School is not just about learning facts, figures, and content. Nor is it just about passing exams. While these are vital aspects of any good school experience, school is as much about the academics as it is about learning life skills. Not least of which is independence.
Being independent does not simply mean being self-sufficient. To truly have independence, one is able to think for oneself, analyse information and, most importantly, make choices with confidence. The extended quarantine measures here in the Philippines and continued physical school closures have really had an impact on student’s ability to develop this skill.
Our students have had so many choices taken away from them; from how they spend their time on weekends and after school, with what friends they socialize, to how they engage with the world outside their windows. An unfortunate reality is that the opportunities to practice good decision making have been limited. As a consequence, so too has the opportunity to develop independence.
The limited opportunities to develop independence can have a negative impact on learning, with students more readily becoming stuck on problems or unsure how to overcome learning obstacles.
Our mission in Virtual School is to ensure we provide the best possible learning and schooling experience for our students and to replicate so far as possible the entire school experience. As such the Secondary teachers have been working hard to ensure that choice becomes a cornerstone of our approach. Choice has manifested itself in the Virtual School Experience in two key ways, through our differentiated instruction and approach to personalised learning, and in how we support and challenge students.
Not all students wish to, or are able to, engage in lesson content in the same way. We each have unique challenges, preferences, and passions and as a consequence it is vital students are provided with a choice in how they access learning. Recently Secondary teachers have had a big focus on providing such choice to students and allowing students to develop their own learning pathways to demonstrate their understanding and arrive at agreed upon learning outcomes. The passion, enthusiasm and creativity displayed by students as a consequence of this inclusive and choice-centered approach has been outstanding. This idea of choice in lessons has also been a key part of our bi-weekly BABB (Be Ambitious – Be Better) sessions in which students have produced so much incredible work.
When it comes to supporting and challenging students, we have recently expanded our use of the coaching model to help students self-identify areas for improvement and pathways to success. The coaching model, following the OSCAR framework, is something Secondary teachers have been employing in our wellbeing work for some time following on from the Accidental Counsellor Training Programme all Secondary teachers undertook last year. We have now expanded this into helping students develop their approaches to learning.
Coaching is different from mentoring in that it does not directly provide the answers or solutions but helps students choose their own next steps through discussion and engaging in structured dialogue. Coaching involves teachers asking questions following the OSCAR framework and guiding students to set their own targets, next steps, checkpoints, and solutions. The aim is to provide students with greater ownership of their learning journey and develop a sense of personal responsibility for their progress and, by extension, independence.
All students who may require additional support to develop their approaches to learning have engaged in one-to-one coaching sessions with their House Tutors to self-identify areas for improvement and come up with strategies and next steps. To frame these sessions House Tutors have used Attitude to Learning grades and self-reflection profiles created by the students themselves. The outcomes of these sessions have been fantastic and already we have seen positive steps taken by many students as they take ownership of their learning.
We look forward to seeing the continued growth and development of our students, socially, emotionally, and academically and to see them continue to make choices with confidence and develop their independence, in spite of the myriad of challenges we all currently face.
To know more about Secondary School Programme, click the link below.