From the Deputy Head of College, Patrick Brennan
Year 12 Affirmation BBQ
Late last week the College invited Year 12 to the level five rooftop terrace for a BBQ in recognition for their great work as a cohort this year. For many of the boys it was their first look at this area which has fantastic city and ocean views.
We expect our senior year to model outstanding behaviour, study skills and uniform. They set the tone for the rest of the student body. Our current group of Year 12 are doing exactly that.
As well as enjoying the BBQ generously prepared by the maintenance team, the midyear prefects were announced; Marco Bell, Daniel Harasta, Daniel Morris, Taaj Davis and Miguel Joson. I congratulate them on their appointment.
Feedback and its effect on boys’ learning
Research has identified feedback as a significant influence on student achievement both at home and in the classroom.
In an effort to maximise academic growth, Waverley College teachers are encouraged to provide more feedback to their students with the understanding that not all feedback is equal. If one of the goals of education is to create lifelong learners, how can we as teachers and parents alike utilise feedback to promote this outcome?
Lifelong learners are intrinsically motivated to build on their existing knowledge. Our boys are not passive recipients of information, but wired to test and predict where new information fits.
When there is a healthy level of uncertainty about a subject, with a sense of ‘knowing what you don’t know’, boys will seek out information from their environment that will enable them to resolve the uncertainty. This process of updating is learning, and it is the role of the teacher to set the conditions to optimise this.
As parents and teachers we can nurture this curiosity for learning by engaging our boys with information that is both personally relevant and appropriately challenging. When the information is already familiar and unchallenging, boys will be bored and no learning will occur. Conversely, if the information is unfamiliar and inaccessible, they will be unable to integrate it with existing knowledge and, again, no learning will occur.
Feedback plays a crucial role in setting the preconditions, and supporting this learning.
The first step in this is to understand where to target students’ learning, and capture curiosity. A key point to recognise is that students, in every learning situation, come with their own understanding about the world. This highlights a challenge for us: the best feedback will be adapted to the pre-existing beliefs of individual students.
Once the student is engaged in the learning process, the teacher and parent should provide feedback that guides the student in a journey of discovery. Closed and non-specific feedback, such as programmed instruction and corrective feedback, should be avoided. Rather our feedback must support the learner’s ability to test, predict, and challenge their understanding of a topic. The most significant impact on student achievement comes in the use of cues, which correct errors by getting the individual to navigate their way forward using the prompts to guide them. This method of feedback can stimulate the equivalent of almost three years’ growth
Our boys also need a place in which they feel they can make errors. However, the use of non-specific feedback in the form of praise is cautioned, as this can lessen the impact of any deeper level feedback provided. Instead, we should reinforce the effort they invest to reach their goals. Understanding that when adolescent boys are focused on achieving a grade, the impact of feedback is also diluted, we are best advised to design meaningful formative tasks that give our boys the freedom to challenge their assumptions.