units such as Makerspace Sandpit, MBot Golfing Challenge, Design Challenge and the Solar Car Challenge. This subject will benefit students by building the skills needed to actively contribute to society and influence scientific developments through innovation, both now and in the future. (NSW Education Standards Authority, 2017) These skills include:

  • Complex problem-solving skills

  • Critical thinking

  • Creativity

  • Collaboration and negotiation

  • Judgement and decision-making skills

  • Practical skills in designing and making