Teaching approaches that empower students to kick goals

Teaching approaches that empower students to kick goals

Behind RMIT’s sector-leading partnership with Essendon Football Club is an innovative and driven teacher, committed to developing and delivering authentic learning that drives student engagement.

Key points:
  • Encouraging industry partnered learning and authentic assessment
  • Engaging students as partners in their learning and assessment
  • A student-centric andragogy to empower self-leadership

Launched in December 2021, the Essendon Education Academy is an innovative education program giving students a pathway to a career in elite sport and business management.

Course Coordinator in Global Business and Leadership, Esteban Franco, has been a driving force, overseeing the development of the new dual Diploma of Business and Diploma of Leadership and Management embedded in and delivered through the Academy.

An academic and Course Coordinator with more than a decade's experience, Esteban has also owned registered trade organisations, bringing extensive sector knowledge and experience in developing and designing impactful courses that connect students with the real world.

Encouraging industry partnered learning and authentic assessment

Esteban works closely with Essendon FC’s program manager to understand the Club’s business needs and apply these to learning and assessments throughout the dual diploma.

From an andragogical perspective, Esteban highlights an open mindset and agile approach that enables him to connect the dots between what’s happening in the stakeholder’s world and know how this can apply as a project or assessment within the dual diploma.

While it may seem simple, Esteban balances several factors like course compliance requirements, student experience and their personal and professional growth in his approach.

It’s not about fitting a square peg to a round hole, rather, it’s about thinking about how we give students a real industry immersive experience, within the safety of an education environment.

In one example, Esteban and his dual diploma students worked closely with Essendon FC to solve their business problem of increasing membership of the new Essendon AFLW club.

Identifying an opportunity to apply the principles of project management to an industry project, Esteban inserted this business problem into the project management unit within the dual diploma.

The Club to provide the context, limitations and considerations around a real-world project ensuring an applied and authentic approach to learning.

Students then worked in groups, competing against each other to ideate solutions. They were assessed by Esteban against their application of project management theory and practice, while their ideas were then adopted by Essendon’s AFLW ticketing team and implemented into the business.

An ongoing feedback loop between the client and students about how their work is performing in real-time in industry helps provide the full industry immersion that the course is intended to deliver.

Esteban Franco Teaching Classes are delivered on-site at the NEC Hanger, home of Essendon Football Club.

Engaging students as partners in their learning and assessment

Key to Esteban’s teaching approach is engaging his students as partners in their learning and assessment. 

When responding to client problems, Esteban facilitates an ‘on the job’ type environment where he engages the client or industry partner to provide the context and limitations of the project.

Rather than the teacher simply telling the students what to do, they’re learning in real time to understand the project requirements and extract salient information to formulate client briefs.

The class then works together to analyse the best aspects of each brief, evaluating against core curriculum concepts with guidance from the teacher and collaborate to write the final brief together.

The method provides ownership over something the students have co-created themselves, they remember it and gain value out of it.

By having students understand a problem and formulate their own path to the solution, you’re asking them to use a higher level of critical thinking.

"It might sound chaotic, and it’s true that there is an element of the unknown which could be perceived as stressful, but for the student, it’s exciting because they know it’s going to go where they want it to go", said Esteban.

A student-centric andragogy

In curating and delivering a course, Esteban believes subject selection is crucial to the learning journey a student will embark on, challenging the idea that a course is merely a collection of units.

Considerations are student-centric, with a focus on questioning the skills students are gaining from a particular way of learning and what learning journey will encourage a higher level of critical thinking.

From a teaching perspective, it’s about questioning how to get them to think beyond a pass or fail and building a learning journey that shows them the path to the course outcomes.

If I’m looking at a set of learning objectives or outcomes in a course structure, and I’m bored – then I know the student will be too. All learning should have a hook, a why.

Esteban practices the belief that good teaching begins with empowered students. He begins each program by encouraging students to realise their self-awareness, self-leadership and identify their strengths and weaknesses, empowering them to take ownership of the program and the outcomes they’ll gain from it.

Not only does this approach drive higher engagement, student satisfaction and outcomes, but it encourages the resilience and adaptiveness that are crucial to lifelong learning, setting his students up for success in life and industry.

To leverage a sporting metaphor, I’m not going out there and kicking the ball for the students. Rather, I’m identifying their strengths and weaknesses and they must see if they can control these themselves to reach the outcome.
Students at the Essendon Education Academy Students gain an immersive learning experience through the Essendon Education Academy.

Building on the rampant success of the Academy, Esteban was invited by RMIT to replicate the approach delivered through the Essendon Education Academy with Cricket Victoria. The Melbourne Cricket Education Academy launched in October 2022.



08 March 2023


Hear from students about the learning experience in the Dual Diploma of Business/Diplomas of Leadership and Management, delivered through the Essendon Education Academy.

About Esteban Franco

Esteban is currently a Course Coordinator at RMIT University, with over a decade of academic experience in the fields of: Leadership & Management, Business, Marketing, Design Thinking / Problem Solving and Digital Media Technologies. 

Esteban’s in-depth and innovative facilitation style has earned him nomination by RMIT for Teacher of the Year - Victorian Training Awards 2022 and Finalist of the RMIT's Vice Chancellor’s Leadership Award.


Story by Loretta Clancy, Senior Communications Advisor

08 March 2023


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