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Hittin' the road - Episode 13: Wellington

Keeping students engaged and absorbed has been the age-old dilemma for teachers across many centuries and civilizations

The town of Wellington was my final stop on the Great TAFE Western Road Trip. With home sweet home now only 387kms away, I was already starting to imagine myself curled up on the lounge with Morris my Labradiva and Season 5 of Breaking Bad. But first it was time for a nice cuppa and good ol' chinwag with some of the friendly peeps at Wellington TAFE.

Wellington TAFE practically sits in the shadows of a looming grain silo at the end of the street. It's a landmark feature of many country towns. From the outside, the campus looks quite small, but like the Tardis in Dr. Who... until you step inside, you don't realise just how big it is. 

Last stop it this tour... Wellington TAFE! #tafewestern #taferoadtrip

A photo posted by tafensw (@tafensw) on Oct 28, 2014 at 8:11pm PDT

Something I've noticed at quite a few of the TAFE Western colleges I've visited is how popular the auto and mechanics courses are. I suppose this makes sense, given that public transport in the bush is, well… virtually non-existent, which means most people have to rely on their own vehicles to get anywhere. Not only is automotive training strong in adult education, but almost every TAFE Western location I visited had a TVET offering as well. Hugely popular with future apprentice mechanics. 

An important part of the automotive course at Wellington TAFE is Foundation Skills, which trains the students in basic business practices like issuing receipts and keeping records. The teacher at Wellington, Elizabeth, was happy for me to sit in on her class and even participate in proceedings. Elizabeth believes that students are more likely to be engaged if the lesson is framed around some kind of real life event – something to give it some context for the students and "keep it real". As an example, a recent lesson revolved around a local newspaper article about a small brush fire that had been caused by a faulty lawnmower engine. There was a class discussion about possible causes, which had the students drawing on their mechanical knowledge and swapping ideas. Great stuff.

But Elizabeth's "terms of engagement" didn't stop there. On the day of my visit and as part of a maths lesson she had the students involved in a Melbourne Cup sweep. And all of this to a background soundtrack of AC/DC pumping out from the smart board. "The boys requested it," she told me. "It keeps them happy."

It's teachers like Elizabeth who can make a real difference to learning outcomes. Keeping students engaged and absorbed has been the age-old dilemma for teachers across many centuries and civilizations. It's heartening to see that so many TAFE NSW teachers have both the passion for and commitment to their mission as educators to do what it takes to pass on their knowledge to their students as effectively and enjoyably as possible.

And so, homeward bound. Hooroo Wellington and see you again TAFE Western. Thanks for sharing your stories and your inspiration.