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1

Feedback Is The Key To Effective Learning

With schools out until after Easter, Hong Kong’s students are facing the biggest disruption to their education in recent memory. Principal Brian Cooklin shares how Nord Anglia is reacting to the situation by fine tuning its online learning and providing its pupils with crucial individual feedback.

How has Nord Anglia reacted to the most recent news that schools will be closed until 20 April?

It is not what anyone wanted to hear because staff were hoping for a return to school in a couple of weeks’ time.  Working from home can be lonely and isolating for both students and staff as well as taxing for parents and we would all prefer to be in school. However, this extended closure was not unexpected and we have been planning with that eventuality in mind. We have continued to improve and enrich the online learning programme and have a full range of activities and approaches that stimulate thinking and encourage learning. I am very grateful to the staff for their hard work and dedication and would like to thank parents for everything they have done to support both their children and the school itself during these challenging times.

What has been your approach to online learning?

We don’t believe that children should be sitting in front of a screen all day but we recognise online learning tools are invaluable, particularly in the current situation,  and especially when used by creative teachers. Feedback is absolutely crucial to learning and our focus has been to ensure this in all areas of the online learning that we are delivering.

There is some great work being done by our youngest children in pre-school as well as across primary and secondary classes.  The use of Padlet and Flipgrid, for example, have helped to make lessons more interactive and encourage students to share their ideas and comment on each other’s work.

The most popular adaptation has been the introduction of Microsoft Teams, allowing teachers to write back to students in real time and provide audio feedback. The Streams facility means videos can be accessed more easily.

Tapestry for Early Years has always worked effectively in this way.  For other year groups, pupils can receive quick audio notes to comment on their learning and provide next steps, while split screens and screen sharing are both used to model expectations.

feedback

How do you make online learning effective?

Online learning has existed for a number of years and has expanded greatly from language learning programs to mass university lectures (known as MOOCs) and distance learning qualifications. The effectiveness of online learning can be measured by the extent to which its purpose has been met and aims achieved.  If you want to transmit information, a filmed lecture or lesson is fine, but if you want each child to make progress individually, that approach does not work.

As Professor John Hattie, the Australian educator, has shown in his research, the most important influence on learning is quality feedback. Feedback is absolutely crucial to learning. When we are teaching children in school, the focus is on the individual child and their progress. That is why feedback on each child’s targets is so important. By using a variety of methods and strategies – video modelling approaches, initial filmed explanations, varying stimuli, instant audio feedback and answers for individual student questions – we can affect positively each child’s progress even when they aren’t physically at school.

In addition, the approaches to learning expected in the IB Diploma are introduced from Year 7 upwards in the Callido program, which benchmarks where each student is in relation to the approaches while then advising on and measuring progress. This particularly develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills effectively.

Teachers monitor responses and add feedback while creating new learning content with Nearpod, which allows questions and instant feedback to be inserted.

Most recently, we have rolled out Century Tech, an award-winning A.I. teaching and learning platform from Year 3 to 9 to support learning at home.  It uses artificial intelligence, neuroscience and learning science about the best way the brain and the person learns to provide constantly adapting pathways to improve learning.  This platform also gives teachers powerful assessment data.

Century

How else are you promoting learning development?

Competitions and quizzes play an important part in developing learning.  Primary classes, for example, have Timetables Rockstars with live matches between classes and league tables.  Equally, the Art Department has a weekly competition on a house point basis

For the next phase of online learning we are developing the new M.I.T. Global Campus challenge to create a propelling machine.

What provisions have you made for students in Year 11 who are about to take crucial exams?

We have permission to run small-group teaching for Year 11 students, whose exams start soon after Easter, to organise their practical assessments and to run their exams in school under strict regulations. We will be providing study support for them in school during Easter.  Certainly the Year 11 students have enjoyed the opportunity to practice the assessments, prepare for speaking tests and build their confidence ahead of the exams.  Most importantly, they have appreciated the opportunity to see their friends and talk to other people (even teachers!).  We are looking at more supported study and possible weekend sessions to help prepare the students.

Year 11 students finishing their practicals

Year 11 students finishing their practicals.