Creating Motivated and Confident Learners by Celebrating Success

Do you remember when you were at school and you would receive a reward for doing great work? We probably all remember a time when this happened to us and we had a sense of bursting pride from it. This also helped with our confidence, instilled more of a love of learning, and may even have led to what we do as a job now.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at why we should be celebrating success in the classroom, as well as strategies for doing so, without taking away from that all-important teacher time.

Why We Should Celebrate Success…

To Help Students See That Hard Work Leads to Growth

There needs to be a move away from the thinking that achievement can be based on either ability, others around us or plain good luck. Effort is significant too. Although this is already widely understood, we should be rewarding this over anything to motivate our students. Focusing on this as a tool that underpins achievement will help with students seeing the value of working hard and will help them with putting more effort into their work, which in turn, will improve their outcomes and growth.

To Instil a Love of Learning

You can help your students grow in confidence in so many areas by celebrating their accomplishments. Besides, what’s better to build confidence than being told you’re doing well?

To Motivate Learners with Their Studies

Praise is a major driver in motivating students to work hard and do well. But we need to make sure we’re giving praise that is helpful. We can do this by making sure it’s sincere and genuine, specific and descriptive, to ensure students know where they have done well, but also realistic, so it focuses on specific behaviors.

How We Should Celebrate Success…

Celebrating success must be done well for students to really benefit from its impact. Consider implementing the following into your praise:

  • Focus on the hard work and effort rather than just the achievement when praising students.
  • Make sure you clearly point out who is being celebrated and the reason why.
  • Give more background information about performance.
  • Make sure praise is transparent and varied.

Strategies for Celebrating Success

It’s true that there are many schools with their own Behaviour Policy in place that details rewards or what to do when there’s negative behaviour. However, it may be worth reviewing some of this policy to help with motivation and creating confident learners.

Create Postcards for Parents/Carers

This is a personal reward, but you could send home postcards to say “well done” for something – this will help engagement and the home school link. You can make these yourself and print them out. Sometimes, students won’t come home and shout about their successes, so these are a great idea for you to do something to show great work.

Share Any Successes on Social Media

Does your class or school have a social media page? We know these are very popular! You could post photos or messages of your students’ work to show parents and celebrate success; this is a great way of improving parental engagement and quickly sharing fantastic work with a wider audience too.

Set Up a Special Treat or Lunch

When your whole class has done fantastic work, as a special reward, at lunch, you could give your students passes, or Golden Tickets, to a separate table and maybe even have teachers serve them ! This will make them feel very special and set them apart from their peers – plus, other students will see which will inspire them to want to try and aim for that treat too!

Don’t forget that on Exact Path, you can also set up Challenges which mean you can put a ‘special lunch’ as a reward for skills completed or time spent on learning paths. Our report from Century Analytics shows that students who complete just eight lessons on Exact Path demonstrate significant growth, so this is a great way to improve outcomes.

Celebrating success is a great idea for so many reasons – success looks different for every student, so taking time to highlight this can help with motivation, confidence and class morale. So how do you celebrate success in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below.

The Importance of Self-Reflection in Learning

What happens when we allow students time for reflection? We empower them as learners. Not only does providing students time to reflect allow them the opportunity to build critical thinking skills, it also means they can develop their problem-solving skills and gain more independence in their learning.

We, as teachers, can deliver great lessons for our students, but without the right amount of time to reflect and assess, students may not have optimal learning or the chance to maximize their understanding.

What’s more, IB education promotes the development of reflective thinkers. It supports the fact that students should look back at their learning experiences, reflect on the content learned and identify gaps in their learning.

This is why self-reflection is so significant.

Self-reflection influences learning in a significant way. This was recognised by the IB in 2018, as they took the step of removing reflection as a key concept and fully integrating the practice through all learning and teaching to strengthen ongoing inquiry. This proves the importance of self-reflection because it’s recognized as a more dynamic, continuous process.

Self-reflection is also ideal for metacognition – how can you be a better learner if you don’t consider your own thought process? When we learn passively, we don’t have enough time to reflect on our learning or the lessons, which means we are unlikely to draw upon the information again.

Additionally, self-reflection also means students have a chance to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, and establish a path of positive self-evaluation that, importantly, includes speaking about any negatives. This helps students to track their own achievements and progress, promotes ownership over their work for growth and allows students to analyze their own learning.

After learning tasks, if students are encouraged to reflect on their own work, you’ll better retain their full engagement in class but also help embed concepts over a longer period of time. In this way, self-reflection helps us improve our memory and keeps our minds active, as well as being ideal for looking back on learning.

Reflection can be done in a number of ways, but we’ve put together some ways you can encourage your students to engage more in self-reflection, as well as some suggestions on how you can gain qualitative data to inform your teaching:

Write goals

Make sure your students set goals (this can be done with or without your guidance), and then evaluate progress towards achieving them, remembering to note down progress and adjust any goals as necessary. SMART goals, goals which help in the setting of objectives, are ideal for goal setting and provide a clearly defined objective. You can see our blog on SMART goal setting which links to IB education for more information on this topic.

Self-reflect via exit tickets

Exit tickets are short activities which ask students a few questions about the lesson. For example, did you understand today’s lesson? Or what area(s) did you find most difficult today?

They are ideal for taking into account which students do or do not understand the lesson material and can help those that are struggling. This is also a great way to gain insights and qualitative data to help you, as you can better understand the minds of your students by reading exit tickets.

Much in the same way, within Exact Path, EducationCity, and many of our other solutions, students can review their scores from activities completed, which means they can see what they may or may not have understood. This means that students can see their results immediately and even try to improve their scores in real time. This helps develop subject mastery but also means you as a teacher can gain valuable data for insights that will help inform your instruction.

Use cards to self-reflect

You can give students three cards – a green, a yellow, and a red card. Each of these cards represents something about how students feel about the lesson material. Green represents that students understand the lesson material, yellow means they need a small amount of extra help, and red means they don’t understand. (Don’t forget about our resource pack here which can help you with this on page 27.)

You can ask your students to close their eyes prior to holding up a card and then raise which card they feel best suits them. You’ll gain an understanding of which students understand the lesson material and who does not – this is a great way to gain qualitative data to inform your teaching and really help you understand how students are progressing. You can then easily differentiate their attainment and set the green group extension work, the yellow group follow-up work for revision, and then you can provide the red group with additional support.

Pair and share

With this method, students pair up and ask each other some questions about the lesson material. These questions are designed to get the students thinking and reflecting for themselves. Some questions to get the ball rolling include:

  • How did they do?
  • Did they understand everything?
  • What could be done better?

This method is easy to carry out in the classroom, and you can also listen to these conversations and gain qualitative data to determine any trends that may emerge which can help with adjusting instruction.

Make use of journals or diaries

Another way of promoting self-reflection in the classroom is to give students the task of recording their feedback in journals or diaries. By filling in journals or diaries, you can encourage your students to focus on their own learning journeys and adjust their learning. By writing down ideas, students have an outlet to reflect on their thought process, which provides them with insight into their progress.

By keeping a journal or diary, students can assume responsibility of driving their education forward, and this places them at the center of their learning. It also provides teachers with a working document into a student’s learning journey so they can better understand their abilities, feelings, and where any additional support may be required. This is a great approach for gaining qualitative data as you can assess the emotions across the class (you can use our IB Portfolio Reflection Checklist to help with this), and determine whether there are any students who are struggling, or whether they have a strong understanding of the work.

In Exact Path, we offer Mastery Trophies which are awarded to students each time they work on their individualized learning pathways. Afterwards, you can see this data to help your progress monitoring and for informing teaching. Each set of up to four skills are then assessed via a short Progress Check to demonstrate mastery and reward understanding. For every skill that students demonstrate mastery on their Progress Check, they earn a Trophy. They can record their Mastery Trophies in a journal or diary to see their accomplishments and note down the next steps they have in their learning and anything they didn’t understand.

Self-reflection is an important aspect of learning, and when we allow learners the time to consider their learning progress and understanding, we are really providing them with an opportunity to evaluate themselves. This is why the IB focuses on self-reflection as an important concept which promotes inquiry at the beginning and end of a piece of work or unit. From it, you’ll achieve valuable insights to support the learning experience of both students and yourselves as educators.

For more on self-reflection and the IB, discover our whole IB information area which has been designed to support IB teachers with individualized learning, inquiry and more. New resources are regularly added so be sure to take a look.

Assessing Inquiry-Based Learning

In an inquiry-based learning environment, assessment is an ongoing process. Although the final outcome of learning is important, the process of getting there is just as important – and this is where an inquiry-based approach comes into play. Throughout the process of inquiry, students show teachers different skills and it’s these which are assessed.

When students are given many ways to showcase their knowledge, teachers are given more opportunities to see where they are at in their learning. There are many ways teachers can retrieve assessment information, such as:

  • Observations
  • Discussions
  • Group tasks
  • Demonstrations
  • Projects
  • Peer and self-assessments
  • Self-reflection
  • Exams/projects

There are various formative and summative assessment methods and teachers need to factor in planning for these different types of assessment when designing inquiry activities.

In addition to formative and summative methods though, assessment can also be pooled into three areas:

  • Assessment for learning
  • Assessment as learning
  • Assessment of learning

Aligning with formative instruction, assessment for learning and assessment as learning go hand in hand, as they are designed to help the teacher adjust their instruction to better teach students the learning knowledge they need to succeed in their education.

However, summative assessment is more closely linked to assessment of learning as it involves assessing students’ work at a particular point in time and providing feedback through a scoring system.

Both of these assessment types result in valuable data, whether that’s quantitative or qualitative. This is valuable for teaching as it helps inform instruction and understand how students are progressing. We’re going to touch on this as we explore the assessment types below.

Formative Assessment in Inquiry-Based Learning

Firstly, during inquiry, teachers should be observing and listening as a formative assessment method. You could set your students the task of formulating their own questions to explore a certain topic. Throughout this process, the teacher can monitor discussions in order to see whether students are going in the right direction – is the question they come up with open-ended? Does it have many arguments? Is it relevant to the topic?

Data comes from this type of assessment because the teacher needs to decide, through the qualitative data they gain, whether students are ready to move on, or whether they need extra help to form a question. Observing and listening means the teacher is capturing vital diagnostic assessment evidence.

During inquiry-based learning, students may have a question to explore. Or, when they have come up with their own question, they must locate information which is relevant – they may work on their own or in groups. However, again, qualitative data plays a part because by having a conversation with students during the research stage, teachers can observe, listen and give feedback to make sure they know which students are on the right track and which students are not.

With this in mind, students also need to be able to assess their own work, which is where self-reflection comes in, and this is an important formative assessment tool. As self-assessment aims to encourage students to become reliable, independent assessors of their own work, teachers should ask students to regularly assess their learning and see where they may need help or where they are doing well. The teacher, at this stage, is showing that assessment is powerful.

One way you can ask students to self-reflect on their work is to answer three questions in a journal daily:

  1. What have I done today to help me with my work?
  2. What have I learned to help me deliver my work?
  3. What have I found difficult?

You can ask students to look back at this log and see their progress. This is another way of formatively assessing and developing their metacognitive skills. It’s also a way for teachers to see how students have arrived at a certain outcome.

You should be able to see that, throughout the inquiry process, formative assessment can fall into three categories: those being observations through presentations for instance, conversations of lesson content and products to help with inquiry-based learning.

We know that through formative assessment, it can often be a challenge to collect data and then make sense of it to find the insights you need so we’ve developed our own data-driven instruction pack for support on this.

Summative Assessment in Inquiry-Based Learning

When students have demonstrated their inquiry and completed projects they have done, they should share their findings and work with teachers – this is the assessment of learning part – and could be the exhibition in the PYP for instance. This is where summative assessment comes in to play and where students can demonstrate their “final outcome”. There are various ways students can show this, for instance, through presentations, seminars, or other means students wish to show their findings.

  • Looking at both sides of the argument
  • Quality of work
  • Clarity of conclusion

Data comes from this as we usually have set criterion to attain it in a quantitative way. Often though, we end up with lots of scores, so how can we interpret that in the right way? To help with this, use our data-driven instruction pack.

Inquiry-based learning offers an opportunity for learners of all ages to have an engaging learning experience where they lead their progress. Rather than being something a teacher sets, students can immerse themselves in work that really is their own and these suggestions for inquiry-based learning  demonstrate its immense value for teachers and students alike. It’s this backward design that we’ve touched on here, where assessment takes place at the start to achieve the outcome, which makes inquiry-based learning and assessment important, and gives teachers the power and the data they need to adjust their instruction or help students succeed.

If you’re an IB school and are looking for free resources, guidance, top tips and more, take a look at our whole IB information area which is frequently updated with new content. It’s a great resource for data and assessment tips too!

14 Technology-Enhanced Item Types That Promote Critical Thinking

It’s important to make sure that your students are prepared for next-generation assessments by making sure their academic knowledge is up to par, and also making sure that they’re familiar with the technology they will be using to complete exams. By utilizing a web-based program, you’ll be able to familiarize your students with both of these concepts at the same time.

Edmentum International’s solutions include 14 different technology-enhanced item types, requiring them to use higher-order thinking skills. They are designed with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework and Bloom’s Taxonomy levels in mind. Using both of these frameworks ensures that each question is written to the appropriate difficulty level and that students are exposed to the appropriate content.

To give you a better understanding, let’s take a deeper look into what each item type looks like in our suite of solutions.

2. Hot Spot

In a hot spot question, using their cursor, students identify a location on an image that represents the correct answer to the question.

Hot Spot

2. Matched Pairs

When presented with this format, students drag answers from one section to another to create matching pairs. As shown in the image below, students will drag four answers into the boxes in order to answer the question. In some cases, not all answers will be used. In the example below, all answers are used.

Matched Pairs3. Graphic Gap Match

In this item type, students drag and drop an item(s) into the designated target(s) to form the correct answer(s).

Graphic Gap Match4. Constructed Response

In a constructed response, students create a response using evidence from the question or reading passage to support their view. Students are given a prompt and a text box to respond. Sometimes, there are multiple parts of the question your student must answer. There is also a rubric provided so that students are aware of what they need to do to receive full credit for the question. Once students type in their response, they are able to move on to the next question. These responses are graded by their teacher.

Constructed Response5. Hot Text

In this item type, text choices are identified for students within a passage, and students select the correct text answer(s) using their cursor. In the sample below, students will read the question and select the answer from one of the areas in blue text.

Hot Text6. Cloze

Students select the correct answer from a drop-down box within an equation or sentence in this item type.

Cloze7. Graphing

Students must use provided drawing tools (point, open point, line segment, ray, and/or line) to plot their answer(s) on a coordinate grid.

Graphing8. Fill in the Blank

Students enter an alphanumeric response in an open box within a question. Questions may have more than one open box.

Fill in the Blank

9. Sequence

Students select and move images or phrases to the correct location on the screen, placing them in sequence, to create an overall answer.

Sequence

 

10. Graphic Tally

Students must drag and drop a visible or an invisible tile(s) into a designated target(s) to form a correct answer(s). A graphic tally allows for multiple ways that a question can be answered correctly.

Graphic Tally11. Multi-Part

Students must answer two or more parts to a question.

Multi-Part

12. Number Line

Students must use provided drawing tools (point, open point, line segment, and/or ray) to plot their answer(s) on a number line.

Number Line

13. Multiple Response

In a multiple-response format, students can select more than one correct answer to a given question.

Multiple Response

14. Equation

Students must enter their response using math notation.

Equation

Make sure you take a look at our free resource to encourage critical thinking in your classroom with your students for more ideas on bringing critical thinking to life.

Encouraging Critical Thinking in the Classroom

The teaching style of the International Baccalaureate (IB) is centered around reshaping students and schools as they learn. This is particularly through action and reflection, but also through critical thinking and in turn, inquiry.

Critical thinking is an important concept within the IB for all programmes and age levels. Plus, by developing a certain approach to learning with critical thinking and questioning, it aims to encourage success in three areas:

  • Personal
  • Academic
  • Career Preparation

Critical thinking plays an intrinsic role in all three areas; it is an important skill that can be applied to most subjects and helps shape an individual’s growth mindset. As an essential life skill, it’s the one that often differentiates IB students from others, particularly with the additional inquiry-based learning which the IB promotes.

Although setting up a classroom for a level of critical thinking can be challenging, it is rewarding and fun, and IB classrooms are often led by inquiry from both teachers and students – it’s all based on what students know and what their abilities are, or what they can do.

That’s why we’ve put together some practices that will encourage and help critical thinking in your classroom – these strategies are designed to help all students with active involvement in the classroom and provide opportunities for engagement and curiosity.

Plan for critical thinking time

Planning is important when it comes to factoring in critical thinking within a lesson. You’ll likely need more time than what a lesson typically allows in order to get students to test their analytical and critical skills.

To be able to encourage critical thinking and inquiry into certain areas, teachers need to have the right amount of information too, or the resources for it. It may be an idea to share all the resources you and your other teachers have in one area. This is so you can all collaborate together and learn from each other’s experiences.

Make connections to the real world

Introducing lessons that connect to real-world examples helps give students greater purpose to their learning. Fuel their curiosity by changing up your teaching approach and use practical applications and activities. This will help them see how they can apply their learning in real life (see our blog on project-based learning to find out more about this).

Not only will this assess real-life application but is also a great way to formatively assess too. You can make learning and instruction more meaningful and personal to students by doing this.

Make time for reflection to think about concepts

Our next point is all about reflection. Students can be encouraged to think about concepts in more detail when you offer small amounts of time for reflection. This can be important for students, especially for those who find speaking up a little harder.

The IB promotes reflection as an important part of the learning process and encouraging critical thinking that focuses on reflection is important.

For this to work, create an online space where staff and students can access and share ideas, questions and thoughts. This helps with encouraging a community of learners and ties in with learning inside and outside of the school. This practice can also support with creating individuals who are willing to help each other and ask questions.

Pose a question

Ask a question, maybe at registration or at the end of a lesson and put it on the board. Students can write answers down or volunteer to answer in front of the class. Then you can have a class discussion on it.

For example, on EducationCity, we have ThinkIts which encourage critical thinking. They pose a question to display on the whiteboard or individually in front of students for them to think about and answer.

Make critical thinking active

To help with inquiry-based learning, you could also make tasks active. For example, ask your students to read a statement which has two opposing views, e.g., do you agree with the author’s argument?

Direct students to stand on a certain side of the classroom depending on whether they agree or disagree. Then ask members of the class to explain to their peers why they went to a certain side. It should be allowed that they can change sides after a discussion on the statement.

By encouraging critical thinking in the classroom, teachers do not have to call upon students but will give them the opportunity and invitation to think and ask questions. Be curious. A student-centered learning approach, which the IB supports, gives many students the opportunity to be actively involved in a lesson. This helps them be more willing to explore the world and their academic knowledge on their own.

Don’t forget that we have a fantastic webinar on encouraging critical thinking in the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) for you to explore. Also, we have a critical thinking free resource pack for your lessons too.

Encouraging Independent, Self-Led Learning in Students

The International Baccalaureate’s (IB) learner profile has ten attributes, and within its inquiry attribute states that the aim of all IB programmes is to help IB students strive to be independent lifelong learners.

Self-direction is a central tenet of the IB and is evident from the early stages of the Primary Years Programme (PYP), which states that “the PYP nurtures independent learning skills, encouraging every student to take responsibility for their own learning”. It is also continued through to the Middle Years Programme (MYP) which aims “to encourage and enable students to participate in a sustained, self-directed inquiry within a global context”.

Why self-led learning?

The IB, which puts student agency right at the centre of the PYP (see their recent Twitter post below), is trying to break the mould and push schooling to focus on changing learning environments and direct attention on the individual students to create lifelong learners.

This is interesting, especially in an international school setting. With schools including different cultures, academic levels, beliefs, backgrounds, etc., there is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach to  school environments, let alone learning. Subsequently, individualized learning is required to meet specific individual needs and encourage students to take more responsibility in preparing them for life after school.

Source: https://twitter.com/ibpyp/status/950721397944389632

Methods of encouraging self-directed learning

We know that you, as teachers, understand your students best, but how can we encourage students to take more ownership over their learning? Below are a few strategies designed to support you in laying the foundations for self-directed learning:

Rearrange the classroom environment

First, consider changing the physical learning environment. When students can put their own spin on a classroom, they can alter how teaching and learning is viewed, improving their academic engagement, and sense of autonomy. One method of engaging your students in developing a student-designed environment could involve allowing them to rearrange the classroom at their discretion – this can include display boards and posters created by students and when put up, can help with improving their agency.

Empowering students to take the lead

The idea of a flexible learning environment can support students in developing their confidence which will help them to join peer groups or workshops to enhance learning and speak up where appropriate. This will help students become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and deepen understanding. With the aid of an individualized learning tool, this self-awareness can be encouraged. You could also ask students to reflect on their learning and then place themselves along a certain standard and come with evidence of why they have put themselves where they have. It could be an idea to create SMART goals with students to help with this and encourage students to take the lead.

Encourage transdisciplinary inquiry

With these points above, you can see that we’re encouraging students to be “alive” in their learning, which leads us to how students should focus their learning on understanding and thinking about our world, rather than simply memorizing facts. In the IB, it’s concept-based learning which allows students to connect their school with their world. Students can be encouraged to ask questions and make links between concepts. This can help students gain an understanding of a unit which is more connected to their personal experience.

Ensure students are reflective

As touched on above, it’s worth encouraging your students to keep a diary. This can help them maintain and analyse their progress towards achieving their goals. The idea being, that they will see their progress, realize how far they have come and be inspired to push themselves further. With this though, the IB philosophy supports reflection as a central role in education. This means opportunities for reflection should be integrated into lesson plans. Students should work on how they can reflect on what could be done better. For example, you could reward and celebrate success, but always look to what is coming and what could be done to improve.

Take on a growth mindset

Firstly, in your classroom, you could adopt a growth mindset where you, as a class, know you can learn, succeed and excel together. A major US study recently revealed that adopting a growth mindset with two, 25-minute online sessions can raise lower-achieving students’ scores. With this in mind, it’s important we are mindful of this opportunity and encourage students to learn in a more efficient, confident and effective way. This will help them improve self-regulation, grit and increase engagement with learning.

Encourage opportunities for self-monitoring

There are two processes of self-monitoring – one is establishing goals and one is gaining feedback from yourself and from others. To help your students with self-monitoring, you can advance their use of self and peer assessments and ask them to judge whether they think the strategies they were using were effective.

A change to a more self-directed, transdisciplinary classroom can be challenging. However, as you gradually provide students with more control to support their success – or say ‘yes’ as much as possible to student ideas, or provide uninterrupted blocks of time – the more you will see a valuable learning environment come into play. This will help students flourish on the path to success and help develop them as lifelong learners.

A Guide to Project-Based Learning (PBL) for IB Learners

Project-based learning (PBL) is a phrase often heard within schools that teach alongside the IB curriculum, and both of them emphasize deep conceptual understanding.

When we say PBL though, what do we really mean? And better yet, how do we effectively implement this in the classroom? Let’s take a look in a bit more detail, and explore how you can try out this technique in your classroom.

What’s Project-Based Learning?

PBL is all about “big transferable ideas” rather than subject-specific content. This is different to traditional teaching where there is a focus on understanding and memorization. PBL supports the IB’s learner profile attributes and is all about considering how students will learn, bringing real world meaning to content knowledge and skills. It’s all about driving questions which align student work to a relevant issue or problem.

PBL aims to support students with a lifetime of learning, independently and in tandem with others. Also, it encourages students to consider global challenges through inquiry, action, and reflection. Essentially, that’s what PBL is all about… the learners. Due to this, PBL can also support individualized learning. The IB programs aim to encourage students to be active, compassionate and lifelong learners. This means PBL and inquiry-based learning support education in being holistic, with the student’s whole development in mind. Also, with this, a balance between cognitive development as well as wellbeing.

PBL aligns with design thinking, which the IB has written about. Design thinking is all about incorporating users’ needs into the project and design process. Design thinking can work in a number of ways but ultimately, it supports learners with applying the knowledge and skills they have learned to go and take meaningful action. Read more about this here.

In this way, PBL can involve certain steps such as communicating with other students, identifying a goal, making an action plan, giving out duties, putting together a plan and then analyzing any outcomes, which are all important life skills for the future.

Why PBL?

These days, there are many professions that don’t simply rely on knowledge and facts – the development of a learner is equally important.

Think about it…

  • Scientists need to develop creativity.
  • Scientists still need to problem solve.
  • Scientists may need to work as a team.

This type of instruction is designed to work in global contexts. Students gain understanding of language and culture, and it also helps with global and local engagement, including challenges and issues.

Aims of PBL

With PBL, students develop skills they will likely need for the demands of the 21st century. For instance, critical thinking, collaborative work and problem-solving are all skills that come from it.  As the IB and PBL aim to encourage students to engage with real world problems and do work that is real to them, students who have these universal themes in their classroom are supported with:

  • Creating connections with students’ past experiences.
  • Learning being more relevant to experiences.
  • Promoting a more in-depth knowledge of content.
  • Helping students to take action with their learning.

Implementing PBL in the Classroom

So now we’ve explored PBL in more detail, it’s time to find out how we can implement PBL more effectively in the classroom.

When you’ve decided on a driving question for students to explore – which is ideal for creating a culture of thinking that allows students to see alternative ways of thinking – your lesson could flow like this.

  1. You put forward a “research question” which is the concept of the project.
  2. You then task students to answer that question through a variety of methods such as dance or music.
  3. Finally, students bridge their learning experiences to support their learning of the knowledge, whilst perhaps tests that may be set will identify learning targets and understanding.

Overall, the project-based learning that goes hand-in-hand with the IB promotes ties in students’ emotions and knowledge. This can be to a better degree than the demands of a curriculum which is more traditional and purely fact-based to prepare students for exams. Students can use the knowledge they have learnt from PBL in learning other subject areas.

Students are not only now better set to make links with their own experiences in the present and the wider world, but also when looking to the future. Students use their personal experiences to engage with their learning and what they know to answer a driving question. With this, they will become more interested in their studies and in using their own knowledge to support their understanding. This will aid their student development in a holistic way, and prepare them to be lifelong learners.

Supporting Students in a New School

The experience of moving to a new school can be challenging. This can be particularly the case for students in international circles who may have relocated to a completely new place. This usually means students have to make new friends, get to know their new teachers and adapt to their new environment. Student support can be critical during this challenging process. We’ve put together some ideas to help teachers with their new students and to help them settle in well.

Understand your new student(s)

It’s worth evaluating any new students’ interests and their personality, so you can help them with their confidence and emotional well-being, which is super important. To understand this, you could bring some fun “ice breaker” games into the classroom (games to encourage students to talk about themselves and get to know more about them). This will enable them to lead their learning too.

By understanding your new students’ interests, you can enhance their strengths and minimize their challenges. You can consider their interests in your instruction to help them learn and increase success rates. For instance, if they like nature, then maybe a whole lesson outside would be good, particularly for science. They could also be in pairs to encourage them to get to know others. After, if it’s appropriate, they could share their findings with the class to encourage involvement.

Interacting with parents can also show potential learning barriers, such as language. Plus, if there are challenges, you can talk about what works best to overcome them, which can help with confidence too.

Encourage familiarity by sending home a welcome pack

You could produce a welcome pack or letter to give to new students and their parents. This can include information about yourself such as what your interests are and favorite things to teach. This will help parents and students get to know you. To make sure your new student is well-prepared, you can also include class information and things they need to bring. This could be done pictorially to make sure any language barriers are addressed.

Give students an overview of the school

Once you’ve created a welcome pack or letter, you or a buddy/mentor can show them around the school. You should then explain school expectations as well as any classroom procedures. This could include when lunch or the end of the day is, which you could also include in the pack discussed above.

You could also share information about your student with specialist teachers who will support them, so they know as much as possible.

You could also share information about your student with specialist teachers who will support them, so they know as much as possible.

Promote a caring ethos in your classroom

You could create an ethos of caring, understanding and respect in your classroom, by making students aware that they have a new classmate coming. As well as this, you could make sure they’re partnered up with someone who they can go to. This will help make sure they’re partnered up with someone who they can go to. This partner could be someone who understands their culture and preferred language, particularly if they are from overseas.

When they arrive in school, EducationCity has many Topic Tools which could be used during registration. For instance, the Idea Generator Topic Tool is ideal for telling stories and getting the whole class involved. As well as this, you can use it for talking about feelings, dislikes and likes. Also, a great idea too is a PlayLive game to get them to answer questions as a whole class in a safe, team environment.

Within Study Island, there are a range of Group Sessions which can test where students are at in a fun, timed way. This is anonymous to the class, so the answers cannot be seen. It’s a lot of fun and as you play as a class, it’s a great way to get students involved. It’s also enjoyable, yet valuable for you, because you can add your own questions in, which can make it more personable to students.

Account for language abilities and knowledge

Sometimes, language can present a few barriers. For example, some students will be happy to speak and make mistakes in a language that is not their mother tongue. However, others will not speak until they are happy that they have learnt enough to be confident with it. Difficulties with language can cause social issues within schools. Reviewing this and their ability is important, and can be instrumental in helping any student settle in.

EducationCity’s Learn English module is great for this, and Topic Tools can be customized to support individual students’ needs and interests.

Go over any references that are unfamiliar

Certain curriculums or terms used in school could be unfamiliar for new students. This may take some time to get used to, but it’s worth explaining early so they understand the terms. It’s also worth giving some open-ended questions to encourage students to think for themselves. Also, to encourage them to have the confidence to trust their own thinking and instincts.

For ELL students in particular, EducationCity’s Learn English module covers themes including “My School”, “My Family” and “My Neighbourhood”. The content within these can be accessed within a class or individual setting. This content is also great to support any new students who are learning English, and to help students become more familiar with classroom and school language too.

By adopting these strategies, you can help students become more familiar with school and gain confidence to help them settle in. Any new school can be a daunting move and we understand the challenges students may face.  With some careful planning and preparation, you can support any new student entering your school.

Exam Stress: Seven Tips to Help Your Students Cope

Despite an increased emphasis on approaches like personalized learning and inquiry-based learning, tests remain an important fixture in the academic calendar. However, for some students, the pressure of tests looming on the horizon stops them from trying their best and leads to exam stress.

Of course, no teacher or parent wants to see a student stressed out over any single test. So, what can educators do to help their students manage test anxiety and take the fear out of testing day? Here are seven of our favorite tips:

1. Schedule revision time into your class time

Having a good understanding of the material to be tested and preparing beforehand are two things that students can control when it comes to being tested, and both can bring a lot of confidence and peace of mind to students. Make sure your students go into their exams having a well-thought-out revision plan so they have had plenty of chances to brush up on knowledge and skills they’ll be assessed on.

Consider offering extra revision sessions outside class as well. After-school drop-in sessions and revision clubs are all low-pressure options that anxious students, looking for some additional practice, will appreciate.

2. Teach effective test-taking strategies

Test taking is a skill in itself. Help calm anxious students’ nerves by making sure they are familiar with and have confidence in their test-taking skills, as well as the actual content they’re being tested on. Some best practices include reading questions completely before answering them (especially for tricky technology-enhanced item types), skipping over questions that students don’t know in order to manage time, and reviewing answers if they have time at the end of the test.

It’s also really helpful to familiarize your students with the type of test environment they’ll experience. If tests will be taken online, for example, make sure your students are comfortable with the kind of devices they’ll use and any technology-enhanced item types they’ll encounter.

3. Help students create a revision timetable

Some students who struggle with exam stress spend countless hours studying and revising in a frantic effort to get ready for exams. While preparation is certainly key, it’s important to be focused about how to go about it and not to ‘cram’. Try helping your students create a revision timetable to follow at home. Encourage them to block out reasonable blocks of time during their week, taking into account other homework, extra-curricular activities, and time for relaxation. Having a schedule to follow can help students manage their stress levels, feel confident about their preparation, and make more productive use of their study time.

4. Teach practical anxiety-reduction exercises

For many students who suffer from exam stress, the worst moments occur when they’re in the exam itself. Basic anxiety-reducing techniques can be a big help for these students. Encourage your learners to practice simple deep breathing exercises, use positive self-talk and mantras, or do seated stretches to release tension once the test is under way.

5. Keep tests in perspective

In the grand scheme of things, no single test is going to define a student’s academic career, or have that significant an impact on their future. After all, it’s just one test. As an adult, it’s probably much easier for you to understand this perspective than it is for your students -you’ve had more experience with both failure and success, realize they both happen, and know that no matter what, the world keeps turning. Share this perspective with your students regularly, offering gentle reminders that every test is just a test, and no test defines how smart, successful or worthy they are.

6. Ask students where their fear is coming from

Having a better understanding of why a student is anxious can be hugely helpful in figuring out the best way to manage it. Some students will be able to articulate their feelings better than others, but asking the question will provide valuable clues as to what will help calm a student down.

7. Focus on positive experiences

Students struggling with exam stress are wrapped up in patterns of negative thinking when it comes to tests. They’re focusing on all of the mistakes they could make, everything that could go wrong, and how catastrophic a bad score could be. Shift their focus by helping them reflect on some positive past experiences. Ask them to tell you or write about a test that they did well on. What did they do leading up to that test? How did they feel about it before and after? Getting a student to stop and remember how able they are can go a long way toward breaking the negativity cycle – and calm their nerves in the process.

As teachers yourselves, you’ve undoubtedly come across students suffering from test anxiety. If you have any additional suggestions that could help others, we’d love to hear them! Just email us on international@edmentum.com.

Top Tips for Implementing Mastery-Based Learning

We’re sure you’ve heard of ‘mastery-based learning’ – the approach to instruction where students must demonstrate a deep level of understanding of a topic or subject area before moving onto another topic or subject area.

(You can read our blog, Understanding Mastery-Based Learning, for more information.)

To help you implement a mastery-based learning approach in your school or educational establishment, we’ve asked three of our teachers from Edmentum International for their top tips to help any school looking to implement a mastery approach. Take a look!

Lay out clear and concise expectations

“So, for me the first tip would be to ensure that teachers lay out clear and concise expectations of each student; and each student, as a result, knows what to expect from their teacher. There has to be clear lines of communication. Creating learning pathways will assist with this, and our solution, Exact Path, is ideal for this.

“Next I would suggest to try and set time aside in the day or even in individual lessons for your students to work on their learning pathways. This time will allow students to work on their individualized work to ensure they are able to master their set skill. This time will then influence what the students will be able to do the following week in their learning paths.”

Emma Berry, Customer Services & Implementation Specialist and Teacher, Edmentum International

The 3Ps approach

“My three top tips are the 3Ps approach, encouraging mastery learning as well as independence, discussion in context and reasoning skills.

“The idea is that when you come to a mathematical question, you follow the 3Ps approach as outlined below.

“1st P: Past work – look at what you’ve done so far, what do you know already?

“2nd P: Peers – what does you partner think and why? Discuss your ideas.

“3rd P: Prove It! Now that you’ve looked at what you and your partner know, answer the question explaining why you are right!”

Haylie Taylor, Education Consultant and Primary School Teacher (SEN Specialism), Edmentum International

Show evidence of applying and understanding

“First, we start with problem solving. Can the children apply what they are learning (skills) into a real life situation?

“Get the children to apply what they know, e.g., if they have learnt a technique/skill, can they use it to problem solve in a real-life scenario?

“Use mastery of doubling – Fred has a shopping list for 12 cakes, he needs to make 2 batches. Can you work out how much of each ingredient he needs to make all the cakes?

“Second, get the children to become the teacher. Can the children demonstrate, explain and apply their knowledge within the classroom to their peers?

“Have the children deliver part of the teaching input during the lesson.

“Lastly, can the children apply the skills/techniques they have learnt outside of the original subject? Do the children demonstrate a continuity of skill across their learning?

“Can the children apply skills learnt in English lessons in cross-curricular writing and not just within English lessons?

“Are the standards of writing (vocabulary, grammar and punctuation) continued in cross-curricular writing, e.g., in science investigations or geography reports?”

Eloise Cooper, Account Manager and EYFS Teacher, Edmentum International

With these tips from our teachers, it’s important to note that when transitioning to a mastery-based learning approach, schools may need to recognize changes at a system-based as well as a learning-based level. Instruction may need to be redesigned but most importantly, students needs to be placed at the center.

With mastery-based learning, the student becomes the focal point, which means that with it, we can maximize every students’ chance of success, be that at college or in their future careers.