Text: Monika Pedersen
Almost nine weeks into school, it’s time for the October holiday in week 42. Hooray!
Since the first day back from the holidays, a lot of work, activities, and emotions have been experienced. New subjects have been explored, new teachers are better understood, and some good friendships are cemented.
Week 42 is the time to take a pause and enjoy the vacation. During the week, a wise move would be to take a moment to reflect on how the goals set at the start of the year are shaping up, as the focus can be lost in the hectic nature of a typical week. It is also wise to decide if the goals are still applicable or if there are more pressing targets to work on. Following this, plans for implementing the strategies should be formed until the next review before the festive break.
Encouraging students to self-reflect on their learning path is crucial in encouraging learners to take responsibility and ownership of their learning. It is a gradual process. For many students, it helps them to appreciate that it is their investment in themselves and their future and not something they feel forced to do to please others, such as their parents or teachers. It also supports their thought process regarding what they might wish to study later.
Student reflection is a philosophy promoted by international schools, where there is an emphasis on looking at the student as an individual and creating bespoke pathways within the class. The purpose is to make learning meaningful. The hope is that students wish to strive and work towards achieving their personal best. An advantage of an international school is smaller classes and a better student-to-teacher ratio regarding interaction time. Sadly, not every family can afford this, but in Denmark, where providing citizens with educational opportunities is a priority, most international schools charge small fees, as there is substantial state funding.
"Grades are criteria-driven in more enlightened schools following the international Baccalaureate, IB, or International Cambridge curricula."
Student reflection and goal setting involve keeping a work portfolio, which aids a student and the teacher see the strides of progress made. The portfolio contains work the student wishes to place within it, so not every assignment a student completes is entered. However, each piece has the teacher’s feedback and the child’s thoughts. This takes time but is an invaluable record that can be used at the student, teacher, and parent meetings, when teachers are compiling mid-year or end-of-year reports, and when there is a move to another school, and work pieces can be shared during the Admissions process.
The other side of the coin and a fundamental issue is the evaluation and assessment advocated by the school and its teachers. Student assessment is a controversial topic. For many years, assessment has meant writing reports and issuing a grade on a scale of A being the best to F being a failing grade. In some cases, this is a very opaque process. Grades are criteria-driven in more enlightened schools following the International Baccalaureate, IB, or International Cambridge curricula. This means that there is a set of descriptors which need to be accomplished to attain a grade. This provides greater transparency and clarity for the student and others reading a report card.
More progressive thinking is questioning the grading system. The method of solely assessing student competency through work portfolios seems very radical, but the recent Covid pandemic has shaken education. During the extended lockdowns, no official exams could be sat, yet students needed to complete their education. Thus, many examining boards had to rely on teacher feedback and assessment to provide students with their exam board grades. This move has questioned the previous practice and forced a much-needed dialogue regarding exams, student assessments etc.
Should there be a permanent shift to this approach, the evaluation would help many students who suffer from exam anxiety and reward those who are steady workers. Moreover, higher education institutions or employers are provided a more wholesome and valuable insight into a potential applicant. After all, a person is not a number or a grade but an individual who brings a raft of talents and achievements.