Unpacking the pedagogic practices of the Titans Learning Centre: a school and NRL club partnership for student reengagement in learning

Year: 2016

Author: Whatman, Sue, Main, Katherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The student learning re-engagement program discussed here is known as the Titans Learning Centre (or TLC). It is an approved alternative schooling program, drawn from five integrated curriculum areas, including Health and Physical Education (HPE), and developed in partnership with Queensland Education (DET) and the local National Rugby League (NRL) club, the ‘Gold Coast Titans’. Students typically in Grade Three or Four complete a 10 week program, interacting with professional A grade NRL players on a weekly basis during classroom learning time and lunch time ‘handball’ sessions. This paper unpacks some of the pedagogic practices of the TLC, using Bernstein’s social construction of pedagogic discourse, with its underlying instructional and regulative discourses, particularly the contribution by the players to what and how the students learn. The ethical consent of recruiting children to the study was achieved via acceptance of a position in the program for classroom observations, with further consent sought for accessing students’ school performance data, student and parent surveys and interviews. Using case study methodology, Productive Pedagogies (PP) classroom audits were adapted for multiple classroom observations (n=26). Interviews with NRL players (n=12), NRL game development staff (n=1), and teachers and teacher aides (n=4) were also conducted. The findings revealed the pedagogic approaches of teachers and NRL players emphasised making regulative discourses visible to these young learners, developing supportive classroom environments and building students' sense of connectedness to learning. The players articulated a genuine sense of contribution to the lives of the young learners and saw themselves as role models. The use of high profile athletes in student re-engagement programs has been questioned in recent times, particularly their effectiveness in terms of student learning outcomes over time. However, we conclude that the depth of involvement in pedagogic action connected to student learning indeed enabled the NRL players to be considered role models for student re-engagement in learning.