Learning is a journey, not a destination
One of the most effective learning habits that yield academic results in the classroom is to enjoy learning for learning’s sake. It takes us on an educational journey that is not just about the destinations we reach. It is about the wisdom, education and growth that come from that learning, the paths we follow and the lessons learned along the way.
Journey just as enjoyable as the destination
Enjoy the journey. This is a phrase I like to tell my students, meaning the learning process is just as enjoyable as the learning outcome.
One of the most effective learning habits that yield academic results is focusing on the process instead of the product. Instead of just focusing on completing the paper, the project, or exam, we encourage students at Concordia International School Shanghai to enjoy learning for learning’s sake. We work on developing students who are curious and want to have a deeper understanding of the world around them.
My teaching colleagues and I have developed projects that encourage problem-solving, that have more than one right answer, that welcome risk-taking or wildly divergent thinking, and that can be tailored to students’ individual interests while simultaneously meeting grade-level learning benchmarks. For some students, this way of learning involves some unlearning. They have to unlearn, relying exclusively on the teacher for approval and, instead, prototype his or her own ideas and test them for effectiveness, thereby, learning from their own mistakes. They have to unlearn that one iteration is enough; true learning often takes multiple attempts.
They learn that failure is a natural part of the learning cycle. They learn that satisfaction not only comes at the end of a project but it can be infused throughout the cycle.
One way parents can help their children develop this skill is by praising hard work and not just applauding achievements. Students who understand that tenacity, grit and perseverance are valued above trophies, A-plus grades and external accolades tend to be better suited for university and beyond. They develop coping skills and are more adaptive to setbacks. They are more independent and more optimistic that they have the skills and mindset to tackle challenges that will come their way. They understand that the journey is just as worthwhile as the destination.
(The article is contributed by Michele Turner who is a middle school teacher at CISS.)
Visual mnemonics to help remember historical info
We have probably all heard about the saying, “a picture is worth 1,000 words” and this becomes apparent in the study habits of successful students.
How? The use of visual mnemonic devices can drastically increase retention for high school students.
Mnemonic devices are well known as great retrieval cues for a wide range of information.
They can be in the form of rhymes for historical events (In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue), acronyms for the treble staff (Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge), or even songs — every kid learns the alphabet through song.
Taking it to the next level, I encourage my history students at Shanghai Singapore International School to transform mnemonic devices into clear images in their head.
By closing their eyes and visualizing an image, the students can effectively recall the specific information related to that image very quickly.
One great example of a visual mnemonic is when my ninth-grade students need to remember the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
A simple picture of a fishing trawler dragging its net helps them recall that Territory, Reparations, Armed forces, War Guilt and League of Nations were the main terms that the Allied powers dragged out of Germany. TRAWL.
Or the three most important Greek philosophers in order? Picture three old guys in a SPA will help remember Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Using visual mnemonics to remember a large amount of information is an effective learning method that I encourage my students to use.
If students can create their own images, often the more humorous the better, their ability to recall will increase even more. Besides, it is certainly better than trying to remember 1,000 words, right?
(The article is contributed by Christopher Hayes, senior school history teacher at SSIS.)
Importance of self-regulated learning
One of the most powerful tools for learners to develop is the ability to monitor and direct their learning.
Self-regulated learners are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, can motivate themselves to engage in their learning, and most importantly, know how to improve.
At the heart of this is metacognition, a term that is well known in schools. The process of “thinking about thinking” is one of the greatest tools we can empower pupils to develop to improve the awareness of their learning.
The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit, which summarizes international evidence, recommends “metacognition and self-regulation” as a highimpact, low-cost approach to improving the attainment of learners.
So, what does this mean and what does it look like when children are faced with a learning task?
Before starting a task, it is important for pupils to be aware of the knowledge that they already have. When we talk about knowledge, we do not simply mean knowledge of the subject, but also knowledge of the strategies they would use and of their abilities. When undertaking a learning task, we start with this knowledge, then apply and adapt it. This is metacognitive regulation. The three main steps in this process are planning on how to undertake a task, working on it while monitoring the strategy to check progress, then evaluating its success.
Most children will not spontaneously develop the tools and strategies they need for effective learning.
Developing key metacognitive strategies requires explicit instruction. This does not mean telling pupils what to do, but describes all the activities that a teacher facilitates to bring about learning in their pupils.
This process is the opposite of a lecturing approach. It combines explicit teacher input with specific questioning and feedback. At Wellington College International Shanghai, our “Learning to Learn” course provides explicit teaching of these skills for pupils in Years 6, 7 and 8.
At home, you can help to facilitate this by using questions for each step of the process. These sorts of questions are used every day by teachers to help prompt thinking and guide children through the metacognitive steps. They can easily be applied at home when studying or working through a task.
“What resources do I need to carry out this task?”
“Have I done something similar before and was it successful?”
“Where do I start?”
“Am I doing well?”
“Do I need any different techniques or strategies to improve?”
“Am I finding this challenging?”
“Is there anything I need to stop and change to improve?”
“How did I do?”
“Did the strategy I chose work?”
“How would I do it differently next time?”
“What might I do differently next time?”
During the summer vacation, if children are working on assignments, they can apply this process to help them regulate their learning. The act of planning for learning, monitoring progress and evaluating is a powerful learning habit to develop.
More info on Education Endowment Foundation at https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit
(The article is contributed by Dean Clayden and Mark Wright, assistant heads of Prep School at Wellington College International Shanghai.)