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Teaching and Learning at Network Secondary School

Teaching and Learning at Network Secondary School

Over the last few months, the Secondary teachers at Network International School Yangon have been working on updating our approach to Teaching and Learning. With this exciting development, Tr Sophie launched the new Teaching and Learning Policy to Secondary parents at the most recent Parents’ Coffee Morning and explained how this would affect their children’s education from next year onwards. 

Network International School Yangon - Teaching and Learning Coffee Morning

Why update?

All schools go through a reviewing cycle of policies and Network is no different. However, for Teaching and Learning, a lot of research has happened in the last five years which informs the current best practices. We want our policies, and our teaching, to reflect this. We want to be an ‘evidence-informed school’, where we stay up to date with best practice and current research, while also considering how this applies to our specific circumstances at Network and in Yangon. After all, the final of the CRUCIAL Skills is to become a Lifelong Learner, and here our teachers are modelling what we expect from our own students. To do all of this, we went right back to the beginning to consider what Network’s Teaching and Learning should entail.

In developing our Teaching and Learning Policy, we split our new policy into three simply but key areas: 
Curriculum Ethos
Teaching and Learning
Assessment and Feedback

Curriculum Ethos

In Early Years and Primary, Network fosters inquisitive, engaged learners through a child-centred curriculum and an inquiry-based approach to learning. In Secondary, we aim to capitalise on this approach within our curriculum through using  a ‘Big Question’ approach to curriculum design. Instead of learning being a top down approach where teachers state what will be learned, we aim to engage students through the use of questions to explore as a way to shape the learning. Often students may be involved in creating success criteria alongside their subject-expert teachers.

Network International School Yangon - Teaching and learning

We prioritise, model and develop metacognitive skills in our students through a focus on student ownership of their learning. Some ways that students will encounter this, include teachers modelling their thought processes and through tutors working with students to reflect on their learning in their Student Trackers. We encourage parents to ask their children to see their Student Trackers in Google Classroom and support them in keeping them up to date.

We aspire to foster a culture in which all assessment and feedback is received by students as formative and constructive opportunities for improvement. We need parents to help with this: the overriding message should be that ensuring we know how to improve is more important than any individual grade. Tests are not a thing to be scared of: they are an opportunity to reflect on progress and act on feedback.

The quality of students’ English makes a significant difference to attainment in all subjects. Students can be incredible mathematicians or scientists but will be held back if they do not fully understand the question. We take shared responsibility across all subjects and phases for developing reading, writing and spoken language skills. This can most clearly be seen through explicit focus on vocabulary/keywords and through the correction of work for accuracy. We also aim to build in reading opportunities as much as possible, such as through Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) time. Parents can help by encouraging their children to read regularly in English at home: fiction or non-fiction is absolutely fine, but the requirement is that there must be a sufficient level of challenge in the vocabulary. Our advice is to aim for around 80% of words being already familiar.

We personalise learning through scaffolding, back fading and responsive assessment. Through applying regular checking for understanding and mini-assessments, teachers are able to more easily identify the needs for particular students and adapt their teaching accordingly to best support them. When new topics and skills are introduced, the learning is scaffolded to support all students to succeed and then as each student is ready, the sections of the scaffolding are removed. Not all students are ready at the same time and that is ok.

Network International School Yangon - Teaching and Learning Coffee Morning

We adopt a mastery approach to extending and enriching student learning. Regular checking for understanding enables teachers to be confident that students have mastered topics before moving on and this avoids shallow understanding. Students who find a particular topic easier to achieve mastery are enriched within that topic, adding depth to their knowledge rather than being rushed on to the next topic.

Teaching and Learning

We establish clear goals through the use of ‘Big Question’ exploration, success criteria for individual tasks and explicit links to examination criteria, where relevant. Students should be clear on what they need to know or be able to do. Where at all possible, students should be involved in co-constructing learning questions and success criteria to support their ownership of their own learning, but this happens under the guidance of subject-specialist teachers.

We are currently reviewing and updating our Key Stage 3 curriculum and will be doing the same with Key Stage 4 and 5 early next academic year. A priority in this is to carefully plan clear, explicit instruction which sequences material into small steps. We want to make excellent use of subject specialists to provide clear instruction on key skills and knowledge. To support learners, we break these into smaller steps on the learning journey. 

We believe in having high expectations for all our students and not limiting them based on their target grades or any other factors. To support this approach, we pitch our lessons to teach to the top level and provide scaffolded support to help all students access this.

As part of providing explicit instruction, we make regular use of models with narration of the thought processes involved. Teachers do not just provide examples of successful work but will also make clear how these are achieved. At times, this may be achieved through the teacher producing models live in the classroom and talking through the choices they are making as they go.

To ensure students can be successful to work independently, we first guide student practice to reach high success rates. This guided practice may look like whole class, small group or individual activities but will be structured to check that the understanding of each step of the learning is secure before students move on to independent work, with the aim to consolidate their learning.

Network International School Yangon - Teaching and Learning Coffee Morning

We use a variety of strategies to regularly check student understanding to ensure mastery is secured. This may look like targeted questioning, use of mini-whiteboards, use of applications such as Kahoot or other activities that are designed to allow the teacher to identify any student who is not secure in their understanding and be able to support them.

Questioning is a crucial part of effective teaching. We aim to ask quality questions which will assess understanding and we aim to build a culture in which students see this as a beneficial process and understand that opting out by claiming “I don’t know” will not help them improve. 

Developing students’ own study skills is crucial to their progress and we design this around current understanding of how memory works. To do this we build students’ retrieval practice skills through daily, weekly and monthly review activities.

We believe that learning activities should feel purposeful and, as such, we aim to set meaningful homework and independent work, which is either preparation, practice or retrieval

Assessment and Feedback

Assessment is a big area for us to focus on improving. On Friday 19th May, Tr Jon will talk to parents at the Coffee Morning about how we are updating the way we report on this. Under the heading of Teaching and Learning, the focus is on how we use assessment in the classroom.

We aim to provide students with regular formative feedback. This may look different in different subjects and could be a mixture of online, in books and verbal feedback from classroom discussions. Starting in August we are introducing centralised records for these so your child will be able to show you this in the front or back of their exercise books or folders. They will be supported to collect together feedback that they receive along with notes on how they are responding to it.

Network International School Yangon - Teaching and Learning Coffee Morning

Whilst we believe that formative feedback (so advice on current strengths and areas to improve) are the most useful to students, we also build in key assessments to check student progress against international standards to ensure we are picking up on any areas of concern. This allows us to monitor progress through key summative assessments. 

We work towards building students’ confidence in their learning potential. To support this we aim to warmly identify strengths in students’ work.

To help build a culture where students are focused not on the mark or grade, but on how to keep improving, we will be using the phrase ‘What’s Next?’ to identify how a student should be acting on the feedback they receive, Whilst teacher expertise in feedback is vital, constructing this as questions or challenges supports metacognitive development.

A guiding principle for feedback is that students should work harder in response. To enable this we dedicate time for students to reflect on and respond to teacher feedback regularly.

Teachers will also reflect on the findings from these assessments to review and adapt our teaching as an ongoing process. This is one of the many reasons that tutoring can do more harm than good: whilst teachers follow a curriculum, individual lessons will vary from year to year and class to class as teachers adapt to the findings from assessments of the students in their current classes.

What’s next?

Discussions continue to be ongoing with teachers as we plan for next year. Developments in our Teaching and Learning and, consequently, in our Curriculum are very exciting for Network Secondary School and we believe that our students will very much benefit from these steps into the future. 

Sophie Hill
Deputy Head of Secondary
Network International School

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Network International School Yangon - Teaching and Learning Coffee Morning

Over the last few months, the Secondary teachers at Network International School Yangon have been working on updating our approach to Teaching and Learning. With this exciting development, Tr Sophie launched the new Teaching and Learning Policy to Secondary parents at the most recent Parents’ Coffee Morning and explained how this would affect their children’s education from next year onwards. 

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