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Learning and Teaching @ SCC The Learning Box
At Sedgefield Community College, striving for the highest possible standards in Learning and Teaching are central to everything that we do. It is only by ensuring high quality learning that we can enable our students to ACHIEVE their full potential and ensure their enjoyment of their lessons each day.
We believe that we need to ensure our students do not simply know information, but they fully understand it and are then able to apply it in a wide variety of situations and circumstances. we want to support our students in having the skills to be successful learners at SCC and then for the rest of their lives. We want to ensure our students:
- Achieve their full potential at the end of their time of the school by ensuring clear links and progression in learning from one year to the next.
- Develop personal qualities that will help them to achieve both at SCC and then in their later lives – this includes helping our young people to become genuine lifelong learners.
- Have an enthusiasm for learning and that we also encourage their intellectual curiosity.
- Appreciate the relevance of their learning and are able to make links between this and the wider world.
In order to enable us to ACHIEVE these aims, we have developed something termed ‘The Sedgefield Learning Box’. Into this ‘Box’ we have placed a series of learning strategies for students and teachers to use whenever appropriate in all of their lessons, whatever the subject. By using these subjects across different curriculum areas, students become highly skilled in applying them.
‘The Sedgefield Learning Box’ is organised into four distinct sections with a range of different learning tools in each. The four compartments in our Learning Box are as follows:
- Learning to Think.
- Communicating Learning.
- Learning Habits.
- Learning Together.
Learning to Think
Learning to Think as the name suggests, this compartment focuses on providing students with a series of strategies that will help them to become more accomplished ‘thinkers’. Students are provided with strategies that enable them to think more deeply about issues and to do so with increasing independence..
Students develop the strategy of using the six Thinking Hats (based on the research of Edward De Bono). By using the six hats, students are encouraged to think about different aspects of the issue as each hat relates to a different kind of thinking:
- Blue Hat – Planning and organising ideas.
- Red Hat – Emotions and how you feel.
- White Hat – Facts and the information that you know.
- Yellow Hat – Benefits relating to the issue being considered.
- Black Hat – Problems relating to the issue being considered.
- Green Hat – New ideas and creative thinking.
The purpose of the Question Matrix is to help our students and teachers to think more about the questions that are asked in lessons. We encourage teachers to think more consciously about the language they use to pose questions and the way in which different types of questions each have a valuable contribution to play in the learning process. As well as this, we want our students to pose their own questions and our Question Matrix provides them with a structure to do this.
Having observed excellent learning in several different schools, we have chosen to train our staff and students in using the eight Thinking Maps developed by the American academic David Hyerle. These Thinking Maps act as ‘visual organisers’ and are a consistent and effective way of students organising their thinking about any issue, in any curriculum area.
Each of the eight maps relates to a different thinking process as outlined below:
Circle Map – Defining in Context – Putting down on the page the information that you already know (or think you know) about the subject.
Bubble Map – Describing with Adjectives – Identifying the adjectives that best describe the different aspects of the subject you are thinking about.
Double Bubble Map – Comparing and Contrasting – Considering the similarities and differences between two people, places, events, etc that you wish to compare.
Flow Map – Sequencing and Ordering – Organising a series of ideas into the right or best sequence and understanding how they link together.
Multi Flow Map – Causes and Effects – Used to identify the different factors that might cause something to happen and the range of possible effects of this.
Tree Map – Classifying and Grouping – A range of people, places, events, etc are organised into different groups depending on the way that they relate to one another.
Brace Map – For Analysing Whole Objects and Parts – One whole object is taken and is broken down into the different parts that go together to make it.
Bridge Map – For Seeing Analogies – Used to make a bridge between different ideas and help students make connections between their learning in different areas.
In order to ensure ‘Deep Learning’, we need to develop the ability of our students and teachers to have effective conversations about the learning processes that take place in our school. All of our learning strategies lend themselves to effective conversations, but those in this compartment help to provide a common ‘language of learning’.
Three Storey Intellect
The Three Storey Intellect is represented by a diagram of a building that is organised into three storeys. Within each storey, ‘learning words’ are provided that relate to the different learning processes that take place in the classroom. Across all subject areas, these are the words that we use to talk about learning and this helps our students to make connections between their learning in each different subject.
The Three Storey Intellect breaks down into the following:
1st Storey – Gathering – These words relate to more straightforward learning tasks where students are ‘gathering’ together the key information.
2nd Storey – Processing – These words relate to learning tasks where students are undertaking task to make sense of the information already ‘gathered’.
3rd Storey – Applying – These words relate to learning tasks where students need to take the information ‘gathered’ and ‘processed’, ‘applying’ it in new situations.
Using the Three Storey Intellect to help us, we encourage students and staff to think more consciously about the learning process and the way in which the various elements of this fit together. We understand the importance of ensuring firm foundations for future learning that link to the ‘gathering’ stage of the Three Storey Intellect. As well as this, we also look to move students up to the second and third storeys whenever it is possible, ensuring that the more challenging thinking and learning at these storeys is taking place.
If we are to be successful in our aim of developing students who are able to become successful lifelong learners, we need to help them to instil the personal qualities that will result in them being successful. We recognise as a school that it is difficult to develop ‘learning habits’, but this does not mean that it is something we should avoid!
An American educationalist called Art Costa carried out a great deal of research into the reasons why some people were particularly successful. He identified 16 key ‘Habits of Mind’ that the most successful people were able to use when necessary. It is this concept of ‘Habits of Mind’ that we are using to help us to develop the ‘learning habits’ that our students need to achieve success.
Across the curriculum and in the wider operation of the school, we look to make students and staff explicitly aware of these 16 Habits of Mind that can help us all to be successful. Through doing so, we help people to recognise those habits that it would be beneficial for them personally to develop. Crucially, we are also able to adapt our practice and plan for how best to ensure these vital learning habits can best be supported and developed over time.
The habit of being able to work and learn together effectively is such an important one that a whole compartment of our Learning Box is devoted to it. We recognise that whilst students need to be able to work alone, some of the richest and deepest learning experiences come through activities where students can work and discuss together.
In order to support our students in developing the skills that will enable them to achieve when learning together, a bank of common group-work strategies have been developed and these are shared with all new staff who join the school. Each of these strategies is designed to serve a particular purpose, whether it be listening more carefully to the contributions of others, providing meaningful peer feedback or carefully weighing contributions to be made.
Ultimately, using these strategies helps us to ensure progress is made and that a number of the vital Habits of Mind are being developed effectively.
Literacy, Numeracy and IT Skills
Success across all subject areas and in later life is underpinned by the development of the literacy, numeracy and IT skills that we all recognise as being of vital importance. We recognise that literacy is not the sole preserve of English teachers and that Maths teachers are not the only people responsible for ensuring our students have excellent numeracy skills.
Across the curriculum, all teachers plan for opportunities to develop the literacy, numeracy and IT skills that we know will enable them to succeed at SCC, but will also give them the tools that they need to succeed in later life too.
Inevitable Progress and Tablet Devices / FROG
As a school that places great emphasis on thinking, ongoing reflection on our approach to teaching and learning is vital. In recent years, we have developed the concept of ‘Inevitable Progress’ that sits alongside our Learning Box approach. In essence, ‘Inevitable Progress’ is a mindset that all of our teachers adopt and involves the development of learning sequences that are so well-structured that it is impossible for students not to make excellent progress over time. It is a concept that is informed by our understanding of the new KS4 subject specifications that have been introduced in recent years and is a crucial element of our current success.
We continue to develop our practice and the increasing use of technology is a very important aspect of this. As well as the various thinking tools such as Thinking Hats and Maps in our Sedgefield Learning Box, new technologies such as tablet devices and the various applications that are available on these have a significant role to play. Our delivery model sees all KS4 students having access to their own tablet device and this is used to ensure outstanding progress. Students, parents and staff are all able to use the school’s learning platform, FROG and this has a crucial function in supporting our teaching and learning practice both in school and beyond.
Sedgefield Community College is committed to ensuring that the Learning and Teaching experience of our students is of the highest possible standard. In order to enable us to achieve this aim, we have created ‘The Sedgefield Learning Box’. Inside our ‘Learning Box’ we have a wide range of learning tools that our students are supported to use within and beyond lessons and which enable them to think deeply and with great independence. As the Headteacher of SCC, I firmly believe that the development of these approaches to learning supports our students to ACHIEVE success.
Mr D Davies (Headteacher)